Walkie talkies and snow sports
December 2, 2010 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Does anybody use walkie talkies when skiing or snowboarding in a group? How well does it work? Any purchase recommendations?
posted by wayofthedodo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
FRS radios are popular on the "mountains" of the upper Midwest. Cheap, enough channels and privacy codes that you don't have to listen to other groups' chatter, and interoperable between brands. I clip mine to my collar so it's easy to hear.

I don't know how well they would work on a proper mountain.
posted by indyz at 9:47 PM on December 2, 2010

I have used FRS radios backpacking before. The older/super cheap ones work fine within a relatively small area, but not even close to the 2 miles claimed. Newer ones that I got as part of a credit card rewards program (don't remember the model but I guess cost of ~$35 - $40 for a pair regular price) seem to work fine. I have yet to test them at their supposed 4 mile range but I'm sure they can go quite far on flat land. But that being said, radios like that are basically line of sight, so if your all on the same slope or same ridge line they will work fine. But get a large hill or mountain in between radios and they wont work. I like them for long car trips with multiple cars, like having CB radios without the giant antenna.
posted by token-ring at 10:14 PM on December 2, 2010

Man, I totally remember using these on the slope right before cell phones became popular and EVERYONE had them. Back then I distinctly remember ours was WAY cool because 6 (count um) channels. Problem was we got ours on sale right before we hit the snow, turns out we were not the only people that got them.

The voice quality was super low and everyone was talking to everyone. This gave me and my brothers an idea. We could sit in the lodge and take turns pretending to be someone else and asking people where they were and having them to wave their hands to show us. We got points for each person waving, my personal best was six people at once.

They work alright now, cell phones work better. They never work when you need them too.
posted by Felex at 11:16 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember with pleasure the days before these things got popular on the slopes. The days when you could sit on a lift and quietly appreciate the beauty of the mountain, enjoy the cold air, have a polite conversation with the person next to you, maybe even make snowballs from the snow on your skis and chuck them down at your brother on the chair behind you.

posted by allkindsoftime at 11:54 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

(sorry, not thread-snarking so much as pointing out that if you do go this route, don't be that guy, please)
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:55 PM on December 2, 2010

I've skied a couple of times with a group who used them.

Honestly? Hated the things. Very low-fi sound and in serious mountains (we were in the Alps) one or more of the party is often unreachable. And then you'll hear the thing buzzing you when you're in the middle of a high-speed tear down a great slope and so you'll think "Oh, sod off, I'm not stopping", and then when you do stop and buzz back they're in the middle of a high speed tear... etc.

Also, when the temperature plummets you really don't want to be taking your gloves off to futz around with the things. I found I was often just totally ignoring calls on cold days.

And then there's the problem of everyone talking at once, and you don't know who you're talking to so you think "Hey, let's give each other amusing call handles" (I was "Two-Plank", being the only skier amidst boarders; oh, my sides, stop it, I am killing me) and that gets old really fast. "Two-Plank to Lo Wang, you there, mate?" *KKKKH!* Nothing. Oh well, let's hit this great run... *KKKKKHH* "Who just called? That you Lo Wang? Where are you? We're in the restaurant at the top of...." *KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKHHHHHH*.

tl;dr: no sir, I do not recommend the use of walkie-talkies when in a group. Enjoy the mountains in peace and tranquility and just make sure you all know where to be at lunch time.
posted by Decani at 2:21 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Those things are awful. I was so tempted to "lose" mine in a snowdrift. Only the thought of having to buy a new one for my friend, and thus giving money to the vile beasts who created it, made me keep track of it.

Just make plans ahead of time for lunch/end of day. (can't count on cell reception, especially in resort towns in high season... hi Breckenridge)
posted by nat at 2:45 AM on December 3, 2010

I've attempted to use them during skiing but it didn't work well. We tried really hard since we were in the National Radio Quiet Zone and thus cell coverage is almost nonexistent. Even when you could get some one on the radio it was hard to hear the other party and to communicate both parties had to be in a place when you could talk.

The asynchronous nature of text messages is far more appropriate for this kind of communication. The one downside being typing your messages with cold fingers. The nice part of this solution is that you never have to wait for the other party to respond and if you are having cell coverage issues the phone will keep trying as you ski around the mountain.
posted by mmascolino at 6:08 AM on December 3, 2010

Using them, or cell phones, puts you squarely in the douche category. Please, for everyone's sake around you, don't. I know, everyone else is doing it and we have a real need here, grandpa's up there and we need to make sure he's alright even though no one wants to ski with him because he's so slow. Or the kids are over on bunny hill and we need to be able to check in with them.

I would suggest either all skiing in a group with a designated meet up point if anyone gets separated/lost or all doing their own thing and plan on meeting at the vista haus at 12:30 for lunch and a decision on how to finish out the day.

There are no friends or family when there's powder to be had.
posted by TheBones at 7:14 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

makred as best answer for gratuitous use of the terms "mate" and "Lo Wang."
posted by wayofthedodo at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not worth it. Better to just send text messages on your cell phone.

My crew has a lot of FRS radios kicking around from the old days at Burning Man, before the channels got all clogged, and people have tried them on group ski trips once or twice. They've never been worth the hassle, and nobody bothers anymore.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2010

I've used both walkie talkies and mobile phones on the slopes (Canada and France respectively). Some thoughts:

- They always go off when you can't reach them. Either you are busy actually skiing, or they're buried somewhere within the folds of some voluminous pocket deep within your jacket.
- If you can reach them, you often can't hit the right button with your hugely enlarged fingers and thumb (thanks, ski gloves!).
- If you can find them, and hit the button, often the other person has given up or gone out of range.
- If you can talk, it will be static and wind noises.
- If you can talk, the battery will suddenly die due to the cold (this one was especially infuriating, as as soon as you get to a warm room suddenly it's fully charged again).

Easiest way was to make plans on the chair lift: we're doing X run/going off piste roughly here; we're going to end up at Y chairlift, and we will wait there for people. As a backup, we're meeting at Z location for lunch at 12:00.
posted by djgh at 1:16 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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