Buying the right snow goggle is critical! All goggles will offer some basic protection from wind, cold and even some minor collisions, but beyond the basics there are some key features to consider; lens type, lens colour/tint, frame size, fit and helmet compatibility. There is no such thing as a ski goggle or a snowboard goggle. They are all the same thing, and the only difference is the brand that makes them.
There are a few more things than colour to consider when buying goggles:
Lens TypeSpherical lens: Looks like a bubble on your face. Spherical lenses are more expensive to manufacture but have more benefits. The bubbly lens has a greater surface area which allows for an extremely broad peripheral vision. The spherical lens also has strategically placed curves to reduce glare on super sunny days. And the last benefit, if you want to get super technical, is that unlike cylindrical lenses, a spherical lens will not distort the light that is refracted through the lens.
Cylindrical (Flat) Lens: Cylindrical lenses are a flat lens that offers good peripheral vision at a lower price point. It looks like bending a window around the shape of your face. The flat lens still offers good peripheral vision however, the light will distort on its way through the lens which won’t offer the greater clarity found with a spherical lens.
Lens Colour/Tint: There is nothing worse than having a super transparent lens on a blue bird day or struggling to see the lines on a white out day with a heavily chromed out lens. There are almost too many coloured lenses to choose from and they vary from brand to brand, and although one colour might match your jacket better, each colour will filter light differently and will offer unique advantages in certain weather and light conditions. The amount of light a goggle lens allows to pass through is called the Visible Light Transmission (VLT). VLT is expressed as a percentage of light which passes through the lens falling somewhere between 0% and 100%.
If you find yourself up on the hill where the conditions are between a cloudy and snowy day with flat light, you’re going to need a low light lens. Typical colours for a low light lens are yellow, rose and blue with a VLT ranging between 60-90%. A low light lens is very transparent and might have a slight mirrored layer.
Other lenses will function better on sunny days with high visibility where, in this case, you want to keep the sun out to protect your eyes. These lenses will have a lower VLT percentage and typically come in dark colours like black, grey and amber and even a chromed out front lens. These lenses will have a VLT that ranges between 5-20%.
There are also lenses that perform fairly well in all conditions and are great if you experience changing light conditions during the day.
Beyond the lens type and colour, goggle manufacturers apply additional features to their goggles in order to make them better at doing their jobs. Some lens features to keep an eye out for include:
UV Protection and Polarisation: Almost all new goggles, even at the lower end of the price spectrum, have 100% UV protection. UV increases with altitude, and protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays will prevent eye fatigue as well as damage to your retinas. When light is reflected off certain surfaces, it tends to be reflected at a higher intensity through angles perpendicular to the surface. Polarised lenses act as a filter of vertical light and are able to cut glare much more effectively than a standard mirrored lens while improving overall visual clarity and providing increased contrast and definition. Polarised lenses are great for snow sports as they reduce eye fatigue and strain, and if that's what you’re looking for, be prepared to spend a little bit extra.
Mirrored Lenses: Many lenses (for bright conditions) will come with a coating on outside of the goggle lens which will reflect a greater amount of light than a non-mirrored lens. By decreasing the volume of light coming through the lens, the wearer will have increased visual clarity and reduced glare. If you notice your lenses are scratched in areas, it might be time for a new lens. These scratches can allow harmful UV light to pass into your retina and cause damage.
Dual lenses and Anti-Fog: These days, every goggle will have a dual lens which will create a thermal barrier to reduce fogging significantly. Every goggle will also have an anti-fog treatment on the inner lens. This treatment is a hydrophilic chemical layer which can be sealed or etched onto the inside of the lens to reduce fogging. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions as poor goggle care can lead to fogging goggles (foggles). The biggest tip here is to never touch the inside lens. If you do get snow or water on that inner lens, shake it out and dry your goggle. If you do notice fogging on the inner lens, leave it on your face as most of the time, it will defog itself. Ensure you dry your goggles out every night for the best visibility.
Photochromatic/Automatic Lenses: Many Brands have a lens in their goggle range that will adjust to the lighting conditions. These lenses will adjust to the changing light conditions by darkening when exposed to stronger UV light and lightening when there is less UV light. The primary advantage to this type of lens is that it is extremely versatile which means you would only need to carry the one goggle and lens. Unfortunately, these lenses don't adjust instantly and can take several minutes to fully adjust to changing light but the technology is getting better.
Ventilation: Most goggles will have ventilation on the frame and also even the lens. Generally, more venting is better to reduce fogging but it important to check that they venting system in your goggles is compatible with the shape of your helmet (if you wear one). If your helmet blocks your vents, your goggles will be more susceptible to fogging. Some goggles even have battery powered fans that move air and defog goggles. Ensure that the goggle you choose has a complete seal on your face, any gaps can cause your goggles to fog.
When wearing goggles with a helmet, it is important that the goggles sit comfortably on your face whilst being compatible with your helmet. A sign that your goggles may be an incorrect fit is when you feel pressure points on your face and around your goggle frame. If your helmet pushes your goggles down your nose, you might need a smaller frame. Ensure that the goggle frame sits neatly inside the brim of your helmet. Finally, make sure you have one of these two things (both would be even better); a goggle clip and/or silicon lining on your goggle strap.
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