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Having a safe route planned is one of the most important parts of travel in the backcountry. While no one should ditch a printed topographical map (ever had a phone die in the cold miles from the hut in a blizzard?), the supercomputer in your pocket is more helpful than ever when it comes to following preplanned routes and finding good snow.
Gaia GPS is an app that has gained a cult following over the years, and a recent round of upgrades makes it nearly essential for adventurous skiers. With a premium plan, now included with Outside+ membership, users can create or download custom layered maps directly to their phones, allowing for elements like shaded slope angle, satellite images of the terrain, and recent snow coverage estimates to be overlapped or viewed individually, no signal required. Routes and points of interest can be mapped out and downloaded as well, keeping users on track when breaking trail in a new zone; weather forecast integration can also be built in to accurately pinpoint when to make a push for the summit or when to turn back to the car.
The app is one of many new tech products that are helping to make backcountry travel more accessible and possibly safer. However, it’s worth noting that there is no replacement for making solid, educated firsthand decisions in uncontrolled terrain. Keeping your head up and judging snowpack, location, and weather in real-time is critical in the backcountry. But a little help from your phone can go a long way during a big day out.
Learn more about free and paid versions of Gaia GPS on their website, owned by Outside.
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