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.
A version of this story was originally published in 2015, but we've just updated for the 2021 ski season with some fresh picks.
The 2020 GoPro upgrade adds a front-facing selfie screen and a whopping 5K video resolution (at 30 frames per second). In other words, it's the one to get if you want all the latest bells and whistles. A Hero 9 bundle -- including a floating hand grip, a magnetic swivel clip, a spare battery, a 32GB SD card and a camera case, as well as a one-year subscription to GoPro's cloud storage service -- is currently on sale for $350 on the GoPro website.
Read more: Best action cams
If you can do without that top-end resolution and front-facing screen, the older Hero 8 is a great choice. It still does 4K video at 60 fps, so it's no slouch and has come down from its original list price of $350 (it's now around $280). It was a CNET Editors' Choice winner last year.
Read more: Best action cams
The Smith 4D MAG ($280) are the company's current top-of-the-line goggles. They feature a wider field of view (25% wider compared to the I/O Mag, according to Smith) and a 5x antifog inner lens with AirEvac Integration Technology that helps reduce fogging. Changing the lenses is easy -- one low-light and one bright-light lens are included -- with the MAG system. Two levers release the lens, which adheres magnetically to the goggles.
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 is its Adapt goggles include a Photochromatic Flux lens for $109. This is a lens that changes colors according to the lighting conditions you experience. In other words, it's the chameleon of lenses and typically photochromatic goggles cost a lot more.
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to a GoPro camera, the Akaso Brave 7 LE delivers good value for around $130. You get good 4K video and a front display. The body is water-resistant but, along with a variety of mounts, two batteries, a charger and a wrist remote, Akaso includes a dive housing good to 40 meters (131 feet). A touchscreen on the back lets you tap your way through its simple interface to change modes and camera settings. A long press on the Mode button on top lets you switch to the front display so you can see yourself while you shoot.
Read more: Best action cams
If you wear glasses, the $240 I/O MAG XL is a good choice, albeit a fairly expensive one.
The MAG XL is Smith's relatively new MAG lens change system which features -- you guessed it -- magnets to easily swap out lenses, as well as a 5x antifog inner lens with AirEvac Integration Technology that helps reduce fogging.
The goggle comes in several different flavors (by which I mean ChromoPop lens colors) and you get two lenses with the goggle.
Some ski goggles use 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 goggles have an invisible heat-conductive film between a two-part lens. Touch a button and a 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 says.
The Carl Zeiss lens comes in several color options for different weather conditions (the versatile gray lens is in our sample unit) and the goggles themselves are also available in different accent colors.
Battery life is rated at around six 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.
Seirus' flagship HeatTouch Hellfire gloves are available for $425 for men or women. The gloves haven't changed for a few years, but the battery was upgraded last year to a more slimmed-down version with increased battery life.
At the low-heat setting you can get up to 12 hours of battery life, with medium pegged at around eight hours and high at four hours.
Another set of goggles with a wide field of view is the Spy Legacy ($230), which is something of a throwback for the company (it says it's returning to its roots with the retro strap, thus the name). The goggles use the new color and contrast enhancing Happy Lens, which makes "bluebird days bluer, bumps bumpier and your sightline crisper and clearer than ever." Two lenses are included, one for flat light.
The Spy Optic costs less ($180) than the Legacy and comes in a variety of color options. The one pictured -- it is pretty slick looking -- is the Trailblazer Green with the HD Plus Bronze with Green Spectra Mirror. It also comes with a second lighter colored lens for low-light days.
The frameless design gives you a wide field of view and there's both an anti-fog dual-lens system, decent ventilation and Spy's Happy Lens Tech, which it says "enhances color and contrast and is scientifically tuned to boost mood and alertness." I felt good wearing them.
Smith's Level helmet is one of the company's newer models, and at $180, it's more affordable than the company's top-of-the-line Quantum (some colors might be discounted). It doesn't have quite as much protection as that model, but it's lighter at 19 ounces (550 grams) and is equipped with the MIPS brain-protection system and many of Smith's high-tech helmet features such as its Aerocore construction featuring Koroyd (a honeycomb-like eco-friendly polymer) and its XT2 antibacterial performance lining. I found it to be very comfortable, easily adjustable and it has good ventilation. It's available in multiple color options.
