Buying the right skiing and snowboarding goggles is critical. All ski and snowboard goggles will offer some basic protection from wind and cold, but beyond the basics there are some key features to consider: lens type, lens color/tint, frame size, fit and helmet compatibility.
Cylindrical (Flat) Lenses – These lenses curve horizontally while remaining flat vertically. Cylindrical lenses offer good performance at a lower price point.
Spherical Lenses – Spherical lenses, on the other hand, curve both horizontally and vertically around your face, which will give the goggles a bubbled look. Beyond the look there are significant advantages to wearing cylindrical lenses:
Peripheral Vision - With a greater lens surface area, spherical goggles allow you to see more above and below you, as well as to the sides.
Glare - Anti-glare modifications have been made for many cylindrical goggles, but no matter how clever manufacturers get, geometrically cylindrical goggles will always have more surface points where the sun’s rays hit the goggle, which creates blind spots. Spherical goggles, on the other hand, have strategically planned curves to reduce glare.
Distortion - The flat edges of a cylindrical lens can cause visual distortion at certain angles, while the shape of a spherical lens allows for better optics. Most companies mold-inject spherical lenses, which allows for lens tapering (where the plastic is thinner the further from the center of the lens it is, allowing for light to hit your eye naturally) all the way around the lens. Manufacturers have developed technologies to help reduce image distortion in cylindrical lenses, but spherical is still your best bet for distortion free vision at the periphery of the lens.
There is nothing worse than having cloudy vision on a powder day or being blinded when it’s blue bird. There are dozens of lens colors to choose from that vary from brand to brand, and although one color might match your jacket better, each color will filter light differently and offers unique advantages in certain weather and light conditions. The amount of light a goggle lens allows to pass through is called Visible Light Transmission (VLT). VLT is expressed as percentage of light allowed through the lens falling somewhere between 0% and 100%.
Some lenses are designed to perform much better in low light, low visibility situations, such as when it is snowing, foggy, or the light is flat. These lenses will allow a higher percentage of VLT. Typical colors for low light lenses are yellow, rose, and blue with VLT ranging from 60-90%. Other lenses will function better on sunny days with high visibility where it is more about keeping the light out. These lenses will have a lower VLT percentage and typically come in dark colors of black, grey, and gold, often mirrored and have VLT ranges from 5-20%. Of course there are lenses in the middle of the spectrum that perform fairly well in all conditions and are great if you experience changing light conditions during the day. Each manufacturer produces a wide range of lens tints for bright days, storm days, and everything in between.
One of the most important tips when buying goggles is to make sure that the goggle forms a firm seal around the whole frame of the goggle. This is important because if any gaps occur around the goggle it will allow air to fill your goggles, this can cause watering eyes and cause the lenses to fog.
Beyond just the lens type and color, goggle manufacturers apply additional features to their goggles in order to make them better at doing their job. Some lens features to keep an eye out for include:
UV Protection - Almost all new goggles, even at the lower end of the price spectrum, have 100% UV protection. UV intensity increases with altitude, and protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays will prevent eye fatigue as well as damage to your retinas.
Mirrored Lenses - A coating on the outside of the goggle lens reflects a greater amount of light than a non-mirrored lens. Letting in a decreased volume of light means less glare and increased visual clarity in bright conditions. You also get that cool Top Gun aviator look, although we recommend removing your mirrored goggles in the bar.
Polarized Lenses - When light is reflected off certain surfaces, it tends to be reflected at higher intensity through angles perpendicular to the surface. By acting as a filter of vertical light, polarized lenses are able to cut glare much more effectively than a standard mirrored lens while improving overall visual clarity and providing increased contrast and definition. Polarized lenses are great for snow sports and reduce eye fatigue and strain.
Double Lenses - These create a thermal barrier that reduces fogging significantly compared to its single lens counterpart – a single lens goggle just won’t cut it for skiing or snowboarding. Double lenses are common on all new ski and snowboard goggles.
Anti-Fog Coating – A hydrophilic chemical treatment to the inside of the lenses can greatly reduce a goggle’s tendency to fog. Some coatings are more durable than others. Be sure to read the manufacturers’ directions because poor goggle care can lead to wiping off the anti-fog coating.
Photochromic Lenses - These lenses automatically adjust to changing light conditions by darkening when exposed to stronger ultraviolet (UV) light and lightening when there is less UV light. The primary advantage of this type of lens is that it will adjust to changing conditions, making it extremely versatile. Unfortunately, Photochromic lenses don’t adjust instantly - it could take several minutes for the lens to fully adjust to changing light.
You can count on virtually all quality goggles having vents, but some are better than others. In general, more venting is better in terms of preventing fogging. It is important to check that the venting system in your goggles is compatible with the shape of your helmet, in other words don’t block the vents; otherwise your goggles might be a little more susceptible to fogging. Some goggles even have battery powered fans that move air and defog the goggles.
When wearing a helmet
When wearing goggles with a helmet it is important that they fit properly on your face and are compatible with your helmet. A sign that your googles may be an incorrect fit for you is when you feel pressure points on your face around your goggle frame. This may mean that the goggle is too small for the frame of your face.
Your goggle must also have a strap that closes tightly around the back of your head over your helmet to keep your goggles firm against your face. This will prevent fogging.