There’s a lot to consider when scoping the goggle market. A wide range of specs exist to optimize fit and function. This post will cover all you need to know to find the perfect goggles for you.
There are so many different goggles out there. Don’t let this array overwhelm you, though—it all boils down to a few key considerations.
You’ll want to find a pair that fit well, manage fog, and have the appropriate tint for the light you usually ski in. Most manufacturers organize their offerings along these lines, so as long as you know what to look for, you should be able to find the perfect pair relatively easily.
The fit of your goggles will impact not only your comfort, but ventilation and visibility.
The frame shape will need to fit snugly against your face and be compatible with your helmet. You’ll also want to choose the appropriate lens shape for your wallet and visibility needs.
Goggle size reflects how tightly or widely arced the frames are, and how long the straps are.
Tightly arced frames fit narrow faces and widely arced frames fit broader, larger faces. For starters, try the same goggle size as your helmet size—they usually correlate. Try them on with your helmet, in fact, and avoid helmet and goggle pairings that leave a portion of your forehead unprotected. This “gaper” look is a style faux-pas and will leave your forehead exposed to the cold and sun. Most importantly, though, make sure the seal between the frame’s foam and your face is comfortable but snug, with no gaps or pressure points.
If you wear prescription glasses, look for OTG, or “over the glasses” goggles that are designed to accommodate a pair of glasses underneath. Prescription goggle lenses also exist, for a pretty penny.
Though most manufacturers use unisex sizing, some women’s-specific fits do exist, with tighter arced frames for narrower faces. Asian Fit goggles are also on the market, made to accommodate faces with higher cheekbones and low nose bridges.
Lenses come in two shapes: cylindrical and spherical. As their names suggest, cylindrical lenses curve laterally, and spherical lenses curve both laterally and longitudinally. The latter are pricier, but cut glare, offer more peripheral vision, and offer a slightly less distorted view.
The curve of spherical lenses also allows for more air between face and lens, which cuts down on fogging. If you can afford it, the spherical lens is the way to go. It is especially handy on steep and featured slopes, where peripheral vision plays a key role.
Excessive lens fog can be a real wet blanket on the hill. With the right ventilation and anti-fog coatings, you’ll be happy to find yourself in the clear (pun intended).
All goggles vent air, though some do so better than others. First off, most have a two-lens system, which functions like a storm window to keep fog at bay. Then there are vents, on the sides, top, and bottom of goggles, to help circulate air and reduce condensation. The wider the vent the better the flow. Some high-end models also have small, adjustable, battery-operated fans that push air through the system, reducing condensation.
Tip: If you fall and get snow in your vents, shake it out. Otherwise, you’ll have a blockage in your vent system.
Lenses of most mid- to high-range goggles are treated with anti-fog coatings that help prevent moisture from accumulating. To safeguard this coating, never wipe the inside of your goggle lens. If you need to get moisture out of there, shake the goggles or gently dab the lens.
Lens Tint, Color, and UV
Perhaps the most obvious—and definitely the flashiest—aspect of goggle customization is lens hue. The rainbow of lenses we see on the mountain speaks to more than just style—each shade and color are designed to optimize a skier’s visibility.
Goggle lenses come in a variety of tints, some designed like sunglasses for bluebird days, others let more light in for stormy summits.
VLT (Visible Light Transmission) percentage is the spec used to measure a lens’s tint level—the lower the VLT, the darker the tint, and the more suited the lens is to strong sun. If you typically ski somewhere with endless bluebird days (Utah and Colorado, looking at you), go for lenses with less than 20% VLT. You might also consider mirrored (also known as “flash”) lenses, which reflect some of the incoming sunlight, thus reducing the VLT even more. If you live somewhere with more overcast days (like the Northeast), you’ll want lenses with a VLT of 20-70%.
If you ski in a variety of light conditions, you might opt for either interchangeable lenses or a new alternative, electrochromic lenses. The latter auto-adjust VLT percentage to match the incoming light.
Lastly, clear (100% VLT) or very light yellow-tinted lenses are ideal for night skiing.
Lens hue affects VLT and contrast, both of which strongly impact visibility. Generally speaking, darker hues like brown, gray, and copper correlate with lower VLT and are well-suited for bright, sunny conditions. Lighter hues like yellow, green, and light pink usually boast higher VLTs and serve a skier well in low-light conditions. Orange lenses are the most common because they filter out blue light, which naturally dials up the contrast and improves visibility in overcast, flat light.
Virtually all goggles on today’s market offer 100% protection from all three kinds of UV rays.
Polarized lenses cut glare, which can improve visibility and help with eye fatigue. That said, they tend to be pricier and they make it harder to tell ice from snow.
While the task of goggle selection can seem overwhelming, it really boils down to a few important categories. Once you identify the appropriate fit, fog management, tint, and color for your needs, you’ll be able to filter out most options and get right to the perfect pair for you.