Thursday, January 05, 2006

Officially, Smith enters helmet market

Ketchum, ID (Thursday, December 22, 2005) - Smith Optics, best known for ski and snowboard goggles and sunglasses, is launching into the helmet category with a full line of snow sports helmets for the 2006/2007 winter season. Smith will use their knowledge of winter sports technologies to enhance the combined function of goggle and helmet performance. Industry experts agree that the snow sports helmet market is on the precipice of a surge as new technologies such as those that Smith offer appear in helmets and as consumers are encouraged to wear helments by a variey of coalitions including doctors, instructors and resorts.

"We're going into the helmet market because we feel there is an opportunity today and a ton of potential growth in the coming years," said Smith Optics President, Ned Post. "We're working with the most advanced helmet factory in the world and know that we can take what we've learned in the last 40 plus years in the eyewear business to combine unmatched technology with cutting edge style."

Smith has entered into a long-term agreement working directly with a leading helmet factory to develop helmets using lightwieght In Mold and Bombshell hardshell construction technologies, plus an entirely new construction technology called Smartshell On Mold, which allows designers more freedom to create unique shapes and maximizes the final products' cosmetic appearence. "Smartshell opens the boundaries of EPS helmet design, allowing mold shapes, shell types and joint lines previously impossible with In Mold or hardshell construction," said Drew Chilson, Helmet Product Development Manager. "It's exciting because we have an entirely new, very proprietary tool box with which to design and manufacture new shapes."

"We are the market leader in goggles in the snowsports business and we have been actively incorporating helmet compatability into our goggle designs for the last three decades," said Eric Carlson, Director of Product and Merchandising. "In 2000, we revolutionized goggle design with the Triad, the first goggle to incorporate an outrigger system that helped it fit all helmets in the market. Every goggle we've designed since has incorporated an outrigger or articulating outrigger to increase helmet compatibility.

"What we're seeing now is that goggle performance is directly dependent on helmet features," Carlson continued. "Most helmets seal the top brow of a goggle and don't allow warm air to exhaust which causes fogging. Fogging will ruin a day on the mountain pretty quickly. Our experiences with and understanding of winter sports technology provides us with a unique opporutnity to offer a better helmet product for skiers and snowboarders.

"We recognize that we need to shift from making goggles that fit well in other helmets to building goggles and helmets that function well together."

Many of Smith's helmets will include AirEvac, a new technology that actively draws air through sublte, cleverly hidden integrated helmet vents. These vents create a vacuum effect that draws air out of the goggle, increasing air circulation and eliminating fogging.

"The marketing and product development teams dedicated to this effort have tremendous experience in the helmet industry," said Blair Clark Smith Optics Sr. VP of Marketing and Sales. "Our goal is to provide the same performance, style and support for helmets that we provide in the goggle and sunglass businesses while revolutionizing the integrated fit of the helmet/goggle combination," Clark said.

Smith will be debuting their line of helmets at SnowSports Industries America and Outdoor Retailer shows in January and helmets will begin shipping to retailers in Fall 2006. The helmets will include the most advanced ventilation features, audio systems compatible with iPod/MP3 players/cell phones, a crash replacement program and graphics to complement the goggles.




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