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 flagship Hero5 Black is a 2016 CNET Editors' Choice winner. It gives you everything you'd find in the Hero4 Black, including the best possible video and photo quality, plus a touchscreen and a whole host of new features for $399.
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.
GoPro cameras come with helmet-mount accessories, but it's also nice to have a helmet like the Giro Range that has a GoPro mount integrated right into it (the GoPro Hero4 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. (Note: Giro has updated its colors for the 2017 season, and the bright green pictured isn't available. You can find discontinued colors for less on Amazon.)
There are no batteries or Bluetooth in Helly Hansen's flagship Elevation shell jacket for freeriders. But it is a highly technical jacket, with Helly's Tech Professional 3L fabric with a new Flow membrane. 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 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. Further, fans of the Miami Dolphins will appreciate the winter aqua color (pictured). It also comes in black with orange, and matching pants are available in aqua and orange.
If this model seems too pricey, Helly's Sogn jacket isn't quite as technical but it is almost half the price ($350).
Gloves with built-in heating mechanisms have been around for a while, but they're starting to get more sophisticated. The Seirus Inferno is one of the more comfortable ones I've tried, with three temperature settings to keep your digits thawed regardless of just how cold it is. Battery life varies depending on which setting you choose. At the highest setting, which is what you'll want for very cold days, you only get 2 hours of battery life.
The gloves worked well for me in 10-degree weather, but they don't work universally well for everyone. (On a cold day in Vermont, I suggest wearing glove liners and mittens and using low-tech hand warmers.)
That caveat aside, the gloves are well made and toggling between the various settings is easy.
On the outside at least, there doesn't appear to be anything all that special about Smith's Vantage helmet ($260). But 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, the Vantage has the BOA FS360 fit system (with a 360-degree halo design), which helps you get a snug, "custom" fit. I skied with the helmet for several days and found it very comfortable.
Now 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." (The yellow color you see in the picture has been discontinued, but several new colors have been added for 2017).
New for 2017, Smith has released the Quantum helmet ($300), which is very similar to the Vantage but includes Smith's new Wayfinder Strap System featuring Fidlock that makes it easy to unbuckle your helmet's chin strap with one hand.
Tired of taking your gloves off to take calls or control your music while skiing? Well, BearTek's Bluetooth Snowsport gloves turn your hand into a remote control. That's right, these guys have a wireless Sync Module that tucks into a pocket at the top of their gloves (it charges via Micro-USB and gets up to 80 hours of battery life). Pair the gloves with your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, then tap the On button (on the left thumb of the glove) and you're ready to start. You can perform some basic commands by tapping the touch points on the fingers of the glove to an activation touch point on the thumb.
You answer or decline calls or pause/play music with the top touch sensor on the index finger while the touch sensors on the middle finger allow you to advance tracks forward and skip back. I tested it out with some iTunes tracks (and iTunes radio, which only lets you skip tracks forward), as well as Spotify. It worked better than I thought it would; you just have to make sure to tap the power button if you don't control anything for a few seconds because the gloves automatically lock to prevent accidental activity.
BearTek sells a separate wireless module for controlling certain GoPro cameras, but it's in limited supply and hard to get (I wasn't able to test it out).
Beyond the GoPro controller, it seems clear the company has plans to add functionality to the gloves. Some of the touch sensors haven't been assigned commands yet, so there's some room for improvement. For instance, it'd be nice to be able to access Siri on iOS devices or Google Now on Android devices, so you could make calls with voice commands.
The gloves also come in a motorcycle version and an "all-purpose" version. The ski version I tried did seem pretty warm and well-made.
Last year I tried Swedish company POC's Receptor Bug helmet with built-in Beats by Dre headphones.
New for this year, POC has integrated the same Beats headphones into its slightly higher-priced Fornix helmet.
This is a wired headphone solution, but you simply snake the included cord (it's the standard Beats detachable cord with an integrated remote/microphone) under your jacket to your audio device of choice, most likely your smartphone.
