Zeal Goggle Review — Terrific Ski Touring Eye Protection

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 5, 2006      

Shop for Zeal goggles here.

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!

Zeal Detonator
by Scott Newman

Zeal Goggle.

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!

Shop for Zeal goggles here.


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4 Responses to “Zeal Goggle Review — Terrific Ski Touring Eye Protection”

  1. Anthony Rabinowitz January 8th, 2006 5:24 am

    I read your review of the Zeal photocromatic goggle with interest. I have a Birko goggle that was about the same price and is also photocromatic, but offers different light transmission options.

    The light transmission on the Zeal ranges from 33% in low light to 16% in bright light. For the Birko, it ranges from 55% to 29%. Because of those figures, I think the Zeal would be better for bright days and the Birko for low light and night uses. I got the information on the Zeal from the website linked to on your blog, and for the Birko I called the distributor at 1800 578 5790.

    I should also tell you that while the Birko is OK for occasional use at night, if I know I am going to being my goggles extensively at night, as during a SAR in a storm I take a pair of Oakley goggles for which I have two interchangeable lens, one clear and one organge. There is a noticeable difference in night performance between the clear Oakley and the Birko in low light mode.

  2. Wink Jackson, designer Zeal Optics January 10th, 2006 6:34 am

    Thank you for your response. One important factor not mentioned in the blog review, is the fact that the PPX lens is both POLARIZED & PHOTOCHROMATIC. The Polarized filter cuts glare in bright light and in bright and snowing conditions. The high contrast, light adjusting Photochromatic lens treatment allows it to go into lower light and back to brighter light conditions. Please see Lou’s review for additional information at http://www.wildsnow.com/?p=73#comments
    If you have further questions, please call us at 888-454-9325. Thank you!

  3. Halcyon January 11th, 2010 10:07 am

    Great review, nice goggles, however I wish photochromatic lenses were a little bit more responsive when it comes to entering a darker environment

  4. Scottie Mac January 20th, 2012 3:40 pm

    The Zeal’s do look good. We think good goggles are crucial these days, we’re all boarding harder and faster, and if you can’t see – it’s not safe. There’s goggles around now with build in fans and heated lenses – these can prevent accidents from occurring, the helmets can prevent injury.

    We’ve got a motto around here that nothing is more important than vision. If your goggles fog up on you, your day is shot. Nothing stops a day faster than fog – if you can’t see, there’s no way you can ride. We’ve developed some that are the safest in the business – check them out at elk-sport.com

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