Mobile App Highlights Montana Nordic Trails

Cross-country skiing app helps skinny-skiers navigate Treasure State ski areas

By Tristan Scott
Nordic skiing in Whitefish. Beacon File Photo

Nordic skiing in Montana just got a whole lot easier thanks to a new mobile app, Cross Country Ski Montana, which was released by a Bozeman-based software company this month to help skinny-skiers navigate the state’s vast network of trails.

The goal of the “Cross Country Ski Montana” app is simple: it serves as a one-stop location for detailed information about Montana’s ski trails and areas (for both classic and skate skiing), while also providing a catalog of Nordic ski clubs and ski shops.

The app, which requires no cellular connection, gives Nordic skiers the answers to critical questions like: Is skiing free or is there a fee? Is the area groomed, and if so, for classic, skate, or both? How do I get the latest grooming report? How do I connect with the local ski club? Are there any ski shops nearby? How many kilometers (or miles) of trail exist? How do I get there? Are dogs allowed? On leash or off?

“It’s all there, and more, in Cross Country Ski Montana,” Katie Gibson, the software developer behind the app and a founder of MountainWorks Software in Bozeman, said. “Just download the app and go skiing. MountainWorks Software has taken care of the rest.”

Cross Country Ski Montana is a comprehensive inventory of every groomed cross-country ski area in Montana, plus a large number of the state’s most popular un-groomed trailheads. The app also highlights Montana’s local ski clubs, and the folks who volunteer to maintain, care for and groom many of the state’s treasured cross-country ski locations. In addition, Cross Country Ski Montana highlights local ski shops and places where skiers can rent or buy gear, have repairs done, or learn the latest conditions.

The app is designed to work offline because cross-country skiing in Montana often means heading into wild country, to places with no cellular service, much less WiFi. So almost every aspect of Cross Country Ski Montana works regardless if the nearest cell tower is three counties away (only real-time grooming reports require connectivity).

The app works with the smart phone’s GPS and Google Maps to guide XC skiers to their desired ski area or trailhead. If a skier’s chosen destination is a groomed area with local maps, those maps are supplied within the app (again, no connection needed).

Many Montanans who recreate outdoors are well aware of the team that makes up MountainWorks Software given that Gibson and partner Scott Bischke have created two previous apps used by Montana outdoor sports enthusiasts — the Montana Hunting Access app, which each year helps hunters understand where they can legally hunt, while also featuring boundaries and regulations for all 800-plus Fish, Wildlife and Parks Block Management Areas; and the Montana Fishing app, which helps fisherwomen and men find locations to access the water, info on FWP’s high mountain lake stocking efforts, U.S. Geological Survey river-gauging data, shuttle services, and fishing shops.

Given their enthusiasm for cross-country skiing, the new app was a no-brainer.

“As with hunting and fishing, Kate and I love to cross-country ski,” Bischke said. “But over the years we, like everyone, have struggled to find cross-country skiing information for new places in Montana we’re not familiar with. So we decided to do something about it. Cross Country Ski Montana is the result.”

“That community includes not just skiers, but also ski clubs and ski shop owners across the state, and also in a couple cases snowmobile clubs that groom ski trails,” Bischke continued. “They’ve all been universally positive about the app, and of great help as we’ve compiled volumes of data.”

The app is available for $4.99 and can be downloaded at Google Play or the Apple App Store.