The biggest differentiator between goggles is the lenses. We will make it easy by breaking them down into lens type, lens color, and other features from fog prevention to glare protection. There are two choices of lens type when choosing your new goggles:
CYLINDRICAL, FLAT LENSES
These lenses curve horizontally while remaining flat vertically. Cylindrical lenses offer good performance at a lower price point.
Spherical lenses, on the other hand, curve both horizontally and vertically around your face, which will give the goggles a bubbled look. Beyond the look there are significant advantages to wearing cylindrical lenses:
With greater lens surface area, spherical goggles allow you to see more above and below you, as well as to the sides.
Anti-glare modifications have been made to many cylindrical goggles, but no matter how clever manufacturers get, geometrically cylindrical goggles will always have more surface points where the sun’s rays hit the goggle, which creates blind spots. Spherical goggles, on the other hand, have strategically planned curves to reduce glare.
The flat edges of a cylindrical lens can cause visual distortion at certain angles, while the shape of a spherical lens allows for better optics. Most companies injection mold spherical lenses, which allows for lens tapering (where the plastic is thinner the further from the center of the lens it is, allowing for light to hit your eye naturally) all the way around the lens. Manufacturers have developed technologies to help reduce image distortion in cylindrical lenses, but spherical is still your best bet for distortion free vision at the periphery of the lens.
There is more volume between your face and the cold outside with a spherical lens, which means better insulation and air flow – this translates into a reduced chance of fogging.
LENS COLOR / TINT
There is nothing worse (and more dangerous) than having cloudy vision on a powder day or being blinded when it’s blue bird. There are dozens of lens colors to choose from that vary from brand to brand, and although one color might match your jacket better, each color will filter light differently and offers unique advantages in certain weather and light conditions. The amount of light a goggle lens allows to pass through is called Visible Light Transmission (VLT). VLT is expressed as percentage of light allowed through the lens falling somewhere between 0% and 100%.
Some lenses are designed to perform much better in low light, low visibility situations, such as when it is snowing, foggy, or the light is flat. These lenses will allow a higher percentage of VLT. Typical colors for low light lenses are yellow, rose, and blue with VLT ranging from 60-90%. Other lenses will function better on sunny days with high visibility where it is more about keeping the light out. These lenses will have a lower VLT percentage and typically come in dark colors of black, grey, and gold, often mirrored and have VLT ranges from 5-20%. Of course there are lenses in the middle of the spectrum that perform fairly well in all conditions and are great if you experience changing light conditions during the day. Each manufacturer produces a wide range of lens tints for bright days, storm days, and everything in between.
So, how many different lenses do you need? Many people can get away with just one pair of good goggles with only one lens option. For example if you only ski or ride in Colorado on bright, sunny days, you will probably be fine with only a dark lens. However, if you ski in range of conditions, it is probably best to have two pairs of goggles or one pair with multiple lenses to swap out.
The more time you spend in the mountains, the more weather conditions you’ll encounter. Having multiple lens colors on hand can help to maximize visibility and performance throughout the day, as the reality is that no one goggle lens can provide optimal visibility across the full spectrum of lighting and weather conditions. Although many goggles do allow you to change lenses (extra lenses typically sold separately), manufacturers have come up with a bunch of ingenious ways to make swapping lenses a cinch with easy to use toggles and even magnets. These quick changing lens systems can be more expensive but offer a very fast means of changing lenses and typically come with a second lens. Interchangeable lenses give you the option of quickly changing lenses without the added bulk of carrying a second pair of goggles.
Beyond just the lens type and color, goggle manufacturers apply additional features to their goggles in order to make them better at doing their job. Some lens features to keep an eye out for include:
Almost all new goggles, even at the lower end of the price spectrum, have 100% UV protection. UV intensity increases with altitude, and protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays will prevent eye fatigue as well as damage to your retinas.
A coating on the outside of the goggle lens reflects a greater amount of light than a non-mirrored lens. Letting in a decreased volume of light means less glare and increased visual clarity in bright conditions. You also get that cool Top Gun aviator look, although we recommend removing your mirrored goggles in the bar.
When light is reflected off certain surfaces, it tends to be reflected at higher intensity through angles perpendicular to the surface. By acting as a filter of vertical light, polarized lenses are able to cut glare much more effectively than a standard mirrored lens while improving overall visual clarity and providing increased contrast and definition. Polarized lenses are great for snow sports and reduce eye fatigue and strain.
These lenses automatically adjust to changing light conditions by darkening when exposed to stronger ultraviolet (UV) light and lightening when there is less UV light. The primary advantage of this type of lens is that it will adjust to changing conditions, making it extremely versatile. Unfortunately, Photochromic lenses don’t adjust instantly - it could take several minutes for the lens to fully adjust to changing light.
