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For those of us who love winter sports, the first snow is an event to be celebrated. It’s the unofficial start of our year and the activities we love – skiing, snowboarding, the backcountry, being active, experiencing nature — all while spending time outside with friends and family. And this year, likely more than any other, getting outside is critical to our well-being.

As people pursue their passions throughout the year, Garmin wearables are there every step of the way. Oftentimes, people relate to Garmin products through their singular passion, but there are a lot of “under the hood” features in Garmin’s watches. With countless activities and functions in these wearables, it’s easy to miss some of the features that can help you.

Today, we’ll touch on a few of those features to keep in mind as you head out for the mountains over the holidays and into the 2021 winter sports season.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Using the Ski or Snowboard activity on your fēnix or Instinct, users can see the distance traveled, time and the total elevation descent, as well as max and average speed. Your device will record the details of each downhill skiing or snowboarding run using the auto run feature, which automatically records new ski/snowboard runs based on your movement. On the ride up, your device will pause the timer during chairlift rides. As soon as you start moving downhill, the timer will restart.

Compatible Devices: fēnix 5, fēnix 5 Plus, fēnix 6, fēnix 6 Solar Series, Forerunner 645/645 music/745/935/945, Venu, Instinct, Instinct Solar Series, MARQ, tactix Delta Series, tactix Charlie Series, Descent Mk2 Series, Descent Mk1, quatix 5, quatix 6

Preloaded Ski Resorts

fēnix users will celebrate knowing that there are over 2,000 preloaded ski resort maps native to their devices. These resort maps allow for improved situational awareness when viewing the map data page while skiing and snowboarding. In addition, the maps are optimized to show run names with difficulty – viewable at a glance for each run.

Compatible Products: fēnix 6 Pro Series, fēnix Sapphire Series, MARQ Series, and tactix Delta Series, Descent Mk2 Series, and quatix 6 Series

Additional Info: List of Worldwide Ski Resorts

Garmin Pay

A profound reality of 2020 is heightened awareness any time we touch a communal object. Credit card terminals are one of these high-volume communal objects. We all know money is dirty, but what about credit terminals? As it turns out, coronavirus can live on these credit card terminals. Unlike cash, which exchanges hands and typically goes into a wallet or purse for a period of time, a credit card terminal is in constant use and can be used dozens of times (if not more) an hour. With limited resort access and more people wanting to get out skiing/snowboarding, the contact rate could be much higher.

Garmin Pay helps you avoid contact with high-traffic surfaces by using contactless payment. Just tap your watch near a credit card terminal to pay and head back to the slopes.

Compatible Devices

How to Set Up Garmin Pay

XC (Cross-Country) Ski and Ski Power

When using the XC ski functionality, you see distance and elevation change. What’s unique is the additional data provided with a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) Pro (purchased separately). When used in conjunction with a fēnix 6 Series, Forerunner 945, or Venu, XC Ski Dynamics provides a power metric as a data field option – in short, it shows just how much power you are creating within your ski workout. Additionally, you can save your power readout for the activity and review it in the Garmin Connect app downloaded on your compatible smartphone to compare against past activities. This feature has separate sets for both skate XC ski and traditional XC ski.

Why is this important?

For those readers who have not tried cross-country skiing, it is an extremely physically demanding form of exercise. In fact, one hour of cross-country skiing can burn the caloric intake of a Chipotle burrito, which is, frankly, wild.

Knowing this power metric helps users better understand their training and energy consumption. Using the power metric also negates variable conditions like elevation changes, wind, snow conditions and more, which can make the traditional measurement of pace an inadequate measure of intensity. Additionally, users can set up different power zones for their ski training, similar to cycling power zones.

How does it work? The power algorithm works by detecting when you are in a glide phase (no propulsion) and then calculating the friction coefficient based on the speed and elevation changes. Because conditions can change over the course of an outing, the ski algorithm dynamically adjusts the friction coefficient whenever it detects an extended glide phase.

Backcountry Ski Functionality

“More than perhaps any other piece of gear, the fēnix line has changed my backcountry skiing for the better. Knowing elevation, aspect and barometric pressure increases my safety envelope by alerting me of dangerous changes in weather, keeping me abreast of where I am in relation to backcountry campsites or other noteworthy terrain features, and helping me avoid risky elevations or aspects with regard to avalanche concerns.” – Brody Leven, professional backcountry skier

For those who want to get away from the crowds, the backcountry has always held an elusive call. In 2020, with decreased capacity at many ski resorts, more individuals are striking off on their own in pursuits of the backcountry.

