Few sports have cooler gadgets and tech than skiing and snowboarding. And there's such a wide range of equipment to choose from, including action cameras like a GoPro to new goggles, helmets, gloves, ski-friendly accessories for iPhone and Android devices, as well as ski clothing that features high-tech material.
While a lot of the gear here is battery-powered, there's plenty that isn't, and I'll add more top ski gear products to this list as I test them.
Best action cams for skiers
The Hero 11 Black, GoPro's latest flagship camera, looks just like last year's Hero 10 Black except for the number change. However, there's a big change on the inside -- a new larger image sensor -- that enables a handful of features that will make the camera more attractive to pros, creators, casual users and even first-time GoPro buyers.
CNET's resident action cam expert, Josh Goldman, says that while the sensor's size increase improves image quality some, it's more about how GoPro is using the full sensor for 27-megapixel photos and 5.3K-resolution video with an 8:7 aspect ratio. With a high-resolution 8:7 aspect ratio, one clip can be edited to 16:9, 4:3 or 1:1, or vertical video at 7:8, 3:4 or 9:16.
That means whatever your social media platform of choice is -- YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok -- the single clip can be edited to meet your needs. What's even better is GoPro's Quik app makes the whole process painless. Plus, with all the extra resolution, you can crop in and still have good-looking results.
If you buy directly from GoPro.com and sign up for the GoPro subscription service -- which is included with the camera -- GoPro knocks $200 off, so it's $350 (a year of the service, which costs $50 a year or $5 a month, is included for free).
The subscription service gives you unlimited cloud backups at original quality, damaged camera replacement, discounts on GoPro accessories and gear and access to GoPro's premium livestreaming platform. It's a good value, which is why a lot of folks don't cancel after the first free year.
If you're looking for an action cam that's a little more compact and lighter than the GoPro Hero 11 Black (and more discreet overall), the Oclu is worth checking out. It shoots 4K but is best for capturing 1080p video and costs $200 (don't be fooled by the coupon code saying you can get $100 off -- the $100 discount is baked into the price on Oclu's site). And while you can't see it in the photo above, the camera does have an integrated LCD on top.
Oclu also sells a Snow Bundle accessory kit for an additional $86 that includes a chest mount. And other accessory bundles are available.
Josh Goldman, CNET's action cam guru, thinks the Akaso Brave 7 LE is a very good value because it delivers good 4K video for less than $150 and it has 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.
As for picture quality, you'll want to keep this budget action camera set to 4K30 with the image stabilization and video quality set to high for the best results, though. Also, while it offers a solid mix of resolutions and frame rates, not all of them have image stabilization -- including 1080p120 for slow motion.
Best 360 action cam
The Insta360 X3 is more of everything we liked about its predecessor, the One X2. The X3 is a small, waterproof 360 camera that creates immersive 360 videos and photos. But it can also be used as a single-lens action cam. Or you can use its powerful processing, clever accessories and its mobile editing tools to create clips ready for whatever social sharing site you choose. It's a lot of camera for $450
Best audio accessories for skiers
The Aleck 006 earpieces slip into your helmet and can be used as wireless headphones for listening to music or as a headset for making calls. They offer decent sound but what makes them even more useful is if you link multiple Aleck 006 together and set up what amounts to a walkie-talkie system among friends or family members.
With real-time GPS tracking in the Aleck Go app for iOS and Android, you can also map the location of everyone in your party.
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 (some Chinese companies like Outdoor Master have gotten into the game in the last couple of years). Their appeal has waned now that true wireless earbuds have come along, but the Chips are now on their third generation with upgraded Bluetooth 5.2 and up to 13 hours of battery life -- 3 hours more than what you get with the Chips 2.0, which can be had for around $90 or $40 less.
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.
Like with their predecessor, I thought the sound quality was decent for Bluetooth but not great. That said, 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 more (about $163). I don't think the Ultras are worth the money.
Rated up to 9 hours
Yes (IPX4 -- splash-proof)
There are several compact, lightweight earbuds that work well under helmets, including the AIrPods Pro and and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. I personally like Sony's LinkBuds S, which are comfortable to wear and offer very good sound and noise canceling along with a good transparency mode so you hear the outside world around you when you're not listening to music. While they list for $200, they often go on sale for less $150.
Rated up to 7 hours
Yes (IPX5 -- protection against low-pressure water streams)
Samsung-owned JBL has a couple of relatively new sets of earbuds, the Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 that are surprisingly good and affordable when they are on sale (which is often). Both are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. And they also combine a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust feature set, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.
Aside from the design -- The Live Pro 2 has stems while the Live Free 2 is pill-shaped and slightly better suited for helmet wear -- the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life. The stemless Live Free 2 are rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 are rated for 10 hours. Both are IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can be hit with a sustained spray of water and shouldn't have a problem surviving a drop in the snow.
