Nicole Inglis: Why ski screen-free?

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Nicole Inglis: Ski Town Beats

Nicole Inglis' Ski Town Beats column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 970-871-4204 or ninglis@SteamboatToday.com.

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— You know the scene: A family of four waiting on the benches inside Rendezvous for a fifth to come out of the bathroom. They’re lined up, father and three sons, and every one of them is glued to the flickering smartphone screens hovering about six inches from their faces.

But outside, the sun is shining so bright it’s melting icicles even in the perfect, 25 degree winter air and powder abounds in the trees.

For many of us, the time spent at Steamboat Ski Area comprises the few hours we spend away from our phones.

Smartphones provide skiers and boarders with an extension of the skiing experience and enhance the sport in many ways. We can listen to infinite playlists through streaming music providers and arrange to meet our friends on a busy day. But how much is too much?

Why to take it on the hill

Safety: It doesn’t matter if you’re the sickest, gnarliest skier on the mountain: If you’re alone or lose your group and are injured, having a device in your pocket that can call 911 could be a lifesaver. It could mean the difference between hours and days for a rescue or could get you into surgery faster for a knee injury.

Ski Tracks: This popular smartphone app shows up in the take it and leave it categories because it has its dangers and advantages. Even the free version offers the chance to track the vertical feet and distance you ski plus plots it on a handy GPS map. The altimeter is useful even off the hill.

Photos: There’s no need to stash bulky, waterproof cameras in your ski jacket. Smartphones are virtual scrapbooks made for documenting that one day where the snow report said 1 inch and there really was 14. Your friends never would believe you if it weren’t for your Instagram feed that day.

Why to leave it in your pocket

Meeting your friends: This might be an advantage to some because skiing is a social sport, but I’ve spent days returning calls on chairlifts and furiously texting on cat tracks to try to track down large groups spread across the mountain. At its core, our passion for being up on the mountain on a beautiful winter day is rooted in a spiritual kind of escapism. It’s the quiet of the snow falling off the trees and that cute little porcupine waddling across the trail. It’s a beautiful, soul-nourishing feeling to have snow in its infinite manifestations of ice, crust, corduroy, corn and powder rushing under your skis. If there’s someone who you’re meant to share it with on any given day, they will be there. Or perhaps, you might just make a new friend on the chairlift. Because you know, it’s OK to take out your headphones, turn to the stranger next to you and ask how his or her day is going.

Ski Tracks: I have read no documented cases of Ski Tracks as a cause for a speed-related skiing accident, but if it hasn’t happened, it will soon. Someday, a particularly competitive person will come flying down Heavenly Daze trying to break the land speed record, and someone is bound to get hurt.

Sanity: Some people do yoga or meditate to clear their minds of the havoc and chaos of everyday life. Some people ski or bike for that same release. If you’re like me and spend hour after hour in front of a computer, the last thing that’s going to help relieve stress is looking at more screens, especially if you’re tempted to answer work emails or return calls.

For those who want to listen to music on the hill, here’s a great option for iPhone users: Set your Pandora to your favorite station and then turn on the Do Not Disturb feature in settings. For Android users, there are several apps available that provide the same service and various tech blogs pointed to Silencify and Auto Ring as good options. Newer Androids have a “call blocker” feature that’s similar.

You won’t get any alerts or calls — you can set exceptions for Mom or your child’s school — but you’re free to use your phone as you normally would.

A little will power goes a long way for screen-free skiing.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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