New Boonmaps app to aid backcountry navigation

Hopes 3D system will cut down on lost sledders, backcountry users

Frazer Hogg is the developer of Boonmaps, a new offline 3D map app. Photo by Bruno Long

This story first appeared in print in the February issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

You’re lost.

You gunned your snowmobile through the trees into a meadow high up on Boulder Mountain. You arced a few turns, the powder flying over your head. You jet back into the glades, the trees like a playful slalom course, face shots at every turn. This is everything you dreamed snowmobiling in Revelstoke could be — so much that you get lost in the moment as you venture further and further in search of powder.

Eventually, you stop in a clearing and look around, the mountains shrouded in snow and not a soul around. You’ve managed to leave the crowds behind — including your riding partners. You backtrack, looking for your buddies, the revs of their engines muffled by nature and not getting any closer.

“Where’s the trail?” you wonder.

Fortunately, the previous night you downloaded Boonmaps, a new app that provides offline 3D imagery of several Revelstoke snowmobiling areas, including Boulder Mountain. You didn’t want to be that guy from the Prairies who had to get led off the mountain by search and rescue. You fire it up, load the map and let your phone’s GPS pinpoint your location. You rotate it up, down and around as you get your bearings. The trail is only a few hundred metres away, through some trees and up a hill, and you set off. Eventually you make it to the groomed trail and roar back to the cabin where your friends await. As light fades, you ride back to the parking lot together.

Left: A screenshot of Frisby Ridge from the Boonmaps app.

Boonmaps was developed by Revelstoke resident Frazer Hogg and is the latest in a long line of offline mapping apps designed to help people navigate in the backcountry. Most of them have two-dimensional apps that use a mixture of satellite imagery and topo lines to help you navigate. Generally, the user pays to access different features, and you’re able to access maps for anywhere in the world

Boonmaps differs in several ways. Most notably, the maps are three-dimensional and they’re free to download. “I see it as a big advantage because I think your average person with little map experience benefits huge from a 3D view,” Hogg told me.

Hogg has lived on and off in Revelstoke since 2009, and has called it home since 2016. He has a commerce degree, and has spent the better part of this decade working with his father and a friend in a business that does 3D aerial surveys for mineral exploration companies. Boonmaps is essentially a marriage of his work and his love of the outdoors — taking the 3D imaging and bringing it to the backcountry.

“I was thinking of Google Earth and Gaia (a popular offline mapping app) and all these differing things,” he told me. “It would be so helpful if there was one spot you could get everything.”

How it works is you download the app to your phone, then download the map of the area you plan on riding in that day. So far, maps exist for Boulder Mountain, Frisby Ridge, Blanket Glacier Chalet, and Red Mountain Resort.

Much like Google Earth, the 3D maps allow you to fly around the terrain, zoom in and out, and view it from all angles. Unlike Google Earth, the maps are high-res, recent, taken in winter, and available offline after you download them. They include trails and key locations like the Boulder Cabin.

The app and maps are free to download; instead of user-pay, Hogg’s business model is to have the venues pay for the development of the maps.

“I think these venues will find it’s a huge promotional tool. Having a very life like model of your area can be very beneficial,” said Hogg.

Eric Kerr, the marketing director for Red Mountain, said they were interested because it provides “an easier way for new guests to understand the size and scope of our mountain.”

“The useful feature of GPS location on the mountain has been great, as well to help guests assess where they are, potentially in relation to their friends or family for meeting up,” he added.

The Revelstoke Snowmobile Club maps were funded by Tourism Revelstoke. Meghan Tabor, the manager of Tourism Revelstoke, said they chose to do so because of the tourism value of snowmobiling, as well as recognition of the pressure lost snowmobilers put on Revelstoke Search & Rescue. “We felt this resource would be an important one to be able to provide to our snowmobile tourists as an additional safety measure,” she said. “Our goal through this pilot project was to enhance the safety and visitor accessibility of the Boulder Mountain and Frisby Ridge snowmobile trail networks.”

Hogg hopes positive reviews will help bring on board more venues and the app will grow organically, with more and more maps on offer. “I’m hoping it will organically take a bit of traction one way or another,” he said.