Computerized goggles provide skiers with real-time data, but some believe that they pose a dangerous distraction. Photo: IC
Smartphone apps are one alternative to wearable tech. Photo: IC
When it comes to ski fashion, wearable technology is the hottest new trend. For example, the Smith I/O Recon snow goggles, developed by Smith Optics, place a miniaturized computer dashboard in the skier's visual field. With integrated GPS and Bluetooth technology, the goggles can provide their wearer with real-time data, including calculating your speed as you hurtle down the slopes, analyzing the amplitude of your jumps and monitoring your altitude on any mountain summit. The goggles also double as a smartphone, a camera, and even a music player. "If my budget allowed it, I would consider buying these high-end goggles for the 'buddy tracking' function," said Jian Xiaohan, who goes skiing regularly. "My friends and I currently use walkie-talkies, but if the weather conditions aren't good, it's difficult to find each other." Jian is already a fan of wearable tech. "My Garmin smartwatch has made skiing more fun. It tells me how many rounds I've skied and my highest speed that day," he said.Others are far more skeptical about advanced ski gadgetry. An Xu, 31, an advertising executive with two years of snowboarding experience who spends every weekend at Genting Resort in Hebei Province, believes the design of high-performance goggles is not practical at all. "It is extremely dangerous if you're distracted by data jumping out at you - not to mention listening to music while skiing." On taobao.com, the Smith I/O Recon goggles cost 5,500 yuan to 7,000 yuan ($909-$1,157). As yet, the goggles are not sold in any brick-and-mortar stores in Beijing. "Its price is not what concerns me. Safety must always be the first priority," said An. "Besides, some of the functions are already available with free smartphone apps such as Ski & Snow Report and Mammut Safety."Oakley, a leading American manufacturer of sport equipment, has launched its own "smart" snow goggles, the Airwave 1.5. With special features very similar to the Smith I/O Recon, they are the most expensive goggles available on Oakley's website.Taobao vendor Zack Hu, who offers Smith I/O Recon in his online store, said that buyers are few and far between. "I imported a few last February, but thus far I have only sold two. I personally think this product is unaffordable for most skiers, with all the other equipment already so expensive," Hu said. "Even buying secondhand equipment can still cost a new skier or snowboarder 20,000 yuan."Zhu Yuan, 32, who has been skiing for over five years, believes that state-of-the-art goggles are nothing more than gadgets for the rich. "When I found out that it had so many unnecessary functions, the first thing that came to mind was that these goggles could jeopardize the safety of skiers," he said. "Every skier should concentrate on their movements instead of paying attention to excessive information. Simplicity is the best policy. I really doubt whether the advantages of high-tech snow goggles can outweigh the distractions they pose." "Think about Michael Schumacher's recent accident, " An said, referring to the athlete who remains in a coma after a fall on the slopes. "Although I don't know the real reason why he chose to ski outside the ski run, I think it still offers us a tragic example: You must be as careful as possible. So I hope that nobody will get hurt because they decided to use this 'smart' equipment."