If you’ve got a skier or rider on your holiday gift list, you may be looking for that perfect, unique little “something” for under the tree or in their stocking. Or maybe it’s time to start dropping hints about what you want Santa to bring. Either way, we’ve reviewed a few trinkets his fall that are sure to be a hit with any snow slider this holiday season.
RACKING UP THE VERTICAL
If you’ve got a gear geek to buy for, a multi-function altimeter may be just the ticket. Whether for skiing, hiking, biking or simply telling time, Highgear has updated its multi-function devices that incorporate a whole lot of info into a small, water-resistant electronic package: altitude, barometric pressure, a digital compass, temperature, time, chronograph functions, and an alarm.
Highgear’s instruments are available in either a wristwatch style or a “pocketwatch” style that attaches to a jacket or pack strap via a nifty carabiner buckle. We tested both the wristwatch-style Axis Graphite Black and the pocketwatch-style style Altitech2 (each MSRP US$150), and our preference for skiing or snowboarding was for the Altitech2 due mainly to its slightly larger face and greater accessibility when wearing multi-layered ski clothes. How many times have you struggled to pull back your glove’s gauntlet and the wrist closure on your jacket, just to see what time it is? No need to do so with the Altitech2 when it’s strapped to the outside. Its exterior placement also assures accurate temperature recordings, which are affected by body heat with the wrist-worn Axis. The carabiner on the Altitech2 rotates 90 degrees and locks into position to serve as a desk stand for the device, creating the perfect travel alarm clock for those destination ski trips.
Both units include the following features:
- Easy switching between metric and English units;
- Altitude readings in 1-foot or 1meter increments, from -2,296 feet (-700m) to 29,500 feet (9,000m);
- Tracking of altitude waypoints;
- A resettable history of maximum elevation achieved and total ascent accumulated, the latter perfect for determining the total vertical drop skied in a day;
- Barometric pressure displayed from 300 mbar to 1100 mbar, along with a barometric trend graph and weather forecast;
- A digital compass with 1-degree resolution, and a display in both degrees and cardinal points;
- A thermometer that takes readings in 0.1-degree increments from -4ºF (-20ºC) to 158ºF (70ºC);
- Time displayed in HH:MM:SS in 12- or 24-hour formats, including two configurable time zones and an automatic day/date calendar from 2000 through 2049;
- Two configurable alarms;
- A 1/100-second chronograph with split/lap time measurement and a 100-lap memory to store up to 30 runs; and
- A rotating compass bezel to aid in navigation
Both units also feature a funky blue backlight to illuminate the numbers for visibility in a dark tent or during an overnight stay on a ski resort hotel nightstand.
We’ve put both the Axis and the Altitech2 through their paces, and thoroughly enjoyed using each device, whether we were skiing, hiking, or in the case of one of our staffers, kayaking to verify the units’ water-resistance. Buttons on both models are clearly marked and function intuitively. While the guts that operate each device are identical, there are a few small details that distinguish one from the other, beyond their attachment method to your body. The Altitech2 includes a tiny bubble level to ensure accurate compass readings, and the Axis has a small button below its face to quickly alternate between the secondary information displayed on the time screen.
We’d prefer the ability to be able to switch barometric pressure readings between millibars and inches of mercury, and the placement of the button on the Axis to switch between secondary display while in time mode was easily nudged by a tight shirt cuff or a small bump against a table. It’s also obvious from the low-temperature extreme of -4ºF that the folks at Hightech haven’t spent much time skiing in the Northeast! A lower minimum temperature reading would be more useful than a 158ºF maximum reading for all but those who hike in Death Valley. But these are tiny quibbles, and we’ll gladly bring the Altitech2 or the Axis on every outdoor adventure. In fact, some of our staff already feels lost without them, but they can find their own at REI, Altrec, and other specialty outdoor retailers.
Of note, Highgear intends to bring a ski-specific device to market around the first of the year, and we hope to get our hands on one of those units once they’re released. We’ll report back with our findings if we do. If you’d prefer to wait, but still need to deliver for the holidays, Highgear’s website offers product gift cards as well.
