High Gear: The Backbowl from Native Eyewear’s new goggle line
The day was nearly a letdown.
On March 2 — the first day of slopestyle competition at the Burton U.S. Open in Vail — I drove over Vail Pass through a random spring squall in hopes of photographing some of Summit County’s best and brightest and highest-flying on snowboards. It wasn’t my first time with a media pass at the USO, but it was my first time with photographer credentials. In the past, I had enough access to write a preview or two, interview a rider or two, and then stand with the rest of the spectators on a crowded halfpipe deck for the occasional iPhone photo. Needless to say, I was ready for the chance to finally catch the world’s best in their element.
But Mother Nature had other plans. When USO officials opted to postpone both the men’s and women’s slopestyle qualifier — gusty winds were wreaking havoc across the kickers — I was more than a little discouraged. More like irked, actually: By the time I arrived with camera in tow, the sun was shining, the snow had stopped and, from the base of the slopestyle course at Golden Peak, the wind didn’t seem all that bad.
Then again, I wasn’t the one who had to huck doubles and 1260s over 80-foot booters for cash money, and so I made peace with the decision. There’s always next year — the USO can wait.
But what to do with the extra time? Luckily, I had Plan B in my backpack: a pair of never-before-seen goggles from Native Eyewear, a Denver-based manufacturer that’s slowly becoming a force in the sports eyewear industry. I had reviewed an updated pair of the company’s sunglasses last summer, a sport model known as the Ward, and was impressed with the lens quality, even if the frame style wasn’t my cup of tea.
Native is just about ready to launch its goggle line — the six or so models should be ready for the 2016-17 season — but before that happens, the company wants feedback on everything: design, fit, feel, quality — the whole nine yards.
I was more than willing, but after reading dozens of goggle reviews over the years, I know that one person’s opinion is hardly helpful. Sunglasses and goggles are like shoes: the best models combine style and function and everyone has a slightly different opinion of both. Only the best models earn the popular thumbs up.
And so, before leaving Golden Peak, I gave one of Native’s new goggles, the Backbowl, the crowd-sourced treatment: I had seven skiers and snowboarders of all ages and backgrounds try them on and give me their gut reactions. Here’s what they said.
Pro: Incredible lenses
Without exception, everyone agreed that the rose-colored lens with polarized coating was incredible. The sun was out one minute and covered the next — typical spring weather — but the low-light lens still managed to cut through glare without going completely dark in the shade.
Breckenridge locals Corrie Hausley, 29, and Joe Destefano, 30, immediately agreed on the lenses. Destefano looked back and forth from the snow to the Gore Range to the slopestyle course and back again, and he liked how they almost totally dampened the glare. Hausley commented simply, “The quality is nice. Very nice.”
Pro and con: Fat frame
I personally wear an old pair of EG2 goggles from Electric, one of the first models made with a big, fat spherical frame and lens. Part of the appeal is function — you get tons of peripheral vision — but, to be honest, most of the appeal is style. After four years I still get compliments on the EG2s.
The Backbowl is similar in spirit, but it’s not quite the same. I thought the frame was a bit too round, and without a frame the rounded edges become even more apparent.
Here’s where things got interesting. Every female who tried the goggles commented on size: 24-year-old Richelle Wagner of Wisconsin said they were “way to big” for her face — although she thought they looked good on her friend, 25-year-old Andie Romness of Washington, D.C. — while 25-year-old Meg Matarazzo of Vermont agreed they felt big, but she liked the fit, especially with her helmet. Jena Sticklan, a 31-year-old riding with fellow Breck locals Hausley and Destefano, said they were a little too big for her, but she was “digging the peripheral” and admitted it was better than the pair she was wearing that day.
But would Sticklan buy them? Probably not, she said, but Destefano wasn’t quite convinced. The Von Zipper’s he had that day squeeze his nose, while the Backbowl fit like a glove over the bridge and along the sides. That’s hard to find, he said.
Con: Floppy strap
The one feature just about everyone questioned was the long, long strap. It’s made to fit around a helmet, but even when Matarazzo strung them around her helmet the strap was still almost as tight as it goes. Everyone else was wearing beanies and said that the goggles would probably slip, slide and fall often, especially on bumpy terrain.
The Backbowl is made for people with medium to large faces, with more emphasis on the large. If you like the style — big, fat, and slightly rounded in shades of purple and rose — the whole package, from lens to frame, won’t disappoint.
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