My last visit to the slopes on assignment to Mt Hotham was an anti-climax; I was exploring the various parts of the mountain and keeping up with Snowboard Cross X-Games champion, Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin. With my ego ballooned to a size of the moon after getting schooled by an Olympian, I proceeded to hit the trail for one last run (exactly how fast , the distance covered, the calories burnt on the day, who knows?) and awkwardly caught an icy edge on the toe side and awkwardly landed on my left shoulder face down - the ensuing result? A partially dislocated shoulder with 10 months of ongoing physio and rehab, a cracked phone screen and a massively bruised ego.
Fast forward 12 months, I find myself on another snow assignment in the exclusive company of another Olympian, Half Pipe Olympic Bronze medalist, Nico Porteous in the beautiful slopes of Coronet Peak, NZ. This time however, I have all the tools I need to be sensible and to protect myself from disasters including the mandatory protection helmet, a hydration back pack with impact protection and an ingenious social tracking ski/snowboarding app called snoww, specifically designed for Apple Watch Series 3. Porteous himself is a big fan of the latter; "Gone are the days of getting blasted by a speed radar police gun for my ski training. During certain turns I need to hit a specific speed to be able to execute particular jumps and my Apple Watch helps me to track this on top of my heart rate - this plays a crucial role in improving my performance as I can see how hard I’m working and enables me to focus on the technical aspects of my skiing."
Starting up snoww on the Apple Watch on Coronet Express Chair couldn’t be any easier thanks to the voice activation - ‘Hey Siri, start tracking on snoww’ - and boom you are done until your last run of the day. What about the phone you ask, it’s neatly tucked away in the heavily padded pocket of my backpack and constantly synching with the watch via Bluetooth - there was no way I was going to let my phone screen to crack again thanks to my mishaps. The first run as expected was a nervous one, turns felt sloppy and my mind was constantly shouting, ‘SLOW DOWN! SHOULDERS!’ as I laboured through the foggy mists of the blue runs of Arnold’s Way and West Gates in one piece.
The real magic happened when I settle myself in the second chair lift as snoww brings up a screen with a discreet vibration of the Apple Watch showing every intricate details of my first run - Distance Covered, Total Runs, Max Speed, Vertical Descent and Calories Burnt. The built in sensors of the watch including the accelerometer and altimeter combined with the latest watchOS 4.2 are smart enough to know when you are shredding down the mountain as opposed to when you are having a well deserved break on the lifts - providing a perfect opportunity to reminisce and analyse your last run on snoww - talk about a blend of perfect marriage.
"We’re thrilled what Apple Watch Series 3 allows us to build for our passionate snow sports audience," said Eddy Healey, a charming Yorkshireman and a proud developer of snoww. Sharing a chair lift with him give us another chance to compare our Max Speed, Healey doing his nickname of ‘Fast Eddy’ a proud justice with an impressive speed of 62km/h to my paltry 30km/h. The excuse for my tortoise like pace again? The petrifying prospect of hurting my shoulder for the second time.
"We designed snoww thinking about quick interactions and glances while out on the mountain so these updates have helped us make it easy to record accurate, relevant metrics as well as create a fun and social experience for our users" - Healey hits it on the spot as he shows me snoww's ultimate party trick - its ability to track your mates in real time using the Apple Watch’s GPS showing how far apart they are in terms of kilometres and time. From the dodgy 4G phone reception of 12 months ago to the ability to pinpoint your friends on the map of your watch without ever taking out your phone - how the games have changed. Throughout the day we are bombarded with the constant updates of our group members uploading pictures of their jumps and selfies. Healey intends to up the ante in the upcoming version of snoww and shows me a sneak preview - think the augmented reality of Pokemon Go meets the mountain - what an exciting time we live in.
For the record, 31.8km of distance was covered on the day with my shoulder still intact, with the top speed of 35km/h, 6394m of vertical drop (nearly 3 times the height of Mt Kosciuszko), 22 runs in total and a whopping 1009 calories burnt - all the data at my disposal which would have been impossible to track 12 months ago. Now I just can’t wait to get back in it with my ego still in check.