Picture this. You ski off-course, lose your phone, the weather starts turning, and you feel a rising pain in your chest. Armed with a capable ski watch, you avoid this scenario entirely. They can forecast bad weather, navigate you back to safety, and log unusual health readings so you can show your doctor.
The best ski watches provide critical tools like GPS, and the ABCs (altimeter, barometer, and compass). They can also provide weather updates, send out emergency alerts, and keep tabs on health metrics like heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
Whether you use them for a casual ski day or a full-on backcountry expedition, ski watches are dependable, durable, and the ultimate adventure companion.
My Review Process
I’ve been a skier for 25 years. Throughout that time, I’ve grown increasingly reliant on ski watches. The process has been long, but I’ve finally found the best ski watches available today and want to share them with you.
I love ski watches; they help me navigate, warn of inclement weather, and track key stats like calories, elevation gain/loss, and max speed. They also provide critical health, stress and sleep managment data, meaning they’re useful off the slopes as well.
The Garmin Fenix 7x Solar is my pick for the best overall ski watch of 2023. Boasting a long battery life, great screen clarity, and accurate tracking, the watch gives aspiring skiers all the stats they need. The watch is also waterproof up to 100 meters, meaning it can handle heavy, wet snowfalls. Plus, you can download data to the Garmin app and export it elsewhere.
The 7x Solar is the burliest of the three Fenix 7 models but has all the features you need for outdoor activities. Having said that, the watch is very expensive, and the solar charging aspect has limited use on cloudy, snowy days. Garmin also offers If the bulk and price are big hurdles, the Fenix 7s and Fenix 7 are also available.
Despite the downsides, this watch is the real deal. The GPS and ABC readings are accurate and easy to access. You also get in-depth health readings (heart rate monitor, calories, sleep metrics), dozens of sports modes (including skiing) that track key metrics (elevation, distance, calories, etc.), breadcrumb navigation, and topographic maps. If you want one watch to do it all, or are looking for a great outdoor gift, the Fenix 7x Solar is the best ski watch on the market.
Not all ski watches need to cost an arm and a leg. The Amazfit T-Rex Pro comes with a ton of battery life, a waterproof design, and a large range of features, all while remaining affordable.
There are a hundred sports modes, including skiing & cross country skiing, health monitoring, and a fitness tracker. You can also sync with your phone to play music while skiing.
While the watch does come with GPS, it can’t be used for navigation on the go, which I found annoying. Additionally, unlike the Fenix 7x, the watch doesn’t have a 3rd party app to download your data to. However, for the really attractive price and the stacked features, this could be your new favorite smartwatch.
The Coros Vertix 2 is a stout competitor to my best overall best ski watch, the Fenix 7x Solar. This rugged option features days of battery life, tons of activity and health tracking features, and very accurate navigation tools. I love taking this watch on my backcountry adventures.
The watch is heavier than regular watches, which can make it uncomfortable. You also can’t pause and resume tracking. For touring situations where you’re skinning and skiing often, this is a limitation. It’s best to start and stop multiple activities and then add them together manually at the end, but I wish the operation was more streamlined.
However, with a battery life that’s better than the Fenix 7 and a durable build that can withstand the rigors of backcountry touring, this watch stands out. On top of that, the Coros Vertix 2 comes with a bevy of critical navigation tools like GPS, ABC, and even a weather forecaster with storm alerts!
This burly watch will survive most, if not all, outdoor activities you dream up. The durability and rugged construction are clear positives, along with standard ABC and GPS tracking. The fitness tracking and heart rate monitors are also accurate, along with route and elevation profiles.
There are a few downsides, including a touch screen that’s less responsive than other offerings like the Apple Watch. Additionally, there aren’t any stored topo maps. However, a backtracking feature allows you to retrace your steps clearly (similar to breadcrumb navigation). If you want a smart watch that can handle crazy weather and outdoor abuse, the Polar Grit X Pro is up to the task.
Suunto is an outdoor company that makes a ton of tried and tested outdoor accessories. The Suunto Peak 9 Pro is a great-looking skiing watch with 97 sports modes and reliable GPS accuracy. Like other smart watches, it also tracks your blood oxygen levels, which is important for acclimatizing to higher elevations.
Unfortunately, I found the screen quality to be poor and hard to read on sunny days. The price is better than the Coros Vertix 2 or Fenix 7, but struggling to read the screen detracts from the overall value.
Fitbit is an interesting company. Many of their newest models, like the Sense 2, trimmed away some of the best features of older models. That’s why I’m recommending the original Fitbit sense. This version has a sleek design for the outdoors, easy-to-understand fitness and health tracking (along with sleep tracking), and is substantially cheaper than higher-end skiing watches.
The Sense is great for resort skiing, exercise, stress, and sleep management. However, with Garmin, Apple, Android, Coros, and Polar all offering more comprehensive features, this watch may not cut it for the most adventurous among us. But if you’re a casual skier who wants to start tracking basic health stats and look good doing it, this is a perfect option.
Every new iteration of the Apple Watch seems to improve upon the last, and the Ultra is the first one I thought could handle skiing. The display is clear, the watch is rugged, and the buttons work with gloves on. The GPS and ABC functionality is also quite accurate, and the watch is easy to use. It comes with advanced health metrics and activity tracking too.
Unfortunately, the battery life is poor. If you’re day-tripping or near a charging station, this watch can handle a day of skiing. I wouldn’t recommend it for longer excursions or multi-day trips. It also lacks a descent tracking feature. The watch will track your ascent, but in order to find vertical feet skied, you’ll have to do some math.
