Carv review: Advanced ski coach put to the test

On the piste with real-time feedback
Wareable Carv unit on ski boot
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Carv Digital Ski Coach
By Motion Metrics
Carv is, without doubt, an absolute game changer in the world of ski coaching. Yes it’s pricey but when you consider you can essentially ditch your real world ski instructor for something that is able to offer a heck of a lot more insight and accurate metrics, then it’s actually a no brainer for anyone wanting to take their ski technique to the next level. It’s probably a bit overkill for a novice skier like me. That’s not to say I didn’t benefit massively from the real time coaching but it’s definitely a system for good skiers who want to become great skiers. But don’t let my basic skiing skills affect how you read this review; I’m confident that Carv is the best ski wearable out there and it’s sure to help you get your skiing to the next level.

Hit
  • Incredibly accurate metrics
  • Real-time voice coaching
  • Simple setup
  • New video and Olympian modes
Miss
  • Expensive
  • Suited to better skiers than me

While there's no shortage of ski wearables, I seriously doubt there's anything out there that even comes close to competing with Carv.

The self-proclaimed “world’s advanced ski wearable”, Carv is dedicated to the art of skiing and improving your technique.

A digital ski coach, Carv combines a pair of sensor-packed insoles to a smartphone app, in order to deliver real-time coaching and feedback while you are on the slopes.

I recently spent a few days testing out Carv and some of its new features in Kuthai, Innsbruck in Austria.

Read on to find out how I got on.

What is Carv - the hardware

Carv is the brainchild of Motion Metrics CEO Jamie Grant. It was originally launched via a super-successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2016 and Motion Metrics has spent the past few years with ski professionals enhancing the system.

Carv uses smart boot inserts to capture motion and pressure as you descend the piste (or off-piste if you are a better skier than me), giving you vocal feedback on your technique in real-time, via the app and into your ears with whatever earphones you have paired to your phone.

Inspired by technology used by Olympic athletes, Carv is all about giving you access to the feedback and knowledge that only elite skiers have had access to in the past; highlighting your weaknesses and helping you to become a better skier overall.

The thin smart sole inserts slip underneath the liners of your ski boots and are, of course, waterproof. They feel pretty durable despite their incredibly slender structure, and measure in at under a millimetre thick so you're highly unlikely to feel them while you're out on the slopes.

The original Carv insoles had 48 independent pressure sensors but the sensor count is now up to 72 on the latest models, all designed to pick up minute changes in the pressure distribution.

There is also a unit that fixes to the outside of the ski boot and houses an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer, providing the Carv system with information on the motion and orientation of the skis.

You’ll get 3 days of battery life once you’ve installed Carv into your boots.

Carv is designed to offer help for both amateur and professional skiers and is able to monitor all aspects of your technique including take-offs, landings, flips and pressure distribution.

Setting up Carv

Once the inserts have been installed, they need calibrating before you're good to go.

This is a straightforward affair that involves setting yourself up as a new skier in the app, calibrating the unique force applied on the left and right pads by our feet while wearing the boots, and checking the pressure is reflected in the app; which lights up to show where the force is being applied on the boot as you stand on one foot at a time.

Once you are all setup, the smart sole inserts can measure your motion and pressure distribution, relaying feedback to your phone over Bluetooth, which you will then hear through your earphones in real-time.

This vocal feedback gives you guidance on how you're doing, along with hints and tips on how to correct your performance, helping both amateur and professional skiers to monitor all aspects of their technique including take-offs, landings, flips and pressure distribution.

This means you need to take your phone with you while skiing, which most people do anyway, and it also must be connected to some earphones so you can hear what Carv is telling you.

I used AirPods connected to an iPhone during my testing and, while Android is compatible with Carv, I was told that Apple is the way to go for the optimum experience.

Carv in use

Once we've told the app we're ready to ski (by starting a session), it begins tracking our performance - with the purpose of giving you a Ski:IQ score.

You simply start the session and then you can just forget about the app and leave your phone in your pocket all day if you want to; it will record every run you do, with real-time vocal feedback and post-run advice on the ski lifts.

You can also check your phone between runs and jump into the wealth of data on offer. Doing it this way you could also do-away with the vocal feedback aspect and simply have your stats and Ski:IQ recorded in the app but you’d be denying yourself a large part of the Carv experience.

As this was our first ever time using Carv, it was important to give the system a chance to learn what type of skier I was first with a quick freestyle descent.

