I have sunglasses, why do I need ski goggles?
You may not think you need to wear ski goggles. It’s tempting to bypass the cost of a pair of ski goggles (and use it for another lift ticket) and just wear
sunglasses. You’ll most likely end up regretting this choice the first time your sunglasses go flying off your head. Here are just some of the advantages of ski goggles:
- Ski goggles are designed to filter UV rays and protect your eyes from sun glare off the snow. A pair of cheap sunglasses may not filter UV rays.
- Ski goggles contour to your face, preventing ice, snow, and wind from slipping under and around the lenses
- Ski goggles give you a wider range of vision than sunglasses. Better peripheral vision makes for a safer ride
- Ski goggles can protect your eyes from twigs and branches when you’re dropping through the trees
- Most ski goggles have designs to prevent fogging, like double layers and ventilation. Sunglasses don’t.
- If you wear eyeglasses, it’s easier to find a good pair of OTG (Over The Glasses) ski goggles than it is to find prescription sunglasses
- Many ski goggles have lenses than can be easily and quickly switched out to account for changing weather conditions
How do I choose the right ski goggles?
First off, buy your ski goggles before you go. Some skiers don’t think they’ll want or need goggles until they try a run or two, lose their sunglasses, and get an eyeful of ice, snow, or wind. Ski resorts typically have a small store on site, but you will find a very limited selection and pay more than you need to. It pays to plan ahead. The basic decisions you'll need to make regarding ski goggles are: Lens Tint and Lens Shape.
Ski Goggle Lens Tint
You’ll see that the lens in ski goggles come in a variety of colors. This isn't just a fashion choice—the lens tint can optimize your vision by filtering light and emphasizing colors, depending on the light and weather conditions. You will see a number called VLT, which stands for visible light transmission—essentially, the amount of light that reaches your eyes. In general, a high VLT number means the lens is best used in cloudy/dark conditions and a low VLT means the lens is best suited for bright and sunny conditions.
- Clear lenses allow the most light and are best suited for very snowy or dark days or night skiing. They can have a VLT as high as 99%.
- Light colors like yellow, gold, or amber, filter out blue light, emphasizing shadows and allowing you to see bumps better; they’re good for low-light and variable days.
- Darker colors, like brown, bronze, and green increase contrast and will keep your eyes comfortable in bright light
- Gray lenses give the truest overall color definition, allowing you to see true colors
- Rose lenses are best for low-light, gray or hazy days and flat lighting and provide the sharpest contrast
- Mirror (aka flash) coatings block some glare and are a good choice for bright, sunny days because they lower VLT.
- Many ski goggles snow come with interchangeable lenses, so you can switch them when light conditions change.
- Note that polarized lenses reduce glare and reflection off the snow but can sometimes make it difficult to tell soft snow from hard ice, thus they aren’t the best choice for variable snow conditions.
Ski Goggle Lens Shape
The lenses of ski goggles come in two basic shapes: cylindrical (flat) and spherical.
- Cylindrical lenses curve left-to-right across your eyes and face, but the lens surface is vertically flat. Cylindrical lenses generally have good optical clarity horizontally but can have some distortion vertically. These lenses are low-profile and a bit more flexible than spherical lenses. You’ll generally find them on lower-priced ski goggles, however, they offer great protection, style, and performance.
- Spherical lenses mimic the curvature of your eye to prevent the light from refracting as it passes through the lens. They provide good optical clarity across both horizontal and vertical planes and allow you to see more clearly with much less distortion. However, ski goggles with spherical lenses generally are a bit more expensive than those with cylindrical lenses.
Giro has simple video that shows the difference between cylindrical goggle lenses and spherical goggle lenses:
OTG Ski Goggles
Do you wear glasses? There's no need to sacrifice eye protection to achieve clear vision! Ski goggle manufacturers design goggles specifically to accommodate glasses. They're called OTG goggles, short for "over the glasses" goggles. Read our article, OTG Ski Goggles and OTG Snowboard Goggles: What to Look For. You can also check out our collection of OTG ski and snowboard goggles.