Despite the downsides, the Apple Watch Ultra will easily appeal to casual resort skiers who want stacked tracking features, a slick look, durability, and consistent upgrades that improve performance.
Coming up on the heels of the Apple Watch is the Galaxy Watch 5. In short, the watches are similar, with tons of useful features, a large touch screen, and voice assistance.
Negatively, they’re also similar. I found battery life unimpressive for intensive activities (like skiing), and compatibility is limited. You really need a Samsung phone to unlock all the health benefits potential.
However, if you do have a Samsung phone, this is the logical alternative to the Apple Watch Ultra. The bottom line is roughly the same; this watch is sleek, has a ton of exercise and health tracking features, and is best enjoyed at a ski resort with reliable access to charging stations.
What Makes A Good Ski Watch?
Skiing doesn’t have a specific line of watches. However, the best ski watches have features and functions that skiers use most often. For resort skiers, this includes statistics about ski length, vertical feet skied, top speed, calories burned, and, of course, the time. The next time you pack for a ski trip, think about buying and bringing one.
For backcountry skiers, high-end watches emphasize things like GPS tracking, statistics, elevation, maps, and a compass. Other useful key features include heart rate monitoring, waterproofing, weather forecasting, and overall durability. Pairing a ski watch with the best ski apps out there will help you get the most out of mapping and planning.
Ski Watch Buying Guide
There are a lot of key features crammed into the best ski watches. The big thing you need to decide is which features matter to you. For example, casual resort skiers may not need advanced navigational features so you might end up overpaying for something you don’t use.
Take a look at the guide below to ensure your next ski watch provides all you need it to.
Skiing capable watches rely on burly construction and ample features. They can cost anywhere from $200-$1000. In some cases, you may not need all of the extra features of a higher-end watch, but they will have more to offer than a budget model.
Glove And Sleeve Compatibility
Ski watches are much bigger than your average watch. Make sure you can fit your ski gloves and sleeves over the watch while you're wearing it. If it’s a really tight fit, the pressure from your gloves or jacket sleeve could inadvertently change a setting or stop activity tracking.
GPS (Global Positioning System) relies on satellites to locate you. It’s an extremely helpful navigational tool and particularly useful at a large resort, in inclement weather, or in the backcountry. I find the GPS-guided breadcrumb tracking feature to be vital as it can easily help you retrace your steps if you're lost.
If a watch you like doesn’t have GPS, it should at least have ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass) readings.
ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass)
Watches with altitude sensors are important for elevation calculations, fitness tracking, and figuring out how much effort an objective will take to reach.
A barometer measures air pressure, which changes with the weather. A low barometric air pressure means bad weather (less than 30), while a high barometric pressure (more than 30) means pleasant weather. If your watch relies on barometric altitude to calculate your elevation, keep in mind that the readings can be thrown off by an arriving or departing storm.
A compass can determine direction, which makes it a critical navigation tool for low-visibility or backcountry adventures without reliable cell phone coverage. A compass is best used in combination with a map or mapping feature on your watch.
The best outdoor watches have sensors located on the back of the watch. When you put on the watch, the sensors will rest against the skin. They measure a ton of useful activity metrics like heart rate, stress levels, sleep stats, and temperature readings. All the watches in this guide use sensors.
A watch can have all the bells and whistles and still underperform if you can’t see what’s happening on the screen. Generally, larger and brighter screens are easier to read in the dozens of weather situations you can encounter outdoors.
If a watch screen is hard to read, it could allow you to misinterpret key data. Look for bright displays and a high display resolution (the more pixels, the better).
The outdoors can be rough on gear, and if you’re skiing hard, you’ll be putting your watch through the weather ringer. Snow, extreme temperatures, scratches, and falls can damage sensitive watches. In the outdoors, a durable design is more important than a flimsy watch.
A watch that needs to stay dry to work won’t help you much on the slopes. If you plan to ski powder, you want a watch that's water-resistant at a minimum. Water resistance ratings usually measure how deep a watch can be submerged before it stops working. Remember, though, a water resistant watch is not a waterproof watch.
Fully waterproof watches can get you through storms, powder, and spring slush.
Weather And Temperature
Watches that provide accurate weather forecasts are also very useful. Storm alerts, like those on the Coros Vertix 2, are very handy for more complicated skiing objectives where weather conditions and changes are critical things to know.
Water resistance is nice, but if the watch doesn't work when it gets cold, you have a problem. Since skiing takes place in harsh environments, it's important to get a watch that will work well in cold temperatures. Each watch in this guide can withstand temperatures down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Advanced heart rate monitors can be a very useful tool on an adventure watch. For skiers with heart conditions, elevation issues, or blood pressure issues, heart monitoring is important. All of the selections in this guide come with some form of heart rate tracking.
A watch can have tons of extra features, but it’s not a good option if it only lasts for a few hours. Watch manufacturers use a bit of “artistic license” when they discuss battery life. A watch tracking you during an activity will drain the battery faster. The maximum battery life listed for products is usually achieved when a watch is in a passive or battery-saver mode.
The best models come with above-average battery life, like Polar, Coros, and Garmin. Even so, if you take the watch out in extreme temperatures, bringing an extra charger is never a bad idea.
Ski Watch Software
Lots of ski and sports watches can connect to third-party apps where data can be downloaded. This is an important feature as it saves you from running out of memory on your watch and is useful to share stats and adventure information with friends.
Watches that don’t have dedicated software or sync well with phones aren’t deal breakers, but it makes it harder to quickly share information.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.