Skiing with a Fitbit

Tracking our Skiing with a Fitbit

Skiing with a Fitbit
How Does the Fitbit Track Downhill Skiing?
This entry is part [part not set] of 2 in the series Fitbit

Skiing with a Fitbit is hassle free but how does it do tracking our activity? That is the question I set out to answer on New Year’s weekend of 2016.

Skiing with a Fitbit — Review Disclosure

No one is paying me to write this review. However, I am including affiliate advertising links in this article, rest assured that advertising is NOT influencing this review.

I obtained my Fitbit Flex via my employer’s (alas I work a 9 to 5 job instead of being a full-time professional ski pimp errr journalist) wellness program.

Skiing with a Fitbit — My Fitness Regimen

My fitness is much improved over the last three years. Spring of 2012 I weighed 250 pounds at 6’2″ which experts consider obese and then I commenced regular cycling and a bit later focused on dietary control. The two programs have helped me to lose nearly fifty pounds and this last year I have cycled over 2,700 miles (4,300+ Km). I need to lose some more weight but I am no longer obese and I am a strong cyclist with a best ride of 27 miles averaging nearly 22 mph.

I regularly use a heart rate monitor when cycling, skiing, and working out. My employer’s wellness program provided me with a Fitbit Flex over one year ago.

Fitbit Skiing
My Fitbit Dashboard Before I Started Skiing
Given my experiences cycling with the Fitbit I expect the Fitbit to track my skiing fairly well. When I am on the road cycling the Fitbit registers steps without me having to take any extra steps. When I am in Spin class or am cycling on a trainer I remove the Fitbit from my wrist and fasten it to one of my shoes, otherwise it does not register steps.

Skiing with a Fitbit — The Experiment

Here is my ski trip to Ski Brule for the day. I arrived later and it took me a bit of time to get into some serious skiing. At the start of my ski day here is how my Fitbit dashboard appears:

I did not look at my Fitbit dashboard after every run, but on a number of runs I would grab a screenshot at the top of the hill (at this resort the lifts convey us to the same spot) and that is what we see below.

Before and After Skiiing -- My Fitbit Dashsboard
On the right, before I skied down and on the left I”m back at the start!

Yes, I am not skiing a big mountain here as Fitbit credits me with 124 steps and .19 miles for this run, which I observed to be typical. Remember this includes the lift ride back to the top of the hill.

I hit my 10,000 steps shortly after the skiing was over for the day walking up and down stairs, around the lodge, and to and from and my truck.

Now, I do not rely primarily on the Fitbit to gauge my activity. I also use a Polar heart rate monitor, Polar Beat, and Strava. Here is what Polar says about my ski day:

My Polar Dashboard of my Ski Trip
Heart Rate Based Metrics of my Skiing

Now, comparing the Polar to my Fitbit numbers show a vastly different number in terms of distances covered, this is to be expected as my Polar tracker is GPS tracking and my Fitbit is making assumptions based on what it believes to be steps.

If you follow my TraceSnow results you will also a third opinion how active my ski day was.

Skiing with a Fitbit — My Conclusions

There is no doubt the Fitbit registers increased activity with skiing. However, I believe the Fitbit understates the activity level engaged in (I am guessing skiing bumps and powder will show more activity). During my ski session I registered around 5,000 steps and my legs tell a different story. A table-napkin calculation also leads me to believe the Fitbit understates the calorie expenditure, I put the most faith in the numbers from my Polar tracker because it is actually measures the actual exertion I am undergoing.

There is nothing in this careful analysis that makes me any more enthusiastic about the Fitbit. I continue to wear and recharge it because the effort involved with using it is small.

My earlier recommendation to not spend money on a Fitbit stands, take that money and buy a heart rate monitor.

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