Review: On the snow with the Rossignol Piq ski sensor

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The Rossignol Piq ski sensor is made up of three components: the Piq sensor, a portable charging unit and an ankle strap(Credit: Oliver Starr/Gizmag)

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The Rossignol Piq ski sensor is promised to provide unprecedented detail about your skiing. The device tracks air time, g-forces, in-air rotation, edge-to-edge transition time and more. Gizmag has been putting it through its paces to see if it lives up to that promise.

Gizmag originally covered the Piq back in December. A few weeks later and with an epic winter underway, we strapped the Piq onto our own boots and headed up the hill to see what the system could tell us about our skiing.

Look and feel: French style meets ski tech

The Piq multi-sport sensor is surprisingly small, at just 44 x 38.3 x 5.4 mm (1.7 x 1.5 x 0.21 in). In fact the largest component of the three piece setup is the AA-Battery sized charging unit that plugs directly into a computer's USB port. When not in use, the Piq sensor snaps under the spring steel clamp of the charger, making a quick recharge on the slopes or during lunch super convenient. The ankle strap, with a small pocket for the sensor, is well made and unless you are careless when you wrap and strap it around your ankle, it's unlikely to go anywhere even during the most aggressive session.

Over multiple days, we skied deep powder, hard pack, corn snow and groomers. We jumped, we straight-lined it to over 70 mph (112 km/h) and in general we thrashed, slashed and even smashed a few gates. The Piq never budged. It's so small, so light and so secure, we frequently forgot we had it on.

Though the company claims the small battery in the sensor itself will only track for 3 hours before needing a recharge, our experience was better. It's very rare that battery performance in a device exceeds the manufacturer's claims. Plus one for the Piq.

What the Piq tracks

While on the snow, the Piq sensor tracks and reports back the following stats:

  • Speed
  • Airtime
  • Rotation in the air
  • G-force at landing
  • G-force through a turn
  • Edge-to-edge transition time
  • Carving degree (ski angulation in a turn)
  • Vertical meters/feet skied
  • Time skiing (vs standing or riding the chair, etc.)
  • Total runs
  • Total motions (number of turns and jumps during the session)
  • Turns per minute while skiing

The App

To access the data stored on the Piq sensor requires the free iOS or Android companion app. Connection between smartphone and sensor is via Bluetooth 4.0. The app does not bring in the data in real time, but rather syncs your sessions on demand when you trigger that function within the app.

Once you've pulled in the data you are given the option to choose "race" or "training" to qualify the session and you have the option to enter other specifics such as location and conditions.

Data about your performance is displayed in an interactive infographic style interface that allows you to look at topline data about the session or drill down to see the specifics about your turns or jumps, or see your combined "Piq score" that represents an average of your last six sessions.

There's also a community feature that lets you compare yourself to other skiers out there in the world, however it's a little unclear exactly how the rankings are calculated. It would have been great if the app provided some insight as well as a full ranking rather than what appeared to be a random and incomplete list.

The Verdict

Rossignol and Piq have teamed up to put together a very slick little device that does exactly what they say it does. Very specific information about your skis on the snow available at your fingertips. The hardware is well designed and the app is intuitive and easy to use. That said, there's so much more we think this device could deliver.

As designed, the usefulness of the information is somewhat limited because the context – where you're skiing and what your skiing on – matter enormously in determining what skiing well actually looks like. Are you skiing gates? Making giant power turns on groomers? Launching off a cornice into bottomless powder? The app might show that you made 3 professional quality turns or had a perfect landing, but it offers no clues about where on the mountain that happened.

We'd like to see the app deliver more than raw data about each turn and jump. Plotting that data on a map so we could understand what we were really doing on the hill would be useful, for example. As would the option to let the Piq know that we're not training or racing but simply free skiing. And be capable of better understanding the different characteristics of good skiing on different degrees of slope and in different snow conditions.

As it is, the Piq seems to be intended for racers much more than free skiers and probably has the greatest utility for coaches or athletes who are repeating the same courses over and over. If each run is treated as a session then you know the context for the data and can compare multiple runs to gain a greater understanding of what you were doing during your run.

We'd love to see the Piq paired with one of the many apps that do track your actual path on the mountain. It seems a logical step to integrate mapping data into a skiing app. The Piq could even have the potential to act as an avalanche beacon via its connection to a smartphone.

The Rossignol and Piq system for skiing will set you back €198 (US$225), though the same Piq sensor can be used (with different modules) for tennis, golf and presumably more sports down the road.

Product page: Piq

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