CNET doesn't usually write up ski equipment, but with more winter sports gear going high-tech -- and mingling with the high-tech gear we carry day-to-day -- we thought we'd have some fun rounding up some of the more innovative gear as we head into the peak ski season.
While most of the gear in the roundup is battery-powered, not everything has a power component to it. In some cases, we've included items that have high-tech materials or cutting-edge designs.
We'll be updating this feature with new products as we hear about them and test them out. If there's something you think should be included, feel free to suggest it in the comments section and we'll check it out and potentially add it to the list in the future.
GoPro's top-of-the-line Hero7 Black ($399, £399 and AU$499) isn't a major overhaul of last year's Hero6 Black, but more a continuation of what the company started with the Hero5 Black. GoPro could've easily leaned into specs oneupmanship, but instead it's made a camera that's better than the last by focusing on feature requests from its customers. For the Hero7, that translates to rock-solid image stabilization and more ways to shoot and share your shots and do it as fast as possible.
Alongside the Black, GoPro announced the Hero7 Silver and White models priced at $299 and $199, respectively. They replace the Hero5 Black and GoPro Hero and have similar features to those models.
Right now we're advocating that you skip the Hero7 Silver and look for discounts on the Hero5 Black. If you;re having trouble deciding which model to get, check out editor Josh Goldman's "Which GoPro should you buy?"
With the newer Hero7 Black out, the GoPro Hero6 Black has been discontinued, but it's still kicking around and you can get it at a discount (around $325 on Amazon). The former top-of-the-line model remains an excellent action cam, with custom-designed processor, the GP1, that delivers faster frame rates at higher resolutions. The Hero6 Black can record 4K 2,160-pixel resolution clips at 60 frames per second, which can give fast action a smoother look. And if you're into slow-motion clips, you can record in 2.7K at 120fps and 1,080p at 240fps.
For 2019 K2 has upgraded its two ski boots with USB-rechargeable Thermic heat technology built right into the liners. The Recon 120 MV Heat, the higher-end of the two models (the other is the wider B.F.C. 100), is now lighter and more comfortable to wear. It's geared to more advanced skiers.
Smith still makes a goggle with a built-in fan, but the fan doesn't do as much as it should to keep the goggles fog-free (the fan technology needs to be upgraded, which Smith is presumably working on).
The company's top goggle right now -- and a decent choice for people who wear glasses -- is the $240 I/O Mag.
The big upgrade over last year's I/O X goggle is the new Mag lens change system which features -- you guessed it -- magnets to easily swap out lenses.
The goggle comes in several different flavors (by flavors I mean ChromoPop lens colors) and you get two lenses with the goggle.
GoPro's former flagship Hero5 Black was a 2016 CNET Editors' Choice Award winner that looks exactly like the Hero6 but its a step behind in terms of performance. However, it does cost significantly less and can be found at a discount now that it's been discontinued.
If you don't want to pay upward of $200 for a set of Smith I/O goggles, there are plenty of more affordable alternatives, including those from Colorado-based Glade, which prides itself on making goggles that offer similar or better performance than high-end models from other companies for a lot less.
The big deal for this year is that Glade is offering a new Photochromatic Flux lens option for its Challenger googles for $99. For those who don't know what a photochromatic lens is, it's one that changes colors according to the lighting conditions you're experience. In other words, it's the chameleon of lenses and typically photochromatic goggles cost a lot more.
Some ski goggles uses little fans to help circulate the air inside them and keep them from fogging up. But that doesn't always work. Enter Abom, which works more like the defroster in the rear-window of your car.
The goggle has an invisible heat-conductive film between a two-part lens. Touch a button and rechargeable battery sends a current through the film to heat the lens and keep it from fogging up. "It's the most powerful, comfortable, effective technology ever put in a goggle," Abom claims.
The Carl Zeiss lens comes in several colors options for different weather conditions (the versatile gray lens is in our sample unit) and the goggle itself also is available in different accent colors.
Battery life is rated at around 6 hours in "active mode." But there's also a boost mode that just gives you a quick antifogging for 10 minutes and then the battery shuts down until you want to activate the current again.
