Ski and snowboard goggles have come a long way since 1965 when Dr. Bob Smith — that's doctor as in orthodontist — created the first pair to have a sealed thermal lens and foam liner. Lenses became more scratch and fog-resistant, spherical, toric, etc. A leap occurred in 2007 when Smith (again) created goggles with easily interchangeable lenses so mountain goers could buy one pair and be set for all conditions. But then goggle innovation sort of stopped.
Sure, there have been improvements to established tech — brands have used magnets and levers to make swapping lenses far easier than it was. But only a select few have pushed into what appears to be the next thing in goggles: one lens that provides multiple tints.
Goggles that can do this rely on electrochromism, a property that allows a lens to change color when introduced to an electric charge. The few models that have come out incorporate a battery attached to the strap in a construction that works, albeit clunkily. Oakley debuted a highly promising design that squeezed a battery into the frame, no cords necessary, but that goggle never came out (an Oakley representative declined to comment on what happened).
With battery-goggle integration proving unattainable, POC opted for a radical solution: ditch the electricity entirely. Instead, its Cornea Solar Switch uses solar power to enable its lens to change from dark to light in a blink, depending on the mountain's prevailing lighting conditions.
"I thought the tint change was more than dramatic enough to handle a wide range of conditions — and yes, it's completely noticeable," says editorial director of Mountain Media Marc Peruzzi, who had an early hands-on experience with the goggle. "I was skiing in and out of a shadow line into full sun and it was like the lens was on autopilot."
POC's technology is the best kind of simple; meaning, you don't notice it's there. And you can't tell it's there either, except for the small solar array in the goggle's forehead area. Innovation doesn't come cheap, though — the Cornea Solar Switch goes for $450. That's just another reason to hope other companies find equally sleek paths to functional electrochromism and inspire some competition while they're at it.