At high altitudes, the atmosphere is thinner and filters less ultraviolet (UV) rays. The sun’s reflection on snow thus becomes brighter and more intense. Wind and snow are also factors as it can make your eyes tear and blur your vision.
Ski and snowboard goggles can help protect your eyes from all sorts of elements and mountain hazards, and are crucial to a good day on the slopes.
Lens Shapes of Ski / Snowboard Goggles
Lenses are usually either flat or spherical. Be aware though that some manufacturers use proprietary terms on their own websites to describe these two basic shapes.
Cylindrical lenses: The lens curves left-to-right across your eyes and face, but the lens surface is vertically flat (between the nose and forehead). Cylindrical-lensed goggles are priced lower and work fine, but the flatness can cause more glare and slightly reduces peripheral vision.
Spherical lenses: This lens, too, curves across your eyes and face, but it also curves vertically. Curved spherical lenses give better peripheral vision, less distortion and less glare, but the cost is higher. The larger the lens, the better your peripheral vision becomes.
When warm air from your body heat meets cold air from the outside, condensation can form and compromise your vision. Goggles use a variety of technology to avoid fogging up on you. Remember, resting your goggles on your hat after a run will cause fogging. This is never a problem with helmets and just another reason to buy a helmet.
Double-layered lenses are found on virtually all goggles since they will not fog as fast as their single-layered counterpart. Sealed properly, they create a thermal barrier (like your storm windows at home) that is more resistant to fogging.
Anti-fog coatings are integrated into almost all mid to high-end goggle lenses, this helps to deter fogging. Anti-fog products can be used on lower-end goggles that don’t have this coating or on older goggles that are starting to fog up on you.
Vents: Venting of the goggles is the key to controlling fog, giving a place for that moist air to go. The tradeoff being the bigger the vents the colder your face may get in the colder extreme climates.
Fans: A few high-end goggles include small battery-operated fans to help vent moisture. Fans that have different settings can be adjusted depending on what you’re doing so as to not create too much air flow or too little to wick away the moisture inside your goggles.
Lenses are typically flat or spherical. Some manufacturers use their own terms on their websites to describe these two lens shapes.
Flat (Cylindrical) lenses: The lens curves from the left to the right across your eyes, but the lens surface is flat vertically. Flat-lensed goggles are priced lower and work just fine, the downside being flat lenses can cause more glare and provide a slightly reduced peripheral vision.
Spherical lenses: This type of lens curves across your eyes and face as well, but it also curves vertically. Spherical lenses give better peripheral vision, less distortion and less glare. Their cost is higher.
Your lens color serves to filter and emphasize the colors in your vision. The amount of light that reaches your eyes through the lens is called the visible light transmission (VLT).
Lighter lens tints have a higher VLT because more light passes through the lens. Yellow, gold, amber, green or rose-colored lenses all offer increased VLT and make good choices on cloudy, socked-in days.
Darker tints have lower VLT because less light passes through the lens. Brown, gray and copper-colored lenses all offer reduced VLT and thus excel on bluebird days.
Clear lenses are best for night skiing.
Yellow is best for storm days and Rose is a great everyday lens.
UV protection: Virtually all goggles sold today offer 100% UV protection from all 3 types of ultraviolet rays—UVA, UVB and UVC. Remember, even when it’s cloudy, UV rays are reflecting off the snow.
Polarized lenses: A polarizing filter’s primary function is to reduce glare from sunlight on snow or water.
Photochromic lenses: These lenses automatically change their tint level according to conditions and UV intensity. The more sun and UV rays, the darker the lenses become. If it’s snowing or overcast the lens stays lighter. Indoors, they always stay light no matter the light intensity.
Mirrored lenses: Mirrored lenses have a partial or full lens coating on the outside of the outer lens. This reflects more light and thus allows in less light (by between 10% and 50%) than non-mirrored lenses.
Interchangeable lenses: These let you easily swap out different colored lenses to suit changing light conditions.
Digital display: Some styles offer advanced technology that may pair with GPS and Bluetooth to display navigation, performance and smartphone information within the goggles in real time.
Make sure to get goggles that fit your face an/or your helmet. The fit should be snug (not tight) and comfortable. Some models are best suited for smaller or larger faces. Women’s and kids’ sizes may be available as well.
Most frames are made of polyurethane because it allows for some flexibility. In general, a more flexible frame is best for cold temperatures.
Helmet compatibility: Virtually all goggles are helmet-compatible, but it’s still a good idea to try on new goggles with your helmet to ensure a comfortable fit.
Strap adjustments: Most goggles have a single, sliding clip to make adjustments. Others may have an open/close buckle with sliding clips on each side for adjustments. Some children’s goggle straps are not adjustable.
Padding: This keeps the goggle from pinching your face. Foam should be thick enough to cushion your face but not be so thick that it promotes fogging. High-end goggles may use 2 or 3 layers of thin padding to enhance venting.
OTG (Over the Glass) styles: If you wear prescription glasses, look for goggles designed to fit over your glasses, often referred to as OTG styles. These have space to accommodate glasses while avoiding pressure on your face from the temples and nose piece. (Tip: You can use an anti-fog treatment on your eyeglasses to help keep them clear under the goggles.)