I compared this to the Outdoor Technology Chips wireless Bluetooth headphone accessory for helmets, and the sound you get from the wired Beats is definitely a step up, with bigger bass and louder sound output. You will get some sound leakage from the headphones, so people sitting next to you on the lift will hear your music if you're playing at moderate volumes. The Fornix Communication comes in black or white (red appears to be discontinued for 2017).
For those who wear glasses while they're skiing, you really need an over-the-glass (OTG) goggle. There are many OTG goggles out there, but few that feature a built-in fan to help keep your glasses (and goggles) from fogging up.
Smith Optics IOX Turbo fan is Smith's top-of-the-line OTG goggle. Aside from the quality of the lenses (you can choose between a few different color options, with the model shown here using Smith ChromaPop lens), the big deal here is how quiet the fan is. With most goggles that have integrated fans, including Smith's own, you can often hear the whir of the fan, which can drive some people batty. But I tested this model, and it was really quiet. I could hear it in the silence of my office, but when I took it out on the slopes with a slight wind blowing, it was practically silent.
Of course, a lot of people don't want to spend this kind of dough on a pair of goggles (and in the wrong circumstances, you still will get some fogging). But this is as good as you get when it comes to OTG goggles.
GoPro's original mini cube action cam, the Hero4 Session, started out at $400, then came down in price to $200, which makes it a good GoPro choice for those on a budget. In 2016, GoPro released the Hero5 Session, which features better image quality and added features, while rebranding the Hero4 Session as the Hero Session.
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.
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to a GoPro camera, the YI 4K Action Camera delivers a lot of bang for the buck at around $200. Just factor in that you'll have to buy an accessory kit to use it while skiing. But the good news is that accessory only costs $30 and comes with a whole bunch of accessories.
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.
The HLMT 300 Pola is Uvex's newest visor-style helmet. You can easily move the visor up so it's completely away from your face, then slide it down when you need it. The included visor lens uses photochromic VarioPola technology to adapt automatically to the weather conditions and give you better contrast. Additional visors are available, and some retailers include a second orange visor with the helmet.
It's also worth noting that visor doesn't fog up, thanks to the open design and good ventilation (it's a good helmet for people who wear glasses). However, blowing snow can get into your eyes.
Uvex's Snowstrike Variotronic Goggle is the first that allows you to change the lens color by simply pushing a button. The step-down Big 40 VFM ($210) also automatically adjusts to lighting conditions, but this model does it much quicker (0.1 second) thanks to its integrated electronics. List price is $500, but it can be had for less online.
I tried Chaval's Response-XRT heated gloves and thought they performed well, though the gloves weren't quite as comfortable as the Seirus gloves I tried.
Seirus has three levels of heat you can toggle between, but Chaval touts its Chaval AlphaHeat 2.0 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 $390.
It's also supposed to improve battery life and Chaval says its gloves do better warming your hands in sub-zero temperatures. Alas, I only tried them in about 5-degree cold (East Coast skiing), but they did keep my hands warm for an hour straight before I had to come in due to cold feet. Overall battery life is similar to that of other heated gloves -- between 4 and 6 hours.
MyCharge's rugged, military-grade All Terrain external battery chargers come in a few different capacities and start at around $30. With a water-proof design, the line is pretty ideal for skiers, although you have to bring your own charging cables.
The model pictured is the All Terrain+, which is on sale for $30, and has a 6,000mAh capacity (it can charge an iPhone about three times) and has a 2.4 amp output for charging tablets.
Available in blue, "rock" and red, Helly Hansen's Superstar jacket is a high-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. (Note: The gray rock color in the picture has a little bit of green in it.)
On the women's side, the closest thing Helly has to it is the Silverstar ($700).
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 Issac Newton because its molecular structure responds to rapid changes in vibration."
The ski comes in two models, an on-piste carver (Z-series) with a 77mm waist width and an all-mountain ski (Endurance) with a 98mm waist width. Prices start at $1,145.
