Hottest Must-Have $300 Accessory on the Ski Slopes: Helmet Cam

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Laurence Monneret / Getty Images

If you’ve been skiing lately, you’ve probably noticed odd metallic boxes protruding from the helmets of skiers and riders tearing down the slopes. The devices aren’t designed to make skiing or boarding easier, or even more fun. Instead, they help you do something even more important: show off on the Internet.

Sales of waterproof (and snow-proof) helmet cams—i.e., videocameras that can also be attached to helmets, as well as ski poles, jackets, snowboards, car windows, and more—have taken off in recent years. The Boston Globe reports that sales in 2011 hit 1.3 million units, three times the number of helmet cams sold the year before.

The devices, which cost about $300, have soared in popularity for a number of reasons, starting with how quickly word has spread about the high-quality recordings produced by cams from industry leader GoPro and other brands. And how did word spread so quickly? Naturally, via the web. GoPro has its own YouTube channel (over 63 million page views), and sales of all helmet cams benefit as more and more enthusiasts share their latest snow adventures online. Uploaded helmet-cam videos represent free marketing, and they also do a terrific job of demonstrating the payoff of buying the product.

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Helmet-cam sales have also grown due to the inherent nature of skiers and snowboarders—a group that, let’s be honest, just plain loves, and perhaps even lives, to show off. As a lifelong skier and rider who has used the phrase “Go big or go home” both ironically and (I admit it) earnestly over the years, I can attest that this is the undeniable truth.

But merely showing off in front of people on the mountain watching your monster air is not enough. A larger audience deserves to be awed by your amazing abilities, no? Nick Woodman, founder of Woodman Labs, which makes GoPro products, recently explained to “CBS This Morning” why merely telling people how awesome you are is counterproductive:

“If you’re a great skier, and you go around telling everyone how great you are, you’re kind of a tool. But if you have a great day out on the mountain and create a GoPro video about it, then people will look at it and say, ‘Wow, you rip!’”

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Unless, of course, you don’t rip. In which case, people will look and say, “Look at this pathetic skier who wasted $300 to try to impress strangers on YouTube. He should have used that money on private lessons.”

In any event, if using a helmet cam, try not to be distracted in your efforts to impress. Mountain sports are dangerous enough. If you let your guard down, it’s especially easy to get hurt. Want an example? Check out this skier, who tumbles over and over down an enormous rocky cliff—all captured, of course, with a helmet cam:

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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