How to Choose Ski Goggles
Ski goggles are a hugely important part of your winter alpine wardrobe. They provide the essential protection for your eyes in conditions that can be extremely challenging and harsh. They are not just a flashy hairband or a fashion accessory to be worn on your head when in the bar sipping vin chaud!
Why Wear Ski Goggles?
In the mountains the weather can be highly changeable and very brutal. When the sun comes out the brightness is amplified due to altitude; the higher you go the stronger the Ultra Violet (UV) light. So if skiing or snowboarding at a very high altitude, glaciers for example, then it’s even more important to protect your eyes effectively. The sunlight also reflects off the snow, intensifying brightness.
If the weather is cloudy, overcast or snowing you are unlikely to be able to see too much, meaning your eyes will need assistance to keep you safe on the hill. Glasses won’t prevent the snow from entering around the frames making it a lot harder to navigate around the mountain. Most sunglasses are also designed to work best in bright sunny conditions, rather than in snow, wind and cloud.
A good well-chosen pair of goggles will help to protect your eyes, prevent snow getting in, help increase contrast in a storm and also help reduce any damage caused by the sun.
All our goggles, no matter what brand, offer full protection from UVA and UVB light. UVA is lower energy light but penetrates more deeply than UVB. UVB is stronger and is the light which causes most damage to the eyes. UVC light is completely absorbed by the ozone layer and earth’s atmosphere.
Even though UV light is reduced in cloudy conditions it is not blocked out completely. One thing you need to be careful of is a condition referred to as snow blindness (photokeratitis). It’s a painful condition that is caused by exposure to harmful rays which are often enhanced by the reflection off the snow, basically a form of sunburn on to the eye. Like a sunburn it’s often not noticed until a while later when it is too late with symptoms such as painful eyes and increased tears. There is more risk of this condition at high altitude with more intense UV light.
Goggle Shapes and Sizes
There are many different goggle shapes and designs to fit a range of faces. A good fitting goggle will allow for a greater field of vision, including sideways, and a neat seal around the face. With a high proportion of skiers and snowboarders using helmets, you also need to take this into consideration when buying goggles. If you already own a helmet then make sure your goggles fit with them, or if buying both, then try them on together. Again, the seal should be good around the face and nose, and you want a good fit around the top of the goggle where it meets the helmet. If there is too much gap it can cause a air to get through making it very cold and unconfutable, or even lead to a very embarrassing sun tan strip!
- Women’s specific fit goggles often have less volume over the bridge of the nose to reduce excess space for snow and wind to enter. The frame will also be a little smaller than a standard sized adult goggle.
- Children’s goggles are less bulky and fit closer to the face. They are usually simplified to reduce the cost and keep them robust.
- O.T.G (Over The Glasses) are designed for people who wear glasses and will be a bit deeper allowing more space in front of the eyes to prevent glasses being pushed onto the face. They will have a cut away at the side of the frame so the arms can fit under the foam, and plenty of venting to reduce glasses steaming up.
- Oversized goggles, appearing to be frameless in some cases, have also grown in popularity. They give exceptional peripheral vision for greater awareness on the slope, and come in both female and unisex fits.
Lens Shapes and Technology
There are two basic types of lens shape. The traditional style that appears ‘flat’ is a cylindrical lens. It is generally curved around its vertical axis. Modern technologies have allowed lenses to be shaped to both vertically and horizontally (along both vertical and horizontal axis) creating a spherical lens. The spherical lens produces better optical clarity as the theory is it is shaped like the human eye so will allow for less distortion and therefore a better field of view.
All but our very basic junior goggles use a double layered lens. It is made up of two separate lenses with a rubber or silicone seal to separate them. The double layer acts like double glazing in a house, trapping heat and reducing the goggle fogging up, especially when combined with an anti-fog treatment.
A good lens will be moulded and fused into shape rather than being a flat piece of material flexed around the frame. A poor quality lens will feel flimsy and distort under stress, affecting vision for the user. They are often only a single lens too with little or no anti-fog treatment or any coating to intensify what light there is, or to protect from the sun.
Lens Tints and Conditions
There are many different tints of lenses available and they are suited to different conditions, from high altitude very bright light, all the way through to very dull and snowy days. Lenses are categorised from 0 to 4 -the higher the number, the darker the lens will generally be. 0 is suited for night conditions and not usually used much in snowsports. An all-round lens for variable conditions will be in category 2-3. Category 4 lenses are for the very brightest of conditions and very high altitudes, they aren’t required for skiing but can be used on bright days. Most brands also provide a light transition chart that shows how much light can pass through the lens. The higher the number the brighter the lens. So for sunny and bright conditions you would want a lower transition as less light can pass through, and when it’s snowing or the light is flat, a lens which allows more light to pass through is more favourable.
Very bright and sunny conditions
Lens to use: Category 3-4 with a lower light transmission.
The lens will be quite dark to look through (in most cases) and block out a lot of light.
Lens to use: Category 3
These give great bright weather protection and some definition, often quite versatile.
Lens to use: Category 2-3
These lenses are suitable for most light conditions except the very brightest and very dull days. The base lens tint will usually be an orange or brown, offering the definition needs in low light, but they will have a coating or be infused with a slightly darker colour to give bright light protection. They are very versatile and the most popular lens.
Low light and snow conditions
Lens to use: Category 1-2 with a much higher light transmission.
Traditionally these would be the most commonly seen lenses on the mountain. However, whilst people do wear them when the sun is out we wouldn’t recommend it as they actively enhance light, and this can make it harder to see.
Dual / Bonus Lenses
Certain goggles come with two lenses as part of a package (most of our Dragon and Nike goggles for 2015/16), which allows the user to tune their goggles depending on conditions. One lens is normally best suited for when it’s bright and the other for flat light and darker conditions. Changing them is quite easy after a little practise.
Dragon and Nike have teamed up with well know optical producer Transitions and are exclusively offering their lenses on select models. The lens automatically darkens or lightens as UV light alters, this is due to the photochromic molecules used and the process is constant. They are colour optimised with a yellow base colour to improve visual performance on the mountain, enhance contrast when conditions demand and increase depth perception. They have a transmission of 33-79% to cover the largest range of conditions possible making it fully versatile for skiing and snowboarding.
Oakley’s Prizm range of lenses have been specifically engineered to enhance visibility and contrast in snow. It also works over a wider range of light conditions than traditional lenses, making it more versatile. Eyes are extremely sensitive to certain light colours but these are often lost in flat light.
Prizm works by splitting light into all its different colour spectrums then enhancing those needed to see in these conditions and filtering out the others. The wearer is left with enhanced vision with crisper detailing. It is made by adding specifically formulated additives to the base lens material, and as it’s not a coating, it can’t rub off with mistreatment or over time. The lenses are rose tinted but the eyes adjust to this in a short space of time and it will no longer appear like that after.
Maintenance and Care
- When in use, only clean the lenses with the bag the goggles are sold with. This is a special fabric designed to do this job. Tissues, cotton, sleeves etc are highly abrasive and will scratch the lens with use.
- Only clean the lens when it is dry. If you take a fall and the goggle fills with snow, let the goggle dry out, then clean it even if it means skiing with a bit of snow inside.
- Do not put the goggles down on the lenses, this will damage them.
No matter how cool you think it is, DO NOT wear them on your head. Your head is like a funnel and pumps out a huge amount of heat. If you have your goggles on your head they will quickly fog up. Whilst goggles should remain fog free through the venting and double lenses, this will aggravate it enormously.