These create a thermal barrier that reduces fogging significantly compared to its single lens counterpart – a single lens goggle just won’t cut it for skiing or snowboarding. Double lenses are common on all new ski and snowboard goggles.
A hydrophilic chemical treatment to the inside of the lenses can greatly reduce a goggle’s tendency to fog. Some coatings are more durable than others. Be sure to read the manufacturers’ directions because poor goggle care can lead to wiping off the anti-fog coating.
You can count on virtually all quality goggles to have vents, but some are better than others. In general, more venting is better in order to prevent fogging. It is important to check that the venting system in your goggles is compatible with the shape of your helmet. In other words, don’t block the vents; otherwise your goggles might be a little more susceptible to fogging. Some goggles even have battery powered fans that move air and defog the goggles.
Goggle frames are crucial to the whole goggle operation. While goggle frames come in a bewildering amount of sizes and shapes, they basically have three jobs: hold your lens in place, keep snow out, and make your face as comfortable as possible. Any frame should be able to handle the first two parts, so the crucial part is keeping you comfortable.
OTG (OVER THE GLASSES)
OTG goggles are designed to allow you to wear your prescription eyeglasses under the goggles. This is a much less expensive option than a goggle with a custom prescription lens. OTG goggles are deeper than regular goggles and have channels to allow for the arms of your glasses. Your glasses shouldn’t move inside the goggles and there should be no discomfort or pressure from your glasses on your nose or temples. Try them on together and make sure everything lines up securely.
Make sure the foam follows the curvature of your face without pressure points. There should be no gaps between the foam and your face for wind or snow to flow through. You want a consistent, snug fit all around the perimeter of the goggle. If the goggles pinch your face or feel uncomfortable, they probably aren’t for you.
Goggles have an adjustable strap, sometimes with a clip or a buckle; you should be able to tighten or loosen the strap so you get the right fit on you head. If you can tighten your strap all the way and it’s still too loose, it will not work for you. When wearing a beanie, a clip or buckle shouldn’t jab into the back of your head, and keep in mind that wider straps are much easier to adjust and tend to stay put much better. A quick note in case you’re buying goggles for a child: Some children’s goggles don’t have adjustable straps – it’s important to check for this feature so they have room to grow.
When checking your goggle fit, make sure that they work with your helmet or beanie, both for performance and aesthetics. Your goggles should fit smoothly on your face with the strap around the helmet – if they don’t fit tightly to your face, or deform when the strap is tight, try another model. Some goggles have arms that extend out from the frame to better position the strap outside of a helmet. Most goggles are helmet-compatible, but some of the larger spherical goggles may have compatibility issues and a goggle that’s too small may leave gaps.
Fit Problems and Solutions
If your goggles don’t feel right, consider why they are uncomfortable:
Pressure on the outer eye socket
If you feel this, the goggle is too narrow and you need to find a model with a wider frame.
Pinching you on the bridge of the nose
First try to tighten the strap so that it secures the goggle a little higher up on your face. If that doesn’t work then try a goggle with a smaller fit or one with a different bridge contour.
Gap on the bridge of the nose
The first thing you should do is try to loosen the strap a little and see if you can secure it a little lower down on your face. If this doesn’t work, you should find a goggle with a larger bridge.
Pinching the temple
You should try to loosen the strap a little and see if that relieves the tension. Otherwise, you’ll need to try and find a wider pair of goggles.
Once you have made an investment and purchased a pair of goggles, you’ll want to protect them in order to ensure that they last as many seasons as possible. Here are some basic tips:
- Never let your lens touch the table or hard surface when you set them down. Place them on the foam side with the lens facing up.
- Use only a soft cloth (not your baselayer shirt) or anti-fog cloth to blot (not wipe) the goggle lens dry. Wiping is more abrasive and can remove the anti-fogging coating on the inside of the lens.
- When off the slopes allow goggles to air dry thoroughly before stowing in their bag.
- Store your goggles in a soft sack when they are not in use. Most come with one when purchased.
- Do not dry goggles in direct sun or high heat, such as on the dashboard or hanging from the rearview mirror.
Tips to Avoid Fogging
Having problems with your goggle always fogging up? Here are some tricks to keep your goggles working as efficiently as possible:
- Keep moving! The airflow you get from riding keeps fog from forming.
- Remove excess snow from the goggle by shaking. Don’t wipe the lens with your glove, as your glove is abrasive and can scratch your lens.
- Clear snow off of vents so they are clear.
- Avoid putting your goggles on your forehead. They will fog up.
- If you goggles do get fogged up, place them in a warm, dry pocket of your jacket. You can also try shaking them up and down to create air flow. If need be, go into the lodge to dry them out. This is another great reason to carry two pairs of goggles.