Goggle sales soar to battle all conditions

More skiers and snowboarders show a willingness to buy multiple goggles for multiple conditions, and manufacturers are responding. SNEWS took a look at the latest goggles at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.


Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Skiers and snowboarders like to see on the slopes whether they’re facing sun, snow or the dreaded flat light at the end of the day.

And data suggests, consumers are buying multiple goggles for every condition, driving sales of the category up 21 percent in dollars last season to lead all wintersports accessories with a 29 percent share.

At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, brands placed an emphasis on consumers options for better lenses – particularly with larger fields of view – fit, venting and helmet integration, as well as one company upping the ante in terms of goggle gadgetry.

But companies are also keeping things simple so retailers can avoid overloading customers with product. “We wanted to create SKUs that work no matter the weather,” said Ben Flandro, product manager for Smith Optics, whose new I/OX goggles (MSRPs $175-$235) come with a new anti-fog lens with a hydrophilic, micro-etched surface to absorb and disperse moisture, as well as a new quick-release system for its spherical, carbonic-X lens. “One of the most prevalent demands we’ve seen is the ability for goggles to accommodate a wide variety of conditions.”

Long-standing eyewear companies like Smith aren’t alone in embracing the market; the sales growth has also lured other players into the category. After a test market in Europe last year, Salomon is bringing its goggle line to the United States for the first time, with a proprietary technology focused on more lens and less frame. You’ll see it in the X-Tend (MSRPs $100-$195), which combines a spherical BNL lens with a unique suspension frame system and patented, fog-preventing airflow system. “The new frame expands the field of vision and improves peripheral vision,” said Salomon Product Manager Mike Aicher. “For us, that’s what it’s all about.”

Giving consumers more flexibility with one goggle, Native Eyewear jumps aboard the lens-swapping trend with the Kicker (MSRP $139), which come with Glide-Lok interchangeable, spherical/thermal, polarized lenses to reduce glare. They also harbor an anti-fog interior coating as well as lens and face chamber venting to reduce condensation.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, K2 Sports introduces a new line of K2-branded goggles in the men’s Photokinetic and women’s Captura (MSRPs $110-$125), both with Optics by Carl Zeiss Vision lenses. The lenses incorporate eight-layer dielectric mirror technology, designed to balance out harsh sunlight and glare and enhance low-light visibility. Their new Ri-Pel coating minimizes scratching and smudging.

Other trends we saw on the show floor include a women’s line debuted by Julbo, highlighted by its new Vesta (MSRP $180), the first goggle in its line to come with its polarizing/photochromic Falcon or faster-changing photochromic Zebra Light lens. Also for women, Spy’s new Keep A Breast goggle series donates $3 for every sale of its Zed and Whip MX goggles to the charity.

Zeal Optics continues to lead the technology charge with its new Z3 GPS (MSRP $549), which builds on last year’s Transcend with a built-in global positioning system displaying real-time statistics such as speed, altitude, temperature and time on a small screen in the corner of the goggle, powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (seven-hour runtime).

The latest version includes a wireless remote activation (controls can be worn on wrist, arm or goggles strap) and software for transferring the goggle data to play back runs overlaid on Google Earth. Oh yeah, you can see out of them, too, via enlarged, polarized lenses that claim to cut 99.9 percent of glare and automatically adjust to varying light. “We’re seeing a big focus on technology,” said Zeal Marketing Director Joe Prebich. “We were the first company to introduce GPS goggles for skiing, and the Z3 GPS is a major upgrade. They put the rider in charge of the real-time data they want to see.”

–Eugene Buchanan