Strapless and Brakeless? Find Your Ski With the Tracer, or Neverlose


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 8, 2015      
Ski Tracer

Ski Tracer by Atomic sticks to your ski with double sided tape. Screws are for changing battery once a season.

Strapless, braless, broless, brakeless? Not sure about some of that, but in the case of ski brakes, it’s become common to just leave the pesky things home — or buy bindings that don’t have any in the first place.

The usual evolution is first you use brakes, then convert to straps for less weight. You then hassle with the straps for an average of 4.6598 years and realize you rarely fall, a ski comes off perhaps once every 2.9856 years, and you leave your straps home as well. Then one fair day you exceed the 2.9865 average and a ski snakes away under the powder like a python chasing a rabbit, leaving you probing around with a ski pole grip like, well, an idiot. That’s a situation that could go from funny to call-the-helicopter real quick, depending on time of day and how remote you are.

I’m thus excited to mention several companies will be retailing what appear to be effective devices for finding a lost ski using radio and audio signals. Yes Virginia, this gimmick has been tried before but nothing leaped out at me over the years; now these two products appear to have promise. (If you actually know of a ski finder that truly works and is small and light enough to be reasonable, feel free to comment.)

First up, the Ski Tracer from Atomic is a Bluetooth radio signal locating device. Ski Tracer weighs much less than a ski brake (30 grams), the batteries last a season (easy replacement), and the unit installs on your ski in minutes with adhesive backing. Along with the device ostensibly directing you to the lost ski, from the phone app you can also turn on a loud sound signal that comes from the device on your skis. Preliminary opinion is these are a powder cat’s meow. Use the lightest bindings you want, melt down your ski brakes for scrap, and enjoy the float.

Atomic Ski Tracer Specs:
Bluetooth device, continuously transmitting.
Range 50 meters if ski buried 1 meter.
30 grams each.
Euro MSRP 79.99€ , but North America won’t be too far off that. Fall 2015 delivery
Range- 50 meters, with a depth of 1 meter under snow
Glass Fiber reinforced Polyamide housing
2430 button battery
Internals engineered by Suunto

Neverlose sticks to your ski, pairs with Bluetooth.

Neverlose sticks to your ski, pairs with Bluetooth.

Luckily I was doing rounds at ISPO Munchen and spied the Powunity Neverlose. Any company that uses compound words for product names has to be good and hightech, right? So this caught my attention. Neverlose pairs with a Bluetooth device, probably your smartphone, but a keychain type controller will be available as well. If your skis are stationary outside the coffee shop, you can switch to anti-theft mode and a 100 dB alarm sounds if the skis are moved. Out in the wild, if your ski comes off and ends up some distance from your paired smartphone, the loudness is triggered and you find your plank. The Neverlose is noticeably smaller than the Ski Tracer and probably weighs slightly less. I’m not sure of any direct tradeoffs between the devices. Both appear to be good ideas and will need some field testing.

Something to at least watch, and perhaps early adopt. In the latter case be sure to attend our WildSnow early equipment adopter’s help group before you get too crazy.

Caveat with these devices is of course you still need brakes and/or safety straps in hard-pack conditions, especially at the resort where a lost ski could skewer someone. More, without brakes, even in powder conditions an errant ski can do quite a TGR movie worthy freeride without you as a passenger. So we’d only recommend these for skiers who rarely throw a shoe. But I’ve seen situations all over the world where these things would be ideal.



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Comments

21 Responses to “Strapless and Brakeless? Find Your Ski With the Tracer, or Neverlose”

  1. Jeremy February 8th, 2015 9:32 am

    I have been using the ResQSki locator product since the 2012/13 season, which is very similar to the Atomic finder.

    It has a 30m range under 1m of snow, and can easily be swapped between skis using ‘cheap’ base plates. The detector is a credit card sized device which give both a visual and audio signal.

    It operates at 2.45Ghz so is nowhere near the 457Khz of beacons.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 February 8th, 2015 10:42 am

    Sounds like the smartphone app type of use is what will differentiate these new devices?