Aside from being a great form of exercise and spending time with friends experiencing nature, the backcountry can be an unparalleled outdoor experience.

Similar to the ski/snowboard activity, the Backcountry Ski profile provides information such as ascending time, descending time, distance and much more. Additionally, when syncing, users can view and relive their activity on the Garmin Connect platform with mapping.

Monitoring Your Oxygen Through Pulse Ox

“The ability to accurately track my elevation gain and mileage has increased my training for backcountry skiing immensely, keeping me on-target with regard to fitness and practical applications of said fitness.” – Brody Leven

Pulse Oximetry (or Pulse Ox, for short) is a noninvasive method used to measure the saturation of oxygen in the bloodstream. Compatible Garmin devices1 use a combination of red and infrared lights with sensors on the back of the device which can determine the percentage of oxygenated blood (SpO2%) available in your blood. This value should, in general, be 95% or higher in most settings but can be influenced by altitude, activity and an individual’s health.

So, why should you care about Pulse Ox? Since our bodies distribute oxygenated blood through our respiratory system, being aware of your SpO2 can help you understand how your body reacts to various situations and can serve as an indication of important changes in your health.

In short, if your blood oxygen levels are too low, your body could start having serious problems. According to the Cleveland Clinic, low blood oxygen levels, aka hypoxemia, can cause headaches and shortness of breath and, in severe cases, can interfere with heart and brain function. All are aspects you’ll want to avoid while in the backcountry.

1This is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition; see Garmin.com/ataccuracy. Pulse Ox not available in all countries

A Backcountry Safety Device Is inReach

As thrilling as backcountry skiing is, backcountry skiing by its nature can be dangerous, so having an emergency device is critical. No one ever wakes up in the morning thinking they are going to have an emergency in the afternoon. Enter inReach2. The two-way communication device operates on the Iridium Satellite Network, which means you have global coverage for contact with backcountry partners. Should an emergency happen, you can trigger an SOS.

More Information: Using inReach

2Active satellite subscription required.  Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communications devices. It is the responsibility of the user to know and follow all applicable laws in the jurisdictions where the device is intended to be used.

Outdoor Wearable Mapping

“The trackback and topo mapping functions are something that I have used countless times, across all seasons and activities, to find my way through snowstorms, confusing slot canyons and steep mountains. Sometimes it’s simply to get back to my car before the blizzard keeps me out overnight, unprepared. Other times it’s to find trails when I’ve lost them from beneath my feet.” – Brody Leven

Sometimes the most helpful things are right in front of you. You can toggle on-screen color mapping to determine, one — where you are, and two — where you might want to head. Garmin outdoor wearables like the fēnix 6 Pro Solar come with on-screen color mapping, which displays topographical contours, nearby points of interest, ski resort maps and golf courses.

More information: Using the Mapping on fēnix 6 Pro Series

Weather Forecasts and Altimeter

Garmin outdoor wearables feature weather forecast widgets that can help you plan and adjust your backcountry plans. Given the risk of unexpected changes in weather, you can set up weather notifications that will alert you so you can plan your route to avoid the weather or take shelter3. As Brody Leven says, “Knowing elevation, aspect and barometric pressure increases my safety envelope by alerting me of dangerous changes in weather, keeping me abreast of where I am in relation to backcountry campsites or other noteworthy terrain features, and helping me avoid risky elevations or aspects with regard to avalanche concerns.”

3 When paired with a compatible smartphone.

Solar Charging in fēnix 6 Solar Series and Instinct Solar Editions

In July 2019, Garmin introduced solar charging technology to a number of outdoor wearables. When you head out for a trip, the worst feeling is looking down and seeing that your watch is low on battery. The great thing about solar technology, according to Jon Hosler, one of Garmin’s lead wearable engineers, is that it’s working all the time and you don’t have to think about it. It just benefits your life, constantly harvesting energy, so you can worry less about what’s on your wrist and more about the activity at hand.

Compatible Solar Smartwatches

Power Manager

We always try to communicate to customers that the use of GPS increases battery consumption. Think about it: Anything that is going to read satellite signals multiple times an hour is going to use battery power. Inevitably, you’ll run into an instance where you’re going to want to conserve battery. Using the Power Manager, you can customize your watch settings to conserve battery life so you can continue using the features you most enjoy.

Compatible Watches: Descent Mk2 Series, fēnix 6 Series, MARQ Collection, quatix 6, tactix Delta Series, and Instinct Solar Series

More information: Understanding and Using Power Manager

Wherever your skis or snowboards take you this year, we hope these functions help you be more efficient and effective as you enjoy the great outdoors. Stay safe and have a great season!

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