"An alarming number of 911 calls" – this Apple Watch feature is wreaking havoc at ski resorts

Skier checks smartwatch
Officials urge caution among skiers as local 911 sees an influx of emergency calls (Image credit: Getty Images)

It can be hard to keep up with the ever-advancing technology on GPS watches such as your Apple Watch, and skiers are discovering one feature is making unwanted calls on their behalf. Idaho public officials issued a warning to skiers this week after seeing an uptick in 911 calls made from Apple Watches.

In a Facebook post, the Boise County Sheriff’s Office issued a call for caution after receiving "an alarming number of such calls," primarily from the Bogus Basin ski area in Boise.

"While our dispatchers are adept at discerning false alerts by assessing the situation over the call, each incident requires the same level of response and resource allocation as a genuine emergency. This influx of calls poses a significant challenge, potentially diverting resources from actual emergencies."

The feature in question is the fall detection feature, which alerts emergency services if it detects you have fallen with impact. Fall detection has saved some hikers' lives in recent months, deeming it worthy for outdoors enthusiasts, but of course, skiers fall much more often than the average mountain user. 

ski jackets

If you are skiing with an Apple Watch, officials urge you to familiarize yourself with your device's settings (Image credit: Getty Images)

When you go down hard on an icy black and your watch starts chirping, you have a one-minute window to cancel the call, however the sheriff's office has observed that all the layers associated with skiing, such as the ski jacket and fleece covering your wrist plus a helmet covering your ears, might be hindering your ability to detect the alarm. "It has been observed that many users, especially in winter attire, are unable to notice or deactivate the alarm in time, resulting in inadvertent emergency calls."

If you are skiing with an Apple Watch, officials urge you to familiarize yourself with your device's settings and help spread awareness about this issue to help ensure that emergency services are not overwhelmed by false alarms and can respond effectively to real emergencies. If you realize your fall detection feature has activated and you've missed the one minute window, stay on the line with emergency services until the matter is resolved.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.