By Leslie Hittmeier
I know this snow science type of thing can be a little dry, but hear me out. The guys at Avatech have created the coolest app ever for backcountry skiers. It’s the first crowd-sourced platform for avalanche safety, so skiers now have a way to easily share information about the mountains while in the backcountry. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you’re on a tour and you see an avalanche in an adjacent valley, or maybe you dig a pit and find unstable snow. You can now get on your phone and use the Avanet Mobile App to geotag the location, and a set of observations, and send them off to the community of users. If you’re down with that, but don’t want to see a bunch of observations you aren’t totally sure you trust, you can sort the data so you only see observations from professionals. Or even, say, people with avy level 1 training and above.
The app comes preloaded with really high quality topography maps that you can download directly to your phone so the functionality will still work when you don’t have service. The app and the observation functions are free, but for $5 a month you can you can access the online version of AvaNet, which gives you so many more things to geek out on—like a bad-ass route-planning function.
You can get online and plan a route and then send it to your GPS or phone. You can figure out distance, elevation, vertical, slop angle, aspect and much more. Over time, it will even learn your average touring speed and be able to give you an accurate estimate for how long the tour will take you. Also, say you want to do a backcountry day in the Wasatch but you want to stay off north-facing aspects above 10,000 feet. You can set parameters and block out those zones so you can safely plan your route around them. See? Bad. Ass.
There will also be a leader board, because who doesn’t love good friendly competition? The leader board will be based on how much you contribute your observations and help the community. Like Strava, but for snow science! Neat.
When I asked Brint Markle, the CEO of Avatech, what he has to say about the haters who claim this type of thing will only make people lazy and dependent on others’ observations, he said, “We tell everyone this technology is meant to compliment snow pits. I would argue that the platform that we have now developed encourages people to communicate and take more observations than they would before.” Well-played Markle. Well-played.
There’s one catch: This all relies on people actually using the damn thing. It’s worthless (ok, not worthless, remember the route-planning? Still bad-ass.) if people don’t jump on and make observations. So download it and make a goal of using it this season, because it coudl change how we communicat about avalanches and broader mountain safety information.
Avanet Moble is available on ITunes now.