Garmin adds new Fenix Skiing mode (in beta)

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Following in the footsteps of continuing to add features to the Fenix watch (and likewise, what Suunto has done with the Ambit), Garmin quietly posted to their forums a beta version of the Fenix firmware which adds skiing to the Fenix functionality.

I had a chance to test out the firmware last week during my ski trip with my brother.  So I’ll give you a quick whirl through the core new pieces.  Keep in mind, it’s beta.  And in fact – best I can remember, the first time Garmin has ever publically posted a beta firmware version for a fitness device.  They’re done some beta software drops for desktop software, but I don’t have any recollection of doing it for actual device firmware.  Hopefully, this trend will continue.

First up is the addition of the Skiing Profile.  Now technically, you always could have made your own skiing profile (just like you can make a Cowtipping profile), but then it wouldn’t be the Skiing profile.

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This Skiing profile is unique in that it’s controlling a few additional settings in new ways.  Specifically, and most importantly is the Auto Pause setting.  You can now specify Auto Pause with a configuration of ‘Ski Mode’, which will automatically pause your unit’s recording while you go up a chairlift (ascend), or when you stop skiing.  In my not-so-scientific testing, this seemed to work fairly well.

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In addition to the Auto Pause mode being set to Skiing, you also can configure the Auto Lap mode to the same.  By doing this, it will automatically pause not only while on the chairlift, but will also create a new lap for each new run.    It never triggered on any gentle climbs while skiing for me, and also didn’t trigger incorrectly even during stops on the hill – of which, my brother and I made many while scouting out cliffs to jump.

In this scenario – a lap effectively becomes a ‘Run’.  Which means that as you complete runs, it’ll first, total your runs (laps):

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And then, for each lap, you’ll get your total lap distance and lap descent:

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And because the Fenix is now counting laps, that means that traditional lap fields such as Lap Averages around speed or other fitness metrics work just fine on a ‘per run’ basis.

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This worked especially well even on really long runs that I did:

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What’s cool here is that I was able to track actual skiing distance, versus chairlift difference.  This is because I was wearing the Recon Instruments Heads Up Display, and that was tracking total distance (chairlift + skiing), versus the Fenix in Skiing mode was tracking just skied distance:

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With the runs being tracked, these then show up in Garmin Connect as laps, but you can now easily pick out the different runs in the laps/splits view:

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And, you can easily see the different laps listed as runs:

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Finally, they’ve added 3D Speed.  Traditionally GPS speed simply assumes that you’re on flat ground.  It’s looking at speed from the perspective of a satellite – where (for the purposes of over simplification), the world is flat.  So this takes into account the speed required to not only go horizontally across a given distance, but also the vertical component.  Remember back

Let’s use the below photo from last week as a simple example.  I’ve taken completely random guesses on the actual distance descended, and the actual distance skied forward.  But, it works for our purposes to explain how 3D speed is determined using a simple triangle.

Now, in my example below – I’m not showing the actual 3D speed, but rather, just showing that the distance is longer for that segment than the traditional GPS distance.  Thus, the speed will have to be slightly higher to account for the additional distance covered in the same timespan as before with traditional GPS.

3D Speed

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s a relatively small difference in the number – and realistically most skiers wouldn’t know any different.

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Again, this is all beta, and thus things will probably change.  For example, I suggested that it’d be great if the skiing nomenclature of ‘runs’ was carried through to some of the user interface screens.  Thus, replacing the word ‘lap’ with ‘run’.  But of course, that a bigger lift than it sounds, since it means changing data fields across tons of different data page types used by many different components.

On the download link you can also find more information about the update and the files, as well as where to send feedback (though, I suspect they’ll certainly read it here too).

I think this is a cool step forward on the Fenix.  We’ve seen a bit of a quiet spell with Fenix updates since the fall, likely as the team shifted over to work on the Quatix watch (Fenix hardware, but sailing focused firmware).  That’s the watch that will control your sailboat autopilot to pick you back up if you fall overboard (actually, I think it’ll just run you back over again since I don’t think it controls throttle).  Oh, at any rate.  Cool stuff.

Thanks for reading!

47 Comments

  1. phil

    I don't see the point of having these stats for downhill skiing. Makes no sense to me.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's a new market. If I took a guess at things, I'd say this is a mid-year experiment for them. Somewhat of a 'see how it shakes out, see how people react'. It takes minimal dev efforts to update an existing model with this, and get feedback on what people would really want in a ski watch.

      Then they work on that in a new model watch for release next fall ahead of the '13-'14 ski season next winter. This gets this free feedback on what people want in a ski watch, without asking for it and making it obvious they're building a ski watch. With the Fenix platform with Bluetooth in it, they could relatively easily develop an app that's ski focused as well, similar to the existing Garmin Connect.

      Keep in mind, Garmin is a GPS company - and ultimately, they're going to make a GPS unit for anything they can think of. Running, cycling, hiking, swimming, hunting, fishing, sailing, flying, and heck, even dog training. Skiing seems logical to me. Oh, and unlike those other categories, there's no competitive product with a similar feature set today in the skiing market.

