Goggle innovator Smith gave skiers the gift of vision
A montage of deep powder skiing’s most influential innovations would have to include three things: Klaus Obermeyer fashioning the first down jacket out of a duvet in a cloud of feathers, Shane McConkey mounting ski bindings on waterskis to prove that rockered ski technology was going to be part of the future of skiing, and orthodontist Bob Smith and his wife sitting at their kitchen table with dental tools making the world’s first double-lens ski goggles.
In April, Bob Smith passed away, leaving a legacy of happy powder skiers who can actually see while skiing in deep powder. In 1965, the same year CMH Heli-Skiing began offering the world’s first heliskiing in the Bugaboos, Bob Smith founded Smith Sport Optics.
His double lens is now the standard in ski goggles, since the inner lens can stay warm with the heat from the skiers face, and the outer lens can remain at the temperature of the outside air, much reducing the fogging problem that was prevalent in single lens models. Airplane windows have a similar design to avoid fogging with the extreme temperature difference inside and outside the plane.
While skiing in Utah’s legendary powder, Smith was frustrated by not being able to see, so he decided to make his own. His double lens solution worked wonders, and now Smith Sport Optics, which he sold in 1991, is North America’s biggest goggle manufacturer and the double lens design is copied worldwide.
Like most ski innovators Bob was a ski bum at heart and he traded his first goggles for lift tickets. Bob Smith’s first goggles were vented between the lenses, which work well in moderately deep powder.
But in the bottomless, over-the-head powder of CMH Heli-Skiing and other backcountry areas, the vents tend to eventually let moisture creep between the lenses. This moisture is then difficult to remove, so most ski guides recommend sealed double lenses, also built by Smith, for heli-skiing North America’s snowiest mountains around Revelstoke, BC.
With so many innovations that make skiing so much more fun for so many more people, it begs the question: What will be next?
Photo of a pickup at CMH Kootenay through Smith goggles by Topher Donahue.