A selection of sports watches suitable for skiing and snowboarding
If today there is no watch designed especially for skiing, there are however models that integrate the functions essential for this sport. Also, manufacturers are increasingly taking this activity into account in their specifications. Some models have a particular alpine ski profile with the counting of the number of descents. Discover our selection of the most suitable current watches for skiing according to your budget.
How to Choose the Right Watch for Skiing
The Criteria to Take into Account to Choose Your Watch for Skiing
To date, there is no cardio-GPS watch dedicated to skiing in itself, even if some manufacturers are increasingly integrating a ski or snowboard profile which groups together the most useful data. The functions of interest to the skier are, however, those found in most outdoor or hiking watches: distance traveled, speed, heart rate, weather functions (barometer, storm alerts, sun tick time), tools for finding your way (altimeter, compass or even GPS track with indications to return to the start).
Some watches also offer a counter for the number of descents and an automatic pause in queues and ski lifts. Casio, for its part, even provides a dedicated version of its high-end WSD-F20 outdoor watch, the Casio WSD-F20X, specially designed for winter sports. It comes with a second extra-large strap that can be worn on a ski jacket sleeve.
The criteria to take into account when choosing a watch for skiing depend on the type of activity. We summarise these criteria in a table just after.
- Downhill skiing (alpine skiing) and snowboarding: a simple watch is sufficient for these activities. It is mainly the duration, the distance covered, the speed (peak and average) that will interest the skier. Optionally, for analysis after the outing, we can target these additional data: the number of descents made, auto-pause during waiting times and ski lifts, GPS track or at least its recording, heart rate and the number of calories burned, altitude, cumulative height difference, vertical speed.
- Cross-country skiing: cross-country skiing is like walking in nature but on marked trails. There is, therefore, no need to invest in advanced navigation or weather functions, except for fun or if the outing is off-piste (in this case, consult the ski touring activity). Payload data includes time, distance, average speed, heart rate, and calories burned. You can optionally add the GPS track and its recording, the cumulative height difference.
- Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing: this activity is close to a hiking type outing, in addition to using statistical data during the excursion and for the analysis of the route and performance after the outing (duration, distance, average speed, heart rate, GPS track). It is useful to be able to find one’s bearings and return to one’s starting point but also obtains information on the weather forecast, thunderstorm risks, sunset times. For this type of activity, we recommend a watch with ABC sensors (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass) as well as a return to starting point function (trackback). Ideally, the watch can integrate route tracking (GPS track with return directions), storm alerts. For a luxury ski lift, there are top-of-the-range models offering mapping, an oximeter function (to detect the risk of accident at high altitude) or even access to telephony or the possibility of making an SOS call.
Preferably opt for a robust watch (case in reinforced polymer fibres or stainless steel, sapphire or Corning Gorilla glass), splash-proof (3 ATM or 30 m) and with a display readable as much in direct sunlight (anti-reflective glass, display ink or MIF) only when it is dark (backlight function).
Regarding heart rate measurement (useful for evaluating performance, progress, calories burned, level of fitness), we recommend a watch compatible with a chest belt. Wrist reading from an optical monitor is unreliable for skiing due to the cold (as the blood vessels are constricted, measurements are generally inaccurate).
Finally, a watch with an interchangeable strap is a plus if you want to wear it daily (silicone strap for sports, more dressy strap for the city).
|Criterion / Activity||Downhill skiing and snowboarding||Cross-country skiing||Nordic skiing|
|Duration||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions|
|Distance travelled||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions|
|Speed (instantaneous, average, max)||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions|
|Number of descents||Indispensable functions|
|Auto-pause||Indispensable functions||Optional functions||Optional functions|
|Altitude||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Cumulative elevation||Optional functions||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Vertical speed||Optional functions||Optional functions|
|Cardiac frequency||Optional functions||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions|
|Calories expended||Optional functions||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions|
|ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass)||Indispensable functions|
|Weather / storm alerts / sunset times / temperature||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Track recording||Optional functions||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Trace||Optional functions||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Back to start||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Navigating along a route||Optional functions||Indispensable functions|
|Backlight||Optional functions||Optional functions|
|Waterproof 3ATM or more||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions||Indispensable functions|
The ideal watch for skiing is expensive. Indeed, if you want to group in the same watch all the useful functions (distance, speed, GPS navigation, weather, altimetry, storm alerts, etc.) and less essential functions such as mapping, sunset times and more, you will need to invest in a high-end watch. If your budget does not allow it, there are inexpensive watches that have enough functions for excellent monitoring.
Choose your watch for skiing according to the other sports you will be practicing for the rest of the year! If you are a running fan, for example, look for a running watch that incorporates functions for skiing! Multisport watches are generally the right choice if you practice multiple activities.
Battery Life: At least 10 hours in GPS mode
It should be taken into account when choosing your watch for skiing, especially if you plan to go on long outings (full day) or use your watch for several days without charging it.
Current watches have sufficient autonomy for an outing of a few hours for general use with GPS, much less if the watch has an mp3 player and you listen to music while skiing.
Some watches offer a power-saving mode that helps extend battery life by reducing the number of GPS readings. The track and the distance traveled will be a little less precise, but this will allow you to multiply by 2 or 3 the autonomy.
Best GPS Watches for Skiing
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
- TOPO maps, music, payment, oximeter
- The complete GPS watch currently.
