Powder Review: Smith Pursuit Sunglasses and Summit Helmet

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In a nutshell

With touring gear, the details make a huge difference, and Smith absolutely nailed those details on the Pursuit Sunglasses and Summit Helmet.

  • Lens Tested: ChromaPop Glacier Photochromic Copper Blue Mirror

  • Visible Light Transmission: 7-45%

  • Features: Removable nose shield, magnetic, removable side shields, optional retainer strap

  • Size Tested: Medium

  • Weight: 380 g

  • Sizes Available: 51-67 cm heads

  • Safety Technologies: MIPS, Zonal Koroyd Coverage

  • Features: Headlamp routing, collapsible BOA system, 33 vents, antimicrobial lining


Yes, this is “just” a review of a helmet and a pair of sunglasses. But it’s one of the reviews I’ve been most excited about writing this spring. Both these products are really good, for subtle reasons I’m about to get into. So buckle up, this one is for the nerds.

Backcountry ski touring and mountaineering are some of the most interesting aspects of skiing I deal with from a gear perspective. There’s two reasons for this. The first is simple: I don’t think we’ve reached a point of full maturity in this segment yet. There’s still a lot more room for improvement in lightweight backcountry gear. At the risk of sounding jaded, most brands are making good inbounds skis and boots and helmets and outerwear these days. The formulas for success exist; follow them and you’re golden. The reviews are easy to write.

But backcountry skiing is still the wild west, complete with dueling influences. Do we take the more European, skimo racer route, embrace efficiency at all costs, and dance and sideslip our way down the mountain in Lycra on carbon toothpick skis? Or do we follow our basest freeride tendencies and sacrifice efficiency and comfort for power and consistency? Frame bindings and baggy hardshells forever! Of course, most skiers fall somewhere in the middle, which is why it’s interesting and challenging to find products that match your biases.

The second reason this segment of gear is so interesting ties into that. This gear is really personal. We use it at times in our lives when it really matters. Big mountaineering objectives stick out from the timeline of my life like prominent peaks in a sea of clouds, and everything about them shines in relief, including the gear. Ski mountaineering, and to a lesser extent ski touring, takes us closer to the edge of our abilities and decision making. What gear we choose matters, and more often than not, off-the-shelf options require some modification to fit our specific needs.

All that to say, the details really matter here. Through the course of this review period, I’ve jokingly called this review the “Cody helmet and glasses piece” because Cody Townsend, of The Fifty Project fame, had a big hand in developing both products. And while most of us aren’t skiing at the level he is, the things he’s learned chasing the classic lines of North America are pretty relevant to a lot of our day-to-day ski touring and mountaineering priorities.

What’s so special about the Pursuit Sunglasses?

Smith used to (and still does) make the Wildcat, a big-lensed, high-coverage set of sunglasses that’s really comfortable and makes the wearer look like they’re a “very serious athlete™.” I, and a lot of other skiers, saw Cody wearing them in The Fifty Project, and thought that they might be able to replace both our regular sunglasses and our goggles for a lot of backcountry days.

I toured in Wildcats almost exclusively for a couple of years and really appreciated never having to transition between goggles and glasses at the top, as well as saving the extra space in my pack. But, literally the week before the new Pursuit was announced, I had a conversation with another Wildcat-wearing friend about how it would be nice if we could figure out some sort of DIY side shield for them so that they blocked more light and let less snow in. Low and behold, Smith made it happen.

The Pursuit fits very similarly to the Wildcat, with a touch more lens coverage, and a few other features that better suit it to the needs of backcountry skiers. Most obvious are the side shields. They’re magnetic, removable, and useful. They block a noticeable amount of outside light compared to the Wildcat, but don’t seem to really hurt the breathability of the glasses that much. I can still fog the Pursuit if I’m sweating hard, but I used to do that with the Wildcat too.

The Pursuit also has an optional nose shield. This looks a little dorky, but is a great addition on truly sunny days on snow. No matter how much sunscreen I apply, I still burn my nose, but the Pursuit’s nose shield makes a noticeable difference in protecting it. Anecdotally, I wore the Pursuit for closing weekend, and even though it was sunny, it was my first closing weekend ever where I can home without a burnt and peeling nose. It does feel like you’re going to break the nose pads the first time you snap them off to put on the nose shield, but power through, because it’s worth it.

The last feature that sets the Pursuit apart from the Wildcat is the optional goggle strap that clips into the arms. This really locks the glasses on. For me, personally, it’s unnecessary; Smith sunglasses fit my face really well, and I’ve had some very violent crashes in my Wildcats that haven’t dislodged them, so I’m not too worried about losing the Pursuit. But it’s a nice touch for those that need it.

The Pursuit comes with a low-profile case that fits the glasses, extra lens, and all the optional accessories in a small package. This is a little thing, but I love the Pursuit’s case. I hate big bulky sunglasses cases. They take up too much room in my pack, but I always feel sketched out just storing spare lenses in a soft bag. The Pursuit’s case is well executed.

This case is really nice.
This case is really nice.

