Progress With Google Maps

Post by blogger | July 15, 2009      

Whew, I’ve been working my tail off, converting from old school mapping to 100% Google Maps for online backcountry skiing guidebooks and such. Spent quite a bit of time making sure my maps will display on my blog websites (as in a couple of full days!). That seems to be working now, and I’ll get back to actually designing the maps! I start in Google Earth, where I add the route lines and place markers. That file gets exported and “mashed up” with some scripting so you hopefully see the geocoder that allows you to pull GPS coords off the map to use for trip planning.



19 Responses to “Progress With Google Maps”

  1. Jonathan Shefftz July 15th, 2009 10:19 am

    Very slick!
    But how about also providing downloadable gpx files?

  2. Lou July 15th, 2009 10:22 am

    The GPX files will definitely be part of the mix. I already have a few of those buried over at hutski, more coming.

  3. David July 15th, 2009 11:15 am

    Nice post. That’s rad to see the coordinates change in real time.

    I have had similar intentions, but as of yet not forced myself to work through some of the initial frustrations. The potential of google earth is incredible.

    One thing that has stumped me…is exporting a full track from google earth to a gps.

    I would imagine a website with downloadable tracks (or even a series of waypoints) would be incredibly useful.

  4. ScottP July 15th, 2009 12:43 pm

    For those of us still in the dark ages using a topo and a compass, there are apps for Google Earth that let you overlay USGS topo maps on any stretch and then print them out. I never leave without several topos of the area I’m going to anymore. It’s amazing how well Google is serving our mapping needs.

  5. Lou July 15th, 2009 1:26 pm

    David, as far as I know, getting a GPX out of Google Earth is simply a matter of exporting a KML file, than finding a conversion utility, of which there are several.

    That said, too bad Google Earth doesn’t go direct to GPS the same way many other mapping packages do. Perhaps the pro version does, but that’s pricey.

  6. Lou July 15th, 2009 7:32 pm

    I was playing around with improving the map, and now my routes overlay doesn’t display. Perhaps the Google map server? We’ll see.

  7. Mark July 16th, 2009 6:37 am

    Nice map tech for sure. Perhaps I’ll just have to get a GPS after all.

  8. Steve July 20th, 2009 11:50 am

    Non-map question: How do we get the audio track back on the Dynafit Part 1 video on YouTube? Seems they have disabled it (but Part 2 is OK).

  9. Dave Reed July 20th, 2009 8:06 pm

    Hey there Lou,
    I’ve been toying around with doing similar online based mapping on our club site (, but it’s never been bug-free enough to go up. However, there are a whole mess of KMZ files associated with our trip reports that are just waiting to be converted- any chance you can give some more details on how you’re going about it?
    Much appreciated,

  10. Lou July 20th, 2009 10:28 pm

    Steve, I’ll work on that but won’t be able to get it going till I’m back in office from OR show this week. Fixed it once but Youtube is so strict about that stuff that even when using a BMI number they still silenced it! A real pain, but I guess you get what you pay for with those guys (YouTube). Too bad because I worked really hard posting that thing with the best quality I could get. Took a bunch of tries.

  11. John Strueber July 22nd, 2009 3:12 pm

    Hi Lou – I’m really enjoying your blog. I happen to be a ski bum who’s working on a website based in Boulder that is extremely similar to your efforts here. It’s an open wiki-style site that allows people to create, explore, and share places using technology from Google Maps. We also offer tools to easily download points and routes to a variety of GPS devices and mobile phones – all for free. We’re currently in private beta – so you’ll need a username and password to get into the site. Drop me an email and I’ll hook you up if this sounds like something you’d be interested in.

  12. Cameron Stewart August 4th, 2009 11:02 am

    Hi Lou – Any advice/recos/reviews for backcountry ski GPS? I read your review of the Triton 2000 at OR and have read up on the Garmin Oregon 400t and the DeLorme PN-40. All seem slick but have downsides… what do you use? What do you like and not like? Looking for a unit that works seemlessly for trip/route planning (alt routes pending avy dangers), intuitve to use, easy to use with gloves, screen that can be read in bright light, good topo map & altimeter, and easy to download/map the actual route post-trip, etc. (perhaps even a rough location online, so my wife can follow my movements in the bc, would make her feel better about my trips — not looking for the Spot though). In otherwords, I am looking for a GPS device that does it all… is there such a thing? Thanks!

  13. Lou August 4th, 2009 1:35 pm

    All GPS units I’ve tried are flawed in various ways for ski mountaineering use. I’m on a Garmen Etrex presently. If you buy Etrex, get the model with the internal compass, as it does a better job of helping you follow a route or track.

    I’m about to try the top of line Magellan. At least it has a control lock, and finger controls in case the touchscreen doesn’t work with mittens or thick gloves. The GPS shills told me if your gloved hands don’t work on the touchscreen you can always use the tip of your nose, and with the nose warming function turned on you might even avoid frostbite .