NEW FOR 2019: Designed for athletes and lovers of outdoor activities, the Fenix 6 Pro is an ultra-complete high-end watch that offers a ski profile. It embeds colour topographic maps of Europe, music (mp3 player) and a contactless payment system. It counts the number of descents, pauses during the ski lifts. All the useful sensors are present: altimeter, barometer, thermometer, compass, GPS, heart rate monitor, oximeter for the evaluation of acclimatization to altitude. It indicates the weather trend, has thunderstorm alerts. The GroupTrack function allows you to follow other athletes wearing a watch offering this function. The LiveTrack service will enable you to be tracked on the Internet (these functions require a Smartphone). In addition to its features for skiing, it is multisport and offers extraordinary features for sports training and GPS navigation. It can generate routes for runners and cyclists, recalculate a route, guide by the headset, manage climbs or even assess the level of muscle oxygen to avoid accidents at high altitudes. It has functions for golf and more than 41,000 courses.
The ideal watch if you do a lot of sport. Complete functions for skiing! One of the best watches on the market today
Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD F21HR
- Skiing and winter sports
- Colour mapping, 2,600 ski resorts on Ski Tracks
This complete GPS watch is very suitable for mountaineering, skiing, ski touring, snowboarding and snowshoeing. It has downloadable full-color world topographic maps and allows you to use Google Maps! It times the descents and indicates the maximum speed and the altitude difference but does not count the number of origins. With the Ski Tracks app and more than 2,600 ski resorts, the user can follow their route on ski or snowboard, know their speed, slope, vertical speed, elevation gain, and more (no smartphone required during ‘activity). It displays the position and a programmed route with alerts and direction indication in the event of leaving the route. Everything is there: altimeter, barometer, magnetic compass, GPS, cardio on the wrist, gyroscope, accelerometer, sunrise/sunset times, tides, weather trend. Its screen is double-layer touch screen 320 x 300 pixels, one in color, the other in black and white. It’s GPS / GLONASS/QZSS is very precise. A microphone is used to send voice commands to the watch and interface with Google Assistant.
A watch was suitable for skiing (downhill, cross-country, hiking) and snowshoeing, including the weather trend and mapping. Too bad it does not have advanced GPS navigation functions (displays the track and the programmed route but does not offer route tracking or return to departure).
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
- Ski profile, mp3 player, GPS navigation, contactless payment
- Ideal alpine skiing and hiking
NEW FOR 2018: This complete multisport watch includes a ski profile, counts the number of descents and pauses when you arrive at the bottom of the slopes. It is equipped with many sensors for skiing: altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer. It measures your vertical speed, the difference in height and the maximum slope. Equipped with GPS & GLONASS, it allows you to follow a route and retrace your steps (trackback). It is ideal for any skiing activity: downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ski touring. It includes an mp3 player, 4 GB of memory (around 500 songs) and a contactless payment function! The LiveTrack feature allows your friends to track you remotely. It also offers advanced services for running.
A complete watch for skiing. It only lacks the weather functions to be perfect!
Suunto 9 Baro
- Ski and snowshoe profiles, excellent autonomy, precision and advanced weather functions
- An outdoor watch for trail running and hiking (winter and summer)
This high-end multisport watch offers 80 sport profiles including alpine skiing, ski touring, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It incorporates all the sensors useful for winter sports, in particular, ski touring: a barometric altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer, GPS navigation functions, weather trend, storm alerts. The measurements of altitude, speed and GPS position are precise thanks to the combined use of GPS and other sensors of the watch (barometer, accelerometer, etc.). This makes it possible to achieve a record autonomy of 120 hours in the energy-saving mode without too much altering the quality of measurements for sports such as running. The watch also offers intelligent battery management to extend its duration according to the route and habits of the athlete.
A robust and reliable watch that will accompany you on your ski touring, snowshoeing, trail, hiking and triathlon outings.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
- Ultra-complete. Ski, snowboard, cross-country skiing profiles.
- The “Swiss Army Knife” watch that rivals the Apple Watch. Our favorite.
This connected multisport watch is a hit every year thanks to its many functions, its beautiful look, its intuitive functions and the fact that it is versatile. It is suitable for athletes as well as for the less athletic and is worn for sport and every day. It embeds an mp3 player to listen to music without a smartphone. This lightweight watch offers a profile for skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing. It counts the number of descents, the distance covered on skis, the negative elevation, the maximum and average speed. It includes an auto-pause function and the possibility of viewing ski lift data. It has all the sensors useful for skiing: altimeter, compass, thermometer, GPS navigation and even a weather function (coupling required with a smartphone). It allows you to follow a route (GPS track) and retrace your steps. It is robust, pretty, has a backlight and can be used to pay for small purchases thanks to its NFC chip. The LiveTrack feature gives your friends the ability to follow you on the Internet. It offers many other functions and more than 15 sports, relaxation exercises, animated exercises and more.
A serious alternative to high-end watches or the Apple Watch which will usefully accompany you on your downhill skiing, cross-country skiing or ski touring outings. Difficult to do better for the price!
Apple Watch Series 5
- The health-oriented connected watch
- Ski profile, SOS function, telephony and health functions!
Make calls, exchange text messages, find a hotel with Maps, listen to streaming music, pay for purchases, follow the news or even use voice assistance (Siri) to ask a question, manage your schedule and much more, it is is now possible, without a smartphone, with the Apple Watch 5 connected watch! This health-oriented model offers an electrocardiogram (ECG) and fall detection with an automatic SOS call. Equipped with a 4G chip (Cellular version), a microphone and a speaker, it accompanies you on a daily basis (activity tracker function) and in your sport, including skiing. It counts the number of descents, indicates the distance covered, the difference in height, the average and maximum speed, the calories burned. It is equipped with GPS & GLONASS, an altimeter, a walkie-talkie function to communicate with your friends and a function allowing you to know where they are (useful for family outings).
An excellent watch for everyday life and sufficient functions for skiing. Too bad its autonomy is low. Please note that you need an iPhone.