New app puts trail information in backcountry users unconnected fingertips

Fairmont-designed app opens up the backcountry at the tip of your fingers

Getting out and enjoying the overwhelming abundance of trails in the Upper Columbia Valley just got that much easier, with the creation of a new mobile app.

The app, published this September by local Fairmont resident Philip Boyer, is a companion mobile app for the cvtrails.ca website, and allows users to store trail data in their iPhone or Android smartphones and then use it while out in the backcountry without any Internet connection. This include GPS files that can be used on navigation apps such as Canada Topo Maps.

“It’s a full fledged app that allows offline access to more than 100 trails here in the Columbia Valley,” said Mr. Boyer. “We’ve been working on this for awhile, so it’s nice to get this into the hands of people. It will also be a great asset for visitors who come.”

The app — although a private development by Mr. Boyer — uses the same data as the cvtrails.ca website, which was funded by Greenways Trail Alliance and developed by Mr. Boyer and designed by fellow valley software developer Rob Orchiston in 2014.

“These apps and website are an extremely valuable resource for the Valley that compliments other resources such as Aaron Cameron and Matt Gunn’s Hikes around Invermere (book) and other websites. I often find myself referring to cvtrails.ca to find a new trail to hike or bike,” said Mr. Orchiston. “This is a premier resource for visitors and locals alike. I have Philip’s Columbia Valley trails app on my phone and it works like a dream and does everything a local trail user would want.”

The trails featured in the app, and the website, are only official, sanctioned trails and include those for hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, Nordic skiers, horseback riders, wheelchiar accessible and other non-motorized back country users.

Information on the trails — data which is in the public domain — was provided, and continues to be provided, by member groups and individuals not part of the Greenways alliance. Both Mr. Boyer and Mr. Orchiston cited Summer Trail Makers member Tracy Flynn as having made a significant contribution to filling out trail data.

“Trails are easily added by smartphone or computer. Anybody can create an account and add their own trails,” said Mr. Orchiston, adding that, however, rogue and unsanctioned trails will not be publically available. He also outlined that the design even allows organizations in other areas to license the technology from Greenways and set up and brand their own trail repositories and apps with little effort.

Cvtrails.ca allows searching by criteria such as location, Google map, distance, star rating, activity type, and wheelchair accessibility.

“Once you find a hike of interest you can view details such as trail description, trailhead access, heights, times, distances, photos, elevation profile, GPS route file. With a click of a button you can download and print or save a PDF of a trail with maps, photos, descriptions,” said Mr. Orchiston. “To star rate a trail or add comments about a trail, such as trail conditions, you can even log in with your Facebook account. Just like Amazon or Airbnb, a trail star rating will get better the more people that rate it. Literally within minutes of recording your trail using your favourite GPS app, you can have your own trail published and a professional-looking hard copy with images, maps and text popping out of your printer.”

With Greenways members, as well as unaffiliated individuals, still at work adding data on more trails, Mr. Boyer said he feels an online catalogue of absolutely all recreation trails in the Valley will never truly be complete, but added that the more trails that get added, the better.

He also said he’s hoping to launch an update to the app next spring with new trails as well as some more enhancements. Back country users can download the Columbia Valley Trails app at the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

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