Now that everyone is connected--more or less continuously--it's even pretty easy to stay in touch while you're out skiing or snowboarding, Special headphones, helmets, gloves and other gear can let you and your family listen to music, take phone calls, and shoot videos of mountain scenery while keeping you warm and safe amidst the snow, ice and cold. Here's some of the coolest tech designed to keep you warm and connected.
They're Gloves. With Wi-fi.
Listening to your favorite tunes can pump you up, whether you're snowboarding on an expert run or just taking baby steps on cross country skis at the base of the hill.
Obviously, to keep your hands toasty warm enough, you need to wear gloves and mittens while doing just about anything on the slopes. But most gloves make it just about impossible to get to controls on your phone for music playback or taking phone calls.
Geared to skiiers and snowboarders as well as cyclists, BearTek Winter Gloves are one approach to solving this problem. Insulated with Thinsulate, the Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled gloves come with six integrated touch points along the fingers and an activation point for communications with your iPhone or Android phone. You can use the same gloves for controlling a GoPro camera, too.
Controls for phones include play/plause, next track, previous track, and answer/reject calls. If you're shooting videos or still shots to post on Facebook or Instagram, for instance, you can signal the GoPro to record/stop video, change modes (video/single shots/bursts), and power on/off.
Along with the gloves, you'll also need a BearTek control module for wireless communications, as well as a separate control module if you're using the GoPro camera. The control modules fit into waterproof pockets on the gloves. The gloves include a built-in USB charging cable,too.
Still, you won't be able to text or place phone calls while wearing the BearTek gloves. For that, you need thinner gloves, such as Verseo's battery-operated Thermagloves.
Earphones for Skiing
Maybe you'd rather listen with an MP3 player--or perhaps you like to keep your music more to yourself.
Theoretically, you could use any pair of in-ear headphones when you hit the slopes, as long as they're designed to stay in your ears while you're moving. There's no telling, though, how cold your ears might get if they're uncovered.
Polk's UltraFit 3000 headphones are one example. They come with integrated, bendable hooks that wrap around the ears. According to the manufacturer, these babies will stay on if you're doing gymnastics routines above a trampoline. So they ought to work if you're merely catching air while bouncing over moguls.
Another way to keep headphones in place is to wear them under a helmet. In fact, there are a number of earphones specifically designed for this, including the Koolertron Bluetooth Intercom Headset for Motorcycle/Ski/ATV/Bike and Outdoor Technology Universal Chip Wireless Bluetooth Helmet Audio. (about $106). These "universal" models will operate with just about any ski helmet and with cycling helmets, too, if you're into that sort of pursuit. Each will let you accept phone calls, as well.
The days of skiing and snowboarding without head protection are over (or at least they should be). We all know better now, and wearing a helmet is a reasonable precaution.
High-end helmets include some cool high tech features of their own. Osbe's Proton Senior ski helment, priced at about $300, is made of impact-resistant high thermplastic resin. The helmet rolls in an integrated visor for UV protection, a micrometric buckle for easy chinstrap release, and the companys Direct Luxe Air Ventilation System for keeping the temps inside the helmet consistently warm regardless of outdoor weather conditions.
An Easy Talk audio accessory for music and mobile communications is sold separately.
Osbe also makes a children's edition of this helmet. It's known as the Proton Junior.
There are also plenty of less pricey ski helmets expressly designed for kids ranging from toddlers to young teens. Giro, for instance, offers six different models for kids, priced between about $35 and $65.
Helmets with Built-in Audio
You'll find lots of helmets with built-in audio systems, too, for use with your phone or MP3 player. These products tend to cater to adult sizes, though.
One example is the Salomon Brigade Audio Helmet. Features include an injection-molded ABS hardshell contruction with EPS liner, an airflow and ventilation system, a faux fur lining which is swappable with a beanie, and removable earpads for music listening.
Ski Caps with Built-in Earphones
If you don't want to deal with the expense of helmets, and/or special headphones for helmets, Tenergy produces a line-up of warm knit caps with built-in Bluetooth headphones, priced at around $30.
Tenergy's caps are truly one-size-fits-all, suiting everyone from a young child to a grown-up with a substantially sized skull.
You can get beanies which integrate wired headphones from Rebecca Minkoff for around $38. Rebecca Minkoff is a women's fashion design house, but these high tech beanies are unisex in style.
Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
If you're headed to a well managed ski area, you'll probably never need a beacon. Much like lifeguards scanning the beach, ski patrols watch the hills at ski resorts and go out to help if anyone gets into trouble.
But if you're on your way to uncharted back country, each person in the party should be outfitted with a beacon in case of emergency. This is especially true during spring skiing or other potential avalanche conditions.
A 406 Mhz PLB like ACR Artex's ResQLink (about $280) looks a little like an old-fashioned cellphone. After buying the beacon, you register it with the manufacturer. If you set off the beacon, it uses the Cospas-Sarsat Search and Rescue Satellite System Search and Rescue Satellite to provide the closest search and rescue agency in your vicinity with your registration information, emergency contacts, and location data. Location is figured by GPS--or if GPS is unavailable, by coordinates based on triangulation.
And of course, if you're venturing into the unknown wilderness, you probably shouldn't bring your children along, unless they're mature teens with appropriate skills in outdooring and winter sports.