How the Apple Watch Kept Me Sane When I Wasn’t Skiing

Yes, when used with the correct apps, the Apple Watch Series 6 can satisfy any data-hungry skier. But it really shines off the hill as well.

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The Apple Watch Series 6 is a powerful tool for resort skiers. When linked to a proper app—Slopes, Strava, Gaia GPS—it is an effective tool for tracking the total number of runs, vertical descent, and calories burned, among other data points. Because the watch is on the wrist, it means less time pulling out your phone to check on things, meaning users can be more focused on skiing and being outdoors rather than in the phone zone on every lift ride.

In other words, for those who are especially data-hungry or want to keep in touch with friends while skiing, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a great tool to complement the greatest activity on snow.

But the most impressive aspect is how powerful the smartwatch is off the hill for keeping active and maintaining a clear mind while doing more day-to-day activities that aren’t nearly as stimulating as skiing. The combination of apps like Breathe and the gamification of staying active throughout the day made long days at the office—which happens to be the bedroom or the kitchen these days—keep a semblance of sanity present in a stay-at-home world where it’s easy to lose it.

Breathe is pre-programmed on the watch, and can be set to pop up sporadically throughout the day to take one to five minutes to focus on breathing. It sounds cheesy, but it really helps prevent spending excessive time scrolling mindlessly through social media—i.e. procrastinating—as the day goes on.

The Breathe app can be silenced or have notifications turned off completely, just in case you don’t enjoy using it.

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Apple Watch Series 6
The Series 6 adds a blood-oxygen saturation sensor to the Apple Watch’s list of bells and whistles. Photo: Keri Bascetta

The other mental health bonus for the Apple Watch Series 6 comes from the Fitness app. While every smartwatch offers some sort of day-to-day tracking of steps taken, stairs ascended, exercise logged, and a myriad of other factors, what sets the Apple product apart is the gamification of it. Daily goals for steps, standing, and exercise are presented as rings that need to be closed each day. If the goal is to stand up at least 10 times a day, then the ring shows regularly updated progress and fully closes when the user gets to 10.

When one ring is closed, the watch’s strikingly beautiful display lets you know with a digital thumbs-up. When all three rings are closed, there is a miniature celebration that feels as good as a Peloton instructor saying how awesome you are. All of that standing, walking, and exercise boosts mental health and helps keep the day moving beyond the clock.

Make Your Day in the Backcountry Safer and Easier with This App

There are also a number of other health-focused features for the Apple Watch Series 6, including sleep tracking (which also includes goal-setting), a heart rate and EKG monitor, and, most impressively, a blood oxygen sensor that makes acclimating on a high-altitude ski trip easier, or detecting an early onset of an illness. Because the Apple Watch Series 6 is linked to the App Store, there are even more third-party apps to help boost mental and physical health.

After one particularly trying winter of testing the Apple Watch Series 6, it’s impressive how much it helped keep me on an even keel when it comes to exercise and keeping sanity. And, while it was used for skiing often, the real value came from how the watch could help the user better when not skiing, which is probably more important in the long term. [From $399,]