Ski Tracks: A (love) story of apps, analytics, and adoption

Three weeks ago, I discovered a product that will forever change the way I snowboard. 

I’ve been snowboarding since 1993. In the last two decades, all of the products that snowboarders use – from boards and bindings to boots and apparel – have improved substantially. But year to year, changes in product design are fairly incremental, and hard to detect as a user.

This year was different. Enter Ski Tracks, a movement analytics app for ski and snowboard enthusiasts – a MapMyRun for the mountain.

Within 24 hours of downloading the app, I was hooked. For the first time in 22 seasons, I was armed with more data than I could have ever imagined – ski altitude and vertical, slope and distance details for each run, and, perhaps best of all, top speed. I was overwhelmed, and completely immersed, in all of this newfound information.


I’m admittedly not much of a quantified self type – I don’t own any wearable technology, and don’t use a ton of tracking apps. This has made me think a lot about my interaction with Ski Tracks. A few things stand out to me:

It changed my behavior. After just one run using Ski Tracks, I was resigned to the fact that I would never again get to the bottom of the hill and not check my phone. I wanted to know how fast I’d gone, how much vertical I’d covered. It made me more competitive, with myself and those around me. I was continuously pushing myself to break my own PRs – riding faster, riding longer, riding better. At the end of each day, I dove deep into the app, retracing my tracks and comparing them with past runs and days. I consumed my data voraciously, and boarded differently because of it. The moral of this story? Products have the power to change human behavior.

It solved a problem I didn’t know I had. My quick adoption of Ski Tracks caught me off guard – I hadn’t been aware that I wanted something like this, and yet here I was, practically addicted to the app. Had a friend not told me about it during my trip, I never would have found it, since I wasn’t looking for it in the first place. I discovered Ski Tracks by accident rather than out of any necessity to solve a burning problem. Unlike a lot of other wearable and digital QS products on the market, knowing my top speed on a snowboard may not seem as value-additive as knowing how many calories I’ve burned in a day. The takeaway? It’s hard to attract customers who aren’t looking for your solution.

Products don’t need to be perfect to deliver value. I must admit that Ski Tracks’ UI/UX is not the best I’ve seen; the interface is a little clunky, and the overall design could definitely use an upgrade. But room for improvement notwithstanding, Ski Tracks is evidence that delivering products early and often can bring tremendous value to users, even if they’re not perfect. As a (relatively new) student of software development and agile methodologies, I can appreciate that the makers of Ski Tracks are pushing their product out to users, and hopefully gaining meaningful feedback from them in return. The message for those launching new products? Don’t prioritize perfection at the expense of good enough.

The QS market might be larger than we think. It’s not a secret that both the wearable and digital QS markets are continuing to grow. In a report released earlier this month, Rocket Fuel found that 31% of adult US consumers currently use a QS tracking tool – including wearables, apps and websites – and an additional 25% of respondents that don’t currently use any QS tools are interested in doing so. But I will argue that the QS market may be even larger than we think – I did not fall in this 56%, but after having had a taste of my own data, there’s no going back. If my own experience is any indication, I’m convinced that the 44% of people who aren’t interested in QS tracking will eventually catch on. All signs point toward more data, and more empowerment, for more people.

In a few short weeks, I’ve undergone a small but meaningful personal transformation, from a member of the uninterested 44% to a QS enthusiast and frequent endorser of Ski Tracks. I’ve persuaded no less than 4 friends and family members to download the app – in part because I love using it, and in part because the experience is that much more fun when shared. Needless to say, given the growth in tracking hardware and software, I’m excited to see where QS takes us.