The first time I saw a friend whip out his iPhone on a ski lift, I thought he was just going to make a call. But then he swiped the screen a few times, checked the lift lines, and directed our group toward the best run at Snowbird. We dodged a twenty-minute wait for a lift, found waist-deep powder, and enjoyed the sunniest slopes in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The next day, I bought a smart phone. These apps—available for both Apple and Android platforms—are as much a part of my ski kit as my helmet.
RealSki. Point your phone's camera at the mountain and this program overlays ski runs, chairlifts, and terrain features. With more than a hundred North American resorts in the program's database, it can tag the location of your car, measure speed and acceleration on runs, and upload pictures directly to Facebook. Free; rtp.com/info/company/realski.aspx
Mammut Safety. Created by gear company Mammut, this free application helps evaluate avalanche risk factors. Use the inclinometer to estimate slope angle, switch to the compass to determine a slope's aspect, and click on easy links to read regional avalanche bulletins. As a last resort, the app also includes an SOS feature that sends your GPS coordinates to local rescuer. Free; mammut.ch/safetyapp
Whistler Blackcomb Mobile. Whistler wasn't the first resort to offer a free app, but their easy-to-use program is one of the best. Check lift lines, track your runs, and view conditions with real-time cameras. Free, whistlerblackcomb.com/mobile
Peaks. Hold up your phone's camera and see the name of every mountain in sight, including each peak's elevation and distance from where you are. $2.99, peaks.augmented-outdoors.com
GoToAid. This app is as simple as it is important: it's a portable first aid manual for people and animals, so whether it's you, your ski partner, or Fido that needs a splint, you'll know what to do. $4.99, gotoaid.com
Now you've got a full toolbox—don't lose it! The iCat (shown at left, $24.99, ekusa.com) uses a dock connector with a locking mechanism to secure your phone to a lanyard. —Charlotte Austin