Modern-day skiing: Drones and selfie sticks

Technology on the mountain has meant a huge increase in the number of photos and videos posted on social media.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Technology on the mountain has meant a huge increase in the number of photos and videos posted on social media.

Drones, selfie sticks and touchscreen-friendly gloves are the in-demand tech for skiers and snowboarders in New Zealand.

GoPros attached to helmets have been a common sight on the mountain for several years, but technology is making further inroads into the snow lifestyle.

This includes cellphone service all over the mountain, free wi-fi, hundreds of social media posts and the increasing number of people hunched over their phones while in the resort cafe.

The bigger ski resorts in New Zealand are no longer the rustic escapes of last century but hotbeds of technology, with places like Mt Hutt using them to do everything from making the mountain safe, stopping fraudulent use of ski passes and sharing videos on Instagram.

Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie said they'd had about six requests for drones to be used on the mountain so far this year.


Snowbunnies are increasingly asking to take drones up the mountain.

He said if demand increased he would need to develop a policy to prevent any problems.

McKenzie said he hadn't seen anyone texting or talking while skiing or snowboarding, but using devices on lifts was popular.

"You see a lot of people chatting, with their phones shoved under their helmets so they keep their hands warm."

The days listening to the radio or rushing out to see the faxed ski report on the radio are long gone.

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Now ski resorts uses websites and social media to tell people about conditions. If you want more information, take a look at the webcams or check other people's social accounts to get updates, photos or videos.

McKenzie said one of the most noticeable changes was inside the resort.

"There are a lot more heads down in the cafe and while you still see people talking, there's not as much as there used to be."

Chairlifts are a popular place to spend time on your phone.
Chairlifts are a popular place to spend time on your phone.

But the tech is not only for the skiers and snowboarders. Resorts are using it constantly.

"Connectivity helps us make better decisions while we operate in an aggressive environment," said McKenzie.

Mt Hutt staff use iPads to identify people as they come through the lift gates. While this is primarily to stop people misusing passes, it's also used to find people to let them know if their car lights are on or if someone is trying to locate them.

Here are some tips to get teched up for the ski season:

APPS

The first app Kiwi skiers and boarders should download is the Met Service's Snow Weather (free for Android and Apple). You choose a mountain as your "home" though you also "favourite" other resorts. It gives you forecasts, current conditions and webcams to check the situation.


The Metservice's app.

The other popular apps for mountain users are those that track and map your runs and collate stats such as maximum speed, distance travelled and vertical metres.

They are suprisingly addictive and you can get competitive with yourself in trying to beat your previous personal best. My favourite is Trace Snow (free for Android and Apple), as it has a simple interface and also stops tracking automatically once you leave the mountain. Others worth trying are Snowcru (free) and Ski Tracks ($1.29), both for Apple and Android.

Other handy apps are Apple's Find Friends (free) to help locate mates on the mountain.

CAMERAS

There are a lot of GoPros on New Zealand mountains as people record themselves and friends charging down the slopes or performing in the park.

GoPros are the fan favourite and the company has just released a smaller version, the Hero4 Session.

McKenzie said the cameras are so popular they are now selling them in the shop at Mt Hutt. He also said ski selfie sticks are used a lot on the mountain.

But GoPros aren't the only option. Sony has three models of its Action Cam, starting from $349.

If you don't want to buy a new camera you can get a case for your phone and put it on your helmet, or just hold it. Hitcase makes tough cases for iPhones that come with a range of accessories so you can mount them on just about anything. Their prices start at $100.

SOCIAL MEDIA

If you or your friends ski or board then come winter your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are probably full of snow antics.

Instagram is increasing popular in New Zealand and several mountains, including Mt Hutt, Cardrona and Rainbow have accounts. Most of those pics are for publicity but searching hashtags will show up plenty of pictures from people on the mountain.

Many resorts also are on Facebook and Twitter and they are good place to get information, or if things go bad, to complain.

WEBSITES

A fun part of skiing is improving your skills. While you can always use an instructor, technology can also help in the form of websites.

For Kiwi snowboarders, Snowboard Addiction is a great site. Started by a Kiwi who now lives in Whistler, the site features videos to help everyone from learners to those wanting to progress in the park. It has a selection of free videos but for the full package you need to pay US$59 (NZ$86)

Skiers can try the YouTube channel of Elate Media which has dozens of videos for a range of abilities. 

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 - Stuff

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