K2's got a few new skis for 2017, including the Pinnacle 88 ($800) and iKonic 85Ti ($900), but the new Marksman ($800), created "under the eye" of K2 Factory Team leader Pep Fujas, is the most interesting of the new models. Thanks to an asymmetrical design (you need to make sure you've got the skis on the right feet), where the tip and tail of each ski maintain "a longer effective inside edge for enhanced stability and float construction," this all-terrain "slashing" ski remains stable at higher speeds and can also handle powder with aplomb.
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.
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 iPhone 7/7 Plus, which is 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, including the iPhone 7/7Plus, iPhone 6s/6S Plus, as well as certain Samsung phones.
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.
The Cosmic is Trew's take on a minimalist, technical Alpine jacket that's designed for both resort and backcountry skiing (the company also makes the Powfunk Jacket, which is similar but has a slightly different look). Like the company's bib pants, it also features Dermizax NX, which Trew calls the most breathable stormproof membrane in the world. The Cosmic is available in multiple color options -- its women's version is called the Stella (also $379).
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 for the iPhone 6/6S 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's also a version for the iPhone 6 Plus/6S Plus, though we're still waiting for iPhone 7/7 Plus versions.
Nike's Command Goggle has a larger fit that's designed to give you maximum peripheral vision. It's a good looking goggle with a six-base injected-polycarbonate spherical lens that offers 100 percent UV protection and has an anti-fog treatment to help give you a clear view of the slope ahead. You can get it in a few different options -- the one in the picture is the anthracite with a light rose transitions lens.
Some people want to talk to the people they're skiing with as they ski. For that you need an intercom system, which is what the Bluetooth-equipped UClear HBC200 is: it offers person-to-person intercom and puts boomless, hands-free communication into your ski and snowboard helmets.
The company's patented "beam forming technology isolates your voice and eliminates background noise, so users can be heard even in the most extreme environments."
Needless to say, it's water- and temperature-resistant and installs into most helmets.
The kit includes two HBC200 control units, two stereo speaker sets with embedded microphones, two USB charging cables, two permanent helmet mounts, two goggle mounts, two helmet side-strap mounts and four Velcro speaker mounts.
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.
Thermacell's Heat Packs may not work quite as well as the low-tech disposable hand warmers, but they are reusable and charge via micro-USB. The smallest version is shown here (there is a larger one) and is designed to fit in a pocket or a glove. Heat Packs can be switched between no heat, low (106F), medium (110F) and high heat (116F). They last up to 6 hours per charge, but it's worth noting the heat comes out of the orange side.
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. The Celestron ThermoCharge ($35), which houses a 4,400mAh rechargeable lithium battery, heats up quickly and reaches a maximum of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). That battery delivers up to 6 hours of continuous heat or charges your iPhone up to two times.
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.
While most of the high-tech gear out there is aimed toward downhill skiers and snowboarders, Nordic skiing gets in the mix with Madshus Empower skis.
The skis have an integrated RFID chip that stores the skis' "unique DNA" and allows you to select the pair for your specific profile.
And naturally, there's an app for the skis -- the Madshus Empower App. It "lets you customize performance each and every time you head on to the snow, thanks to the embedded wax helper. You can also manage your ski quiver, track workouts, and engage with Madshus online."
The third generation of Suunto's Ambit GPS watch comes in a couple different versions, including the top-of-the-line Ambit3 Peak and the step-down Ambit3 Sport (a heart-rate monitor is available as an accessory). It starts around $210 online and goes up to $600.
Suunto's Ambit watches are marketed more toward serious hikers, runners, cyclists, and triathletes (it's compatible with hundreds of apps), but it's got an integrated barometric altimeter and weather alerts feature and there are several ski specific apps that chart, for example, how many runs you do, total vertical feet, and top speed. And it also interfaces with your iPhone or iPad via the Movescount App.