North Face Snow Report Gives Skiers an Edge

The North Face Snow Report for iPhone and iPod touch provides everything the skier needs to plan a day trip or longer: snow totals, snow conditions, detailed current weather with forecast, trail maps, and a resort locator via Google maps. Best of all, it's free.

I've been using this app ever since it was released, and I love it. Not only is it well conceived and beautifully laid out, but it also displays, at least in the weather section, both English and metric values.

The first thing of interest is the easiest to find, snow totals for the last 24, 48 and 72 hours. You can customize your list of favorite resorts just by hitting the prominent plus key on the upper right, and the sort and add method is familiar to those who've added cities to the iPhone's weather app.

NF Snow Summary

Custom Summary Screen

Surprisingly, I couldn't find a preference to convert all data, snow fall total and temperature summaries to metric. That might be a nit. However, even when I selected a Canadian or European ski resort, the numbers remained in English. That's a tough call for a developer, and perhaps the way out is a simple, global preference.

Barring that concern, I found the app to be straightforward. Drill down to more details for each resort is intuitive. However, as a result, the text for the temperatures for the next few days can be a little small, and I'd like to see an option to "two finger expand" the daily forecast.

NF Snow Details

Resort Details

Scrolling down a little reveals options for a trail map and Google maps to locate the resort. That might seem redundant, but can really come in handy for first time skiers -- who have enough to worry about besides getting lost on the way to the resort. Or if you're going to a new place on a trip with, say, a ski club, that'll also come in handy.

Resort details include the number of lifts and runs open. That's important to know in early season when the snow base depth is low and one wants to know how easy it'll be to get around the mountain -- and how crowded it might be. A webcam option shows a visual on what the conditions and sky look like. The resort base and top elevations are also shown -- in feet.

The weather forecast page is fully English and metric -- a helpful but quizzical decision considering the situation in the rest of the app. The screen shot below shows just a portion of all the weather data and includes estimated gusts, barometric pressure, visibility, sunrise, sunset and an ultraviolet light rating.

NF Show Weather

Detailed Weather

Note that in ski mountain resorts, and even Denver, barometric pressures are adjusted to sea level equivalents. So if you see 29.92 inches of mercury for, say Arapahoe Basin, take that as "normal" pressure for that altitude. A quick look at a standard atmosphere table will reveal that at 10,000 ft, typical for a Colorado ski area, the partial pressure is about 69 percent of sea level, (about 20.6 inches of mercury) so the adjusted barometric pressure is misleading. (There is inconsistency on how his this is reported at various sites.)

Fortunately, the trail map can be resized with the normal two figure pinch or expand gesture. I haven't had a chance to try this in bright sunlight at a ski area with my dark sunglasses on, but I suspect it will be a problem. The trail map is probably best accessed at lunch -- where the iPhone isn't a risk of being fumbled fingered into the snow. There's just no substitute for a paper trail map while on the lift. (Has anyone ever dropped their iPhone from 10 meters high on a lift chair?)

NF Snow Trail Map

Resizable Trail Map

There are some other minor features. The North Face store finder is in a low key, non-obnoxious place. There's a news feed and an image gallery.


Aside from some incoherence in handling metric data and atmospheric pressure, this is a fine app. Some have complained about crashes, but the developer has explained fully how a change in data source after version 1.x requires the app to be deleted and reinstalled. It has never crashed on me, and I disagree with the negative ratings posted at the App Store.

Whether you're a newbie or experienced skier, this is an essential app for your iPhone or iPod touch for use at home, in the car on the way, or in the resort cafeteria. Just don't try to use it on the ski lift with frozen fingers -- if your iPhone goes overboard, chances are you'll never see it again.

The North Face Snow Report for iPhone or iPod touch version 2.15 requires iPhone OS 3.1.2 or later and is free.