A Digital Coach Speaks As You Ski.

Among the many things that attract me to skiing, one is the opportunity to improve at something I enjoy. I’m an advanced skier who started skiing as an adult without the benefit of regular lessons. Over the past three years I took mid-week lessons which made a real difference, but COVID cancelled those classes. 

This made me wonder if there were alternatives that would help me improve. An internet search introduced me to CARV, a real-time digital ski coach that speaks to you as you make your turns.

CARV has three components: a boot insert, battery/Bluetooth ‘trackers’ and an iPhone/Android app. I bought mine online and received it three days later. The boot insert, which has 72 embedded sensors, fits between boot liner and shell; the tracker attaches to the boot strap. 

Setup process is straight-forward. Once you download the app and create a user account you’re ready to go. YouTube videos explain how to do everything needed to get CARV set up and calibrated. When you arrive at the hill, open the CARV app, connect the trackers to boots and calibrate each tracker. This involves lifting each ski off the snow, then standing on it. Plug in your earbuds, and you’re ready to go. 

One of CARV’s best attributes is the sophistication of the software which has 40 million turns in its database. If you’re an intermediate skiing in the “back seat,” it let you know. If you’re making more advanced carved turns, it recognizes the subtle pressure change from ball of foot to heel, keeping ski tracking through the end of the turn. I expect that as CARV gathers more data it will continue to update software, making it even smarter.

CARV has four modes, each of which uses input from the insole sensors to evaluate edge angles, balance, early edging, ski similarity, turn smoothness, left/right turn symmetry, body rotation, outside ski pressure and foot roll. 

The FreeSki mode creates a SkiIQ while you go about skiing. After a run you will be told your SkiIQ—along with a tip on what you can focus on to improve during the next run. You also can look at the result on your phone while riding the lift and see, in detail, aspects of your skiing evaluated quantitatively. 

In Monitor mode you get to select a single aspect of your skiing for evaluation. As you make each turn you hear a number that helps you evaluate how you did and whether you’re improving. A great aspect of this mode is it helps your brain connect with how it feels when you do it well. 

Challenge and Training modes provide exercises to help you improve. Training mode provides spoken feedback while executing the exercises.

After eight days of skiing with CARV, I’ve experienced a noticeable improvement; wish I had it when I was an intermediate. 

Even if you’re an expert I expect that CARV will help. Ski racers have coaches and Level 3 PSIA instructors have ongoing training to improve their form. 

Does CARV replace an instructor? I don’t think so. But no instructor can give you that level of precise feedback. At $349, it’s a great addition to any skier’s toolbox. 

5 Comments

  1. Scott Liebman says:

    I rode a chair this week – socially distanced of course – with a middle aged man who was telling me about CARV. It was only his 1st day with CARV but he felt that it was helping him to make better turns.

  2. Does it allow you to log in as different users, so that a couple could share one unit (not at the same time, of course)?

    • Bob Margulis says:

      Interesting question, Diane—and I don’t know definitely if it would, assuming that (1) you each downloaded the software and could establish an account and (2) that your feet allowed you to use the same sized inserts in you and your partner’s boots. If you go to the CARV site online you can ask them.

  3. I have used CARV all of this season, and my wife has used one too (each CARV set-up can only be used by one person, so we have two). I am a ski instructor, and my judgment is that CARV can be a useful adjunct to lessons, but in no way is it a replacement. CARV is very much aimed at higher-end skiers, say level 7 and above, who are very into self-analysis. The CARV database is built mostly from ski instructors and racers, so it is oriented towards performance carved turns. I have experimented with it a lot, and some of its measurements are highly accurate (e.g. fore-aft ratio, edge angles) and others are wildly inaccurate (e.g. parallel index). It’s a struggle to get a consistent “ski IQ” over 100, and one’s “IQ” drops precipitously when you ski super-steeps or bumps, or when you intentionally ski non-performance turns. There is lots more I could say, but overall I think that CARV is useful in some respects and not in others. Unfortunately, in my opinion it is not a game-changer for typical skiers.

  4. I have also been using Carv all season. I have found it to be a great tool to improve my technique. I started skiing again last year after 10 years off. I skied only intermittently before that. I considered myself an intermediate skier. On my first day my ski IQ ranged from a low of 88 to a high of 106.
    I haven’t had a lesson since I was 12 years old (53 now). The app taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know. The training programs on the app are very good. I have been skiing 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks. Last night my high score was 111 and my low score was 94. I definitely feel like I am improving.

    Ski IQ Intermediate scoring range
    Beginner intermediate 90-100
    Intermediate 101-115
    Advanced intermediate 116-125

    My scores are much better when I consider a particular run a performance test from top to bottom. When I am just having fun skiing with my friends and family my scores are normally lower. I am at the point now where I know whether or not I had a good technical run before the app gives me my score. When I started I didn’t have a clue.
    I highly recommend this app. For $349.00 I feel it has already paid for itself. I use the app every time I go skiing, but after I train with it for a while I turn the sound off and let it record my runs in the background. I don’t want the technical aspect of skiing to negatively effect the fun factor of being on the mountain.

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