      Reply
  2. Never really new if the GPS watches in general count the real distance or the distance as seen by a satellite. Do you know if the fenix uses the 3D distance? I do trail run and I think watches don't take that into account leading to bigger error in races with big ascents/descents

    Reply
  3. Francis

    This is great, I was actually skiing with the Fenix last week and I wanted that kind of feature, kudo Garmin, I was beginning to being worry that no feature updated were coming, happy to see this.

    Now, I just miss swimming mode on it and I will have everything.

    Reply
  4. psywiped

    Now if only we could get them to focus back on the 910 for a day or 2.

    Reply
    • Nathan replied

      If this was Facebook there would be a few clicking "Like" for this comment.

      Like

      Reply
    • Mariano kamp replied

      Like :)

      Reply
    • a_circelli replied

      Like

      Reply
    • Joerg replied

      Like

      Reply
    • Kraig replied

      Like.

      Although I have to admit I've been missing the ski chronograph functionality ever since my Highgear Alta bit the dust about a year ago.

      Reply
  5. anbody

    Garmin has been providing firmware betas of firmware devices in the past for some of the more sophisticated outdoor devices like the Monatana.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, I've just never seen them on the fitness devices before.

      Reply
    • Anonymous replied

      The Fenix is clearly grouped with Garmin's outdoor products and not their fitness devices on their own website. I don't think comparing this to fitness devices for the purposes of their firmware policies makes any sense. This practice is in line with previous beta programs from the outdoor product line like the Montana, as pointed out by anbody.

      Reply
  6. Nicolas

    Hi DC, do you know if Garmin has plans to do the same update for the Forerunner 610?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No plans. I suspect for a number of reasons. First, is that the FR610 is approaching two years old now, and realistically beyond the end of new software for it. Second is that the market for that watch is nearly 100% runners, whereas the market for the Fenix is primarily focus in/around mountains (+ some aviation via the gliding segment). And third, the barometric altimeter. Without that, the data just wouldn't be good enough to make this work.

      Reply
  7. Chris

    It's great to see that they are looking at both X and Y axis for distance. As someone who runs in hilly areas I always thought I was getting cheated on mileage readings.

    Reply
  8. James

    Did you really hit 87 miles per hour?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, top speed I could confirm across more than one device was about 63MPH. I can get into the mid-low 70's without too much trouble. But 87 is well beyond where I'd prefer to be (unless in a plane).

      Reply
    • Ron S replied

      Olympic downhill racers reach 50 mph, although some media claim speeds of 80: link to npr.org
      Terminal velocity for sky divers is 125 mph, although dedicated speed skiers can reach 150.

      I don't know your skiing ability, but the numbers you posted don't seem realistic (or safe even on a closed course). Have you validated the speed function on the Fenix? If it's similar on different devices then I am suspicious of the general algorithms used.

      Reply
    • Ron S replied

      What you may be recording is the speed of your center of mass PLUS the speed of your wrist. MLB pitchers can throw a ball at speeds of 100mph without their center of mass moving much at all.

      Isn't there a way to attenuate the refresh rate of speed calculation? Maybe a 5 or 10 second time average?

      Only reason I'm going on about this is that I don't think anyone wants to see folks racing down crowded slopes trying to hit unrealistic speeds. I don't think Garmin would want to be associated with that trend.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Ron-

      I had multiple GPS devices (from different vendors) and they reported similar numbers. 50MPH actually isn't that fast on skis, and pretty easy to attain. 87MPH is much tougher. You'll see lower numbers on an actual course (such as a downhill course), because of the gates, which slow competitors. Thus why you see high speeds for straight speed-skiing. It still takes good snow conditions (hard pack/ice) and steepness to clear above about 55MPH, and even then without sustained steepness you'll lose speed quickly.

      Most of these devices have GPS speeds slightly smoothed, so in actuality peak speeds are likely slightly higher. You'll see this across a number of sports, from auto racing to cycling.

      As for ability, both myself and my brother actually grew up ski racing fairly competitively (including downhill) - so we're pretty used to those speeds. Nonetheless, in this case we're off on empty runs with nobody around. We often wait quite a while to 'clear' a run so nobody is on it. Thankfully here in Europe the mountains are massive (upwards of 200 ski lifts) and the runs pretty empty - making it easy.

      Finally, as for Garmin being 'associated' with anything, I'm unclear what you're talking about. I don't much care what Garmin thinks about what I do with my devices, since I'm not sponsored by them or anything else.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  9. Th.

    On a semi-related note (seeing the Quatix will get a tide information), it would be great to have this on the Fenix as well. Can't think of this cannibalizing any other Garmin product sales nor any other roadblock.

    Reply
  10. It wouldnt be bad if Garmin improves and works also the firmware of 910xt.. I know its already an OLD product, but still... I still hate those HR spikes, which i wasnt getting with my old 405... And occasionaly (happened twice in the last 3 months) i still cannot download swim trainings (all with the most up-to-date firmware). Mostly if i dont reset the training before changing sport.

    And adding skiing mode to 910xt wouldnt be so difficult. But i guess they want us to get Fenix besides 910 or 610...