  3. Jeremy February 8th, 2015 11:52 am

    Since many are surgically attached to their smart phones, the app approach is probably the way forward, it is also means the manufacturer does not need to build a detector. I have to say I was not aware that Bluetooth had a 50m range, or was that directional. I am also not sure how well you could hear a buried ski.

    Which ever product is used, my recommendation from experience to protect the device is to mount the ‘tracer’ between the bindings, assuming you are not using one of the Dynafit FT’s. Whether or not you can fit it between the binding obviously depends on your boot size, and whether or not you use crampons. With a BSL of 327mm it is quite tight with Radical ST’s, but there is plenty of room with Beast 16’s.

  4. Kristian February 8th, 2015 1:04 pm

    Ski brakes and straps are designed to prevent runaway skis from dangerously accelerating and hitting someone further down slope. They are for the safety of others and not for your convenience. I never fall and still use them.

  5. Codey February 8th, 2015 1:41 pm

    @Kristian

    Yes, but this is related to backcountry use, where there are far fewer people, softer snow, and should never really be skiing above anyone anyway.

    At the resort you are required to have brakes or leashes

  6. Nick Thomas February 8th, 2015 5:22 pm

    50m range? I’ve seen skis go FAR further than that when brakes have locked up or failed to grip the snow. I certainly wouldn’t expect a ski with no brakes or leash to stay within range.

  7. Brian February 8th, 2015 7:45 pm

    Ski theft alarms that go off when the ski is moved? Nooooo. Can you say car alarm? How often have you seen skis at a resort get blown over or fall over? I shudder at the thought of all the false alarms that will occur.

  8. chris February 8th, 2015 10:54 pm

    This reminds me of the “ski mouse” Ortovox came out with in the early 90’s. It attached to your topsheet and when you lost your ski you just used the transceiver to find it. A friend had a pair and after he attached them to his ski he never had a ski release and run on him, so we never got to use it. That is part of Murphy’s Law after all!

  9. Powbanger February 8th, 2015 10:55 pm

    Devices like these are certainly not new to the industry. A company out of Seattle called Ski Retriever was selling a system like this four years ago. It was in a number of retailers including REI. The locator could be programmed to identify four different “tags” which you would attach to the ski via adhesive or mounting kit. The tags were the size of an average thumbnail in length and width and about 3/8″ thick. This let the user track two pairs of ski each ski with its own signature. The tags could also be attached to whatever object you worried about losing ie GoPro, keys…dog on a dark night. The locator is the size of a credit card with both visual and audio alerts. It was a great system which unfortunately wasn’t supported by consumers, launching the product on a lean snow year didn’t help either. The price was similar to the models here.

  10. Alan February 9th, 2015 1:03 am

    Wish it snows over here so I could take a day off work mid-week and go skiing.

  11. Wookie February 9th, 2015 1:40 am

    More electronic gadgets attached to your cell phone….which stops working five minutes after being exposed to below zero temps. The problem is so bad with my iPhone 5 (yes – I keep it in an inside pocket for warmth) that I am thinking I should really find some solution for calling for rescue that I can truly count on if I need it. I haven’t made a trip in two years where I could be certain that my phone was going to be working the whole time I was out.

    Seems to me that anything that pairs with a battery-powered device should be treated as suspect until proven otherwise.

    Jetforce – I’m looking at you.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2015 2:04 am

    Yeah, a lot of this is pure theory based on smartphones that have ridiculous short battery lif. Worst is trying to use phone as reliable backcountry gps that will be flawless in full conditions.

  13. Mark February 9th, 2015 5:01 am

    I have used many different systems in the past and yeah, I still left many skis on different parts of Alps 🙁 I think new products are definitely welcome – if they work!

    I checked both products and I have hard time to believe that Bluetooth has a range of 50m in the snow, but lets try it out. It also looks kind of a bulky?