    If you go for Garmin, I think what you’re looking for would be the eTrex Vista H, eTrex Venture HC, or eTrex Summit HC. Trying to figure out the pluses and minuses of all their units requires a day of work and PHD level education. Have fun shopping , and watch two things in your eval: battery life and how well display works in bright sunlight (I mean REALLY bright sunlight).

  14. Jonathan Shefftz August 4th, 2009 2:40 pm

    I’ve found my Garmin 60Cx to be perfect for ski mountaineering. (And if you read my beacon reviews, you’ll see I’m quick to point out flaws in skiing-related electronics.) Or the 60CSx if you want the integrated barometric alterimeter and compasss, though I prefer to keep my barometric altimeter on my wrist and my compass sightings on a traditional mirrored compass. Okay, I suppose it could be a bit smaller, but then again, that’s what the eTrex Legend/Vista HCx are for.

    By contrast, the Venture and Summit save very little money over the Legen/Vista HCx in exchange for significantly reduced functionality.

  15. Lou August 4th, 2009 3:05 pm

    The internal electronic compass really helps with following tracks and routes, just make sure whatever Garmin you get has that. The eTrex units are indeed smaller, and even smaller this year, which I like very much. Top of the line Magellan 2000 coming for testing shortly, it’s not small, but is super nice and has the features I need (I think). The larger LCD might be worth the larger form factor, since if you’re really using a map on a GPS, one of the biggest problems is the tiny area of the map it allows you to view at one time. Even a bit larger LCD is a large percentage difference in map viewing area, since most LCD’s are so danged small. Of course, larger LCD burns through the batteries. Bummer is the stupid color LCDs, just a greyscale one is adequate and probably much easier on the batteries. Battery life is critical when you really use these things and don’t just play around with them.

    Jonathan, I respect your opinion about electronics, but for my style the eTrex is not cutting it, mostly because of the lack of control lock, and lack of compass in the model I have. We’ll see how it goes. I’m using the things quite a bit, purposed in various ways…

    One other thought: Many of the current units are going to touch screens. If they don’t have a way of disabling that it’ll be tricky for real world use, as every time you brush against the thing it’s going to jump the display around to who knows what. So we shall see.

  16. Jonathan Shefftz August 4th, 2009 3:46 pm

    “Of course, larger LCD burns through the batteries. Bummer is the stupid color LCDs, just a greyscale one is adequate and probably much easier on the batteries. Battery life is critical when you really use these things and don’t just play around with them.”
    – Garmin color LCD models have significantly *longer* battery life than the equivalent greyscale models. (Strange, but true – the original generation though had shorter lives.)
    – Even on my 60Cx, which has a relatively short battery life compared to the smaller eTrex models, I get an entire day out of fresh set of batteries, even in cold weather, with the track log on the entire time for future cartography purposes. Substitute in lithium batteries (about $2.40 for a pair at Costco) and battery life is extended significantly in cold temps.

    “[…] but for my style the eTrex is not cutting it, mostly because of the lack of control lock, and lack of compass in the model I have.
    – Every now and then a button is inadvertently pressed on my 60Cx while it’s in the little pouch on my pack, but I’ve never had an adverse implications from that.
    – As for the compass criticism, personally, I like keeping it separate, but if not, then Garmin offers equivalent models throughout their entire line with electronic compasses.

  17. Lou August 4th, 2009 4:15 pm

    Jonathan, interesting points, I stand corrected on the LCD/batteries issue. As for the compass, it just exists inside the unit, working in the background, unless you actually use it as a displayed compass for nav. Thus, it’s not redundant if you use another compass, it just helps the unit to orient quicker in various ways, depending on how it’s set up. That was emphatically explained to me by the Garmin guy at OR show, because I was complaining about some problems I was having following tracks and routes with my non-compass eTrex.

    Back to the LCD, one wonders if CURRENT apples to apples comparo of state-of-art greyscale with state-of-art color LCDs would show the greyscale having worse or better battery life. BTW, there is a battery life comparo matrix in the current Garmin catalog, it shows battery lives all over the place, but the HCx eTrex models show a whooping 25 hours of battery life (non lithium), with the same pair of AAs as all others, that is impressive. And yes they are color…

  18. Cameron Stewart August 20th, 2009 1:25 pm

    Thanks Lou & Jonathan for the info! All good advice. I look forward to hearing more about Magellan 2000, once it has been testing in the snow.

  19. jeff August 25th, 2009 9:52 pm

    I’ve got the original Vista and am seriously disappointed with the receiver sensitivity under any kind of canopy or below ledges/steep areas. Debating if/what to upgrade to. Are the newer vista H models really that much more sensitive? The frequency of lost signal/time to re-acquire is really my only gripe about my old vista.

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