GADGETS FOR THE SPORTING LIFE How about shorts that let you skid down a snowy hill sans sled? No? Heated ski boots? Lighted golf balls?

(FORTUNE Magazine) – As the season's first snow powdered New York City suburbs on a November Saturday, Robert Damon, 38, senior partner in the executive search firm of Smyth Dawson Associates in Manhattan, and his wife, Eugenie, 35, went Christmas shopping for skiing equipment to use at their new Mount Snow, Vermont, condominium. What the Damons and her two sons saw at the Darien Sport Shop in Darien, Connecticut, might have seemed a Christmas fantasy only a year or two ago. For the sporting life, from skiing to scuba, heaps of innovative equipment and gadgets, high tech and low, useful and playful, crowd stores this / Christmas season. What follows is a sampler of gifts for spouses, children, and friends, with guidance as to where each item might be found, at what price. On the Damon family's Darien shopping trip, Derek, 12, and Ryan, 7, got ''rear entry'' boots that slip on with loafer-like ease. Now widely offered for children and adults, these boots have a hinged back panel that can be opened to let a foot slide in. The boots close with a side clasp and are lighter than front-closing boots with three or four buckles. Ryan favored Raichle's polyurethane RE-Spyder Jr. ($80); Derek went for Salomon's Equipe Junior ($165), a version of an adult boot for advanced competitive skiers. Salomon's adult rear-entry boots cost $165 to $300, depending on features that allow a skier to make various adjustments; for example, a latch over the instep may be set at one of five positions to adjust the flexibility of the boot for varying snow conditions and skiing styles. Both Bob and Genie Damon plan to get rear-entry boots. Genie likes heated boots, new this season. The boots have a switch on the back that activates a heating element under the insole at the ball of the foot. Raichle's RX-Hot ($295) can reach 105 degrees in one minute and can then be turned off to save the sealed nickel cadmium batteries. They need recharging after 2 1/2 hours of use. Lange USA boots have an automatic control that turns off in five minutes. The Lange rear-entry CHT model is $290, the front-entry THT model, $325. Another warmer for cross-country skiers and winter hikers: the Fanny Flasque. Strapped around the waist, it holds two quarts of liquid at up to 160 degrees and has three pouches for snacks and ski wax. The flask is available at sporting goods and other stores, including Eddie Bauer of Seattle (800-426-8020), $22 plus shipping. Also for fannies: bobsled shorts with six plastic runners fused to a cushioned backside; they let you slide downhill without skis or a sled. Imported from Switzerland by Hammacher Schlemmer of New York City and Chicago (800-543-3366), the child's size is $24.50; adult, one size for men and women, $32.50, postpaid. Clear vision is crucial to pleasure and safety in most sports. For skiers, Smith Goggle Co. of Sun Valley, Idaho, and Uvex of Smithfield, Rhode Island, make self-defogging and defrosting goggles. When vision clouds, the skier switches on a built-in, battery-powered electric fan that clears the lens. With interchangeable lenses -- gold-colored glass that provides sharper contrast in flat light on dim days or photosensitive glass that darkens in the light for bright days -- the Smith Turbo is sold in many ski shops at around $80. Uvex's slimmer, sleeker Airstream, similarly priced, sells at ski shops too. SPECIAL SPECTACLES are also available for the fisherman, hip deep in midstream, who has to switch from sunglasses to reading glasses to change a tiny fly. He will appreciate bifocal fishing glasses that have nonprescription Polaroid lenses and side shields to cut glare, plus insets of clear magnifying glass. With an unsinkable, waterproof case, $30 at Eddie Bauer. Orvis of Manchester, Vermont (802-362-1300), carries polarized glasses at $25. Shipping is extra. Scuba divers need a mask that won't leak or cloud. The Fog Freedom, just introduced by Techni-Pro of Miami and Long Beach, California, won't fog up, thanks to a combination of a new, specially impregnated silicone material and a special glass. Suggested retail price is $49.99; a New York City dealer recently asked $60. Call Techni-Pro (800-231-1150) for dealer names. That mask might be handy for would-be Cousteaus or James Bonds as they scoot around under water using Tekna's Rechargeable Shuttle, the DV-3X. The diver grasps handles on either side of the 21-inch, bomb-shaped body while two 12- volt electrolyte batteries power a shielded propeller. The device travels one to three miles per hour. Batteries run for two hours without recharging and last 500 to 600 miles. Suggested price: $995. For the nearest dealer call Tekna in Belmont, California (415-592-4070). For the traveling fly-fisherman, Daniel P. Davison, 60, chairman of U.S. Trust Co. in New York City, suggests a Hardy English travel rod like his own. Aptly named the Smuggler, this graphite rod comes apart in seven 15-inch sections to fit in a briefcase or carry-on bag, yet retains the action of a regular rod. With a Golden Prince reel, leather carrying case, and other accessories, it costs $600 at Abercrombie & Fitch (800-231-9715). For duck hunters, Robert Allen, 41, a senior partner in Management Practice Consulting Partners of New York and an accomplished shot, proposes working decoys of cork from Orvis. Their glass-eyed wooden heads, loosely pegged to their bodies, turn as they bob in the water; available in four breeds at $29.50 each. A new watch, the Orvis Solunagraph, should charm fishermen and hunters who forecast their luck by the moon. Guides maintain that the periods of greatest ( activity and feeding for fish and game coincide with those hours of night or day when the moon is directly overhead or directly under foot, on the opposite side of the earth. Secondary periods of activity occur as the moon is rising or setting. The Solunagraph not only displays phases of the moon, as do many other watches, but also shows the moon's exact position, hour by hour. Water resistant, Swiss made, and battery operated, the watch costs $275 at Orvis. Tennis players have a new racket, with adjustable string tension for varying playing styles and conditions. The racket's frame of beta-silicon-carbide, a new ceramic material, comes with a steel key to tighten or loosen nylon strings. The racket is made in Austria by Fischer and distributed by Pacific Sports of Santa Ana, California (800-854-3077), at $175. It is available at Hammacher Schlemmer with a gauge to tell you how much tension you've applied, at $199.50. GOLFING DIEHARDS can play into nightfall with balls that glow in the dark. Green fluorescent sticks inserted in holes drilled in Spalding balls give up to eight hours of bright light and are replaceable. Three balls with nine light sticks, $15 from Trifles in Dallas (800-527-0277). The golfer compulsive about his putting is bound to appreciate the Reel Putter. Below its rubber grip is a fishing reel containing 50 yards of monofilament line with a golf ball on the end. The practicing putter doesn't have to chase his ball, he just reels it in; $46.50 from Orvis. Bob Damon, the Darien skier, found the ultimate gift for his brother-in-law, Michael LaBranche, 30, the specialist in AT&T shares at the New York Stock Exchange. The gift is SoundWave, a floating stereo AM/FM radio and cassette player with head phones and a light. It's widely available at around $179. Word of the gift leaked to LaBranche, who spends summer weekends at Amagansett, on New York's Long Island. Says he, ''I'm sure it will be wonderful.'' Words like those should echo around a lot of Christmas trees this year.