While GoPro has long called itself the most versatile camera, the Insta360 One R, which lists for $480 but sells for closer to $400, takes versatility to another level. The One R's modular design lets you swap out camera modules for different features and shooting options. At the moment, the module options include a 4K wide-angle camera for that traditional 4K action camera experience with 4K footage; a dual-lens 360-degree camera; and a Leica-engineered camera with a 1-inch sensor for the best image quality possible even in low light conditions. For skiing, we prefer this model to the Insta360 One X.
Each camera has its own unique capabilities letting you really push your creativity. Should you get stuck, however, the company's mobile app and the Insta360 community are a constant source of inspiration. Speaking of the mobile app, it has superintelligent editing features that make it easy to create sharable clips. And all your footage will look incredibly smooth when you use its FlowState image stabilization.
Read more: Best action cams
Helly Hansen's flagship $700 Odin Mountain Infinity shell jacket features the company's LIFA Infinity Pro technology, its new waterproof, windproof yet breathable material that it says is the "first-to-market to be made entirely without added chemicals." Typically, waterproof jackets are chemically treated but Helly Hansen says the Infinity's "everlasting water repellent protection never needs to be reproofed with chemical treatment after use."
For a shell jacket it offers good flexibility and doesn't feel stiff. While it has a three-layer fabric construction and offers some warmth, it's not insulated so in very cold conditions you'd need to wear another jacket underneath it, like the Odin Lifaloft Hybrid ($400 -- see next slide).
The Odin Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket comes in only one color and Helly has been having trouble keeping it stock despite its high price.
Helly Hansen's Odin Lifaloft Hybrid ($400) can be worn as a standalone jacket for everyday use or as a layer under a parka or shell. It's about as nice as you get for a lightweight packable down jacket that also incorporates Helly's LIFA technology with Primaloft insulation. It's quite warm and comfortable to wear. Available in black and orange colors.
Recently upgraded with active noise canceling via a software update, the Jabra Elite 75t is a top-rated set of water-resistant true wireless earphones that I've worn underneath my helmet. The microphones are 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 about seven and a half hours with this new model, which should get you through the day. You can always charge up at lunch, of course. Since it's been out a while it's regularly discounted, with a low price of around $120. Read the full CNET review.
Spyder makes plenty of jackets and other outerwear. My favorite new resort jacket for the 2020-2021 season is the Impulse GTX Infinium Down Jacket ($650), which feels like a little bit of a throwback jacket or crossbreed. Insulted with 700-fill goose down, it's one of the warmer jackets you'll find and does have some stretch to it for a thicker jacket, so it's comfortable as well. The Infinium material (every company has to have a name for its high-tech fabric) is what makes it water-repellant and there's some Gore-Tex laminate in the mix, too. It does have some venting under the arms and there's a removable powder skirt on the inside. I like it best in blue but it comes in other color options.
Spyder's women's equivalent to the Impulse is the Falline GTX Infinium ($625) It's got some faux fur flare to it and is insulated with 650-fill goose down instead of 700-fill, but it's also a warm, comfortable jacket that has some stretch to it. The Infinium material is what makes it water-repellant and there's some Gore-Tex in the mix, too. The hood and faux fur trim are removable. For better or worse it's only available in one color, but it is a good color.
In the past, I've highlighted Smith's Vantage helmet, which has a visor. The Code orients more toward snowboarders and free riders, but a lot of mainstream skiers like its streamlined look.
Smith didn't change anything in this year's model from last year's -- except for the color options. It packs in most of Smith's latest technologies (they're in the 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 airflow. (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."
Zeal goggles have excellent optics and a wide field of view, and many feature the company's Rail Lock System that makes the lenses easy to change and the goggles easy to vent when you're in hiking mode.
The base models with standard lenses are pretty affordable, ranging from $129 to $159. Things get more expensive when you move to the Automatic Plus GB lens, which is photochromic and changes quickly with the lighting and works in any condition. Add that Automatic Plus lens and the price goes up to $279.