In the past I've highlighted Smith's Vantage helmet, which has a visor. The Code orients more toward snowboarders and freeriders, but a lot of mainstream skiers like its streamlined look.
Smith didn't change anything in this this year's model from last year's -- except for the color options and the price (it's now $200 instead of $180). It packs in all of Smith's latest technologies (they're in this year's Vantage as well). On the inside, instead of hard foam you'll find Koroyd inserts that, from the top, look like a honeycomb with circular (not hexagonal) cylinders. The high-tech material is made of lightweight, eco-friendly polymer extruded tubes that are thermally welded together to form a strong layer of protection that also allows for good air flow. (Smith has added other materials and design elements to the helmet and is marketing the whole protection package as "Aerocore construction.")
Beyond the fancy padding, there's the BOA FS360 fit system (with a 360-degree halo design), which helps you get a snug, "custom" fit. And new this year: a Wayfinder strap system featuring Fidlock that's basically a quick-release magnetic system that makes it easier to open and close the strap.
The helmet only comes in a MIPS version, which offers increased protection. In a MIPS Brain Protection System, the shell and liner are separated by a low friction layer that "allows the helmet to slide relative to the head."
GoPro's original mini cube action cam, the Hero4 Session, started out at $400, then came way down in price, which makes it a good GoPro choice for those on a budget. In 2016, GoPro released the Hero5 Session, which features better image quality (4K video) and added features, while rebranding the Hero4 Session as the Hero Session.
Both models have been discontinued but you can pick them up at a discount. A refurbished version 1080p model you see here can be had for a little over $100 on Amazon.
While it doesn't have an integrated LCD, the GoPro Hero Session does connect to your smartphone via Wi-Fi and comes with a waterproof housing.
For about $100 more, you can step up from the Hero4 Session to the Hero5 Session ($240 on Amazonn), which has a few worthy upgrades, including higher quality video, voice controls and electronic image stabilization. It, too, has been discontinued by GoPro.
GoPro cameras come with helmet-mount accessories, but it's also nice to have a helmet like the Giro Range MIPS that has a GoPro mount integrated right into it (the GoPro Hero Session attached to in the picture is not included). The camera attaches right to the front of the helmet, instead of the top, which allows you to avoid the Teletubby look. Of course, if you have the camera on the front of your helmet, you can't rest your goggles there.
When your phone gets too cold its battery drains faster and if it's really cold, it might even shut off. That's where the Phoozy ($30) comes in.
A simple sleeve or "capsule" for smartphones, the Phoozy has a Chromium Thermal Barrier Shell and SpaceTech Penetration Layer, as well as a bit of velcro to keep it closed at the top. That will help keep your phone warm on extra cold days and help preserve battery life. It will also keep your phone from overheating.
Phoozy puches now come in a few different versions and sizes. They start at $30.
Developed by a Swiss startup, Snowcookie is a smart ski tracking system that captures your speed and technique and sends all the data to an app on your iPhone (an Android app in the works). The app breaks down the numbers and gives you feedback on your stamina, turn quality, engagement, style and body position, and gives you feedback on whether you're improving and leveling up.
Starting at $350, the system is actually made up of three sensors, two of which dock on your skis (you remove them to charge them but the mount stays on your ski) and another that you wear on your chest that makes you look a tad like Iron Man. I got a walkthrough of the system but haven't tried it on the slopes yet.
Rylo is one of a handful of 360-degree cameras that shows promise (for this type of video camera), with a November (2018) software update improving the camera's 360-degree video capture from 4K to 5.8K resolution.
As editor Josh Goldman wrote, "The small dual-lens camera shoots stable immersive spherical video, but it's what you can do after you shoot that's awesome."
The $500 launch package includes the camera, a 16GB microSD card for storage, a mount and handgrip with a built-in tripod mount, a battery and protective pouch. An optional protective waterproof housing is also available. You'd need that for skiing.
What's the best ski watch? Well, Garmin's Fenix 5 is arguably the one to beat. With features that include a three-axis compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, it automatically tracks your individual runs along with your speed, distance and vertical drop data.
