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Plugged In to Get Out

Our technologically inept sports editor’s review of the best outdoor and sports apps around.
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Best thing about downloading Strava for the first time? Every trail is a personal record.

Being a millennial journalist, it may seem surprising that I sometimes have the technological wherewithal of your grandpa. Keyboard shortcuts are as confounding as a second language, my hashtags suck, and I still couldn’t tell you what Snapchat is for, but I’m starting to adapt.

When I first considered a run-down of apps geared toward the outdoors, it seemed counter-intuitive. I get out to get away from the feed, I thought. But lo and behold, there are actually a handful of outdoor/sports oriented apps that can be pretty useful, as long as you put the damn phone away here and there and remember to enjoy the view.

For the skaters: Stomp Sessions

Let’s start hyper-local: Truckee-based Stomp Sessions is centered around connecting those who want to build their snowboarding, skiing, or skateboarding skills with athletes at the pinnacle of their discipline. According to co-founder Ryan Williams, the inspiration for the app was birthed from experiences at the Truckee skatepark where kids would ask the X-games medalist for “pro quick tips.”

Users of the app can log on and book sessions with three different tiers of athletes: Those with more disposable income can indulge in a lesson with Stomp Sessions elite athletes like Ryan Sheckler or Jamie Anderson; the “bespoke experience,” as Williams calls it. The second tier is occupied by professional athletes, and the third tier is occupied by local athletes who must be voted into the instructors ranks by their peers. At the time of this writing Stomp has 11 elite athletes and 50 athletes in the other tiers.

Williams and co-founders Dave Sick and Robert Suarez say the app will certainly break into more sports disciplines in time, but those forays will be in direct response to their users' needs and requests. “There’s certainly no limits here, but we’re going to focus on the community and try to get it right,” Sick said.

For the bikers: Strava

Without a doubt the very best way to brag about your sick afternoon bike ride to all your buds, Strava uses GPS to record your path, speed, elevation gain, and other data on any run or bike trip with or without cell service. The app is essentially the Instagram of hike and bike trips, and for that reason it’s a great place to connect with other athletes and plan trips, give beta, or simply offer props.

Strava is also a great way to pit yourself against yourself, with benchmarks for progression. Most well traveled trails are broken down into many smaller sections, so you can compare your own times for each small stretch and note where there is room for improvement.

For the skiers: Avalanche Forecasts

After you have taken an avalanche course or two, bought working gear, and PRACTICED with said gear, one of the most important things you should do before heading out into the backcountry is check the local avalanche forecast.

Luckily, we’re fortunate enough to have the incredible resource of the Sierra Avalanche Center (SAC) covering almost the entire Tahoe/Truckee area. Even better, you can access all of SAC’s daily updates as well as updates by other avalanche organizations throughout the country via the app Avalanche Forecasts — just make sure to check while you still have wifi.

For the climbers: Mountain Project

If you’re a dedicated climber you most likely already know about this app, but in case you’ve been projecting inside a cave the last few years, here you go. Mountain Project is a crowdsourced resource stacked full of climbing beta for thousands of climbing areas around the country.

The best part is, you can download routes for an entire region while poaching Starbucks wifi from your van, and then access all the info you could want even when the wall is out of service. Photos, directions, routes, and ratings for each area are posted by dedicated participants, and then subjected to peer review by other members so sandbagging is kept to a minimum. Sorta.

For the hikers: All Trails

Essentially the Mountain Project of class one climbing, or hiking, as some have been known to call it, All Trails also has a database of popular and obscure hikes around the country. Users simply type in a location — or because apps nowadays are creepy and know where you are at all times, 500 “trails near you” automatically pop up when you open All Trails — and you can pick from a healthy selection of hikes complete with a basic topo map showing the route, elevation gain and loss, distance, reviews, and even the weather for the next few days.

All Trails also allows you to download their maps for use while outside of cell service, so the next time you ask that cute Patagucci-clad girl/guy out on a hike-date, you’ll have some idea where you’re going and won’t have to be heli-rescued off Tallac (Look up CHP Chopper makes El Dorado Rescue on Mount Tallac at sacbee.com — when you’re done reading this article, of course).

For the inquisitive beach bum, and the kids!: Citizen Science

For those ready to get real nerdy with it, the Tahoe Center of Environmental Science (TERC) has turned to crowdsourcing as well. The Citizen Science app lets you contribute to keeping Tahoe blue during your day at the beach by making it easy to submit observations about algae, beach waste, and water quality. To earn solid parenting points, download it for the kids — it sure beats Candy Crush.

 
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November 9, 2017