A lot of people like the Hatchet (on the left in the photo above), which is available for $159 with the Optimum lens (nonphotochromic) of your choice along with a complimentary Sky Blue Mirror lens.
I like the Portal XL (on right), which also starts at $159 for the standard two-lens option. It has the widest field of view and is an OTG goggle that allows you to wear glasses.
The new Hemisphere, starting at $130, has a spherical frame that's designed with upper and lower ventilation, triple-layer face foam and is available in a variety of lens options. It doesn't have the RLS system but the lens quality is quite good for the price.
GoPro cameras come with helmet-mount accessories, but it's also nice to have a helmet like the $250 Giro Range MIPS that has a GoPro mount integrated right into it (the GoPro Hero Session 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 pouches now come in a few different versions and sizes. I personally like the original, which starts at $30 and fits most phones up to 6.1 inches. The newer XP3 ($50) is larger and designed for 6.5-inch or larger phones.
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. I like Aukey's 18-watt USB-C Power Bank ($17) which is one of the smallest high-capacity 10,000-mAh batteries you'll find and has fast-charging via a USB-C PD Port that works with the USB-C to Lightning cable that comes with new iPhone 12 models (and the earlier iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max). It can fully charge a few phones, so you can help out your friends if they need some juice, too. It lists for $21 but often has a 20%-off instant coupon that brings the price down to around $17, which makes it an excellent value.
Helly Hansen's Pinnacle jacket ($700) for women is, in fact, the pinnacle model in its women's resort ski parka line and it's really nice. Relatively lightweight (for a parka), it's very comfortable to wear, incorporating four-way stretch Helly Tech Professional waterproof and breathable outer fabric, PrimaLoft insulation and Helly's H2Flow Air Force Vent System, which helps keeps you dry, warm or cool, depending on the conditions.
This jacket features Helly's updated Life Pocket Plus 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 goggles and like Helly's other higher-end ski jackets, has the Recco Advanced Rescue system to help locate you in the event of an avalanche.
The jacket comes in black or white but is only available in black on Helly's site in limited size options (yes, stock is limited). The white version is on Amazon, also in limited size options.
Cosmetically speaking, K2's 2021 Mindbender 99Ti skis look a little boring, but they're anything but. If you're on the hunt for an all-mountain ski that carves up the cruisers but also cuts through the chop while handling powder relatively well, give them a demo if you get a chance.
While they come in wider and narrower sizes (there's a 108Ti, for example, which would give you more lift for powder), the 99 is a good waist width for folks who want skis that can deal with a variety of conditions. Thanks to K2's Ti Y-Beam construction, which layers the rigid, dampening Titanal metal in just the right spots, it maintains a certain stiffness that gives you better stability at high speeds (allows you to hold an edge without chattering) while offering up enough flex to make the skis maneuverable. Just note that it is geared toward more advanced and expert skiers.
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 models from Theragun and TimTam. But the Hypervolt is arguably the best massage gun at this price, partially because it's relatively quiet and partially because it's frequently on sale (it's been selling for as low as $279 with the newer Bluetooth version with app support going for $20 more). Meanwhile, the entry-level Hypervolt Go is $199.
With three different vibration speeds, it's shockingly powerful (top speed is 3,200 percussions per minute) and it's great for breaking down lactic acid and loosening up sore muscles -- or just warming them up.
You get four head attachments and up to three 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.
The newer step-up Hypervolt Plus ($399) is also available and often is on sale for $50 less. It comes with an extra head attachment and is 30% more powerful but just as quiet as the standard Hypervolt.
If you're looking for something more portable that won't weigh your luggage down too much, the Theragun Mini is a great little massage gun for $199 that's surprisingly powerful for its size.
Like the other new Theragun models, the Mini is equipped with Quiet Force technology that allows the device to run just as powerfully but much more quietly than the previous generation of Theraguns. Theragun Mini has three speed settings, ranging from 1,750 rpm to 2,400 rpm, and the battery lasts for 150 minutes of continuous use.
The one notable downside to the Theragun Mini is that it only comes with one attachment, the standard ball head, so you have to be OK with that. You could buy other Theragun attachments a la carte, because the Mini is compatible with all the same attachments that come with other models but that brings the price up.