After a nervy jaunt down a relatively easy slope, Carv automatically knew when I’d finished my run thanks to the onboard sensors, and was ready to give me my feedback by the time my backside hit the ski lift.

Your Ski:IQ score is calculated from the data Carv collects from your skiing technique across four different categories: Balance, Edging, Rotation and Pressure.

This helps you to see where your weaknesses are, and what area of your ski technique needs the most improvement to make them better skiers overall.

And this is fed back to you via the voice coach who, after the first run, suggested I worked in my Balance.

Digging into my technique

The next time I reached the top of the slope, I was able to choose from a range of inbuilt real-time coaching tools aimed at improving specific skills.

After my feedback, I opted for a real-time lesson aimed to improve my balance. This is where Carv's inbuilt voice feedback really comes into its own.

On my next run, Carv automatically kicked in when I started my descent and was able to analyse my technique, giving me real-time pointers and highlighting mistakes I was making as I made them.

It really does help to remind you of your bad habits when it matters, and thus spurs you on towards becoming a better skier. It is hard to get used to if you're a beginner like me, as you are already concentrating hard on not dying while bombing down a mountain at break-neck speeds.

But the good thing here is that Carv doesn't overload you with information, offering short, relevant bites – or good or bad bleeps – when required.

Train with an Olympian

Taking these drills to the next level is Carv’s new Train with an Olympian feature, which is known internally as “Ted Mode.”

That’s because the company worked with Two-time Olympic Gold medallist and five-time World Ski Champion Ted Ligety on the new training mode.

Ted Mode essentially wants to teach you how to ski like Ted Ligety. Which is obviously impossible for 99.99% of the population.

But it can set you on the right direction, all based on the fundamentals that Ted himself believes are key to a great ski technique.

There are 40 increasingly challenging levels with Train with an Olympian; with real-time audio coaching, drills and concepts built by Ted, to give you the advice of a master as you ski.

To be honest, it was a mode that was totally wasted on me, but more advanced skiers are going to love it.

Video stars

What was more useful to me was the Carv Video Coach mode; an easy way to take a video and overlay your Ski:IQ score, all synced up for each turn.

It’s incredibly easy to setup, you can either ask someone to record you in your or their Carv app; or you can even ask non-Carv members to record you and share the footage with a QR code.

Your videos then show up in the app, with stats for every turn.

Incredibly impressive stuff. The Video Coach mode, I mean - definitely not my skiing.

Data mining in the app

Once you've had enough of the cold, you can dig a little deeper into the Carv app and the data it has collected in the warmth of the lodge, or in the bar, as it gathers your turn data and presents you an average turn map at the end of the day.

This gives you a general overview that helps highlight many common mistakes (all of the data is stored in the cloud and can be exported as raw data, if you want to go deeper) as well as basic information such as average speed, fastest speed, time skiing, distance covered and descents made.

What I really like about this is that you can then use this data to keep track of your achievements, and personal bests for each ski run.

Once you're well versed in using Carv, you can then challenge yourself or a friend to a technical drill for instance, and find out who is the most versatile skier.

The app also tries to gamify the skiing experience, keeping you motivated by offering up trophies for being the best skier in each resort you visit, or for improving your personal bests.

Carv costs

Carv is a superb system but it does come at a pretty hefty cost. It’s not just a case of buying the hardware; you must become a Carv member too - and that involves a subscription fee.

The device itself is £199 but is essentially useless without the tracking, stats and real-time feedback.

The most common option is for people to pay £348 for a package that gets them the hardware and a year’s Carv membership (with unlimited skiing in that year).

There’s currently a deal on whereby for £397 you get 2 years’ worth of membership thrown in.

However, a great option for people that want Carv coaching but are only likely to take one ski holiday a year is the ‘Daily Pass’ option.

This starts at £278 for all the Carv hardware and 6 ski days in a year. Extra days are then just £10 more. This is a great option for casual skiers who, in all likelihood, would end up spending more on lessons during their annual ski holiday anyway.

TAGGED Sport

How we test



Paul Lamkin

By

Wareable Media Group co-CEO Paul launched Wareable with James Stables in 2014, after working for a variety of the UK's biggest and best consumer tech publications including Pocket-lint, Forbes, Electric Pig, Tech Digest, What Laptop, T3 and has been a judge for the TechRadar Awards. 

Prior to founding Wareable, and subsequently The Ambient, he was the senior editor of MSN Tech and has written for a range of publications.


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