Story and Photos by John Stifter
As we watched microscopic pellets of various colors—yellows, blues, and reds—get fed into a green-eating machine, it struck me: These guys are serious about shirking the helmet-only perception.
In this case, these guys are Giro. The iconic helmet company entered the ski and snowboard goggle category about four years ago to augment the goggle and helmet integration, or “locking it up” as Giro’s Bob Scales refers to it. Serious about making a quality goggle, Giro teamed up with long-time lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss to produce high-quality lenses. Over 150 years of optics experience, Carl Zeiss produces lenses for cameras, microscopes, reading glasses, sunglasses, and now goggles. In turn, Bob Scales and Chuck Platt of Giro brought ski team member Ingrid Backstrom and Swede snowboarder Anton Gunnarsson to the optics by Carl Zeiss Vision factory in Verano, Italy, to check out the latest goggle lens technology.
Touring the factory, we watched Carl Zeiss employees drop the pigment into a machine, where it was melted into linguini-like noodles—liquid poly carb—that eventually solidify into pellets. These raw pellets eventually become lenses after they receive five meticulous inspections (probably more, but that’s what I counted) and multiple coatings that determine the tint of the lens. You know a company makes quality products when employees range in age, as several older employees sporting labcoats—inspectors—and coveralls—machine operators—represented the range of steps in the production process.
Ultimately, now that Giro has collaborated with Carl Zeiss, their goggle technology seems to be on par with their best-selling helmets. Hence the recent acquisition of Daron Rahlves to their ski team to accompany Backstrom, Nick Martini, Colby West, Justin Dorey, and Mike Riddle to name a few. Although I couldn’t speak Italian, I tried to ask factory employees if Carl Zeiss can eliminate my incessant goggle bane—fog. I couldn’t decipher the answer, but at least I know the amount of inspection and work that goes into one single lens. The process, from pigment to tint-coating inspection, makes it obvious why Giro would invest in this partnership. Fantisimo!