Wearable ski coach
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 have had friends use it and really like it. In 2021, the software was updated to versioTed Ligetyn 2.0 with some small hardware enhancements, including a more compact battery with the same battery life.
For better or worse, Carv has moved to a subscription model that makes the hardware less expensive (the original kit is now $149 instead of $349), but requires you to purchase an add-on subscription for $199 a year or $298 for a two-year plan. That's still a lot less than what a single full-day private lesson would cost you at most resorts -- at least in the US.
The company has also partnered with two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time World Alpine Ski Champion Ted Ligety to develop a new program called "Train with an Olympian," which offers personalized coaching from Ligety to help transform your technique, whether you're a beginner, advanced skier or something in between. The Carv subscription incldues Ligety's training program, Carv's real-time audio coaching, video coaching and its library of off-snow content.
Top high-tech helmets for skiers
Helmets with integrated lens shields or goggles have become popular in Europe in recent years, and Giro makes one of the best ones with its Orbit helmet that also comes in a version for women called the Aria (it looks very similar but has different colored trim elements). While these types of helmets tend to be expensive, they're good for people who wear glasses or just like the convenience of eye protection integrated into a helmet design -- you can rotate the articulating "shield" up onto the helmet or tilt it down over your face. It's also worth noting that the large Vivid lens (with optics by Zeiss) provides a very wide field of view.
Unlike some shields that have an open design at the bottom, this one has a foam liner and is designed to sit on your face like goggles, though the seal isn't quite as tight as a typical pair of goggles. There's good ventilation and the helmet is very comfortable to wear, with a Polartec "Power Grid" padded lining that helps with moisture management. Like many of Giro's helmets, this one also incorporates the company's custom Spherical MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection) technology.
The included lens shield is designed to work well in a variety of conditions (it is replaceable for $125). It does a very good job staying fog-free on nonstorm days, but I can't guarantee that it won't fog at times on big snow days, which can be challenging for most goggles (particularly if you wear glasses or prescription lens inserts with your goggles). That said, it's an excellent helmet overall.
In the past, I've highlighted Smith's Vantage helmet, which has a visor. The Code is more oriented 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. 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 calling the whole protection package 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."
Giro says the "modern profile" of its Jackson helmet, which comes in multiple color options, utilizes the new Passive Aggressive Venting system that's "inspired by the aerodynamic airflow of high-end autos." Well, it's a good looking helmet and also pretty lightweight and comfortable while offering MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection) technology.
It doesn't have the company's upgraded Spherical MIPS technology found in its Emerge helmet ($150), this model has Giro's Form 2 Fit system that allows you to dial in the fit of the helmet (it's similar to Smith's dial-in fit), which allowed me to get a more snug fit. The Emerge uses the company's Stash Fit system that allows you to remove or add layers of padding to customize your fit.
Both the Emerge and the Jackson are designed for maximum compatibility with Giro goggles but they work just fine with other goggles.
Smith's all-in-one helmet and goggles combo, the Survey, doesn't feature Smith's most high-end helmet and goggles technology... but it's a comfortable midrange helmet with flip-down goggles and Smith's ChromaPop lenses. The seal on the goggles will vary from face to face (some wind may leak through). I have yet to try this helmet in a storm and will update this entry when I do. It is currently on sale for $208, which is a good deal, but only the black color remains.
Atomic's new Redster CTD helmet is pricey but has some cool features that may someday find their way into more helmets. Inspired by Atomic's pro racing helmets, this model has sensors that assess any damage after the helmet takes a hit. You get a report on your helmet's condition via the Atomic Shocksense app for iOS and Android. Also, if you slam into something hard enough and the helmet takes heavy damage, it will automatically send SOS alerts out to your emergency contacts.
As far as protection goes, it's serious. Atomic says the Redster CTD's Atomic Multi-directional Impact Deflector (AMID) dual-density foam system absorbs shock from all angles to deliver 30% higher impact protection than International Ski Federation standards require. It's available in black, red and white.
Best cell-phone accessories for skiers
When your phone gets too cold its battery drains faster, and if it's really cold, it might shut off. That's where the Phoozy 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 and start at $30. Just make sure to get one that's big enough to hold your phone.
Infinity Lab is Samsung-owned Harman Kardon's new accessories subsidiary and I like its InstantGo 5000 and InstantGo 10000 power banks, which come with an integrated Lightning cable for easy iPhone charging. The larger 10,000-mAh version costs $20 more and is heavier and bulkier, but it can charge most iPhones twice.
You don't want your phone to go dead on the mountain so it's always good to pack a battery pack.
MyCharge calls its new line of magnetic power banks Superhero MagLock, implying that they're real saviors. I was impressed by their design. Not only do the batteries, which come in various capacities, have strong magnets and stick really well to the back of your iPhone 12 or 13, but they have raised coils, which are supposed to help reduce heat levels while charging. It does seem to work.
