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GPS ski goggles hit the slopes (pictures)

CNET's Jay Greene tried out several pricey GPS-enabled goggles with heads-up displays showing his speed, distance traveled, and more. The gadgets, alas, often proved as vexing as they were downright cool.

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Jay Greene
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
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1 of 7 Patricia Kingdon/CNET

Have goggles, will slalom

During a December trip to Whistler Blackcomb mountain in British Columbia and two days at Crystal Mountain in Washington state, CNET's Jay Greene tried out several pricey GPS-enabled goggles with heads-up displays showing his speed, distance traveled, and more. The gadgets, alas, often proved as vexing as they were downright cool.

Here, Greene sports the $550 Zeal Optics Z3 goggles, which proved the most reliable of the batch that he tried.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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2 of 7 Zeal Optics

Dashboard in your eyepiece

Zeal's Z3 goggles sport a tiny monitor inside to let skiers track their speed, the amount of vertical feet covered, and even map their location when they connect to a computer later.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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3 of 7 Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Trip stats, tripped up

Ski data, uploaded from Zeal Optics Z3 goggles to Recon Instruments' Web site, mistakenly captured the wrong date and a wildly inaccurate distance measurement.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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4 of 7 Jay Greene/CNET

Goggles on

The $650 Smith Optics I/O Recon goggles, like every ski goggle that uses GPS speed-tracking technology from Recon Instruments, includes a wireless remote controller that can be attached to the goggle strap to navigate from screen to screen on a heads-up display unit inside the goggles. The remote can also be strapped on the skier's wrist.

At first, the I/O Recons worked pretty well, but after three days started to show some flaws.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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5 of 7 Patricia Kingdon/CNET

Do you see what I see

These $600 Oakley Airwave goggles are simply beautiful, Greene says. As goggles, they work great, giving skiers fog-free viewing while filtering out 100 percent of ultraviolet light. The problem: the Recon heads-up display unit was finicky to a fault.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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6 of 7 Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Ski Tracks on the iPhone

It turns out there's a much less expensive way to capture most of the data that matters. Before Greene left for Whistler, he spent 99 cents on iTunes to download Ski Tracks, an app created by Core Coders. It uses the GPS technology in an iPhone to capture data including speed, distance, vertical descent, number of runs, and more. It can't check the data mid-run, but Greene didn't really care much about that feature anyway.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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7 of 7 Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Whistler Blackcomb Live

Whistler Blackcomb Live, a free iPhone app offered by the resort, tracks speed, distance, and more, as well as giving skiers trail maps and ski condition information.

Story: Skiing showdown: GPS-informed goggles miss the mark

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