close-up of a skier wearing a helmet and gogglesclose-up of a skier wearing a helmet and goggles

How To Choose Ski Goggles

Why Wear Goggles?

In the mountains, the weather can be unpredictable and challenging. It’s important to have the correct eyewear to protect against the elements. While sunglasses are effective in bright conditions, they won’t stop the wind and snow from entering around the sides, particularly while skiing at speed.

On sunny days the light is amplified as it reflects off the snow. Ultraviolet (UV) light also becomes more intense at altitude - the higher you go the stronger it becomes. UV light is reduced in cloudy conditions but not blocked out completely. Overexposure to UV rays, enhanced by the suns reflection off the snow, can lead to a painful condition referred to as snow blindness (photokeratitis), a form of sunburn on the cornea. It can be painful, lead to excessively watery eyes and in severe cases, temporary blindness. All our goggles offer full UV protection.

If the weather is cloudy, overcast or snowing you are unlikely to be able to see too much without goggles, and your eyes will need assistance to keep you safe on the hill. Goggles use different lens tints depending on the conditions they are designed for. A lens made for snowy and overcast days will amplify what light there is, increasing contrast, helping you to see more of the terrain around you. One made for brighter days will reduce the light that passes through to offer more protection from the sun; they often use a coating on the outside to further reduce glare.

It’s important to remember that wearing goggles or sunglasses will protect the eyes against both short-term and long-term damage caused by the sun, in a similar way that sun cream protects the skin. They are essential bits of kit when heading to the mountains.

Goggle Shapes & Sizes

A pair of snowboard gogglesA pair of snowboard goggles

There are many different goggle shapes and designs to fit a range of faces. A good fitting goggle will allow for a greater field of vision, including sideways, and should have a neat seal around the face. With a high proportion of skiers using helmets, you should consider this when buying goggles too.

If you already own a helmet then make sure your goggles fit with them, or if buying both, try them on together. Again, the seal should be good around the face and nose, and you want a good fit around the top of the goggle where it meets the helmet. If there is too much gap between the two it can cause air to get through making it very cold and uncomfortable, or even lead to a very embarrassing sun tan line.

  • Women's specific fit goggles often have less volume over the bridge of the nose to reduce excess space for snow and wind to enter. The frame will also be a little smaller than a standard-sized adult goggle.
  • Children's goggles are less bulky and fit closer to the face. They are usually simplified to reduce the cost and keep them robust.
  • O.T.G (Over The Glasses) are designed for people who wear glasses and will be a bit deeper allowing more space in front of the eyes to prevent glasses from being pushed onto the face. They will have a cutaway at the side of the frame so the arms can fit under the foam and plenty of venting to reduce glasses steaming up.
  • Oversized goggles, appearing to be frameless in some cases, have also grown in popularity. They give exceptional peripheral vision for greater awareness on the slope and come in both female and unisex fits.

Lens Shapes & Technology

There are two main types of lens shapes. The traditional style that appears ‘flat' is a cylindrical lens. It is curved around its vertical axis. Modern technologies have allowed lenses to be shaped both vertically and horizontally (along both vertical and horizontal axis) creating a spherical lens. The spherical lens produces better optical clarity as the theory is it is shaped like the human eye so will allow for less distortion and therefore a better field of view. Recently there has been an increase in the use of toric shaped lenses. These are like spherical lenses but use a tighter horizontal curve, opening the lens for maximum peripheral vision to each side (so you can see more across the width). Depending on the design, toric lenses may use a flatter vertical curve, but this varies between brands.

A pair of snowboard gogglesA pair of snowboard goggles

Cylindrical Lens

Spherical Lens

All but our very basic junior goggles use a double-layered lens. It is made up of two separate lenses with a rubber or silicone seal to separate them. The double-layer acts like double glazing in a house, trapping heat and reducing the goggle fogging up, especially when combined with an anti-fog treatment.

A good lens will be moulded and fused into shape rather than being a flat piece of material flexed around the frame. A poor-quality lens will feel flimsy and distort under stress, affecting the clarity of vision for the user. They may only have a single layer lens with little anti-fog treatment or any coating to reduce glare from the sun.

Speciality Lenses

Several goggle brands have been developing their own speciality lenses in recent years to give snowsports users increased protection and better vision in the conditions they are likely to face in the mountains.

Oakley led the way with their Prizm lenses which have been engineered to enhance visibility and contrast. It works over a wider range of light conditions than traditional lenses, making them more versatile. Prizm works by splitting light into all its different colour spectrums then enhancing those needed to see in these conditions and filtering out the others. The wearer is left with enhanced vision and crisp detailing.

Similarly Dragon have introduced their Lumalens technology and Smith have ChromaPop, which both work to enhance visibility and provide greater depth perception whilst skiing.

Dual / Bonus Lenses

Certain goggles come with two lenses as part of a package, this allows the user to tune their goggles depending on conditions. One lens is normally best suited for when it's bright and the other for flat light and darker conditions. Changing them is quite easy after a little practice and some frames will even use a quick-change lens system.

Lens Tints & Conditions

There are many different lens tints available and they are suited to different conditions, from high altitude very bright light, all the way through to very dull and snowy days. Lenses are categorised from 0 to 4, the higher the number, the darker the lens will generally be. 0 is suited to night conditions and not usually used much in snowsports. An all-round lens for variable conditions will be in categories 2-3. Category 4 lenses are for the very brightest of conditions and very high altitudes, they aren't usually required for skiing but can be used on bright days.

Most brands also provide a visual light transmission (VLT) rating that shows how much light can pass through the lens. The higher the number the more light that can pass through. So, for sunny and bright conditions you would want a lower VLT as less light can pass through. When it's snowing or the light is flat, a lens that allows more light to pass through is more favourable. It’s worth noting that although VLT ratings sit within categories, they can vary quite a lot from one lens to another in terms of the percentage of light they let through. VLT is a more precise way to compare how much light can penetrate through a lens.

  • Very bright & sunny conditions
    Lens to use: Category 3-4 (8-18% and 3-8% VLT)
    The lens will be quite dark to look through (in most cases) and block out a lot of light.
  • Bright conditions
    Lens to use: Category 3 (8-18% VLT)
    These give great bright weather protection and some definition, often quite versatile.
prizm lensprizm lens
  • Variable conditions
    Lens to use: Category 2-3 (18-43% and 8-18% VLT)
    These lenses are suitable for most light conditions except the very brightest and very dull days. The base lens tint will usually be an orange or rose, giving definition in low light, and they will likely have a coating to reduce glare in bright light. They are very versatile and the most popular lens.
  • Low light & snow conditions
    Lens to use: Category 1-2 (43-80% and 18-43% VLT)
    These lenses usually have a rose, orange or yellow tint and actively enhance what light there is to increase definition.

Maintenance & Care

  • Only clean the lenses with a specific cleaning cloth such as the microfibre bag that comes with goggles. Tissues, cotton, sleeves etc can be abrasive and scratch the lens.
  • Clean the lens when it is dry to avoid damaging any coating (including anti-fog). If you take a fall and the goggle fills with snow, then shake any excess out and let them dry before wiping.
  • Do not put the goggles face down on the lens, this can scratch and damage the surface.
  • Avoid wearing them on top of your head. Your head is like a funnel and pumps out heat which will cause the lens to fog up.

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