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 $449, 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. The system is slated to ship in late 2020.
You can check out Snowcookie's promo video here.
Elevenate Ski is a Swedish brand, new to the US. It makes lots of ski apparel, including some high-end technical jackets and shells, but its M Fusion is one of the more eye-catching midlayer jacket and pants combos you'll find. The company describes them as a "hybrid of a midlayer and an insulation jacket [or pants], making it a really warm and technical midlayer for cold days."
The jacket fits snuggly and is equipped with Pontetorto Tecnostretch fabric (made with recycled polyester) in the sleeves and side panels. Also, the synthetic insulation is Bluesign-certified, meaning its textiles are produced in an eco-friendly manufacturing system.
The jacket is $230 and the pants are $200. For 2021, it is available in navy and "rock" colors. The teal in the picture is no longer available.
Seirus' Magnemask Bandit Combo Hinged Headliner 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. It comes in multiple size options and lists for $50. The company also sells a Magnemask Combo Clava that has slightly thicker material (Neofleece) to cover your face. I found the MagneMask Bandit Combo Hinged Headliner more comfortable.
What's the best ski watch? Garmin's Fenix 6 is arguably the one to beat. With features that include a three-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter, it automatically tracks your individual runs along with your speed, distance and vertical drop data. New in this model: Preloaded maps for 2,000 resorts -- and the maps are optimized to show run names with difficulty.
Besides skiing, the watch has a wide variety of other sport profiles, including running, biking, swimming, hiking, triathlons, climbing, rowing and paddle boarding. It comes in a few different versions, including a high-end model with solar charging. It starts around $600, but the Sapphire version pictured here lists for closer to $800. Since it's been out a while, you will find it discounted.
Sena's Latitude SX helmet has built-in Bluetooth speakers and a microphone. It's a little heavier than I like my helmets to be, but the prominent buttons are well-placed for adjusting volume levels, controlling music playback and answering/ending calls. I found that the helmet ran slightly big. The sound is decent, not great -- the quality does improve with a proper, snug fit where the speakers are close to your ears and there's good sound isolation in the helmet.
The helmet also offers walkie-talkie functionality with a four-way intercom that allows you to communicate with up to three other users (who also must own Sena helmets) within a range of 900 meters (just over half a mile). The helmet does work well for making calls and there's a companion app for iOS and Android.
While not as comfortable as, say, the higher-end Smith helmets in this roundup, the Latitude is fairly affordable at $120.
I tried Chaval's earlier (now discontinued) Response-XRT heated gloves and thought they performed well in bitterly 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. And overall battery life is similar to that of other heated gloves -- between four and six hours.
My only gripe is that I couldn't wear a watch or fitness band with the gloves. 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 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.
It's also available in a glove version called the SuperNova Glove for $425.
The claim to fame of Oros' Endeavor mittens ($90) is they're equipped with a patented flexible Aerogel composite, made up of Aerogel and closed cell foam that it calls Solarcore. The company says it's "the best insulation in the universe" after being industry-standard tested (ASTM C518) against more than 250 other insulations -- everything from goose down to all the major synthetics out there. Available in black or teak (pictured), they're very comfortable gloves and kept my hands warm in 20-degree temps on the east coast.
Last year, both glove and mitten versions were options, but this year the Endeavor Mitten (also $90) is all that's available. For really cold temps I'd go with that.
You've heard of glove liners. These are sock liners, designed to lock in the heat from your foot. They're not cheap but they do help with the cold. You just have to have the right sock to fit over them (and the double sock situation can impact the fit of your boot).
K2 has two ski boots with USB-rechargeable Thermic heat technology built right into the liners. The 2021 Recon 120 MV Heat ($650), the higher-end of the two models (the other is the wider BFC 100), continues to improve with each iteration. It's geared to more advanced skiers. I've used an earlier version and while the heat doesn't necessarily make your feet toasty, it does keep your toes from freezing on very cold days.
Private lessons have gotten really expensive, so why not get a virtual one?
