My top 8 ski holiday gadgets

May 29, 2013 1 Comment by

Wide angle shots as well as video. I'm in orange jacket holding the GoPro on a stick

This last ski season saw more technology on display than ever. Wearable, holdable and latest technology is ubiquitous here in Bansko. It’s displayed as proud as a peacock’s feathers. My new hobby is “technology watching”. Everywhere you look — on the pistes and in the apres ski bars — there are more gadgets and technology than you can shake a stick at.

But did you know that Bansko is one of the most internet connected ski resorts in the world? Bulgaria enjoys the eighth best internet anywhere in the world. There has even been a 4G network since 2009 (see

Oh YES. There is free WIFI. It’s virtually everywhere, including the two major meeting and general eating areas on the mountain.

I love technology, but too often gadgets can lead to disappointment. It quickly gets discarded, unloved and disbanded after a while. So read on for my selection of long term quality purchases — or for the purposes of this article “tests” —  that have withstood the bumps and abuse of regular use.


Little Hotties

Little Hotties. Warm hands 🙂

Not a gadget but a gadget replacement for high tech and expensive battery operated glove warmers. These wonderful handwarmers are a hand saver when going up ski lifts on the cooler days. In a handy pack which, after shaking the bag inside, creates a chemical reaction which makes it hot. So ideal for stuffing into gloves or just holding on to.

I used these just at the end of the cooler winter period and my impressions were favourable. I am prone to cold hands and the little warmers are simple, cheap and practical to carry around at all times. These stay warm for a long time. Even after seven hours up on the mountain they were still pumping out useful heat.


GoPro Hero

Ski and snowboarding memories are precious. And home ski vidoes have come come a long way from those grainy super 8’s we used to take on our family ski trips. No holdable, or werable technology, is predicted to be the next big growth area — Google Glass is now reality (uurrgghhhh far too creepy geeky) and loads of other wearable techie stuff coming soon. Apple’s iWatch, if it comes, is a fascinating concept. I go to to feed my interest on this one.

For my YouTube video snow reports, I found that the GoPro has good battery life and excellent quality. I’ve been using GoPro since 2009. Mounting the GoPro on a telescopic stick is my preferred method of filming. It allows the view to be easily changed — and keeping the video reasonably steady. But a chest mount is more convenient for skiers. For most Bansko snow reports I use GoPro to show the actual conditions — whether they are great, good or terrible. Go to the Bansko Blog YouTube Channel for over 245+ Bansko Blog videos.

I use a 32Gb Extreme storage card from SanDisk. I am on my GoPro2, but the newest versions (GoPro 3) offer ability to view (via an app) the footage. Be warned, as usual, battery technology lags a long way behind other technology, so using more features means less battery life. GoPro cameras (along with Liquid Image brand) may be bought in Bansko at the Liquid Image shop. This is located very close to the gondola traffic lights. The Liquid Image ski goggle cameras may be a good alternative if you are happy to restrict video use to when just wearing ski goggles!

There are cheaper alternatives but the availability of all the accessories for GoPro makes it by far the most popular choice.

One point on editing  video — the old Super 8 real film cameras gave us just four minutes of film. I try to self impose the same filming time constraints of real film in the digital world, or else I waste a ton of time in the editing process. That said, there is some cool software that allows you to highlight any interesting bits as you film.

I use iMovie (free for Mac users) for a simple edit — now preferring to keep the video to 60 seconds.

Free editing software is adequate and will have slow motion, transitions, titles, music and some effects. But for more effects then premium software from Adobe, Powerlink and Corel are all worth a look. Pro software is not necessary.


The Jawbone Jambox

In common with most of my recommendations, this gadget is not exclusive to ski trips. In fact, this is so good I use the jambox every day but take it with it with me on summer trips to the coast. But this bluetooth speaker box provides a decent sound, looks good, comes in different colours and means that you can listen to your movies on your iPad / tablet / laptop in clear sound.

If friends are coming round, then other people smart phones can easily be paired with the jambox and they can be the DJ. It is rechargeable and lasts around 15 hours. Often though I use and I also love grooveshark. Jambox is priced at £111 and the jumbo jambox at around £190. A luxury that is worth taking if you’re coming by car or have check in bags.


The smartphone

Bansko App on iphone

I could put an apple or android smart phone as number one. I’m passionate about making the Bansko app better for me and everyone else, so I use both apple and android mobile devices. But for ease of use, facetime, picture quality, battery life, size and by virtue of popularity, it’s the iphone that still does it for me.

However, the HTC One would be my second choice and the Galaxy S4 my third choice. All  iOS or Android smartphones enable (excuse my blatent plug coming up…) for the 98% five star rated Bansko app. NOTE: The Bansko App (free to download for iphone and android) is developed by myself and my highly dedicated team of developers and designers, all based here in Bulgaria.

Whilst we have over 19,000 downloads of the Bansko App since launch at the time of writing, but we are not staying still. Upgrades and fixes need your assistance so feel free to contact me on what you want to see in the app.


