12 Tips For Buying Ski Goggles


The last time I bought ski goggles, I walked into a mountain resort shop, looked at the three models they had in the case, and picked one at random.

Which was really dumb of me, because:

  1. They don’t fit very well.
  2. The lens color was all wrong for the cloudy Vermont mountain where I was skiing.
  3. They’re not compatible with my helmet.
  4. They cost too much.

If you want to avoid my experience, read these 12 tips for getting great eye protection, no matter which winter sport you’re into:

1. Shop before you get to the mountain. Try a well-stocked sporting goods store, ski and boarding shop or specialty optical store. You’ll probably pay less, and you’ll have more time to make a smart decision.

Don’t shop at a snow resort unless you have to. There are exceptions, but many resorts have a limited selection and inflated prices.Watch this video on features to look for in your next pair of ski goggles.

2. Don’t be shy — ask questions. There are so many different products and features out there that it can be hard to choose. You need a salesperson who has worn them and knows which lenses work best in which conditions.

If the clerk seems uninformed or unwilling to answer questions, try a different store.

You can also look on the Internet. Most of the big snow goggle manufacturers provide a lot of product details on their websites.

3. Take your time, and try on as many goggles as you can. And take them outside (with the clerk’s permission), to see how well the lenses work in natural light.

If you’re buying clear lenses for night skiing or riding, test them in a dark room with one light bulb on. You want to make sure they’ll be distortion- and glare-free when you look at lights along the trail or the half-pipe.

Don’t make a snap decision, because the wrong equipment can ruin your day or evening in the snow. And those lift tickets are expensive!

4. Choose the right lens tint. Weather, terrain and activity all come into play here. Think about where you usually ski or ride: Is the mountain sunny in the morning, the afternoon or all day? Do you like smooth trails or more challenging areas like moguls, terrain parks and trees?

Your goal is to get the tint that will provide a good combination of color definition, contrast, depth perception and eye fatigue protection, all with the right visible light transmission (VLT) for your light conditions.

A low VLT number such as 15 percent means less eye fatigue on sunny days. And a high VLT number such as 70 percent means better color and depth perception on low-light days.

Uvex Snowstrike Variotronic Goggles
With the push of a button, Snowstrike Variotronic ski goggles by Uvex let you change the lens tint when light conditions change.
  • In low light and fog, yellow, gold and amber lenses filter out blue light, emphasizing shadows in the snow so you can see bumps better. They also work well in moderate and variable light conditions.
  • Light rose and rose copper lenses are also excellent on low-light days.
  • In bright light, dark tints such as copper, dark brown, dark gray and dark green will keep your eyes more comfortable while they increase contrast. Gray lenses are also good for letting you see true colors.
  • A mirror (or “flash”) coating enhances the effectiveness of tinted lenses by reflecting sunlight so it doesn’t penetrate the lens. This lowers the VLT of the lens and makes it a great choice for bright, sunny days.
  • For sunset and nighttime, use only clear lenses, since they have the highest VLT, allowing the most light to come into your eyes.
  • Consider goggles with photochromic lenses, which become lighter or darker automatically, as the light changes. Usually they are available in either gray or brown.
  • Interchangeable lenses are becoming more common in ski goggles and sports sunglasses. They let you switch lenses when light conditions change.
Oakley Flight Deck XM Prizm snow goggle - Asia Fit version
Several manufacturers offer ski goggles specifically for faces with shallow nose bridges and high cheekbones. Shown is the Asia Fit version of Oakley Flight Deck XM Prizm with a rimless design.

Check out the lens color charts on the websites of ski goggle manufacturers. It can be difficult to choose among the many lenses available now, but the manufacturers’ charts usually specify how much VLT the tints provide and which light conditions they work for best.

In fact, when choosing a ski goggle, look at lens features first. Lenses are the most important part — everything else is either the support system or the fashion statement.

5. Protect your eyes from glare. Polarized lenses reduce glare from sunlight reflecting off the slopes and are great when it’s bright out. But they may not be ideal near the end of the day when long shadows appear in the snow, because they usually are made with a darker tint than most sun lenses.

6. Insist on ultraviolet light protection. UVA and UVB are the most important rays to guard against. Too much exposure to UV on a short-term basis can give you a painful sunburn on your eyes, called photokeratitis. Long-term, UV rays can damage your eyes permanently and may lead to cataracts and other eye diseases. Look for goggles and sunglasses that block 100 percent of these rays, which bounce off the snow and into your eyes even on cloudy days.

7. Look for good peripheral vision. Newer, lower-profile styles fit better with a helmet and look cooler than traditional styles with large lenses. But if you choose the low-profile look, make sure you have enough peripheral (side) vision — some goggles skimp out on that.

Ideally, you should be able to see 180 degrees from side to side, to help you avoid skiers and riders. If you prefer sunglasses, choose a wrap style with the least amount of distortion at the sides that you can find.

8. Make sure the goggles fit. Take the time to adjust the strap to your head. If the strap is a complete pain to adjust, or if the buckle doesn’t stay in adjustment, move on.

Make sure they will fit with or without a helmet. Even if you don’t use one now, you may in the future.

Some styles have softer, more rubbery buckles that won’t dig into your scalp. Wider bands are more comfortable than narrower ones. And foam inserts keep out wind, ice and dirt. The foam should be thick enough to help cushion your face if you fall, but not so dense that it encourages fogging. The salesperson should be able to help you make this judgment.

Content provided by All About Vision

Published by knanosky

Our first piece of advice when we bought our Airstream was from friends and fellow campers. They said to make sure you "keep the shiny side up." Something that struck me kind of funny, but so true :)

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