Besides skiing, the watch has a wide variety of other sport profiles, including running, biking, swimming, hiking, triathlons, climbing, rowing and paddle boarding. It's considered one of the best running watches and has come down in price since it was launched last year in three versions.
Rossignol & PIQ's Wearable Ski Tracker ($200) is just that: an advanced ski tracker that straps onto your boot and tracks how your skiing, delivering feedback and analysis via a companion iOS app (an Android app is scheduled to arrive in 2018).
"PIQ Robot shows you all your turns and tricks," the folks from PIQ say. "You will know how much angle you have put into your turns or how explosive your transition from one ski edge to the other was."
Previously Swedish company POC has integrated Beats by Dre wired headphones into its Receptor Bug and Fornix Commmuncation helmets.
You can still find those helmets but POC's Auric Communication is currently its only helmet to have some added speaker technology.
According to POC, "The helmet features an integrated communication headset, including speakers and mic, which allow for improved smartphone or two-way communication wherever you are on the mountain, whether it's discussing snowpack conditions or setting up a meeting spot on the piste. It's also the ideal way to enjoy high quality sound and music whilst waiting in line or sitting on a lift."
I haven't tried it yet but will let you know how it sounds when I do.
Available in graphite blue and fir green (pictured), Helly Hansen's Slingshot jacket is a higher-end resort parka that's relatively lightweight (for a parka) and is very comfortable to wear. It incorporates four-way stretch Helly Tech Professional waterproof and breathable outer fabric, PrimaLoft insulation and Helly's H2Flow system, which helps keeps you dry, warm or cool, depending on the conditions.
This jacket features Helly's updated Life pocket+ with Aerogel Insulation. It's a fancy way of saying the jacket has a special insulated pocket to keep your phone from getting cold, which leads to diminished battery life.
It's also got plenty of interior pockets for your electronics and googles and like Helly's other higher-end ski jackets, has a the RECCO Advanced Rescue system to help located you in the event of an avalanche.
On the women's side, Helly's W Starlight Suit has all the technical features of the Slingshot -- but in a full suit that costs a bit more ($1,000).
You get the same four-way stretch Helly Tech Professional waterproof and breathable outer fabric, PrimaLoft insulation and Helly's H2Flow system, which helps keeps you dry, warm or cool, depending on the conditions.
There's also Helly's updated Life pocket+ with Aerogel Insulation that keeps keep your phone from getting cold, which leads to diminished battery life.
And like Helly's other higher-end ski jackets, has a the RECCO Advanced Rescue system to help located you in the event of an avalanche.
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to a GoPro camera, the original YI 4K Action Camera delivers a lot of bang for the buck for a little more than $100. Just factor in that you have to buy an accessory kit to use it while skiing. That accessory kit costs $30 and comes with a whole bunch of accessories, and you can get it for even less if you purchase it as part of a bundle option on Amazon.
Wiley X has a number of Climate Control models that include a removable Facial Cavity Seal to help keep the wind out of yours eyes when skiing at high speeds. They're like wearing mini goggles -- and like goggles, they can fog up if you heat up (but you can always remove the Facial Cavity Seal).
I tried Chaval's earlier (now discontinued) Response-XRT heated gloves and thought they performed well in bitter cold East Coast ski conditions, though the gloves weren't quite as comfortable as the Seirus gloves I tried.
Its new Supernova heated mitts are quite comfortable and feature Chaval's AlphaHeat 3.1 technology, which "thinks for you, automatically adjusting through infinite levels of heat to keep your hands perfectly warm."
Like other heated gloves, Chavals are expensive. They'll run you $425.
Overall battery life is similar to that of other heated gloves -- between 4 and 6 hours
My only gripe is that I could wear a watch or fitness band with the gloves because the electronics in the gloves are embedded in the gloves right around wrist level and pressed against the Samsung Galaxy Watch I was wearing on one wrist and a Garmin fitness band on my other wrist. That wasn't so comfortable.
It's also worth mentioning that heated gloves are heavier than standard gloves and typically come with a bulky charger like the one seen in the picture (it's a shame they don't charge via USB-C). That means they take up more room (and more weight) in your luggage should you be traveling with them.