Tech 21 phone protector

Tech 21 smartphone protector. Saved my phone

At £18.99 (€24 approx) this phone protector is less of  a gadget. It’s a gadget saver.

When I’m running around a ski resort, or any town or city for that matter, there will come a day when I will drop my phone. I managed to do this more than once, and this cover  has saved both the iphones 4s and iphone 5. It is also available for all major brands of phone. Their “special ops” phone protectors are also worth considering for keeping out the moisture. From their website:

Impactology™  is a defining seal of approval ensuring your tech has the highest standard of impact protection available, within a slim fitting attractive design.”

They go on to say that this technology has been proven to offer 71% more protection than the other leading cases in the market place.

Tech21 Impactology™ approved cases feature D3O®:  when your device is dropped, the molecules within D3O® lock together upon impact, absorbing the force and dispersing the energy away from the device creating an added layer of protection. Tech 21 web site for more info.


Google Nexus 7 Tablet

With so many of us travelling light to avoid the luggage charges of airlines, taking full sized laptops is not so desirable. So what better than a mobile tablet? Some may be fine with a phablet (a huge phone) but I require a reasonable screen. My Nexus 7, purchased in July 2012, is portable, easy ti use and affordable at under €195 approx (£160). The new version looks great too

A veritable tech bargain.

It’s comfortable for one handed use, has Asus quality and will always be the first in line to benefit from the latest (Google) Android updates. The current version Jelly Bean (4.2) operating system makes this an “ipad like”, smooth as butter, experience.

I should add that the ipad and ipad mini here are wonderful. But it’s worth saving on a tablet if its not your everyday machine. The Bansko app works great on both.


Nikon 5100 DSLR

Easy bokeh (background blur) with 1.4 50mm lens

My inclusion of a DSLR may sem strange to some. But as much as I tried cheap portable cameras, I could not achieve the high quality I sometimes need. I learnt that good photos depend on great lenses, and a DSLR delivers this requirement.

When the sun shines I search out good photos for @bansko twitter and the FB page. Especially now in the summer season. The bokeh (background blur) I took on a picture during a walk the other day, see above, is so easy to achieve.


It’s Simple.

I use a fixed manual focus prime 1.4, 50mm Nikon lens. Coming from old school film photography, I mainly use the camera on manual setting. I have never read the manual as it seems to all work intuitively. The UI (user interface) of all cameras seems so much better these days. I’m using one of the best fixed 50mm Nikon lens money will buy, not only gives me image quality and it keeps the weight and bulk down and the battery lasts for many days — even in the cold.

I stuff the camera underneath my ski jacket in winter. I went for Nikon brand mainly because professional photographer friends generally use Nikon, so I can borrow their lenses from time to time. You can see the results in the Bansko calendar pictures of Vanya Paneva, shown in the Bansko App. Nikon 5100 body is fair value at £350.

Canon equivalents are just as good, and my advice remains the same — invest in a DSLR and you’ll be amazed at the results. Ski memories are precious and on those sunny days nothing will preserve those special moments for future generations like a good DSLR.


Desired gadget: A Suunto Ambit HR GPS Speed & Distance Outdoor Sports Watch

With a GPS, 3D Compass, barometric altitude, barometer and temperature this nails exactly what I want for functions in the mountain. These features are great but in addition there  are GPS grids and an online sports diary. The Suunto is built tbetter than the competition and is big but not bulky. This is a gadget that I do not own, but out os all the many things trying to so this I am reliably informed this one does it best.

The optional heart rate monitoring is a nice to have, rather than need to have for me, but the robust build quality and long battery and 2 years warranty make this a ski and activity gadget. £324 is rather a lot to pay, but if you are into hiking, running, biking then the expense could be justified.

A number of the Suunto functions I like a lot.  So much so that they will soon appear in the Bansko App. My aim is for the app to limit the number of gadgets I, and all users, have to carry around. We’re doing this by incorporating the functionality of some other apps in just one resort app.


Gadget summary

So that’s it, my top eight ski gadgets. The future will bring more holiday gadgets that will tempt. Sadly, most will be “chitastic” junk and I will, I hope, resist these.

Investing in quality, with my eye on multiple uses, has been my rule of thumb for my ski holiday tech. None of us needs so much gadgetary to enjoy and remember a ski holiday. Especially true now airline carry on sizes, cost and weight restrictions are, well, restrictive. It’s best to be selective what you take on a ski trip. Here’s a reminder on EasyJet’s new policy & guarantee:

What are your favourite ski gadgets? Please comment below.


Airbags — just a word

I’m doing more off piste in Bansko these days — but will not risk some routes without an airbag. With a 98% success rate, carrying one of these may be the best gadget ever. They have saved hundreds of  lives in avalanches around the world. Prices from €500 up to around €1,700.

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Thank you for reading this far.



About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

One Response to “My top 8 ski holiday gadgets”

  1. Matthew S says:

    Good post on some gadgets one could have while skiing. GoPro sounds like a decent option for recording video.

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