So far, the Northern Hemisphere's 2012-2013 ski season is off to a rather sluggish start, at least in the heart of American ski country. It looks like it could be another warm, dry year. That doesn't mean that the skiing has to be boring, however. These ski-centric gadgets will wring more enjoyment out of the big powder days that do come and provide a fun distraction when conditions are less than ideal.
Zeal HD Camera Goggle
Zeal was the first company to launch GPS goggles, and this season it has a different piece of wearable technology to hawk. The HD Camera Goggle, which seems to have dropped the "iON" name, combines eyewear and videography, integrating a 1080p action cam right between the eyes. Not only does the goggle pull the camera off the helmet, it includes a built-in viewfinder for previewing shots. It also captures sound and takes 8-megapixel photos. The HD Goggle retails for US$399.
K2 Rescue Shovel Plus
Shovels are a necessity in the backcountry, but most are pretty one-dimensional. They'll dig the snow, but not much else. The K2 Rescue Shovel Plus was designed to create a rescue sled with select K2 skis. So if you or one of your buddies gets injured out there, the sled can pull you out. All of the necessary hardware needed to build the sled is included in the handle. The shovel head also flips around to serve as a hoe. K2 sells the Rescue Shovel Plus for $89.95.
Zippo Hand Warmer
A modern take on those gritty hand warmers that skiers have been using for ages, the Zippo Hand Warmer promises to provide longer, more stable warming. It also looks a helluva lot cooler. The Hand Warmer provides up to 12 hours of warming, which should outlast the average ski day. It is also refillable. $19.95
The Skizee brings the joy of skiing anywhere and everywhere. No longer does snow in the flat lands have to equate solely to the headaches of shoveling and slow commutes – now it can be skied, too. The Skizee is like a skier's snowmobile – hold onto it and it throws a few horses at the ground, propelling the skier forward. Suddenly that flat stretch of woods is an enticing ski glade. The site's website still looks the same as it did when we first covered the Skizee two seasons ago, including the "available soon," so we may never get our hands on this particular ski gadget.
Buhel Speakgoggle G33 Intercom
The Speakgoggle G33 Intercom from Italian manufacturer Buhel eliminates the annoyance of handling a mobile phone at the resort. The Bluetooth-equipped goggles pair with a cell phone and use bone conduction to power your conversations. There's no more pawing at the phone with thick mittens or straining to hear through earmuffs. €279.00 (app. $365)
Damp, dripping boots may not be the most glamorous part of skiing, but they are a reality. The Sidas Drywarmer travels from mountain to mountain, country to country, and zaps wetness and odor with ultraviolet light. Drier feet = more enjoyable skiing. The Drywarmer retails for $29.95.
Smith I/O Recon Goggle
The I/O goggle was already one of the hottest goggles on the market thanks to its quick-changing lens system and superior anti-fogging. The I/O and its siblings (I/OS and I/OX) have been named among the best out there by publications like Freeskier and SKI magazine, and your humble author has been using them happily for years. Now they get all the vert-counting, location-tracking, smartphone-pairing power of Recon Instruments hardware. They don't come cheap, however: $650.
Unlike the old Suunto S6, the Ambit isn't a ski-specific watch. However, it's more advanced and functional than that discontinued model and should prove helpful to skiers of all types. Backcountry skiers can use the GPS to create and navigate routes; resort skiers can track their speed; and all skiers will benefit from elevation and temperature readings. Suunto has also committed to continually upgrading the watch, and the recent 2.0 upgrade adds apps, including a clinometer function that provides the angle of a given slope or hill. $500
If you're the kind of skier that frequently loses their skis in dumping, drifting snow, you're already the envy of the rest of the ski world – unless, of course, you can't find your skis in time to take advantage of that deep, fresh powder. Ski Retriever is a radio-based tracking system that locates lost skis and gets you back on the mountain in a hurry. $160
Chaval Response-XRT Gloves
A newcomer to the heated skiwear market, the Chaval Response-XRT gloves use an intuitive heating system to maximize warmth and battery power. The intelligent alphaHEAT system automatically heats up and cools down based on the temperature of your hands. The idea is that your hands stay perfectly comfortable without ever requiring you to fidget with the heat setting. Chaval claims the gloves keep your hands warm three times longer than any other pair available. $389.97