The iPhone shoots good video, but it doesn't have a wide-angle lens like the GoPro and other action cams. That's where an accessory company like Hitcase comes in. It, along with a few other companies, makes waterproof cases that have built-in wide angle lenses that turn your iPhone into an action camera (the Hitcase lens is all glass and has 170-degree angle of view).
The Hitcase Pro has a railslide mount system that's GoPro mount-compatible. That said, the optional chest mount -- the $50 ChestR -- is really the way to go. What's nice is that the swivel mechanism on the mount allows you to tilt your phone down in front of you to use the touch screen. You can then tilt it back when you're ready to start shooting again. It also detaches from the mount pretty easily, allowing you to talk into your phone as you normally would.
There are versions for most of the latest iPhones.
If you're looking for an external battery to carry around to charge your phone on the slopes, you might as well get one that also warms your hands. Available in three models, the Celestron Elements ThermoCharge is heats up quickly to reach a maximum of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). The larger model can deliver up to 10 hours of continuous heat.One model includes a flashlight.
The Jabra Elite Active 65t are a top-rated set of water-resistant true wireless earphones that I've worn underneath my helmet. Surprisingly, the microphones were sensitive enough that I was able to take calls with them even though they were covered by my helmet. (I can't say this will work with every helmet, but I have tried it with a few helmets without a problem).
Battery life is around 4 hours, which may not get you through the day, but if you charge up at lunch, you should be fine.
After a day of shredding, this is just what you need.
Hyperice calls its Hypervolt "a cordless state-of-the-art vibration massage device that helps relax sore and stiff muscles to improve mobility." It has its competitors, including the Theragun and DYI versions that are based on a jigsaw design. But the Hypervolt is arguably the best massage gun at this price point, partially because it's relatively quiet.
With three different vibration speeds, it's shockingly powerful (top speed is 3200 percussions per minute) and it's great for breaking down lactic acid and loosening up sure muscles -- or just warming them up.
You get four head attachments and up to 3 hours of battery life from the built-in rechargeable battery. While it may seem expensive, it's definitely a well-designed therapeutic device that's not just for serious athletes.
This is Smith's goggle-sunglass hybrid, the Wildcat ($200). Constructed with the same materials used in Smith goggles, the Wildcat provides lots of eye coverage and good airflow but has the comfort of a more lightweight pair of sunglasses. The Wildcat comes with a bright light ChromaPop lens and a secondary clear lens for flat light overcast days. It's available in three color options.
Outdoor Technology Chips 2.0 Wireless Bluetooth Helmet Audio
You'd think that more companies would have made Bluetooth headphones that slip inside your helmet, but Outdoor Technology is one of the few that does (Skullcandy has something for helmets, but I prefer the Chips).
How it works is you charge up the Chips, which are now on version 2.0, and slide them into the earflaps on your helmet (they should work with most helmets). You want to make sure that no excess padding in your helmet is covering the Chips or else they'll get muffled and you'll lose some volume; you want them as close to your ears as possible.
The Chips 2.0 have a new walkie-talkie feature that allows you to communicate with friends who are also using Chips 2.0 headphones. You create a group using the ODT Walkie-Talkie app and talk over the cell network, which means the only limit on distance is whether you're getting a cell-phone signal. Up to 99 people can be in your private group.
The Chips 2.0 have a single button on each earpiece, which you can access through the earflap. In other words, you can answer or end a call or pause and play music by touching the earflap firmly. What's also nice is that you can access Siri (without taking out your phone) and use voice commands to call people or launch a playlist of music.
I thought the sound quality was decent for Bluetooth but not great. You can find headphones that sound better for $130, but it's really nice to be able to stick your helmet on and have the headphones built-in with no wires to worry about. Battery life is rated at 10 hours, and the Chips are sweat- and water-resistant but not waterproof.
Outdoor Technology also sells a wired version of the Chips that costs significantly less.
Here's one for après-ski: A vibrating massage ball. What's that? Exactly what it sounds like.