The 3,000-mAh battery ($35) is lightweight and slim and is nice to have around for some emergency charging. However, it won't get you a full charge, so you'll probably want to step up to one of the higher-capacity options like the 6,000-mAh model, which retails for $60 but is currently being discounted to $42. The 9,000-mAh version is beefy and feels like your phone is attached to a small brick -- the battery and phone do fit in your hand nicely, but the combo certainly isn't pocket-friendly.
All the MagLock batteries charge Qi-enabled iPhones at 5 watts, although you can get faster charging if you go wired and use a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. I also liked how there's a chime when the charging starts and your phone tells you how much juice is left in the battery pack (it's tied into iOS 15). You can wirelessly charge Android devices as well but the MagLock won't stick unless you have a metal ring on the back of your phone's case (stick-on rings are available).
What's cool about Anker's 622 magnetic battery is that it's a wireless battery that has an integrated magnetic flap that converts into a stand. You won't get fast wireless charging from this 5,000-mAh battery (it charges at up to 7.5 watts), but it's slim and easy to carry around.
It charges via USB-C and if you use a USB-C to Lighting to charge your iPhone, it will charge at a faster rate of 12 watts. That's not as fast as what a 20-watt USB-C power adapter can deliver, but it's faster than 7.5 watts.
Most new phones, including the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 series models, offer a decent level of water resistance. But if you want some added protection, Otterbox still sells its waterproof and shockproof Fre case -- and the latest version is built for MagSafe accessories.
The Fre case is also available for some Samsung Galaxy models but that version doesn't feature MagSafe, a feature that adds $10 to the case.
Top high-tech ski goggle options
The Smith 4D MAG googles are the company's current top-of-the-line model and have seen a price increase from $280 to $320 (that said, sometimes they go on sale for closer to $250). They feature a wider field of view (25% wider than 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 with the MAG system. Two levers release the lens, which adheres magnetically to the goggles. One low-light and one bright-light lens are included.
The Marauder Elite is Spy's latest and greatest model of goggles that features 60% more venting over the similarly styled Spy Ace goggles (another highly vented model). That makes it "nearly impossible to fog," according to the company. They didn't fog on me during my limited testing, but I still need to put them through a wider variety of conditions to confirm that.
The goggles' lenses adhere magnetically and can be easily swapped out (two lenses are included). These are over-the-glasses, or OTG-type, that are suitable for use with RX eyeglasses and have subtle notches in the temples to allow your glasses to fit better. Like Spy's other premium goggles, these feature the company's Happy lens tech, which it says is "scientifically tuned to boost mood and alertness while optimizing color and contrast."
They're a nice pair of goggles and although they're expensive, Spy has been having trouble keeping them in stock.
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 2 goggles include a Photochromic Flux lens for $149 (that's up from $129 for the original model). 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 wear glasses, the $270 I/O MAG XL goggles are a good choice, albeit a fairly expensive one, though they sometimes go on sale.
The MAG XL is Smith's MAG lens change system featuring -- you guessed it -- magnets that let you easily swap out lenses, as well as a 5x antifog inner lens with AirEvac Integration Technology that helps reduce fogging. They come with two lenses.
The Smith I/O MAG XL goggles come in several different ChromoPop lens colors.
Bollé's Torus goggles come in a version with a standard lens for around $120 (or less), but I tried the step-up version with the company's high-contrast Volt lens, which is harder to find in stock. You get one lens with these goggles, but the Ice Blue Cat 3 lens (with a pink base tint) offers some flexibility in terms of what lighting conditions you can use it with. The goggles offer a wide field of view and good ventilation.
Giro makes a couple of goggles in the $150 range, including the Method and Article. It describes the Method as having a "bold retro style" that's been advanced with "the most modern technology." It's a comfortable goggle with a wide field of view and good venting that helps keep the goggles fog-free in most conditions (I haven't met a goggle that's truly fog-free in all conditions).
Like the more rounded Article goggles ($170), the Method uses Giro's Vivid lens with optics by Zeiss and a second lens is included. The Method is available in a few different color options.
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 $109 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 conditions. Add that Automatic Plus lens and the price goes up to $279.
I like the Portal XL (on right), which also starts at $179 for the standard two-lens option. It has the widest field of view and is an OTG type that allows you to wear glasses.
The new Hemisphere, starting at $109, has a spherical frame with upper and lower ventilation and 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.
High-tech ski gloves and glove liners
Eddie Bauer has entered the heated glove arena with its new-for-2022 Guide Pro Smart Heated gloves and mitts, which list for around $300 but are currently on sale for $225. They feature Clim8 technology. I tried the mitts and found them to be comfortable. I like how the batteries packs have a rubber coating and seem better designed than some of the batteries I've seen in these heated gloves.