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.