Gear trends: Winter goggles for 2014/15

Sharper image: Skiers and riders want wide-open view of the sunny or snowy landscape.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

It’s been a winter with plenty of welcome weather thrown in the faces of skiers and riders. And so versatility, peripheral view and clarity are on the minds of goggle makers and buyers.

At Winter Market, it’s time to look for options designed to provide a clear view of the landscape in a way that adjusts to lighting conditions.

“We definitely have customers that are looking for a lens that’s going to adjust as you’re moving in and out of variable conditions — so skiing in and out of trees, if the clouds are rolling in and out,” said Daniel Fluharty, a customer service representative with Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden, Colo.

Zeal Optics’ new Polarized Automatic lens (MSRP $150) offers higher transmission and higher efficiency levels than ever before — as in, this lens will be ready to handle blue bird days on the glacier and sideways snow days.

GT_Goggles_PolarizedAutomaticLens

“It will open up new avenues for polarized technology in low light situations and create a market for polarization that has never before existed,” said Carl Walker, product specialist with Zeal. “The high transmission, high efficiency polarized lens will stand out as one of the most versatile lenses you’ve ever worn.”

Julbo debuts the Snow Tiger Lens, a new photochromatic lens that boasts the versatility to transition to variable lighting conditions and will have enhanced color contrast color base and a red multilayer finish.

GT_Goggles_Julbo_Universe-Goggle

Retailers say customers are expressing a strong preference for the peripheral vision afforded by rimless goggles and increasing interest in easily interchangeable lenses.

Seven years after the launch of its interchangeable lens goggle, Smith Opticsbrings the next generation for rimless interchangeability, the I/O 7 (MSRP $225), with a single pivot quick release for lens swapping, AirEvac Integration technology to keep air moving so you don’t fog over, and an adjusted frame design to securely fit more faces. Smith has ramped up the fashion factor, too, offering 15 styles for the I/O 7, many of which combine the interests of athletes and the inspiration of artists. The Cylindrical Series that included last year’s Vice and Virtue sees an addition with the Squad Goggle (MSRP $80), a lower price point, semi-rimless goggle with molded Carbonic-X Mirrored lenses designed to offer great peripheral vision and fit well with ski helmets.

GT_Goggles_SmithOptics_IO7Hero

“I think people are realizing that the spherical lens is the way to go,” said a buyer with Hoback Sports in Jackson, Wyo. “It’s just better clarity. ... It doesn’t distort anything.” And when it comes to lens interchangeability, she said, they often look to Anon, but end up with Smith to shed some $50 off the purchase price.

Those customers will see new options next year in Julbo’s Universe (MSRP $180-$200) and K2 Skis PhotoAntic (MSRP $60) and PhotoAntic DLX (MSRP $90), both new semi-frameless options designed to provide maximum vision while skiing. Julbo’s Universe uses the above-mentioned Snow Tiger Lens, while K2’s PhotoAntics will use a spherical lens by Zeiss. The double-layer, oversized lens is designed with the angle of the skiers’ eye in mind, which is to say, downhill rather than at a horizon line. It also offers 100 percent UVA protection and an anti-fog coating meant to provide zero distortion. It’s just the second year for K2’s goggle line, said Nigel Steere, category manager for helmets and goggles for K2, who’s been running a battery of tests at its Seattle lab.

GT_Goggles_K2_PhotoAntic

“We’ve just tried to make good, quality goggles that work, and at this point we haven’t tried to come out with the next best thing, something amazing, technology that’s never been seen before,” Steere said. “What we want to do is establish ourselves as a goggle supplier by making a good, solid product that works. Then moving forward, we’ll do what we typically do, which is innovate and really push the technology aspect of things.”

Finally, when you want all the world to see what you have skied, camera goggles continue to ramp up sales. Zeal adds WiFi to the camera in its goggle line, so content can be sent directly to a phone and shared from there through the user’s social networks of choice.

--Elizabeth Miller

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