New gadgets make skiing a high-tech experience
Air bags, hand warmers and GPS trackers are just a few offerings
Skiing and snowboarding have moved on from just strapping some planks to your feet and sliding down a mountain.
Modern ski kit features an array of funky gadgets and wearable tech designed to analyze and enhance the experience.
Here are the best items of ski tech for 2017.
Oakley Airwave 1.5 with heads-up display
Imagine skiing down a slope with speed, altitude and other data shown inside the goggles.
Oakley has teamed up with Recon Instruments to build a digital dashboard to rival that of a fast jet pilot.
The heads-up display provides real-time data for a range of metrics such as speed, vertical ascent, distance, altitude and temperature.
It even captures jump data such as air time and distance.
The data appears as a 14-inch screen viewed from a distance of five feet in the bottom right side of the goggles.
Pre-loaded maps and a compass help with navigation, while the HUD can also track friends, show incoming messages on smartphones and even change one’s music selection.
The rechargeable Lithium-ion battery provides six hours of battery life.
Oakley’s high-definition Plutonite lens filters out 100% UV and an Iridium coating balances light transmission.
Abom anti-fog goggles
Blurred, foggy vision makes skiing difficult and dangerous.
Fog is caused when vapor turns to water faster than it can evaporate, so Abom has invented a new concept in anti-fog goggles with a heat conductive film between a two-part lens.
A battery sends a current though the film to heat the lens and keep it clear.
An always-on mode lasts for six hours, but can supply a quick 10-minute burst of heat when needed.
The fully rechargeable battery lasts up to seven days in the on-demand mode.
The goggles come with top-of-the-range Carl Zeiss lenses, which are easy to swap to suit any light conditions.
Arcteryx Voltair avalanche air bag
Air bags are increasingly part of the must-have kit for backcountry skiers, and for good reason.
Statistics prove airbags increase the survival rate of those caught in an avalanche by keeping them near the top of the snow pack.
Canadian brand Arcteryx has developed a next-generation air bag that uses a 22.2v lithium-ion polymer rechargeable battery to inflate the bag.
It does away with the traditional gas canisters, which only allow for a single deployment before needing an expensive refill and are troublesome to fly with.
The backpack that carries the airbag system comes in 4.4 gallon and 6.6 gallon volumes.
Garmin Fenix 5
The new multisport GPS watch from Garmin is a heavy-duty activity tracker for athletes and outdoorsy types.
It offers skiing-specific metrics such as speed, distance, vertical drop and run counter.
A compass, altimeter, thermometer and barometer are also useful mountain features.
The myriad multisport functions, including heart-rate monitor, offer advanced training and performance data along with route planning and tracking.
The Fenix 5X boasts a mapping function, while the Fenix 5S is smaller and likely to appeal to women.
The sapphire glass option offers a scratch-resistant face and WiFi in addition to the built-in Bluetooth.
Fully customizable through Garmin Connect, interchangeable straps, connectivity to smartphones and a host of apps, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery complete the offering.
Suunto Spartan Ultra
Handmade in Finland, the Spartan Ultra is a powerhouse wrist-top computer and training aid with GPS.
Skiing is just one of 80 different sport modes with pre-installed sports-specific metrics.
Mountain lovers can access stats such as their speed, vertical ascent and ascent rates, trace their route and navigate using a digital compass.
The multi-trainer also has a heart rate monitor.
Performances can be shared with Suunto’s Movescount, which also offers customization apps and displays heatmaps of the most popular routes.
The watch features a color touch screen which can be configured between digital and analogue modes. It even tells the time.
Battery life is up to 26 hours in training mode.
Black Diamond Pieps Micro avalanche transceiver
Transceivers are part of the holy trinity – alongside shovel and probe – that all off-piste skiers and boarders should carry as a minimum for safety.
The transceiver, or beacon, transmits a radio frequency that can be picked up by other units in the event of a burial, or switched to search mode if someone else is taken in an avalanche.
The Pieps Micro has begun a trend down in size but still manages to pack in the three antennas that are standard in modern digital transceivers.
Features include vibration on initial reception of a signal, giving more time to focus on a visual search of the surface.
The unit also automatically switches from search to send mode if it has not moved in a while, a useful back-up if searchers are caught in a follow-up slide.
The Micro has a range of 44 yards, Bluetooth capability for updating firmware and a battery life of 200 hours.
Mammut Barryvox S avalanche transceiver
Mammut’s new Barryvox S three antenna beacon boasts an impressive 230 foot range and was built with urgency and usability in mind – key when faced with the stress of a burial.
It has a larger screen than the Pulse, which set the standard among professional users, and an easier interface using a scroll bar and one button, even with gloves on.
The “Smart Search” function is designed to get the skier to the probing stage faster.
The “pro search” menu simplifies multiple burials and can switch to an analog transceiver with an extended range of 295 feet.
Want a technical breakdown of the day’s skiing in numbers?
Ski equipment brand Rossignol has teamed up with Piq Robot to produce a tracker that straps around ski boots and provides a full range of stats on turns.
The sensors analyze a skier’s ability to carve the ski and can tell how much angle and force has been put into each turn.
For the jumpers out there, it also computes jump-specific metrics such as airtime, rotations and G-force on landing.
As with everything in the tech world, the data is shareable and can be compares on leaderboards.
Poc Spine VPD2.0 airbag vest
Developed for racers but of benefit to all skiers and boarders, this revolutionary airbag uses sensors and an algorithm to detect a crash before inflating to protect the body.
Once the airbag has differentiated a crash from normal movements, the airbag inflates in 100 milliseconds to protect the neck, chest, spine, abdomen and hips.
The system is housed in a lightweight vest worn under a race suit or ski clothes and is approved by the International Ski Federation (FIS).
Poc, who produced the airbag in conjunction with French engineering firm In Motion, claim the bag offers up to more than four times better absorption than a standard back protector.
Outdoor Research Capstone heated gloves
Cold hands will be warmed up by a pair of these toasty fellows.
Two re-chargeable Lithium-Ion batteries per glove fire heating elements through the fingers and the back of the hand to thaw out frozen digits.
The heat settings are customizable, from light defrost to full winter warmer.
The gloves are 90% nylon with a water resistant goat leather palm, PrimaLoft insulation, a Gore-Tex insert and smartphone-compatible Sensor leather on the finger tips.
Oh, and there’s a nose wipe on the thumb.
Therm-ic ski boot heaters
Frozen feet are the scourge of many skiers but Therm-ic’s boot-heating system can keep toes happy.
A sole with embedded heating elements is connected up between the liner and the ski boot to a lightweight battery, which clips on to the boot’s powerstrap.
Three settings, operated by remote control, offer a range of heat, from toe-tickling warmth to nuclear blast for those refrigerator days. An impulse control stimulates blood circulation to bring back toasty tootsies.
Therm-ic’s most powerful RC 1600 rechargeable lithium-ion battery has a short charging time and offers up to 29 hours of warmth.
Rob Hodgetts is a journalist and editor who has worked for the likes of CNN Sport, BBC Sport, BBC News and Reuters and has reported from some of the world’s biggest sporting events including numerous winter and summer Olympics, golf’s US Masters and the Ryder Cup.