Aspen has been one of America’s top ski destinations in the world for over half a century thanks in part to its extraordinarily luxurious accommodations and fine dining, but make no mistake that it is still a ski bum’s paradise at heart.

It’s this wide appeal that attracts droves of visitors to Aspen annually, and brands have taken notice. The town’s population of roughly 7,000 doesn’t quite put it on level playing ground with fashion capitals like New York or Paris, but that hasn’t stopped brands like Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Prada from setting up shop.

And with the FIS World Cup Ski Finals back in Aspen for the first time in over 20 years, this created the perfect storm for Oakley, the official eyewear and helmet sponsor of the event, to put its revolutionary PRIZM lens technology to the test against the backdrop of one of the most prestigious and stylish ski towns in the world.

For the uninitiated, Oakley’s PRIZM tech works like this: its lenses fine tune your vision for specific snow environments. They enhance contrast and ultimately let you see better, whether you’re on or off the hill.

“PRIZM technology is born off of a need to create some visual acuity and some depth perception, especially in snow,” explained Wayne Chumbley, vision performance manager at Oakley. “If you’ve ever been on snow you’ve probably experienced some challenging light conditions; the ability to see is super challenging.”

The color shown through a traditional goggle lens comes in at a pretty even clip so it’s difficult to emphasize shadows and contrast in the snow. “Where PRIZM is different is we’re really creating some peaks and valleys in the [color] profiles here, creating some color separation. What’s important is we’re leveraging where you’re sensitive to color, and that’s giving you the ability to see on snow,” Chumbley explained.

But their decision to test its newly designed optics in Aspen was a no-brainer for another reason: tons of hardcore ski fans were here for the World Cup, all while the town was slowly undergoing a fashion renaissance of sorts.

From urban chic proprietors Rag & Bone opening its doors back in 2014 to the likes of Ronnie Fieg and his KITH empire embarking this past winter on a pop-up experience unlike any the streetwear world has seen before, Aspen’s retail landscape has ushered in a new fashion scene that’s got its sights set on the young and influential.

As the streets filled with locals and international visitors, I assembled a visual portrait of the typical Aspen goer: sparkling ski tops, fur-trimmed vests and boots, and goggles galore.

I tossed my Crossrange frames on, a new Oakley eyewear innovation featuring PRIZM tech that can go from the slopes to the streets, before heading to the nearest ski-rental shop. I blended right in with locals while the frames allowed me to navigate the snow-laden sidewalks without issue; I was pretty much able to see in vivid color without delay. While those specs are great for light activity, I needed something a bit different to tackle more demanding terrain.

After a few good runs I discovered it was more or less standard practice for people to wear their goggles for a beer or two at the resort bar, harking back to a time when rappers in the early ‘90s made similar fashion statements. Whether born from laziness or simply flaunting a style choice, goggles today, such as Oakley’s hybrid Wind Jacket2.0, blur the line between performance needs and sleek aesthetics making it totally reasonable, if not obligatory, to rock on snow-covered streets.

It makes sense for Oakley to tap into a segment where they’re already the market leader in terms of technological advancements. But appealing to a more casual, style-savvy set of consumers is something that doesn’t require that much heavy lifting for Oakley. Its PRIZM range is the perfect example of a product with a performance-first approach but with inherent form and style built into every stage of design, ensuring you’ll look and perform great on or off the slopes.

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  • Words: Daniel So
  • Photography: Oakley
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