Carv is a digital ski coach that combines some hardware that you attach to your boots with an iOS app (Android coming soon) that delivers real-time feedback about how you're skiing.
I'm still waiting to try this out but initial reviews have been positive and the software has recently been updated to version 2.0 with some small hardware enhancements, including a more compact battery with the same battery life.
Carv lists for $349. That's less than what a single full-day private lesson would cost you at most resorts -- at least in the US.
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 updated jacket comes in black or teal (the red version is the 2018-2019 model) and lists for $500, but can be had on sale for less. It's currently $250.
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 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.
North Face's Steep Patrol gloves ($140) have a waterproof cowhide leather exterior and something that North Face calls "The Future" on the inside (it incorporates the company's Futurelight material). Designed to mold to your hands over time, they have a snug fit with "Radiametric Articulation" that's supposed to keep your hands in their natural relaxed position.
This is Smith's goggles-sunglasses 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.
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.
Hyperice's original Hypersphere massage ball ($150) is quite powerful but a bit on the large side and requires its own power adapter to charge it. Meanwhile, the new smaller Hypersphere Mini ($99) -- about the size of a softball (3-inch diameter) -- charges with a Micro-USB cable and actually works better for rolling out your muscles, with three speeds to choose from. It also travels better.
MyCharge's rugged external battery chargers come in a few different capacities and start at around $20. 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, which does provide some lower back relief. It frequently sells for $50 less or $200.
The Seirus Heatwave Ascent Mitts don't feature battery-powered heat. But they cost a lot less (around $110) and are still warm mittens that employ the company's Heatwave technology to "reflect personal body heat back into the mitt for cozy comfort."
They're also available as gloves for $110.
Looking for a way to stay hydrated while you ski? The collapsible and reusable Hydra Pack Stow bottles come in various sizes and colors. Made of abrasive-resistant TPU, they're BPA and PVC free so they don't make water taste funky. Prices start around $14.
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. Their appeal has waned now that true wireless earbuds have come along, but they're still available.
How it works is you charge up the Chips 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 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 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 $140, but it's 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 the Chips Ultra, a true wireless version of the Chips that costs significantly more ($220). I don't think the Ultras are worth the money.
You never know when you might need to hang up some gear, which is where the Heroclip comes in. Available in a few different sizes and colors, this souped-up rotating carabiner hook clip costs around $20.
If you're looking for highly technical ski pants, 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 ($399) pants 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 these pants is the Chariot Bib ($399).
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.
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 for $210. It's been upgraded to the new S4 Plus, which has a redesigned power switch and delivers 21 hours of battery life.
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.
Not as young as you once were? Opedix makes high-tech tights that'll give your muscles and knees some added support while keeping you warm.
Its top-end Dual-Tec 2.0 ($225) integrates the company's "torque reform technology from the knee to the lower lumbar" and "represents the latest innovation in kinetic health."
The Dakine Poacher RAS 26-liter pack is one of the most affordable backcountry skiing packs at around $200. It's been upgraded with a new rolltop airbag compatible compartment allowing a simplified bag deployment design that is "faster, more reliable and reusable," according to Dakine.
Other new updates include: two-way radio compatibility, glove-friendly buckles, added A-Frame carry system for skis, an easier-to-access back panel, larger goggle pocket and snow saw sleeve within the front tool pocket.
It's also available in a 42-liter size ($250), 36-liter size ($225), women's specific 32-liter size ($220) and 18-liter size ($160). All are compatible with the Mammut Removable Airbag 3.0 system (sold separately).
Hitcase once specialized in making waterproof cases that have built-in wide-angle lenses like the GoPro and other action cams that turn your iPhone into an action camera (the Hitcase lens is all glass and has a 170-degree angle of view). It still has legacy cases and lenses for older iPhones, but now that more recent iPhones like the iPhone 11 Pro feature a wide-angle lens, the company has shifted a little more toward selling tough cases and mounts. (It doesn't sell iPhone 12 cases yet.)
The Hitcase Pro has a rail-slide 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 touchscreen. 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.
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 for $18, which includes 10 credits. One credit equals one message or one location share or one weather report or one 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.)
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 2020-2021 season. No word yet on pricing.