Scott Newman, a skier friend of ours who works in Aspen, has been playing around with the Zeal Detonator PPX photochromatic goggle. He offered to write a review and I jumped at the chance for a day off. Nice job Scott!
by Scott Newman
Most goggle lenses are designed to be used in a certain type of light as measured by its percentage of light transmission. The lower the light, the higher the percentage of light transmission necessary and vice versa. I have three pairs of goggles, each with a different lens. A yellow lens for those days when it’s dumping, the snow is dreamy and the light is junk. A gray lens for bluebird days, and a rose lens for those days when I can’t figure out what the weather is going to do. While having a quiver of skis is the norm and works pretty well, a quiver of goggles is not ideal.
In the day of smart cards, houses, and even smart bindings, why can’t someone design a smart goggle? One that will sense the level of light and adjust to provide optimal light transmission. Photo chromatic lenses have been around for a while. But up until now, no one has successfully adapted them for skiing. With the introduction of the PPX photochromatic goggle lens from Zeal Optics, gone forever are the days of choosing from your quiver of goggles.
The PPX lens is available in three goggle styles from Zeal; the Detonator, Aspect and Link.
I got a pair of Detonators and put them to the test in the back bowls of Vail. I mention location only because due to the lack of trees, during storms skiing the back bowls is more akin to skiing in a milk bottle than in the paradise that is Colorado. New Years Day saw six inches of fresh, enough hangovers to keep the tourists in bed and lift lines non-existent, 30 mile per hour winds and snow that filled in your tracks before you could get back to them. Normally, this combination can be frustrating: great snow, no one around, but you can’t see what you’re skiing.
The light transmission spectrum on the Zeal website suggests that the PPX lens is suited for moderate to bright light. I’d have to disagree. While the lens color did remain somewhat dark in low light, this lens provided a visual acuity that was extraordinary. I was able to pick up every little contour in the snow and no longer had to ski by Braille. Equally remarkable was the PPX’s performance the next day when the sun couldn’t figure out what it wanted to do. All morning, it peeked in and out and the PPX lens effortlessly adjusted. So much so, that I never detected a change. When the clouds finally lifted, I was happy that the PPX’s are not only photo chromatic but also polarized.
Downside? Not much. It should be noted that the transition of the PPX lens is not instantaneous. I noticed this when ducking into the shade, found under a canopy of trees, from brilliant sunshine. It took about 10 turns for the lens (or my eyes) to adjust for the change in light. At $150 the Detonators might appear spendy, but considering what they do the price seems right — and the quality of the frame and strap is top. The venting seemed a bit minimal — nice in cold wind but may get a bit roasty on hot days.
Getting out to ski is hard enough without having to decide which goggle will be appropriate for the day’s weather. While I was initially skeptical of an adjustable lens, I’m now a convert and plan on enjoying my quiver of skis during many excellent days — all augmented by a single choice in Goggles. Zeal PPX — highly recommended!