If snowboarding is the uncouth yang to skiing’s yin, snowboarders who wear headphones are veritable heathens. Validating every stereotype about ‘boarders not appreciating nature, these “barbarians at the gate” typically have less on-piste etiquette than a Westerner in an Onsen and less control of their whereabouts than a learner driver who just hit a patch of ice.
As for the experts, “It’s kind of a fine line,” says Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), of wearing music while skiing. “If people want to go out by themselves and put on some classical music and ski in a winter wonderland, we want to give them that opportunity – within reason,” Outside once reported him saying.
“We want to reinforce critical safety messages, but at the same time we don’t want to be a bunch of killjoys; there are plenty of people who probably can ski with music in a very controlled manner.”
With that (and my thoroughly average snowboarding level) in mind, I have always been hesitant to don a pair of headphones, lest I mark myself out as a non-community minded savage.
The purchase of Bose’s SoundSport wireless headphones changed all that, however, as – for the first time in my life – I became the proud owner of a pair of high-end ($254) sports headphones that don’t have any cables, and can be completely hidden under a beanie. Bought for running, and the gym, I have found them a great urban exercise accessory.
When I was invited by Club Med Sahoro to come and experience their Hokkaido resort, however, I figured, “Why not try them at 3,000ft?” As it turns out there are a number of major advantages to the Bose SoundSport wireless offering, as well as a significant drawback that may cause many sub-par snowboarders such as myself to crash.
So: here’s the cold hard truth about testing Bose’s wireless SoundSport headphones while snowboarding.
The SoundSports are less obtrusive than most headphones
If you’re used to Skullcandy, Apple or any headphones with cables (or, god forbid, big, noise-cancelling beats) the SoundSports are a revelation. Not only do they fit neatly under your beanie (with no protruding wires or boom box vibes), so that judgemental skiers have no (visual) reason to sneer at you in the chair lift queue, but the sound quality is better than Apple Airpods. What’s not to love?
The sound quality is insane
If the bass was any better it would pose an avalanche risk.
The SoundSports will handle a (minor) stack or two
I fell twice with the Soundsports, both times landing on my face, once in powder, the other on a groomed slope. While my pride escaped me the SoundSports did not.
The SoundSports are an invitation to karaoke
Put me in a Gondola for one and call me Bowie.
With the SoundSports, you are at the mercy of the riders above you
Being unable to hear anything behind you, if you choose to ride with any headphones, the SoundSports included, you put yourself more at risk of a collision.
They are tricky to wear with a helmet – but great with a beanie
I found wearing the Bose SoundSports with a ski helmet resulted in them being crushed into my ears rather uncomfortably. This was solved by wearing just a beanie, which actually worked to keep them in perfectly (I would imagine with a major crash though, you could definitely lose them).
The SoundSports will make you crash more often
The cold hard truth about snowboarding with the Bose SoundSport headphones is that they are so good that you inevitably get a little overexcited and attempt things you shouldn’t generally, let alone with one of your six senses deaf to the world. But as you fly down the mountain with “Bohemian like you” blasting in your ears, it’s hard not to let loose a little.