While watching the 2006 Winter Olympics last winter, I noticed a number of cross country and biathlon skiers wearing eyewear, the likes of I had never seen before. The eyewear had lots of face cover (like goggles), but fit the face more loosely like sport sun glasses. But more uniquely, they could be adjusted to cover the eyes or be flipped up into a position where they acted more like a visor. I thought to myself, "There's a nifty idea. I could keep them down while skiing downhills and flats, but flip them up on the long uphills where my current goggles and sunglasses tend to fog".
When Joe Gollinger, the US distributor of CASCO Nordic Eyewear, agreed to let me try a pair, I jumped at the chance.
Open the Box...
When I opened the box, I found a number of pieces, including
Each shield is initially covered by a protective piece of plastic that you must rip off. The back of the shield is coated by a special anti-fog treatment. The shield, according to the instructions, protect against UV-A, -B, and -C rays. The shield covers the face nearly ear to ear.
Out of the box: Eyewear frame, 3 interchangeable shield, white glove, instructions, and carrying case.
The only part of the eyewear touching the face is the absorbent foam on the frame across the forehead (see the lower two photo below). The shield does not touch the face anywhere else, not even the nose. This allows really phenomenal air circulation around the shield.
The unique feature of the CASCO Nordic Eyewear - and no other eyewear I know has this feature - is the shield flips up on stiff pivots along the side of the face. The frame and foam stay in place. The shield acts as a visor in the up position.
Why is this useful? There are at least a couple reasons:
With normal sports eyewear, you have to take them off and...put them where? CASCO Nordic Eyewear? Simply flip up the shield.
How Well do They Work?
Since it's not winter yet, I couldn't test them on snow. (If anyone wants to pay for a flight to snow, give me a call). Instead I took them out rollerskiing, for both long slow distance and hard interval sessions.
I wear a helmet while rollerskiing. The eyewear works under a helmet. If you have one of the higher-end helmets with an adjustable headband, you may need to loosen it first to fit it over the eyewear headband.
The headband felt a little tight at first. Joe recommends tugging on the elastic band at the logo to loosen the headband. He's warns against tugging on the back at the plastic pin - it will snap.
The first thing I noticed was the zero contact with the face and the extremely wide field of vision. I could see everything in front, to the side, and down. Nothing on the eyewear blocked my vision. I did not notice any warping or other visual distortions through the shield. As you skied, you sort of forgot about them.
My face sweats - a lot. The foam did absorb some of the moisture. what it couldn't absorb tended to be channeled to the sides of the eyewear rather than drip down into my face. With a ski hat, I don't think sweat would be any more problematic than normal.
The biggest advantage to the CASCO Nordic Eyewear - according the the marketing hype - is their anti-fog capabilities. The combination of the airflow around the shield and the anti-fog coating on the back of the shield is supposed to eliminate fogging.
I remember one of the classic races at National Masters Championship in Marquette a couple years ago. I was climbing a hill and my sport glasses were so fogged, I could hardly tell where I was going. Fortunately, I was able to toss them to someone I knew who was standing next to the course. I was really interested in testing CASCO's claims.
Of course, replicating near-zero conditions in September is a little difficult to do...
I decided on a hard rollerski interval session up one of the local bike path hills. It's take about 4 minutes to climb, and if there's any humidity at all, my glasses fog. Well I had a great session, hard, fast, confidence building - the best I'd had all year. No fogging. I rolled back to my car, put my helmet and rollerskis away, took off the CASCOs, put on my sun glasses. Instant, densly fogged lenses. Clearly (pun intended), the CASCO's out performed my usual sport glasses.
Even if they fog this winter, I'll still be able to simply flip them up and out of the way, then flip them back down when I need them.
A second thing I noticed about the CASCOs: no water spots. The lenses of my various glasses and goggles get spattered on the inside with sweat. I did not notice similar spatters in the CASCOs.
There are explicit instruction about cleaning and maintaining the inner side of the shield. The anti-fog coating is very sensitive to damage while wet. That means it should only be cleaned when dry, and with a soft, clean cloth (or the cotton glove that comes with the eyewear). Maybe you could moisten the glove a little to help the cleaning along...
The outside of the shield? No problem. You can clean that side when it's wet. Water only - CASCO says never use a chemical cleaning agent or treat with sprays.
There are clear instructions, with pictures, for swapping shields. Taking the shield off is really easy - it takes longer to read the following than taking the shield off:
Putting a shield in takes a little more time because you have to place it in a slot in the frame.
A couple of my rollerskiing buddies kidded me a bit when they first saw me wearing the CASCO Nordic Eyewear, since they don't look like normal sports shades. A couple of weeks later, they were thinking the CASCOs might be a really innovative product that solves the problem of fogging and provides a snow/rain shield.
Me, I can't wait to try them out on the snow. For a skier, I think the CASCO Nordic Eyewear are more practical and versatile than regular sport sunglasses.
[Want a pair? Contact at Joe Gollinger direct at "email@example.com" or 630-922-5855. Joe's the exclusive distributor in the USA. As of the date of this article, no US stores carry CASCO Nordic Eyewear. Joe says retail inquires are welcome.]
Full Disclosure: I asked Joe if I could try a pair of the CASCO Nordic Eyewear, both because I was intrigued and because I wanted to write a review. During the review period, Joe donated a pair to be raffled off at the NordicSkiRacer Fall Skating Technique and Training Clinic with Sten Fjeldheim and Jenny Ryan. At the end of the review period, Joe said I could keep the review pair. Thanks Joe!