The End of the Ski Trail Map

Ski trail maps may not last much past Jim Niehues’s retirement. Ski resorts are increasingly resorting to apps rather than paper ski trail maps to help their guests navigate, the New York Times reports.

Ski areas are increasingly cutting back on the number of pocket-size paper trail maps they print and distribute. The reasons range from cost savings and environmental concerns to promoting resort-specific apps that offer a slew of interactive features in addition to digital maps. Last winter many ski areas didn’t put out the usual stacks of maps as a Covid measure, but the trend goes well beyond pandemic protocol.

Once again we see a variation on the long debate between paper and digital maps, with many familiar arguments: saving paper, convenience, the sheer robustness of paper vs. failure-prone technology (not nothing when you’re relying on a phone to work on top of a cold mountain), and so on. Also, in this specific case, that guests might prefer a paper map as a souvenir (not for nothing did Niehues make a career out of them).