Cody Townsend Just Designed the Perfect Quiver-of-One Adventure Glasses
Made by Smith, his large-lens Pursuit shades are ideal for skiing, cycling, running, and nearly every other outdoor activity you can imagine
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Anyone who’s watched Cody Townsend’s The Fifty series, which documents his multi-year attempt to climb and ski North America’s 50 most iconic ski lines, knows he’s a big fan of large-lens sunglasses—not the type of giant, round-lens glasses commonly worn by celebrities, but outdoor-focused, wrap-around glasses that look like goggle lenses without the goggle frames. Townsend says he’s adopted these large glasses for several reasons. For starters, they keep out more of the sun during his 12-hour days on the skin track. And because they’re big enough to shield his face on most descents, they make for a lighter and less cumbersome option than goggles.
Townsend isn’t the only one choosing glasses over goggles. If you show up to your local ski area before work, you’ll find plenty of uphill skiers wearing large-lens glasses. Same thing out in the backcountry. When it’s not hammering snow, skiers love to wear glasses instead of goggles.
For years Townsend wore various models of large-lens glasses from Smith, one of his sponsors, and this year he launched a Smith model of his own design called the Pursuit. “I’ve now spent more time skiing in the Pursuit than any other glasses I’ve ever worn and because of their coverage I find myself leaving my goggles at home more and more,” Townsend told us via phone while he was driving home from a recent ski tour in California’s Sierras.
I got my hands on a pair in January, skied with them in Jackson Hole, and then brought them back to New Mexico for the rest of the winter. And as big-lens glasses go, the Pursuits are definitely a step above and, in my opinion, worth the eye-watering price tag of nearly $300.
Townsend thought of everything. First, they come with photochromic lenses that change their tint based on the amount of sun hitting them. They adjust from a category one (allowing 43 to 80 percent of visible light through) to a category four rating (allowing only three to eight percent through). This means I can wear them at 7 a.m. on the skin track just as the sun is rising, and keep wearing them comfortably all the way through high noon when the New Mexico sun and white snow collude to try and destroy my retinas. Category four, the highest level, is often what you’ll find in traditional glacier glass lenses.
For extra sun protection, Townsend also included side shields (like you’d find on glacier glasses) that keep sun from poking in peripherally. The side shades snap into and stay in place when they connect with magnets on the frames, but they fold down easily when you want to pack the glasses away. The shields are removable, but I leave them on because they’re so well-designed that they never get in the way.
“I wanted the side shields because light has a way of leaking in from all angles, even with large-lens glasses,” Townsend says. “If there are gaps where light gets in, it causes eye strain, so I knew I needed more coverage.”
In terms of size, the lenses are on the bigger side even for large-lens glasses. That has been fine by me because the extra size makes them truly big enough to replace my goggles in nearly every instance. Since getting the Pursuits, I’ve only returned to goggles for a big inbounds day when I was ripping groomers at speed, or when fighting off snow during a blizzard—both places where I needed the extra protection offered by goggles that seal to your face.
Some users have complained that the Pursuit will fog because they provide such extensive coverage and don’t allow enough airflow when you’re huffing up the skin track. But I never found this to be the case. It might be because I have a large nose and the glasses sit off my face enough to breathe, but I suspect most other people won’t have problems either, because there’s plenty of room at the top of the glasses for airflow.
Townsend told me that while geeking out in the design phase, he and the Smith designers spent a lot of time thinking about how far off his face the glasses would sit. He wanted the lower part of the lenses to sit closer to his cheek to cut down on light coming off the snow, and he was fine with a larger gap at the top for airflow. That upper gap didn’t present as much of a light leak problem because he, like most people on the skin track, usually ski with a hat that shields the sun.
Thanks to rubber grippers on the nose and temples, the glasses always stayed put, even when I was a sweaty mess. Townsend says that the arms are customizable and can be shaped to match the shape of your head and ears. “When you’re wearing sunglasses for a long time you want them to have the perfect fit or they’re going to start to hurt,” he says.
One other detail I love: the Pursuits ship with a smartly-designed case. It’s not a traditional hard case that takes up too much space in my pack, or just a fabric sheath that only protects from scratches but not breaks. This case is somewhere in between. It’s built with a rigid front that should protect the glasses if I accidentally sit on them (I haven’t yet), and a soft back that allows me to wedge the case into the sunglasses pocket of my backcountry pack. Included in the case is a clear lens that I could swap in if I wanted to use the glasses at night.
The glasses also come with a removable nose guard, which I took off and promptly lost. It’s the kind of guard you’d wear if you were climbing Everest and sunscreen wasn’t enough. I chose to take the guard off because, even though my nose eats sun, I didn’t want to deal with carrying an extra piece. Reapplying sunscreen works for me.
Outside of skiing I’ve used the glasses on bike rides and loved the coverage they provided in this context as well. During a windy spring of riding gravel, the side shields kept dust out of my eyes, and the frames fit well under most bike helmets. True roadies will think the glasses are too heavy and cumbersome, but the rest of us who ride gravel, trails, or just commute to work, will find them useful. Anyone worried about the shields affecting peripheral vision on the street can snap the shields off.
I’m also looking forward to wearing the glasses while driving on long summer road trips because the extra coverage will cut down on eye fatigue. And I’ll be wearing them when I run, hike, backpack, or do just about any outdoor activity I can think of. The only places I won’t use them are while hunting—because I constantly have my glasses off when I’m looking through binoculars—or when hanging out, because they make me look like a total poser. While some of you younger folk can get away with wearing large-lens glasses in social situations, I’ll stick to regular dad glasses when poolside or at work.
Townsend says the Pursuits aren’t just something he put his signature on but glasses he helped design from the ground up to solve problems he encounters in the mountains. “I never want to just throw something onto the market,” he says. “I want to make something that I use every day—and that’s totally true with the Pursuit.”