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Skiers and snowboarders, the Apple Watch is your new best friend.
Apple announced on Wednesday that it’s given third-party Apple Watch apps access to winter sport tracking. Several of these apps, including snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks, are releasing updates that will enable the Watch to track a number of metrics related to skiing and snowboarding performance.
The API that supports such tracking rolled out with watchOS 4.2 in December. Bad news for legacy Apple Watch owners, though: Almost all of the new features are only available for the Apple Watch Series 3, which is the first Apple Watch to include a barometric altimeter.
This update will make it much easier for skiers and snowboarders to track their performance, which they previously had to do on an iPhone. Carrying and operating a phone is often difficult in winter gear, especially for skiers who often have their hands full with poles.
“In my own experience when using snoww, I found myself always wanting to check my stats for the day while on a chairlift, but this meant getting cold hands, the risk of dropping a glove, or worse, dropping my iPhone,” snoww founder Eddie Healey told Mashable in an email. Healey mentioned that snoww users commonly asked for Apple Watch tracking in survey feedback.
“This season 25% of my users used the Watch app to record their days (just the iPhone app). So with Apple giving developers more capabilities for Watch and winter sports in watchOS 4.2, the update was a no-brainer,” added Slopes founder Curtis Herbert.
“Watch is a great companion to skiing and snowboarding. My users love not having to take their gloves off and fish out their phone to check stats and notifications.”
Apple declined to comment on the update.
The update means those apps can now track a number of raw metrics including total vertical descent and distance, number of runs, average and maximum speeds, total time spent, and calories burned. Users can pause and resume app performance. Some apps, such as snoww, will automatically pause tracking while a user is on the chairlift.
Like other activities, skiing and snowboarding now gives users credit toward activity rings, and workout information is recorded in Apple’s Health app.
Some apps also offer Siri integration, which will allow users to stop and start tracking with their voice.
These apps have a number of other fun features for skiers and snowboarders. For example, snoww users can take advantage of live location tracking to find friends at the same ski area, or track their kids. Squaw lists the chairlifts and trails that skiers have used.
Beyond skiers and snowboarders, Apple is consistently looking to expand the capabilities of the Apple Watch beyond its traditional role as a fitness tracker. watchOS 4 updates from late last year introduced GymKit, which allows users to pair the device with gym equipment from several manufacturers, and began allowing users to stream music over LTE.