From a virtual non-category a decade ago, ski helmets have emerged as a standard accessory for many resort skiers and snowboarders. Although the protection may not be as great as most believe (see the 2005 GearTrendsÂ® Winter Outdoor magazine -- free download at www.geartrends.com -- for a report on current helmet testing standards), there is no doubt that helmets are now comfortable, stylish and here to stay.
Many skiers discovered to their dismay that the ski goggles they used for years don't work with their new ski helmet. Yet even goggles made for helmets dangle annoyingly by their strap when carrying the helmet. The K2 Black Hawk One ($300 MSRP) is the first integrated helmet and goggle system.
The Black Hawk is possibly the most protective ski helmet on the market due to an ABS outershell and a foam inner shell that is co-molded with thermoplastic around the edges and ears. The sleek helmet, designed with the help of BMW, has a venting system that is surprisingly effective given the small openings. The front vents can be closed for cold days, but we found don't always stay open when it's warm. Removable earflaps snap into place and work well but could use some design tweaks. Flaps with speakers are promised for next season.
The K2 "The One" goggles are in the same league as top-of-the-line models from Smith and Oakley that retail over $100. These use spherical lenses that offer better optical clarity, a good venting system that all but eliminates fogging, and a face seal that works for many facial types. Included are a set of normal straps and the rubber straps for use on the Black Hawk.
No doubt about it, the helmet/goggle combo does work exceedingly well. The Black Hawk One is comfortable in a wide range of conditions and was particularly nice on very cold windy days. On days when goggles aren't always needed, they can be flipped to the back of the helmet; a trick you can't do with normal goggles.
Where the Black Hawk disappoints is the rather hefty weight (21 ounces) -- a 40 percent increase over the K2 Fuse. Someone who hasn't tried a lighter, albeit less protective, helmet won't notice it. But if you've worn a light helmet, it's hard to go heavy again. Our other gripe was with the color of the goggle lens provided -- a rather useless mirrored blue -- but other lenses are available.
The Black Hawk One is in the same price range of other high-end helmets and goggles, plus you get a nice helmet bag. It may not be for everyone, but it is a sweet system that will hopefully go on a diet.
SNEWSÂ® Applause Meter: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $300
For more information:www.k2skis.com