Last Wednesday, the ski industry lost an icon and a true innovator. Dr. Robert Smith, the inventor of the modern snow goggle and founder of Smith Optics passed away in Palm Desert on April 18th at the age of 78, due to complications associated with a recent operation to implant a pacemaker.
The passionate skier was ahead of his time in many ways when he first embarked upon his journey. Fueled by passion for snow sports and outdoor recreation, Bob’s practical approach to protective eyewear design would end up revolutionizing the entire snow sports industry.
Goggles are some the most significant pieces of equipment in any skiers or snowboarders gear arsenal. With so much of our equipment specialized and tailored to the needs of each discipline, goggles are the one piece of gear that remains truly universal. We are all united in our need to maintain and protect our vision. Having goggles that not only protect your face, but also keep clear in the most high impact circumstances can mean the difference between nailing that jump and smacking into a tree!
Prior to 1965, goggles only contained signal pane lenses — which you can image became fogged up incredibly quick. Despite being in the field of dentistry, Smith possessed keen insight when it came to his ski gear. His eureka-moment came when he decided to implement a two-pane lens system that would shield the internal lens from the cold. Utilizing the tools at hand, which included dental tools, foam and glue he employed the help of local dental students to assemble his early prototypes while hanging around the kitchen table of the Smith home.
Needless to say, Dr. Bob’s goggles were a hit on the slopes. What started as a side project grew into a busting business enterprise. Now skiers (and soon to be snowboarders) possessed the tools needed to protect their eyes and navigate the mountain safely. Over subsequent four decades Smith Optics grew into one of the leading brands for sporting equipment in the world. Never content to rest on their laurels, the company continued to innovate their space through such notable breakthroughs as Fog-X anti-fog coating, PMT Perforated Membrane Technology lens ventilation system, patented Turbo C.A.M. Constant Air Management system, patented Regulator adjustable lens ventilation system, patented Roll Off’s film advance system for motocross, patented ODS (Ocular Docking System) prescription insert and patented Slider series sunglasses. Today, Smith Optics is a leading supplier of top quality sporting products that span biking, motocross, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding and wakeboarding. While it may be one of the most popular names in the phone book, to any avid action sports enthusiast the Smith name has become synonymous with top quality goggles and eyewear.
Back in 1967, Dr. Bob was featured alongside his fellow dentist and ski buddy Sam Southwick, and professional skier Pep Stiegler in “The Last of the Ski Bums” by Dick Barrymore. They’re seen shredding the slopes of Jackson Hole in waist deep powder, which was Bob’s ideal testing ground for his latest goggle prototypes.
For being over 45 years old, this footage is extremely stoke worthy! Take a moment to enjoy this vintage video in honor an icon that did so much for outdoor sports — and the next time you find yourself sporting a glorious goggle-tan — be sure to thank Dr. Bob Smith!