Accessories make the perfect holiday gift for the skier or snowboarder on your shopping list. (Top to bottom, left to right: The Robert Radi Razorback™ Quadra goggle, Highgear Altitech2, Highgear Axis watch, and the Snowdvd.com Skiing and Snowboarding Travel Guide Volume 2.) (photo: First Tracks!! Online)
A CLEARLY VISIBLE DIFFERENCE
We’ll admit it, we’re natural born cynics. It’s therefore time for a confession: when we first saw “Beverly Hills,” “designer” and “goggle” all used together in one sentence, our immediate reaction was, “Fluff!” Not so, as we learned when we got our hands on the new eyewear from Robert Radi Designs. While the price of these goggles may fit in just fine with the boutiques on Rodeo Drive in Radi’s hometown, they do in fact offer a performance alternative for serious skiers and riders.
Radi, an award-winning product designer, has created his new Razorback™ Quadra goggle to offer peripheral vision that’s second to none, thanks to a wraparound lens. Radi’s departure from the industry-standard double lens construction allows for a thick piece of polycarbonate that bends nearly 90 degrees along with the frame on either side. The thickness of the lens also minimizes the chance for it to shatter in the event of an impact, and it exceeds ANSI impact testing standards.
“But,” you protest, “a single lens is sure to fog!” That’s the conventional wisdom, but Radi has eschewed common goggle design not only with his lenses, but also by replacing the foam that covers the vents on most goggle frames with unique silicon baffles. Radi has trademarked this technology with the name Razorback™. Heat from the user’s face is naturally drawn to the silicon vents, creating a convection system that draws humidity away from your face and out through the vents. We tested Radi’s design in humid early-season eastern conditions, and try as we might, we couldn’t get them to fog. Radi seems to be on to something here.
Generous room inside the goggle allows it to easily fit over most prescription eyeglasses. The unique modular design of the buckles that attach the strap to the frame rotate freely, and in the 180-degree position are designed to allow the strap more room to clear the thickness of some helmets. We found, however, that the extraordinarily wide goggle frame is wider than the opening on some helmets, including the popular Boeri Myto Air, forcing the Radi goggle to sit some distance away from the wearer’s face even with the buckles rotated. Potential purchasers may therefore want to inquire regarding the goggle’s compatibility with their helmet when ordering.
Radi is marketing the goggle solely on his company’s website. All elements except for the strap are manufactured in the
WINDOW TO THE (SKI & SNOWBOARD) WORLD
Whether you’re looking for new hills to conquer, or trying to send your skiing or snowboarding honey out of town, Snowdvd.com has released Volume 2 of their Skiing and Snowboarding Travel Guide DVD video with footage that’s sure to inspire some world travel in search of the perfect line.
This disc delivers in-depth looks at Vail, Steamboat, Aspen-Snowmass, Winter Park, and Copper Mountain, all in Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; St, Moritz, Davos, and Flims Laax Falera, all in Switzerland; Les Arcs, Chamonix and Val d’Isere, France; Kitzbuehel, Austria; and Haukba 47, Happo One and Goryu Toomi, all in Japan. What you’ll find is 142 minutes of video footage of both competent experts and everyday folks out enjoying the snow, the resorts, and the towns. What you won’t find is Shane McConkey B.A.S.E. jumping after skiing off a cliff, or other such “extreme” exploits common to most ski films. Snowdvd.com’s Skiing and Snowboarding Travel Guide Volume Two will give you a look at each resort the way that you’re likely to enjoy it.
The name of the disc, however, is somewhat of a misnomer, for you’ll find only a few paragraphs of text describing each resort of the type found in any typical ski brochure. And the video is entirely without narration, something that we pined for to identify features seen in the video. Instead, the footage is set entirely to music from a handful of independent recording artists. The chosen music is a fitting complement to the /images on screen, and the producers from Snowdvd.com decided to let the video shot at each resort speak for itself.
We would have liked to have seen some more diversity, for some lesser-known North American resorts deliver experiences on par with the concentration of heavy hitters in Colorado and Wyoming that is showcased on this disc, but Snowdvd.com’s product will nonetheless provide a couple of hours of travel insight for any skier or rider on your holiday shopping list.
$19.95 from Snowdvd.com.