Check out WINTER SKI & RIDE! The best app not only for Windows Phone, it easily beats Android and iPhone apps!
Update: Do you know why Skype for Windows Phone is becoming an ultimate ski communication app? check my April post.
The ski season in North America is still waiting for the real snowfall, but despite the snow conditions many companies and developers decided to build apps for the new cool kid on the mountain, the Windows Phone. Skiers and snowboarders out there love gadgets, and having a Windows Phone immediately attracts attention on the chairlifts across America. “I’ve heard Microsoft and Nokia did an awesome job at CES this year!” – a rider with awesome polarized goggles tells me on the Glacier Express lift over magnificent Blackcomb mountain (he probably means Nokia Lumia CES award). "Yeah, I like those tile things” – another ski dude almost makes my Windows Phone drop 100 ft into an unknown bowl covered with snow boulders left by avalanches. I manage to save my precious Windows Phone with a gorgeous 4.3” super AMOLED screen from a disaster, and our conversation continues in peace.
I wanted to see how the ski crowd responds to the Windows Phone and what ski apps are available that make skiing even more fun for us. Windows Phone Metro user interface is actually better to see on the mountain than other smartphones, because of its smart use of large live tiles: when you take that hot chocolate break, relaxing in a stretch chair near a mountain lodge, with the light and the snow around you, tiles are actually much easier to see than tiny icons and fonts on iPhone or Android. Windows Phone uses typography (large fonts) and it makes it easier to read on the mountain!
“It’s so clear!” – another ski dude tells me trying to look up a snow report update on his iPhone, failing, and glancing over my brightly colored live tiles. I attribute his comment to the Metro design, used on Windows Phone, XBOX and future Windows 8.
This winter I covered many of the US and Canada’s ski resorts: Northstar, Squaw Valley and Heavenly in California, Whistler/Blackcomb in BC, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail in Colorado. I wrote this while on vacation, as a trip report from the field so to speak
Most Universal App for Skiing
WINTER SKi & Ride is the app that combines it all: snow reports, activity tracker, 2000+ resorts, maps, altitude, websites, phone numbers, lessons from Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI). The app includes a rapidly growing social network of thousands of skiers and riders, leaderboards.
In terms of technology and its beautiful UI, WINTER is de-facto gold standard for ski apps not only for Windows Phone, but also for any other platform.
Snow Report Apps
Whistler and Blackcomb resort not only has the best snow in North America this year, they built a beautiful app with a Panorama control, Web cam views and the current weather. I would recommend adding live tiles, but otherwise it’s a great app. When I see an app like this, I immediately start thinking of things I want to add to it… Remember, I’m a software dude, just give me the budget and I’ll make a candy. But really, this is a great app for Windows Phone. The app is FREE.
In the morning in Breckenridge, as part of a morning ritual, my girlfriend and I go to a French family owned French Bakery on the Main Street, to listen to beautiful tunes of Joe Dassin or other chansons and have a truly unique croissant or crepe and a morning coffee. But before that, being skiers (of course!) we check the snow report. One of the best apps that recently appeared on Windows Phone marketplace is North Face Snow Report. Not only this company makes great winter clothing, they also decided to put an app out there, and it’s noticed by the skiers. “North Face Snow Report” app provides snow report on any ski area, and: attention Windows Phone lovers, you can pin live tiles with your favorite resorts to the start screen. The app is FREE.
Ski Guide is very interesting. It provides a trial version, and the paid version offers open lifts and runs, as well as run summary, forecast, piste map. Especially, I love the use of Windows Phone’s gorgeous Panorama control to show resort information. It’s one of the best apps in terms of using Panorama. You can also submit comments on the current condition (or anything you like to chat about). I have very little feedback for this app, it follows many Metro principles, may be moving the round buttons from the Panorama items to the Application bar. PAID with TRIAL.
SnowMinder is an interesting app that provides NWAC telemetry for ski resorts in Washington and Oregon. The recent update also added GPS capturing capabilities. My recommendation to the author: great app, can make it better by replacing default splash screen (at Microsoft we recommend this for all apps), and check Windows Phone Metro guidelines for Panorama control. I would also move the ad control to the top: the bottom is used by the app bar.
“Freshy! Ski and Snow Report” is another app you may choose for snow reports, but it needs some updates. At the time of writing it doesn’t have live tiles, but it allows you to select a ski area, after that it opens a Web Browser with OnTheSnow Web site. As a field feedback, I would recommend adding live tiles and provide deeper Windows Phone integration: with native controls instead of relying on the Web Browser. This is a common suggestion I make for many partners working with Microsoft or developing apps for Windows Phone.
Ski games! Can’t really have a great Windows Phone experience without installing any games So, après-ski, or dreaming about the next ski vacation, this is your definite Windows Phone ski game list.
Ski Lesson Apps
I’m guilty, I also developed a ski app for Windows Phone! It’s called “12 Ski Lessons”, and contains 12 video lessons I recorded in Colorado last year as an aspiring ski instructor. I admit that my app needs an update, and I will release one when we get more snow! Seriously, I need to update it, and it’s not part of the top list above .
Apps I’ve Been Missing
I’ve been missing one app that I’d love to feature, but I don’t see it in the Marketplace (yet). This is an EpicMix app by Vail resorts. EpicMix has a beautiful Web site built with Microsoft ASP.NET platform, and they have very talented designers and developers. Yes, you can access EpicMix mobile Web site from Windows Phone, but I’m still waiting for a Windows Phone native app.
I’m a US West Region Microsoft Windows Phone champion, an avid skier and a professional ski instructor (alpine and freestyle). My apps are available in the Marketplace. My goal is to help app developers for Windows Phone to make their apps better, share the design guidelines and overall help you make your app shine! Seriously, I know what to do to make your app better, so that your users rank it better. All recommendations in this article are based on experience of working with hundreds of apps and partners. Want an advice, check Microsoft’s “30 to Launch” Web site with advice on how to build your apps. Watch Windows Phone jumpstart series on Channel 9. Download Microsoft Windows Phone SDK with free development tools: Visual Studio and Expression Blend.