Fully loaded: Wintersport goggles increase gadgetry, multifunctionality with a price to match

Wintersport goggles increase gadgetry, multifunctionality with a price to match. What was once an accessory item is now a full-blown investment as wintersports eyewear has prices sometimes north of $600.
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If your customers haven’t been shopping for wintersports eyewear in the past few years, they might get sticker shock when see goggles priced north of $600.

What was once an accessory item is now a full-blown investment.

Fueling the price hikes are the addition of miniature HD-camera and GPS-tracking systems, along with interchangeable, polarized and photochromic lenses. All these advancements are spreading quickly across the Winter Market show floor.

“Technology is a huge driver,” said Joe Prebich, director of marketing at Zeal Optics. “Our goal is to drive these technology costs down to make it more affordable, so we can get more people into the category.” Following Zeal’s debut of the first in-lens GPS goggle with Recon Instruments two seasons ago, it seemed like a lightbulb went off for manufacturers to add a slew of popular technologies to eyewear.

Imbedded point-of-view, HD video capture in goggles are up next, attempting to steal some business from the GoPro action camera boom. Zeal brings its Ion HD Goggle (MSRP $399), which shoots 1080HD video and shoots 8-megapixel photos “without ever having to take your gloves off,” Prebich said. “There’s also an in-lens viewfinder, so you can see what you’re shooting.”

As goggles get more expensive, it stands to reason consumers won’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars each time they face different light and weather conditions. So there’s been a surge by brands at Winter Market to improve their interchangeable lens systems. Scott Sports introduces its Lens Change Goggle (MSRP $185) with a slider that enables the user to quickly change lenses (it comes with one extra) without touching the lens’ surface. The same benefit holds true with Salomon’s XMax Goggle (MSRP $185), which uses side sliders and front clips — what it calls the Twin Lock System — to avoid touching the lens.

Smith Optics made changing lenses easy last season with its rimless interchangeable goggles, but not all consumers have jumped on board, officials said. So this Winter Market, Smith debuts two semi-rimless interchangeable styles called the Virtue and Vice (MSRPs $110-170 each, depending on lens selection) to round out its lineup. On the tech side of things, Smith sticks with the rimless, interchangeable design for its partnership with Recon Instruments to debut the in-lens GPS-enabled Smith I/O Recon (MSRP $650).

At Julbo the French brand looks to perfect its photochromic lenses — which automatically adjust tint accordingly to available light.

“We firmly believe that the best goggle is the one that you put on in the morning, wear all day and take off at day’s end and wonder why everyone else is stowing away three separate goggles and wishing they had a fourth for that last hour of sunlight,” said Julbo USA CEO Nick Yardley.

Consumers can dial in some specification with the tint-adjusting technology, including polarization, at purchase time. Based on the customer’s preference and primary skiing/riding conditions, there are four Julbo photochromic lenses to choose from.

You’ll see the technology in Julbo’s new Orbiter, which is male-specific and a larger fit, or the Luna for women and smaller faces (MSRPs $170-200, each, depending on the lens type chosen). 

Color and style, along the basics of performance and fit, still sell goggles. K2 Skis brings its Captura Warm Red (MSRP $125) and Gray Red Octic Mirror (MSRP $125) to the show, both with Carl Zeiss Vision lenses.

“We used our broad offering of lens tints to help drive our graphics approach, said Chris McCullough from K2. “We paired bold mirrored lenses such as our Gray Red Octic Mirror lenses with merchandised frame or strap color hits that ensure they’ll pop on the hill.”

–David Clucas

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