How to Choose Goggles for Skiing and Snowboarding
At high altitudes, the air is thinner and filters less ultraviolet (UV) rays. The sun's reflection on snow is brighter and more intense. Wind can make your eyes tear and blur your vision. Ice particles can get into your eyes, as well as twigs and branches when you’re dropping through the trees.
Ski goggles and snowboard goggles can help protect your eyes from these on-mountain hazards, making your outing a lot more enjoyable.
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 2 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 their cost is higher. The larger the lens, the better your peripheral vision becomes.
Ski / Snowboard Goggles Ventilation
When warm air from your body heat meets cold air from the outside temperature, condensation can form and your vision is compromised. Goggles use a variety of approaches to avoid fogging.
Double-layered lenses are found on virtually all goggles since they do not fog as fast as single-layered lenses. Sealed properly, they create a thermal barrier (like storm windows) that is more resistant to fogging.
Anti-fog coatings are integrated into virtually all mid-level to high-end goggle lenses to help deter fogging. Anti-fog products can be used on lower-end goggles without a coating or on old goggles that are starting to fog.
Vents: The top, sides, and bottom of goggles are the keys to help control fogging. Wider vents generally create better-ventilating airflow than smaller venting holes. The trade-off? Your face may get cold, particularly in extreme climates.
Fans: A few high-end goggles include small, battery-operated fans to help disperse moisture. Fans with different settings can be adjusted for standing in a lift line, riding the gondola or going down the slope.
Visible Light Transmission and Lens Color
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 appropriate for night skiing.
Additional Lens Features of Ski / Snowboard Goggles
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 bouncing off of 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.
Ski / Snowboard Goggles Frames and Fit
Make sure to get goggles that fit your face. 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, too.
Most frames are made of polyurethane because it allows for some flexibility. In general, a more flexible frame is best for cold temperatures.
Other fit considerations:
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. For more on helmets, see the REI Expert Advice article, Helmets for Skiing or Snowboarding: How to Choose.
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 (Over the Glass) styles. These have space to accommodate glasses while avoiding pressure on your face from the temples and nosepiece. (Tip: You can use an anti-fog treatment on your eyeglasses to help keep them clear under the goggles.)