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      HR spikes are a function of your strap, not the unit. Unfortunately, the HR strap issues (with Garmin straps) are fairly well known. :(

      You can see my post on fixes for them.

      link to dcrainmaker.com

      Reply
    • Matty replied

      Ok, function of my Garmin HR strap. But... how come, that i didn't get those spikes on 405 (same strap), while i get them on 910xt.

      The only other explanation could be "winter" and less sweat, as i started to run with 910xt in late November...

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That's actually exactly it. Most folks start seeing issues in mid-late fall (depending on where they are). It's why I time my annual public service announcement around then.

      The post I linked to (and the subsequent posts link to from that) give a ton of easy to fix troubleshooting steps.

      Reply
  11. rabbit

    And you never had problems with vapoor behind the screen? A lot of fenix owner have had this problem and it seems to be a serial problem and garmin supposed a new fenix model. Heartratewatchcompany reported this also.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They're aren't going to release an all new model, but just rev the hardware. My understanding is if you are seeing the issue, you can work with support to get it swapped out.

      Reply
  12. David Mackie

    Thanks Ray. Good to see Garmin are still updating the fenix software. I just wish they would let me connect to the watch via Bluetooth from my PC, Mac or Android phone so I can transfer track data without needing to carry the USB charger everywhere. You listening Garmin?

    Reply
  13. Thanks Ray for the info. You're my official Fenix information dealer ;-). I hope this version will be released before the end of the week to play with it next week.

    And in French because we are a lot french people to read your news :

    Merci pour les infos. Tu es mon fournisseur officiel d'info sur la Fenix. J'espère que cette version sera disponible avant la fin de la semaine pour jouer avec la semaine prochaine.

    Hervé

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Thanks! Just to be clear, you can download it today - it's out! Was posted and available last Friday.

      Enjoy!

      Reply
  14. thanks Ray,
    it's too late now, I will update my "toy" tomorrow !

    Reply
  15. Jon

    Hmm.. So, is this the only GPS watch out there that computes 3D distance (what about the Ambit, for example)?

    Any chance you could recommend the best watch for doing hill workouts? (I.e., something with a skiing mode, but the type of backcountry skiing where you're hiking the uphill, not taking a chairlift. Ideally, I'd love something that automatically detected a new lap when you changed from ascending to descending, etc.)

    Thanks.

    Reply
  16. Olle

    Do you think that the Fenix is more suitable for skiing than the Ambit?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      At this point, absolutely. The Ambit does have some skiing 'apps', but nothing to the level of this. This is primarily because the Skiing apps can only display one metric, and only one app at a time, and no data saving (amongst other limitations).

      Reply
  17. Twan Schoenmakers

    Hi Ray,

    Dit you have the Skiing profile direct avalable after the firmeware update? Or dit you make it you self?

    I have installed 3.12beta but didn't see the Skiing profile, but was able to set the Auto Pause and the Auto Lap in Ski mode by hand?

    Cheers,

    Twan

    Reply
    • Twan Schoenmakers replied

      Hi Ray,

      I solved my problem. I found the separate "Skiing" profile file and installed it. It works now just as in your review.

      Cheers,

      Twan

      Reply
  18. Clinton

    I have a Fenix and it,has an issue when you tell it to auto set the time due to GPS location, it always ONlY displays UTC time. I have to manually change the time zones which is a pain because I'm an airline pilot and have to manually switch all the time now. DC, do you know how to do the Garmin factory reset on this watch? I did it before on the phone with a Garmin rep but have forgotten. The procedure posted on the Garmin website is really not a true Factory reset and won't fix my issue. It used to auto set the time fine but now only reverts to UTC....

    Reply
  19. Steve Knapp

    I got the official upgrade, no skiing profile. I guess it will show up if/when I do a reset of the device.

    Is there a setting for the 3D distance? Or is that just always on now?

    Thanks!
    Steve

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Previously it was a data field that you'd add (just like other metrics).

      Reply
  20. richard

    Hi Rainmaker ,

    Do you think Garmin will add a storm alarm function for Garmin Fenix in the next upgrade?I have been longing to use this function as I find that it will be very useful for hiking

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hard to say. Given though that Suunto announced it's coming to the Ambit, I suspect we'll see Garmin respond. Again, just a swag, and not an informed assumption.

      Reply
  21. richard

    An other question is that ,how can I fully clear enough memory for recording new activity in my Fenix? The low memory alert kept pop up when I tried to record a new activity.I have delected all the gpx and fit file of all my old activities , but the watch kept said that I don't have enough memory as same as before,.Do you know how can I fix this problem?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, not sure on that. I didn't run out before, though I was resetting quite a bit due to firmware updates. Have you tried restarting it?

      Reply
  22. richard

    Yes, I have tried that also , but it's the same story

    Reply
  23. rabbit

    A question about the 3D Speed Datafield in the pictures above:

    what have I to do, that this datafield is shown on my fenix? The sensors/3D and the skiing profil ist aktivated, but I can`t find/see the 3D speed datafield?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The final firmware version looks a bit different. In skiing mode the 3D speed/distance are automatically enabled. You can validate this setting within Setup > Sensors > Altimeter > 3D Data > Stuff here.

      Enjoy!

      Reply

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