Eugene Buchanan: Ski with a pocket radar gun

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Eugene Buchanan, magazines editor

— Ski patrollers might notice skiers and riders schussing a little faster down the mountain this season, and not just because of the winter’s firm snowpack. It owes itself to a 99-cent app that’s fast turning otherwise sane skiers into slaves for speed.

Hi, my name is Eugene, and I’m a Ski Tracks dork. Ski Tracks is a new app that lets you back up your bravado at the bar by tracking your runs on the mountain.

It started when a cohort walked in one morning, beaming. He then showed me why.

“Take a look at his,” he said, handing me his ion-filled rectangle.

On it was Ski Tracks, showing him topping out at 60 mph down an empty Heavenly Daze. While this might not raise the eyebrows of the Chad Fleischers, Moose Barrowses, Chris Pucketts and Tim Magills of the world, for the average mortal, it’s not too shabby. He then displayed his exact runs overlaid onto Google Earth, as well as total distance and vertical feet.

The 2.8-megabyte app (about the same as our December snowfall) also keeps track of altitude, max slope steepness and duration — so you can show your boss that you only spent 38 minutes actually skiing— and graphs everything for those favoring bar charts at the bar.

I’m not much of a techo-geek, but I couldn’t resist his enthusiasm and downloaded it on my iPhone that night. Which brings up a word of warning. If you’re going to partake in such lunacy, don’t head out at noon on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Make sure the slopes are empty, and heed the skier’s safety code by staying in control.

Those parameters covered, I started my burgeoning ski-app career atop the gondola on a borrowed pair of racing skis, a veritable Tommy Moe personified. After my run, I gave the app a peek: 46 mph.

What self-respecting skier wouldn’t try to up it a hair? But it also hit me how stupid it was to go faster because of a phone. It reminded me of when I had my tennis serve clocked in high school — 89 mph — but it tweaked my shoulder and the ball didn’t even hit the court.

Still, ego firmly in gloved hand, I tried again. This time, with the slopes still empty, I got up to a respectable, Eugene-the-Jeep-if-not-Steve-McQueen 53 mph. Later, I saw my runs laid out perfectly, down to the dogleg onto Bashor and, embarrassingly, even where I stopped for a bathroom break in the trees. Big Brother was watching my every move. And like my friend, I couldn’t help but show people afterward.

My cohort and I aren’t the only ones feeling the need to clock speed. Former World Cup racer David Lamb recently borrowed one from a friend and promptly topped 77 mph on Lower Valley View. I suddenly felt pretty weenie.

My buddy even tested the app’s accuracy while driving and found it spot on. Which, of course, brings up its other uses across town. Cops bust you for speeding? Counter with the Ski Tracks reading. Use it shopping (max speed 2.5 mph), proving to your spouse that you did, in fact, make it down the dog food aisle. You also can prove that you indeed walked the dog 1.6 miles in 20 minutes before slouching on the couch. On the downside, head out on the town, and your spouse can see that you stopped at the VFW at 2 a.m.

But its real place is on the mountain, not calculating how many pickled eggs you ate. Just don’t fall prey to your hubris; they’re called the Darwin awards for a reason.

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