By: Leon Butler
Technology has a major impact on our everyday lives, that’s a fact. For many people their release from tech is to head to the mountains where they can escape from the watchful eye of mobile phones and depressing news stories… me included.
But technology has its place in the mountains, no matter how basic it is. Transceivers, electronic probes and cameras to name a few. If it aids in our safe travels through dangerous terrain, then it should be embraced.
Enter FATMAP, an app for any handheld device that is trying to achieve just that. FATMAP is new on the scene and is designed to be your mobile ski map. Whether its finding a restaurant, a chairlift or that side country route you’ve always wanted to find. The app works by getting a local to write detailed descriptions of an area including backcountry routes and then plot them onto a 3D map. A FATMAP user can then come along, read the descriptions and do a 3D fly-over of the route, giving them a better understanding of what the route holds for them. The app features a filter that shows the gradient of a face or crevasses as well as incorporating an avalanche bulletin from your local source.
As of right now the ‘backcountry’ is limited to in and around resorts, but that will change as the app grows.
It has divided a few people in the industry who are reluctant to embrace technology and ditch their Topographic maps, but this is not the proper use for the app. Paper maps will never be replaced when it comes to backcountry, but if they are used alongside FATMAP then a whole new world of research opens up to you.
It means that you can see in detail, what that valley looks like, or how steep a face actually is. It’s not designed to be solely relied upon, but just another tool to keep us safe when moving through mountains….which can only be a positive thing.
It uses local knowledge from people that have physically skied the area. Information like when is typically the best time of the year to ski that route or if there are any tricky sections, what the snow conditions are usually like ect.
These are all things that help us when researching routes and is quickly being adopted by many professionals and guides. I think as more people start using the app and contributing to it, a community will develop from it.
FATMAP is Currently available in Europe and North America with other areas soon to be added.
To download the app click here.