Five inches in diameter, the Hyperice Hypersphere is a supercharged ball that vibrates at high speeds -- there are three settings -- and is designed to release tension in your muscles. For those who use a ball or foam roller during stretching sessions, the Hypersphere (and other Hyperice products) add a high-tech element to trigger-point therapy.
MyCharge's rugged external battery chargers come in a few different capacities and start at around $25. With a water-resistant design, the line is pretty ideal for skiers, although you have to bring your own charging cables.
The final "sports therapy" product worth considering from Hyperice is the Venom, a $250 portable heat and vibration back device. It's a bit noisy but has a variety of vibration types and speeds, as well as a strong heat element, that does provide some lower back relief.
The Seirus Heatwave Ascent Mitt doesn't feature battery-powered heat. But it costs a lot less ($120) and is still a warm mitten that employs the company's Heatwave technology to "reflect personal body heat back into the mitt for cozy comfort."
Seirus' Magnemask Combo Clava is a fleece ski mask that has magnetic seams so you can easily pull the mask off your face and slip it back on again when you need it. Comes in multiple size options and lists for $50.
Looking for a way to stay hydrated while you ski? The collapsible and resuable Hydra Pack Stow bottles come in various sizes and colors. Made of abrasive-resistant TPU, they BPA and PVC free so they don't make water taste funky. Prices start around $14.
If you don't want to worry about dropping your phone in the snow, your best bet is to get a waterproof case for it (and it offers another layer of protection for the latest iPhones, which are waterproof).
The Lifeproof Nuud case leaves the screen exposed but still keeps water and dust out of your phone.
The Fre is available for all recent iPhones and has come down in price for older iPhones. It lists for $90 but can be had for less online.
Having your phone die on the mountain isn't a good thing, which is why I decided to throw in an external battery pack into this roundup. Anker's PowerCore 13000, which is built around a whopping 13,000mAh battery, can charge both tablets and phones. It's not small, but it's smaller than a lot of external batteries this size and provides enough juice for a family's worth of phones. Oh, and it's affordable, too, so if you somehow lose it, it's not the end of the world.
If you're looking for a highly technical ski pant, Trew, the company that made a name for itself with its bib pants, which give you "tits-to-toes coverage," has a few different models to choose from. The latest version of its classic Trewth pant features reinforced lowers and the enhanced breathability of Dermizax NX, which Trew bills as the most breathable stormproof membrane in the world.
The women's version of this pant is the Chariot Bib ($399).
Trew's Super Down Shirtweight Jacket is a thin, waterproof down jacket that makes for a great insulation layer or apres-ski garment (or apres-work, for that matter). It packs down into its own pocket and has a durable, water-repellent nylon shell and luxurious soft-to-the-touch finish. Features Toray's waterproof Quix Down.
Trew's Capow jacket was designed with feedback from CAPOW Guiding of Revelstoke, British Columbia, where serious powder skiers go to ski serious powder.
Often shell jackets can be a little stiff, but this one isn't, with high-stretch laminate fabrics. It's designed to be both comfortable and protective, whether you're "on the skin track or boot back" or going up against some high, biting winds or driving snow. It's available in two "high-visibility colors," another node to its backcountry pedigree.
There are no batteries or Bluetooth in Helly Hansen's flagship Elevation Shell Jacket 2.0 for freeriders. But it is a highly technical jacket, with Helly's Tech Professional 3L fabric and a new Insulated vest with 3D mesh body and insulated yoke. Helly refers to the whole package as H2Flow, which it says is more efficient at regulating body temperature than standard ski jackets. And the venting system is designed to work with backpacks.
The jacket also has the improved Life pocket+ (with Aerogel Insulation) that's designed to keep your smartphone warm to prevent its battery from draining quickly in cold conditions.
Like other higher-end Helly jackets, there's a built-in RECCO Rescue System, which would help rescuers find you if you end up getting caught in an avalanche. And it's got high-visibility details and brim that'll help your buddies spot you in deep powder.
If this model seems too pricey, Helly's Sogn 2.0 jacket isn't quite as technical but it is almost half the price ($350).
