Ron Harris  /  AP
The new Slackcountry UL snowboard ($649.95) has a top layer constructed with hemp, which the manufacturer says makes it lighter and stronger.
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updated 1/12/2011 12:01:45 PM ET 2011-01-12T17:01:45

Each winter the masses spill on to snow-slathered slopes, often wearing a new jacket or toting new skis and a renewed desire to test the mountain. This year there is plenty of high-tech gear to help them do it faster and better.

I tried a few products aimed at augmenting the snow-riding experience: two helmet cameras that record high-definition video, an ultra-light snowboard made with a layer of hemp and gloves designed with shutterbugs in mind.

If you've advanced past the bunny slopes and are serious about outdoor sports, you might want to check these out:

The Contour GPS ($349.95), from Seattle, Wash.-based Contour Inc., is a light video camera designed to be worn on a sports helmet, mounted onto bicycle handlebars or affixed to other surfaces with appropriate add-ons.

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It's is less than 4 inches long with a lens tube not much wider than a half-dollar coin. It records to a Micro SD memory card and can shoot at full high-definition resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

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I strapped the camera against my helmet by threading my goggle strap through the mount on the side of the camera. The camera rested flush and snug against the right side of my helmet.

The Contour GPS has a finger-sized slider on top of the camera with two positions — record and off. That made it easy to use with gloves on.

The resulting HD footage was high-quality stuff. I had crisp footage of the slopes, trees and my riding partner as we plummeted down the slopes. It was shaky when I turned my head to look for oncoming traffic, or when my snowboard chattered a bit on an icy patch of snow. But it was better than I've been able to do previously while holding a video camera in my hand while riding. The sound quality was better than expected.

The GPS feature was the cherry on top. After launching the Contour Storyteller software (Mac or Windows), I was able to watch my videos and an overhead map view (courtesy of Google) that gave me the speed and elevation at all point during my ride. I was represented by a dot, and a line showed the path I took. The display showed me doing a brisk 20 mph as I slid down the Big Pocono Run at Camelback Mountain Resort.

The Drift HD 170 ($329), from U.K.-based Drift Innovation, is a camera with some different standout features. It boasts a wireless remote to record and stop recording (which I wore like a watch), and a built-in LCD screen for convenient playback.

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I attached the Drift camera to the top of my helmet with the provided stick-on mount of sturdy plastic. I wore the remote on my wrist like a watch.

It was nice to watch the footage over lunch on the camera's LCD screen, just in case I missed a shot of a particular run that I might want to do over. Once I viewed the footage on a proper HD display, I found the footage slightly sharper and more vivid than the Contour GPS's.

An 8-gigabyte SD card was more than enough to shoot an entire day's worth of fun on the slopes. The battery lasted, too.

The Slackcountry UL ($649.95), from Ride Snowboards, trades the snowboard's traditional top layer of plastic for hemp fiber. The engineers at Ride claim the hemp cuts the board's weight by nearly half a pound and is stronger than the traditional design.

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It's early in the season, so there wasn't much thick powder to glide over in the Poconos, something the lightweight board is designed to do well. But the Slackcountry UL rocked quickly and accurately from edge to edge down an advanced slope. It felt quick and responsive, more so than my older Burton board.

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I did notice that the rougher hemp-laden top surface was too coarse to hold my stick-on scrape plate, which I use to knock snow off the bottom of my boot. That's the lone strike against the novel top layer.

If hemp truly is more environmentally friendly to produce and bond onto Ride's snowboards as the company states, the designers are to be applauded for ingenuity. I don't ride hard enough to break a board's tail or tip, but the increased strength that hemp gives should please aggressive riders who go after the terrain park.

Seattle, Wash.-based POW Gloves has two models, the Transfilmer ($65) and the Pho-tog ($50), both designed to protect a photographer's hands during snow season while freeing up the index finger to work the shutter button.

Image:
Ron Harris  /  AP
The Pho-tog outdoor glove ($50) from Seattle, Wash.-based POW Gloves has with convertible fingertips for photographers to remove and access camera controls in cold weather.

On the Pho-tog glove, the tips covering the thumb and index finger can be peeled back. The Transfilmer model is a mitten that peels back to reveal the bare tip of the index finger while the other fingers are covered by an interior glove.

I found both models to be a vast improvement over fully removing a glove in cold conditions just to snap off a shot or two.

Each of these products is a smart choice for the slopes this winter. They incorporate a blend of new technology and design to enhance your experience on the snow, and they may just make you the envy of the lift line.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America

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  1. Heavenly run

    Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., offers skiers 91 trails and 4,800 acres of terrain. (Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort ) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Busy at Beaver Creek

    Colorado's Beaver Creek Snow Resort averages 311 inches of snow per year, gets 300 days of sun and offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Beaver Creek Snow Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Oh boy, Alberta

    Whiskey Jack Lodge is pictured at the foot of the ski hills in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the larger ski areas in North America with 4,200 acres of terrain. (Andy Clark / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 2-mile-high club

    Looking for a high-elevation rush? The base center at Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort sits at 8,100 feet. The resort's highest point, Hidden Peak, climbs to 11,000 feet. (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Va-va-va-Vail

    Vail, Colo., located west of Denver, is one North America's better-known ski towns. Vail Ski Resort features more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain over 193 trails. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Après ski

    Skiers and snowboarders can do more than hit the slopes in Vail, Colo. Visitors can visit spas, go shopping and enjoy nightlife, festivals and family-friendly activities. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Take a Telluride

    Also located in Colorado, Telluride Ski Resort has 18 lifts, 120 trails, more than 2,000 acres of terrain, and features "Galloping Goose," the resort's longest run (4.6 miles). (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Road trip!

    Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can easily drive to Telluride from the Four-Corner states. Located in Southwestern Colorado, the drive time is seven hours from Denver and Phoenix, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, Colo., and 2 1/4 hours from Moab, Utah and Durango, Colo. (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stowe away

    Stowe Ski Resort is smaller when compared to competition west of the Mississippi, but it is a hot spot in the Northeast. The area offers 485 acres of terrain, but an average trail length of 3,600 feet -- longer than any other New England resort, its Web site boasts. (Stowe Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great spot for beginners

    Buttermilk Ski Resort is small compared to some of its Colorado neighbors. Located just outside Aspen, Buttermilk has carved out its niche by focusing on snowboarders and beginners. Buttermilk offers 435 acres of terrian over 44 runs. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Experience required

    Aspen Mountain is the backdrop for a horse and carriage ride in downtown Aspen, Colo. Aspen Mountain features 76 trails -- 48 percent considered "more difficult," 26 percent "most difficult" and 26 percent "expert." If you're a beginner, you probably want to get your feet wet some place less daunting. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take a hike

    Members of Aspen Center for Enviromental Studies (ACES) take a snowshoe tour in Ashcroft, Colo.Ashcroft Ski Touring/Cross-Country Area offers about 22 miles of groomed trails, and is located 11 miles from Aspen. (Courtesy of ACES) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lock and Keystone

    Another popular ski option in Colorado is Keystone Ski Area, located about 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. The area features 20 ski lifts, two gondolas and more than 3,100 acres of terrain. (Bob Winsett courtesy of Keystone Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grab a six-peak

    Vermont's Killington Ski Resort stretches across six peaks. Skiers and snowboarders can reach the area's 752 acres of terrain with 22 lifts. (Killington Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Beautiful Breckenridge

    Big crowds may descend on Colorado's ski resorts, but that shouldn't be a problem at Breckenridge. The resort has two high-speed SuperChairs, seven high-speed quad lifts, a triple lift, six double lifts, and others, giving it the ability to move nearly 38,000 people per hour. (Carl Scofieldd courtesy of Breckenridge) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bring the family

    Smuggler's Notch in Vermont bills itself as "America's Family Resort," and offers services, activities and education aimed at making sure everyone in your clan has fun. (Smuggler's Notch Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 63 years and going strong

    Colorado's Arapahoe Basin has been operating since 1946. "The inaugural season opened with a single rope tow and $1.25 daily lift tickets," its Web site reads. Prices and equipment surely have changed, but "A-Basin" offers the skiers and snowboarders 900 acres of terrain -- more than half above the timberline. (Arapahoe Basin) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Long way down

    Utah's Alta Ski Area is scheduled to remain open through April 18, 2010. It features 2,200 acres of terrain, more than 100 runs and an average snowfall of 500 inches per season. It does not, however, allow snowboards. (Alta Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Not for the faint of heart

    Of the 116 runs at Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, 50 percent are "expert" and 40 percent are "intermediate." That's great news if you pass up the bunny slopes for some challenging skiing and snowboarding. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. On -- or off -- the beaten path

    Jackson Hole Ski Resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain, plus an open backcountry gate system that offers access to an additional 3,000 acres. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Sun Valley -- how original

    Seriously. Idaho's Sun Valley, started in 1936, claims it is the original ski resort. "Born out of a desire to bring the magic of the European ski resorts to America, Sun Valley quickly became a phenomenon without peer on this continent or any other," its Web site boasts. (Sun Valley Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Do you believe in miracles?

    American Shaun White is pictured competing during the Nokia Halfpipe Snowboard FIS World Cup on March 4, 2005 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics twice -- in 1932 and 1980 -- and offers a variety of activities, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice skating and more. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Old West reminder

    Seven thousand feet up in the Colorado Rockies, nestled quietly below one of the largest ski mountains in North America, sits a small ranching community that serves as a constant reminder that the Old West is alive and well. Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat remains firmly linked to a Western tradition that sets it apart from every other ski resort in the world. (Larry Pierce courtesy of Steamboat) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Big skiing in Big Sky Country

    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont., collects 300 inches of snow each year and features 3,000 acres of terrain, 94 marked trails and a 3.3-mile run called Hellfire. (Donnie Clapp courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Sweet on Sugarloaf

    Sugarloaf Ski Resort features 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, including Tote Road, a 3.5-mile-long stretch running from summit to base. Sugarloaf's redesigned terrain park features the 400 foot long Superpipe, a magnet for snowboarders throughtout the region. Portland and Bangor offer airport service to Sugarloaf, and Boston and Montreal are four short hours away. (Grant Klene courtesy of Sugarloaf Ski Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Crossing borders

    With more than 400 inches of snow per year, nearly 8,200 acres of skiable terrain and 200 trails, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. (Randy Lincks courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Carrying the torch

    Some athletes will become world champions of their sport on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb when the Winter Olympics roll into British Columbia early next year. (Paul Morrison courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
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