Technology is a wonderful thing. It wasn’t that long ago that punctuality was necessary because there wasn’t a way to call or text to let your friends know that you were going to be late. Letters were the preferred way to keep in touch; you couldn’t just stalk your friends on Facebook to see what they had been up to lately. Photo albums and slideshows were the only way to share vacation photos, many of which were out of focus because there was no way to see the shot you had just taken (you couldn’t just delete it, either).
Those were dark days.
However, as technology has progressed, it has not only made it easier to share every waking moment with friends and strangers (I’m looking at you, social media), but it has also elevated many of our active pursuits. Apps like Strava let you track your workouts and then brag about—ahem, share—them with friends. Others let you track every aspect of your ski day and share it: vertical feet skied, lifts ridden, resorts visited, jumping shots taken.
Then there are those that take it just a bit farther.
What is FATMAP?
FATMAP is a new ski app that provides 3D maps for skiers, detailing both in-resort and backcountry terrain. Available offline, these maps can be accessed before you go to create a plan, to track and record your lines for review later or sharing with friends, or use them on the mountain to decide which lines to take. These maps allow you to see the terrain exactly as it is—not as it’s depicted on a regular ski map.
FATMAP Co-Founder Misha Gopul knows mountains. His family is from a ski resort in Switzerland and Gopul has been skiing since he was old enough to put on ski boots. However, he grew interested in technology while growing up in London. After selling his first company, he moved to Chamonix to pursue his love of skiing and climbing. He was part of the first British team to complete the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route in a single push; last year, he competed in the Ski Mountaineering World Championships for Great Britain. Today he splits his time between London and Chamonix—the perfect bases to explore both his passion for technology and for the mountains, which is where FATMAP was born.
We spoke with Misha to learn more about this innovative new app.
How did you decide on the need for a 3D mapping tool for mountains/ski resorts?
Trail maps look nothing like the real mountain and don’t tell you anything about what it’s really like when you’re there—we wanted to change that.
Then, after being lost and lonely in a storm on an expedition to Albania, my co-founder Dave and I got talking about how contour maps were a poorly adapted, outdated tool for skiing. They are static, low resolution, slow to locate yourself with and don’t give you the context specific information you need when skiing like gradient, avalanche risk, etc. We realized that lack of information and uncertainty was holding people back from skiing the lines they really want to ski so we started thinking about what the ultimate ski map would be (whether inbounds or back country) and how we could truly show the mountain in all its glory.
What sets it apart from other skiing apps? What do you think are some of the coolest features?
There’s just nothing else out there like FATMAP at the moment. It’s next generation in every sense. Our ultra-high resolution 3D map is the foundation of what makes FATMAP so special. It’s up to 30x the resolution of any other map out there. But it goes much further than just a 3D model. It’s a fully offline planning and navigation tool with information from local experts about all the trails in the area. It enables you to have a truly personal, safe adventure whether that’s a day out on the groomers with the kids or pushing your limits in the steeps.
Probably the coolest feature is our fly-through, which allows you to visualize trails all over the mountain before you leave home. It’s like skiing in virtual reality.
How does FATMAP contribute to the overall skiing experience?
With FATMAP, you can know the area like a local on day one.
Modern ski resorts are huge, and there is little information available to help people make decisions about what they want to do, whether that’s finding a double black to ski or just finding a sunny patio to have lunch with the family. FATMAP puts all this information in the palm of your hand and it’s fully offline, so you don’t need a connection. It’s like skiing with a local guide by your side, plus a map that’s so good, if the weather closes in you can navigate easily.
Tell me more about the off-piste maps. Do they make skiing in the backcountry more safe? What other benefits do they offer?
Safety in the backcountry is about having better information and the ability to make more informed decisions—the essential information you need for the backcountry is at your fingertips in FATMAP.
Gradient is probably the single most important factor when making decisions about backcountry skiing, but it’s hard to get quickly and precisely from other maps that are out there. In addition to detailed information about each backcountry line and tour, our premium version offers at-a-glance information about gradient, slope aspect, elevation and risk zones including avalanches so you can make better decisions.
We defined our Avalanche Risk features together with local mountain guides and safety organizations. They are based on industry standard decision-making frameworks like the Munter Reduction Method that provide an easy way for you to know when you’re putting yourself in danger.
What are your plans for North American ski resorts?
We’re excited to be launching across North America this season with maps for Aspen, Jackson Hole, Vail, Whistler, Powder Mountain, Big Sky, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Alta & Snowbird, Taos and Mammoth Mountain. But that’s just for starters… We’ll be expanding our coverage as the season progresses.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Ultimately FATMAP is about creating a community that allows people to plan, experience and share information about their adventures in the outdoors. We think the best adventures are possible when you combine the most accurate map with the most detailed up to date information from experts and the community.
There go the secret stashes, Shame on liftopia for endorsing this…wait till somebody gets killed in the backcountry because they thought they would be safe with fatmaps!
We actually wrote an entire blog post about it because so many people had the same response as you http://www.fatmap.com/blog/ski-safety/ but most importantly, we’re not trying to open the back country to people who don’t have the skills. We’re specifically trying to help prevent tragic accidents like the one you just described. If people are better informed about the risks and better prepared we can reduce the number of accidents like this, would you agree with that?
It might be worth providing a bit of the background to FATMAP, hopefully you’ll see it’s more than just “an app” – it’s a tool developed by professionals specifically focused on decision making and safety.
One of the founders is on the Swiss Mountain Guide training scheme. Two of the investors include IFMGA Mountain Guides Kenton Cool (European Everest Record Holder) and Jon Morgan (British Ski Mountaineering Champion and Team Captain). The app was designed in consultation with resort ski patrol, mountain rescue organizations including the PGHM in Chamonix, IFMGA and British Mountain Guides and La Chamoniarde (the organization responsible for mountain safety in Chamonix). We’re also working in consultation with countless other people in the industry like ANENA (the National Association for Snow and Avalanche Education in France) and Avatech, Utah. All of these people agreed that a tool like this will save both the lives of skiers and the people who make rescues in dangerous mountain terrain.
In the US, the backcountry product is actually being developed as a joint venture with AIARE as a decision making tool.
We believe more knowledge will help save lives.
I have to disagree with you, people that shouldn’t be back there are going to go unprepared and get lost hurt/killed. This app just will give them more confidence to do something they should not be. Shame on you for jeopardizing peoples lives just to make a dollar.
Thats totally fine to have an opinion like that. There are a lot of different opinions in regards to what we are doing so that is why we choose to trust our large global partner portfolio of world class snow safety experts to steer us in the right direction as they do this for a living and have the best interest of the general public in mind. If you do have some suggestions on how we could make this an even safer product I’d be happy to hear your suggestions, shoot me an email at matt at fatmap . com and lets talk about what we can do to make this product even better. I sincerely appreciate your concern.
So are you more worried about losing secret stashes or are you more worried about people getting hurt? Its perfectly fine to raise safety issues, but it’s a bit rude to cast the “shame on you” label when your first comment seemed rather self-serving.
Its not possible to not like losing stashes and also feel like this will get somebody lost/hurt/killed? I am worried about both.
Ok, fair enough. I do think they’ve done a really good job in the app at addressing safety thoughtfully and genuinely. Ultimately I think more information is better (and safer) rather than less.
I think this is a great idea! The more information a person has, the more informed a decision he or she can make. You can’t deny that.
Do you really think just an app will get somebody into the backcountry? What about touring skis? What about snow pants? What about gloves? All those things help people get outdoors and potentially into the backcountry, but I don’t think one of them alone gets the person there, and you certainly can’t blame better gloves for an accident.