January 24, 2011
Snow is a beautiful thing, especially when you have the right toys for playing in it. Some of these items are simple and others are high-tech, but all are innovative and are sure to make any winter wonderland even better.
Ride a rocket
Zipfy Freestyle Mini-Luge: Tiny plastic snow sled with an oversized handle in the middle that's reminiscent of a mechanical bull.
Likes: Pure fun and exhilaration. With your rear end nestled in slight depressions and legs stretched out front, you sit upright on this 20-inch-long sled and hold on to an 11-inch central handle, which allows for great speed and surprisingly good stability and control. The forward-angled handle makes you feel like you're a human joystick. My group of adults in their 40s and 50s fought over it, and kids couldn't get enough. Sledding is a great workout, given that you have to walk uphill in order to slide down, and the Zipfy is so light (3.4 pounds) and compact that you can get more runs in. You can even throw it up the hill and run to get it.
Price: $39.99. (416) 830-7536; http://www.zipfy.com
Zeal Optics Transcend GPS-enabled goggles: Ski goggles with a small dashboard inside the right corner of the shield that displays speed, distance, altitude, ambient temperature, date and time.
Likes: It is very cool to know how fast you're going and how high up you are in real time, just as in a car. This is high technology made very practical and user-friendly, exactly where you need it: in the corner of your vision, not on your wrist or in your pocket. Three buttons on the frame let you scroll through stored data; later, download your numbers and routes to a PC via a built-in USB port. At about 10 ounces, they're somewhat heavier than normal goggles, but that's not a problem. To charge, simply plug into a wall.
Dislikes: Not as good as the window-projection technology you see in the movies, but getting there. It takes a little while to get used to glancing down to the right for a split second to see the display, especially when you're moving at high speeds.
Price: $399. (303) 449-9325; http://www.zealoptics.com
iGloves for your iPhone
Agloves: Warm, thin, polyester-nylon gloves knitted with silver-laced nylon threads that conduct body heat through the fabric, allowing you to manipulate touch-screen devices without having to remove the gloves.
Likes: They work. I started up and dialed my touch-screen smart phone while wearing them on the chair lift. And right now I'm wearing them as I type on my computer. Although not burly enough to be used as ski gloves, they are great for cold-weather running and could be used as liners during extreme cold.
Dislikes: They are not waterproof. When the snow melted, they got soaked through. I put on my regular gloves after a few hours.
Price: $17.99. (970) 227-7959; http://www.agloves.com
Kylmit Kinetic Vest: The world's first vest that lets you change warmth levels on the fly. Also windproof, it's made of inflatable chambers that can be filled with non-toxic, non-flammable argon gas, which is said to be warmer, thinner and lighter-weight than standard fabric insulators.
Likes: Novel idea and fun attention-getter. The argon — a good insulator with low thermal conductivity — comes in tiny Kwik-Shot canisters that hook to a special valve system in the left vest pocket. You fill the vest like a bike tire. It definitely works; the vest is warm and remains so when wet, a great benefit. A little valve on your chest lets you quickly deflate to cool off. Probably best for extreme-cold environments. Said to have better warmth-to-weight ratio than down.
Dislikes: At full inflation, it feels like you're wearing a corset or a barrel. Kinda noisy too. The vest, no matter how drained of gas, is always warm and not breathable, which makes things too sweaty for moderate temperatures and activity levels. The metal argon canisters are about 2 ounces each, and the gun-applicator adds 3 ounces, all of which is a hassle to lug around. Though recyclable, they'll probably just end up as trash. This may overly complicate your apparel issues.
Price: $200. (888) 559-6481; http://www.klymit.com
Wallack is the author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100," and "Run for Life."
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