On the mountain, Ski / Snowboard goggles have become a very important piece of equipment. They protect your face from snow, ice, and branches. They help keep you warm and make sure that you have good vision to get you through various light and conditions. But, buying the right pair has become more complicated with different companies offering all sorts of difference features. In this article, I’ll break down those features to help you decide which pair of goggles is best for you.
Before I get started, let me answer two basic common questions that people have.
Is there a difference between Skiing and Snowboarding Goggles?
There is no difference between goggles for skiing and snowboarding. Regardless if you are a skier or a rider, you use the same criteria for choosing your goggles.
Is there a difference between Men’s and Women’s Goggles?
Yes, but it is just size. You can wear either type of goggles regardless of your sex. The difference is that women’s goggles have less volume over the bridge of the nose to reduce excess space for snow and wind to enter. But, if your face is larger or smaller, it shouldn’t prevent you from buying goggles marketed to a different sex.
Let’s take a look at the various features you need to consider when buying ski/snowboard goggles.
Let’s start with what is probably the most confusing part of lenses, the lens tint and the technology that has been developed in the last few years. One the most important functions of goggles is to improve vision. When you are in the mountains, you will face various weather conditions, light, and trail conditions and how your goggle lenses are designed can dramatically improve your vision.
The term you will see most often with lenses is Visible Light Transmission (VLT). VLT is the percentage of light allowed through the lens. This is measured as a percentage falling somewhere between 0% and 100%. 100% lets in all of the light and 0% lets in no light. Therefore, if you are looking for goggles to wear for night skiing, you would want a very high VLT percentage. If you are high in the mountains on a bright sunny day, you will want a very low VLT percentage.
The amount of light coming in is also measured in categories to help group VLT into small more definable categories.
|0||80 to 100%||Transparent or slightly tinted||Night Time|
|1||40 to 80%||Slightly tinted||Overcast/Flat Light|
|2||20 to 40%||Moderately tinted||Overcast/Flat Light|
|3||10 to 20%||Darkly tinted||Bright Light Conditions|
The concept is pretty straight-forward. If it’s a bright day, you want less sunlight and more protection. If it’s a dark cloudy day, you need more light. The way this is done is by having different colored lenses. Low light lenses will typically be yellow, rose, and blue and have a VLT ranging from 60-90%. Black, grey, and gold are common for VLT ranges from 5-20%. There are numerous colors used by different companies for all kinds of conditions. Below is a chart showing the various colors for Oakley which is seen as the leader in Ski/Snowboard Goggles.
Another important feature to consider on goggles is the Lens Shape. Basically, there are two different shapes: cylindrical and spherical.
- Cylindrical Lens (Flat lenses) - These lenses curve horizontally while remaining flat vertically. Cylindrical lenses offer good performance at a lower price than Spherical Lens. The downside is that they will visual distortion at certain angles. Manufacturers have developed new technologies to help reduce image distortion in cylindrical lenses, but spherical is better.
- Spherical Lens – The types of lenses curve both horizontally and vertically around your face. These types of lenses have a bubble look to them. The advantage of these types of lenses are increased peripheral vision will have less glare then cylindrical lenses.
As I previously wrote, there are numerous tint colors available in goggles. The one thing we can’t control is the weather and it can change quickly from one hour to the next. In order to help skiers and snowboarders adjust to different conditions and sunlight, manufacturers have developed photochromic lenses. These type of lenses alter the tint of the lenses in response to changes in ambient light. This convenient feature makes them highly versatile, but you will pay more for this. Note that these types of lenses aren’t perfect. Some lenses will take longer to adjust and they may be affected by low temperatures.
Mirrored lenses have what appears to be a mirror on the outside of the lenses. This helps in reducing UV glare and adds protection from the harmful UV rays. These type of goggles are useful if you are mountaineering or in very high altitudes with a lot of sun.
Polarized lenses eliminate glare that can bounce off reflected surfaces such as water, snow and ice to create a clearer and sharper vision. Polarized lenses are more expensive. But, they can be extremely useful. Polarization blocks glare off of reflective surfaces which helps reduce eye fatigue and improves visibility. One problem with Polarized lenses is that they can make it more difficult to differentiate between ice and soft snow.
A big feature that has recently been promoted by numerous manufactures is the ability to quickly change your lenses on your goggles. By having multiple lenses for different conditions, you can quickly swap out the lenses. Some lenses will use magnets to allow quick changes in less than a minute while others require clipping the edges into slots. When considering this, you should consider the cost of simply owning multiple pairs of goggles that you can keep in your bag in the lodge. This is a simpler method and very often less expensive. You should also consider if you would really use this feature although it really has gotten very easy and fast in the last couple of years with newer technology.
There are basically three ways to prevent your goggles from fogging up: coatings, ventilation, and double-lenses.
- Anti-Fog Coatings – These coatings are applied to the inner side of the lenses and help protect against misting and fogging. If your goggles have anti-fog coatings, you will want to minimize rubbing to prevent rubbing the coatings off.
- Ventilation – One of the best ways to prevent fogging is for the goggles to have openings on the side of the goggles so that air can get through to the lens. This is a common features and the difference will be the material used to prevent snow from getting through the holes.
- Double Lenses – Double-lenses use the same concept as double-pane windows. Basically the thermal barrier between the 2 layers will improve the temperature and prevent fogging up.
Goggles come in small, medium, and large sizes. Women’s goggles are built in the same manner as men’s, with the only difference being the size. Women's goggles will often have less volume over the bridge of the nose to reduce excess space for snow and wind to enter. Children’s goggles are even smaller and less bulky. O.T.G (Over-The-Glasses) are designed for people who want to wear glasses under the goggles. This type of goggle will be a bit deeper to allow more space in front of the eyes and will have more space to the side of the frame so there is plenty of room for the arms of the glasses.
Also, if you have high cheekbones and/or a shallow nose bridge, look into a goggle marked as "Asian fit." Manufactures are starting to look into having different types of goggles based on faces with various widths and shapes.
Other Features (not necessary but seems cool)
- Battery-operated Anti-Fog Fan – If fog is a big problem for you and you’ve run out of ideas, you could always look into having a battery operated fan to keep the air moving in the goggles. This can actually be useful for OTG goggles where you need to keep the glasses clear.
- GPS – If you are that high-tech person that needs to all the latest tech, you can get goggles that have a GPS located inside the goggles. This allows you to calculate your speed, check your air time and track how many vertical feet you have skied in a given duration of time without having to look at your phone.
- Camera - Some goggles are now outfitted with a HD camera that is located right on top of the goggle. This gives you a better POV angle and is less bulky then the on the helmet type cameras.
Goggles are very important for protection and to allow us to have better vision while on the slopes. The better the vision you have, the safer you’ll be by being able to react quickly to any obstacles or changing terrain. All of the features mentioned above are important to consider in choosing the right type of goggle for you. But, in my opinion, the best way to go is with multiple pairs of goggles that suit your needs and can be swapped out of your bag as needed. You’ll always have an extra pair is one breaks and the wear and tear on the body is reduced.