Finally, most models of the Pursuit come with Smith’s excellent photochromic lenses with a visible light transmission range of 7-45%. That’s a really useful range for skiing. That 7% end of the spectrum is quite dark. I’m used to lenses closer to 10-15% and the darkest setting for the Pursuit is noticeably darker. I love this. I have weak eyes, and even with a blackout lens, I often have sore eyes after a long spring day. This hasn’t been an issue with the Pursuit. The 45% end is light enough for most overcast days in the backcountry, and the lens transforms relatively quickly. No, it isn’t instant, but it adjusts seamlessly and quickly enough for most ski conditions.

All of those features combine to create the most useful backcountry skiing sunglasses I’ve ever used. Yes, you could totally throw some homemade side shields on your no-name sunglasses, but the Pursuit is more comfortable and practical than any of the affordable options I’ve tried.

Smith Summit Helmet

In an early episode of The Fifty, Cody showed how he’d modified his Smith Code to make it easier to carry on his pack. At the time, I wondered why he didn’t just use a more mountaineering-focused helmet. As it turns out, now Smith makes one.


The Summit fits like a Smith helmet. I’m a solid medium in Smith’s other ski and bike helmets, and the medium Summit fits me well. I’d classify it as having a somewhat neutral shape–not super round or super long and narrow. It feels exactly like my medium Smith bike helmets, so if you're looking for a fit comparison and you can't find the Summit locally, try one of those on.

The Summit uses a special BOA system (tired of hearing about BOA yet?) to adjust the tightness of the fit. You can also adjust the whole cradle up and down to change how it cups the back of your head. This is the most comfortable and practical minimalist fit system I’ve used. I really dislike how most mountaineering helmets have a rigid fit system that protrudes out of the helmet. This makes it harder to put the helmet on your pack, and I’ve broken a couple of these other systems. The Summit has none of these problems.


The Summit’s headlamp routing system is clever and low profile. Nothing to snag on your hood, but it holds a headlamp securely.

The Summit does not have a goggle clip or strap. Personally, I’m a big fan of this choice. I usually just cut them off of my touring helmets immediately, and then feel bad about the waste. The Smith team didn’t see a need for one here, and I applaud them for that. You can still wear goggles over the Summit just fine, or wear goggles or sunglasses under the helmet.

The Summit’s liner is reminiscent of a bike helmet liner. Just a couple pads floating on the MIPS layer. Again, thank you Cody and Smith! I hate full ear-covering liners in touring helmets. They make climbing any sort of steep line in warmer conditions really uncomfortable, and they compromise my hearing. The Summit comes with a lightweight beanie liner, but I just wear my own ball cap or face mask under it.

The Summit has small elastic bands on either side of it that you can clip into small carabiners on your pack in lieu of a traditional helmet carry system. I like this minimalist design in theory. In practice, I think I need easier-to-use carabiners to take full advantage of it. My Home Depot ones are not cutting it so far.

The Summit uses a MIPS liner to help with rotational impacts. It’s fine. This is nitpicky, but I’ve recently been using a bike helmet with MIPS Air, and it’s noticeably quieter and more comfortable. A Summit with MIPS Air would be pretty cool, but that would just be gilding the lily.

The one thing that I think the Summit might be missing is a slot for a GoPro mount. I’ve used bike helmets with a top vent that’s shaped in a way that you can just click a GoPro style mount right into it. It breaks away in a crash and means that you don’t have an ugly sticky mount on your helmet. I don’t really wear a GoPro on my helmet, but I do mount lights up there, and most nice lighting systems use a GoPro style mount system. I think some sort of provision to quickly clip this style of mount to the Summit would be useful.


I really care about my backcountry helmet. It needs to fit well and have the right combination of features and comfort for long, variable-temperature touring days. In the past I’ve used Salomon’s MTN Lab helmet, with the liner and goggle strap removed. With the liner removed, It's 35 grams lighter than the Summit, and generally works well, but I’ve broken its adjustment system twice just from putting it in my helmet carry against my pack. The MTN Lab feels like it breathes a tiny bit better than the Summit, but doesn’t fit me quite as well, and doesn’t feel as safe on the down; it’s less substantial and I do appreciate the Summit’s combination of Koroyd and MIPS.

In the past I’ve used climbing-style helmets for ski mountaineering. They’re really light, but they look dorky and don’t have the necessary safety specifications for skiing. The Summit isn’t quite as light and airy on the climb, but I don’t feel stupid taking the occasional chairlift lap in it, like I used to with climbing helmets.

What sort of skiers should be shopping for the Summit/Pursuit combo?

If they fit your head, I think the Summit and Pursuit are the best helmet and eyewear combination on the market for general ski touring and ski mountaineering. The devil is in the details, and both these items nail those details. They’re well-considered and a pleasure to use.

In the past, I’ve had so many niggling frustrations with my touring glasses and helmets. It feels like Smith heard all those complaints and answered them well with this combination.

I’ll be reaching for the Summit and Pursuit on any ski tours short of full-on blower pow days, for the foreseeable future.