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Digital Skiing

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Vertical graph of my morning skiing at Whistler Blackcomb. (AE, NGS)

“104 kilometers per hour? There’s no way that can be right.”

My ski instructor was incredulous, shaking her head even after I showed her proof on the chairlift — with my phone.That morning I had downloaded the Whistler Blackcomb LIVE app for iPhone, which GPS tracks your entire ski path for the day, measures vertical ascents and descents, speeds, average speeds and overall distances, then maps your activity.

104 kmh is 65 mph, the same speed as a car on the highway. It was hard to believe that I had skied that fast, even on a groomed intermediate run with a thousand-meter vertical drop.

But I really did.

That night, Scot Curry confirmed my speed at the bar. Snowboarder by day and cocktail artist by night, Scot revealed that the other day he’d used the very same app to clock his speed at 135 kmh (84 mph) on the Dave Murray Downhill, one of the most popular and speedy ski runs on Whistler mountain.

Across the bar at Alta Bistro, Scot and I compared our digital tracks and stats, passing our phones back and forth across the bar while he mixed me up one of his artful concoctions, “Splash”. Scot’s cocktails are famous for their color, oddly-matched flavors, home-brewed elixirs and his love for historic accuracy. (For his mint julep, he follows a recipe from 1803.)

And yet, sipping a cocktail from centuries ago did not steady my surprise at the digital read of my day on the slopes. Suddenly, a whole day’s worth of “fun” had been delineated into a series of numeric tables and graphs.

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Single ski descent recorded by Whistler LIVE App (AE screenshot).

Better yet, the automatically-generated maps were precise in detailing exactly where I had skied, even showing the perfect straight line of Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak2Peak gondola, the longest single-span suspension gondola in the world.

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One morning's ski tracks at Whistler Blackcomb. The straight line indicates the Peak 2 Peak Gondola run, the longest of its kind in the world. (AE, screenshot).

In Canada, I’ve quickly picked up on the fact that half the fun of skiing comes from the storytelling that follows a day on the slopes: tales of close encounters, the near misses, the wipeouts, and near-death experiences. For the past two weeks, I’ve listened in on plenty of these ski tales, huddled around the bar or kicking back in the hot tub. The difference now is that I have proof. When someone asks about my day, I tell them: “I skied faster than a car on the highway,” and it’s not just literary embellishment. I have digital proof and I show them.

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