    Secondly, I do not know if the second product can really have 100dB loud sound. If yes, this could be interesting to see. I definitely find the second solution better to use in the snow. Since they have an anti-theft function (in Austria we have many troubles with that) I hope it won’t be too expensive.

    Well, I am in favour in innovations and I hope we would be able to see both product on the market next season.

  14. See February 9th, 2015 7:48 am

    I ski mostly in the Sierra, where it doesn’t get that cold (lately… well, moving right along). I often carry a small li ion “charger” and usb cable. Would keeping the battery in an inside pocket with the phone connected via the cable keep the phone working at low temps?

  15. Jim Milstein February 9th, 2015 8:20 am

    See, carrying a Li ion charger is good practice, but it is unnecessary to keep it connected, even at low temperatures, until your “phone” is getting low on electrons. Most important is keeping it warm, for example in a pocket close to your body. Li ion cells are less temperature sensitive than many other cell chemistries, but temperature does affect them. (My “phone” is an iPod Touch)

    The latest versions of Bluetooth might well work at 50m in the open, but if the ski is buried, the one meter range sounds plausible.

    This may be a really bad idea, so consider it deliberately preposterous. How about using one of those avalanche transmitters made for dogs on a ski? Much longer range, even under snow. You’ve already got the receiver, don’t you?

  16. Gordon February 9th, 2015 9:56 am

    Got a sweet deal on two Pieps TX600’s shortly after they came to market. Find your skis under ANY conditions using a Pieps beacon with appropriate level of software. Nothing else (including my own custom solutions) even comes close.

  17. Jeremy C February 9th, 2015 9:58 am

    @Jim

    They are pretty bulky, and you would probably end up with the same arguments as you would have about having Recco reflectors on Helmets, Jackets, Pants, Boots, Skis etc.

    I thought the Dog transmitters worked on a different frequency to ‘Human’ beacons. For example the PIEPS TX600 operates at 456Khz (as opposed to 457Khz), and according to Pieps can only be received with PIEPS DSP PRO and PIEPS DSP.

    I know the ResQSki product I have works. I have tested it and the range is around 30m in open snow, but reduces when trees/rocks are involved. The only strange downside, is that the detector is not waterproof, so needs to be kept in small zip lock type bag. I guess making it waterproof and lightweight would have been cost prohibitive.

  18. See February 9th, 2015 1:55 pm

    Thanks Jim. I was wondering in particular if the battery and cable would work for Wookie, who has temp related issues with an iPhone that ceases to function when removed from pocket. As more devices switch from AA/AAA batteries to li ion, I find I’m toting a usb “charger” even on day trips. Some also have an integrated flashlight for even more additional redundancy.

  19. David Loucks February 9th, 2015 2:40 pm

    Anybody who backcountry skis without brakes or leashes is simply irresponsible to themselves and the others in their ski party or others who could be in the fall line below. However these devices could be great for finding a ski with a break that has submarined.

  20. Joel April 12th, 2016 3:25 am

    I am bit skeptical,

    Apart from the PIEPS product. The rest of the products work with Bluetooth = 2.4GHz which is supposed to be very well absorbed by water (these is the same wavelegth microwave are using to warm up food). So did anyone make any field testing? I ‘d guess i would work only with very dry powder, which on the other hand might be the most sensible scenario in which you look for your ski.

    Thanks

    Joel

  21. Rod November 7th, 2016 9:57 am

    Have used ski retriever for 4 years now – as does my wife and several buddies – They are the business yet sadly have heard they weren’t able to keep the business going – perhaps spent a lot of money in development but lacked the marketing funds to spread the good word on these wizard things – big shame as this product seriously works 50-100mts depending on terrain and has saved many skis in the deep here – batteries last 4 weeks in neg 10-15 …np.. Live and work in Niseko Japan where knee to neck deep dry dust is in abundance – never do fresh turns without it – Has a better range than rescue ski I believe – The guys at ski retriever should give it another shot – great product

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