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Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Updated: March 4, 6:05 PM ET
Blue Crush

By Alyssa Roenigk
EXPN.com

When the 2005-06 snow-ready fashion hits the shelves, I predict the first product to fly off them will be Burton's latest wearable tech, a $499 Bluetooth-enabled snowboard jacket they developed with Motorola. The coat, a techier version of Burton's 2004 iPod jacket, comes complete with a control panel at the wrist (green button to answer, red to hang up), caller ID and headphones in the hood. Drop your iPod into a wired top pocket, your cell into a Bluetooth pocket and control both from your sleeve.

Wanna rock out while chatting with your cross-country bros on the chairlift or keep your digits toasty in their mittens while scrolling through your Black-Runs-Only playlist? Done. But should you really be doing either? I'm not so sure.

Necessity is the mother of invention. But I don't see the necessity of having caller ID on your jacket sleeve. The cool factor, I see. And aren't mothers supposed to be the sensible ones? I think it's more likely the fathers of invention are dreaming up this my-jacket-can-beat-up-your-jacket line of outerwear. Avalanche beacon in the sleeve ... iPod in the top pocket ... cell in the left ... camera ... digi-vid ... any room for the snowboarder in there?

Apparently, snowboarding—just rider and board—has lost its entertainment value. We're channel surfing the slopes. As easily as you can flip between the OC and American Idol, you can toggle your cell and iPod while ducking through the trees. Group riding sessions? Who needs 'em when you can slide solo while tuned out from the elements and into Eminem.
Michael "Knight Rider" Knight, I mean Jeremy Jones, shows off Burton's latest piece of wearable tech.
Burton's position on the jacket is that it, "makes communication seamless," says Bryan Johnston, VP and Director of Global Marketing. "Kids are doing it with or without us, so we've made it easier. But we don't recommend that people ride with music on the slopes." Wink, fingers crossed. I mean, come on. One jacket for the slopes; another for the city? Better ask the bossman for a big raise. (Who am I kidding? Every kid in America will have three.)

I know technology is the future, but technology changes faster than a Vermont weather report, and in six months, that $499 coat could be obsolete. (Don't worry, an even techier one will be along shortly to take its place—along with Bluetooth-enabled beanies and helmets, also soon to come from Burton.) So I started thinking. There are some obvious benefits to dropping five Bens on this coat. And some maybe less-obvious drawbacks ...

The Good ... Check this scenario: Both of your legs and arms are broken in a terrible riding accident (In an ironic twist, you've run headfirst into a rider who has stopped mid-run to take a call on his cell phone.) and your phone is in an unreachable pocket. No problem. Hit the big green call button with your nose to call 911.

The Bad ... While attempting to call your friend to set up an après ski meeting, you accidentally summon KITT, your trusty Trans-Am sidekick, effectively blowing your cover as Michael Knight, a secret agent of the Foundation for Law and Government.

*****

The Good ... You told your parents you're at the library studying for a Trig exam with your best friend Dave, when you are actually preparing for next week's rail jam by hitting up the local terrain park. Mom calls to check on you. You check the caller ID on your sleeve and avoid having to lie to mom ... again.

The Bad ... When taking runs in the park or halfpipe, the last thing you need is a piece of hard plastic to smash your face on. Before hitting up the park, take off the jacket.

*****

The Good ... In the event you are buried in a shallow avalanche, you're toting so many electronic gadgets, you're easier to find with a $20 metal detector than a change purse on Long Beach. (But as any well-informed backcountry traveler knows, cell phones interfere with walkie-talkies and avalanche beacons and shouldn't be turned on anyway.)

The Bad ... You check the caller ID (goggles on) and see it's your best friend Dom. You answer ("Yo, Dom! Hittin' up the hill today. Playin' hooky from work."), only to realize it's actually your boss, Tom, who expected you two hours ago.
The Burton Bluetooth jacket will hit shelves in November. But it won't stay there for long.
[Tech Specs]
Burton/Motorola Bluetooth Jacket
Available: November 2005
Price: $499
Color Palate: Available in 24 varieties (two styles for men and women in many colors)
Buy: www.burton.com