To keep my kids' feet warm while skiing, I go the low-tech route and buy a box of toe-warmers on Amazon and stick them to their feet before they step into their boots. But if you want to get more serious about keeping your feet warm in your boots, there's the battery-powered variety from Hotronic, which features a heated footbed.
Apparently it works well for most people (but not everybody). Just keep in mind that these do require a custom install, so count on paying some extra money for that. Most stores won't charge all that much (the store I was in charged $25), but you will pay retail price for the product.
The Dakine Poacher RAS 26L Pack is one of the most affordable backcountry skiing packs at around $200. It's been upgraded with a new rolltop airbag compatible compartment allows a simplified bag deployment design that is "faster, more reliable and reusable," according to Dakine.
Other new updates include: 2-way radio compatibility, glove-friendly buckles, added A-Frame carry system for skis, an easier to access backpanel, larger goggle pocket and snow saw sleeve within the front tool pocket.
It's also available in a 42L size ($250), 36L size ($225), women's specific 32L size ($220), and 18L size ($160). All are compatible with the Mammut Removable Airbag 3.0 system (sold separately)
Satellite phones are not only expensive to buy but expensive to use. If you're headed somewhere remote where there's no cell service, Bivystick is a relatively affordable way to send texts and share your location via satellite.
Once you buy the Bivystick ($350), you can activate it any time for a month $18, which includes 10 credits. 1 credit = 1 message or 1 location share or 1 weather report or 1 hour of tracking.
If you use all 10 credits, you'll be charged $0.50 per additional credit used. You can also buy additional credits beforehand and at a cheaper rate. Should you not use the credits over 30 days, they roll over to the next month if your account remains active. (You can turn off service at any time).
Renoun says its skis are the most versatile ever. The reason? The secret sauce is a special Hyper Damping Technology (HDT) that adapts to the snow conditions -- and your skiing style -- and can change the stability of the ski as you ski harder.
Renoun says the backbone of HDT is a material classified as a "non-Newtonian polymer" (it looks gooey) and "doesn't follow the laws defined by Sir Isaac Newton because its molecular structure responds to rapid changes in vibration."
The ski comes in three models, an on-piste carver (Z-Line) with a 77mm waist width, an all-mountain ski (Endurance), which comes in 98mm and 104mm waist widthes and the new full-carbon Citadel. Prices start at $1,100.
The first thing you'll notice about Eddie Bauer's BC EverTherm jacket is that while it's a lot lighter than many higher-end resort jackets, it manages to keep you warm in pretty chilly conditions.
That lighter feel is due the company's new Thindown fabric, which the folks at Eddie Bauer say "replaces traditional, high-loft down clusters with ultrathin down sheets, eliminating the need for quilting or channels." It also creates "maximum thermal efficiency without bulk, and since the down is uniform throughout, there are no cold spots."
The jacket comes in black or red (which is really nice) and lists for $500 but can be had on sale for less in end-of-the-season sales. It's currently $300.
Black Diamond bills its Guide BT ($450) as the first ever avalanche beacon on the market to offer Bluetooth capabilities. That Bluetooth connection allows you to manage settings, software updates and battery optimization from your smartphone via the PIEPS mobile app, while the housing features soft-touch contact points for improved handling.
From a core feature standpoint, it's got a 60-meter circular range, mark and scan function for multiple burials, and an auto antenna switch that automatically adjusts to send the best signal. There's also a self-check function for always-accurate antennas and Digital Signal Processing to account for wayward beacon signals. A harness-style carrying pouch is included.
Chalk this one up in the "coming-soon" category: Atomic has announced that its popular Hawx Ultra boot line will come in a Connected version with a built-in tracker that delivers "state-of-the-art digital tracking and analysis capabilities through Atomic's free mobile Connected App for instant on-slope feedback and enhanced skiing experience."
The upcoming boot will feature Suunto's Movesense technology and embedded force sensors inside the liner. Based on the feedback the app gives you, you'll be able to adjust your skiing technique for higher performance by refining your balance, pressure control and edging skills.
Hopefully we'll see this in stores for the 2019-2020 season. No word yet on pricing.