Brought to you by someone who has had several bad pairs, and learned the lesson.
When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, your goggles make the difference between great visibility, steamed-up blindness and squinting into the sun. They also make sure your peepers are protected, in the event that you wind up a little closer to nature than intended while making a turn or jump.
The problem is, knowing which googles to buy can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. There are tonnes of different brands and features to look for, and the chances are you’re going to be buying in advance of a trip – meaning that unless you already live near a ski resort, you can’t just walk into a local ski and snowboard shop to ask for a recommendation. I found the whole process thoroughly overwhelming.
If you want to enjoy your time on the slopes with clear visibility, no steamed-up lenses and no discomfort to distract you from the ride, here are some top tips to keep in mind while you’re shopping.
#1: Get the lenses right
The lenses for ski and snowboard goggles come in a tonne of colours, from rose-tinted and sky blue to yellows, golds and ambers. Unless you’re a pro rider, the chances are you don’t need to buy lenses in tonnes of different colours – which exist so that you can swap them in and out for riding in different conditions. Different shades enhance contrast, increase definition and filter out blue light.
On a bright day with clear blue skies and a lot of light reflecting off the mountain, you’ll want a darker tint, whereas on cloudy days you’ll probably benefit from lighter shades. A happy middle ground here is an amber-y gold or orange lens, which can happily work in both situations. As a beginner, avoid anything with clear lenses unless you’re planning on going night skiing.
If you see a pair of goggles you love that have interchangeable lenses, then you’re onto even more of a winner – that way you can have one brighter and one darker set of lenses, ready to swap in and out as needed.
Other lens features
Cylindrical versus spherical: Lenses are typically described as either flat or spherical, though some brands use their own terms. Cylindrical lenses are those which are vertically flat between your nose and forehead, though they still curve across your face.
The flatness can cause more glare and reduce peripheral vision, whereas a spherical lens (which is curved vertically as well as horizontally, and typically costs a bit more) offers much better peripherals and much less glare.
Polarised or mirrored lenses: A polarizing filter’s primary function is to reduce glare from sunlight on snow or water, while mirrored lenses reflect more light than non-mirrored versions. Polarised is preferable here, as mirroring can reduce the amount of light coming through your goggles to such an extent that you’re left too far in the dark if clouds appear overhead.
Photochromic lenses: These automatically change their tint level to suit your surroundings. Think ‘reactions lenses’ or ‘transitions lenses’ for normal eyeglasses, only in goggle form. The more sun and UV there is, the darker the lenses become, and the more overcast the day is, the lighter they stay. These are the dream, but typically more expensive than just having interchangeable or do-it-all lenses for your goggles.
Digital display: If you’re incredibly fancy, some more high-tech lens styles can actually pair with your GPS and Bluetooth to display navigation and performance data in real time. More for the pro rider, but great fun for amateurs too!
#2 Anti-fogging ventilation
You’re warm, the great outdoors is cold, voila: your goggles have steamed up beyond all belief and now you can’t see where you’re going. The first time I went snowboarding, I wound up squinting with my goggles on my forehead because I couldn’t see a damn thing – partly because of poor ventilation, and partly because of crap padding, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Most good goggles have double-layered lenses, which don’t fog up as fast as single-layered ones due to the thermal barrier the extra layer creates. I’d advise avoiding single-layer lenses at all costs! Mid-range and high-end goggles should all have an anti-fog coating as well. If in doubt, double check: it’s an invaluable feature.
When you’re checking ventilation, look for air vents on the top, sides and bottom of the goggles which can let air circulate. Wider vents might let your face get cold, but they’ll also work better at keeping fog out of your vision than smaller holes. Nothing will be as cold as face-planting the snow because you couldn’t see where you were going, so choose your goggles wisely.
#3 Research fit and padding
Your goggles shouldn’t be uncomfortable to wear, and ideally the padding shouldn’t get too far in the way of your peripheral vision. You want enough padding that your goggles are comfy, allow ventilation and don’t block too much of your view. Not much to ask, eh?
Goggles that have widescreen coverage are an epic choice for taking in the views and avoiding getting run over by ski school kids as you come down the mountain. A spherical, widescreen lens will generally have padding that doesn’t get in your way.
If you wear glasses, look for Over-The-Glass styles specifically designed to prevent normal eyeglasses being pushed down onto the bridge of your nose. You can also apply anti-fog to your normal glasses so that they don’t foil all the hard work your great ventilation is doing.
Lastly, don’t sweat too much about the actual strap that keeps the goggles on your helmet. There should always be either a sliding clip or a pair of clips that can be adjusted to make sure your goggles are a perfect fit, and don’t dig into your face or slide off of your helmet.
#4 Get UV protection
Virtually all goggles offer 100% UV protection from UVA, UVB and UVC rays, but it’s worth double-checking all the same. Even on a cloudy day, snow reflects light back at you from the slopes, which is why so many seasonnaires end up with that brilliant, comedy goggle tan you might have seen around.
Make sure you stick on some suncream regardless, but don’t be tempted to buy a knock-off pair of goggles that might have poor UV protection. Your eyes are going to need it, so look for the guarantee that what you’re buying is the real deal.
Where to buy ski and snowboard goggles
Personally, I’m a big fan of Blue Tomato (who also sell tonnes of other great gear for both on and off the slopes) and that’s the first place I’d look for a new pair. However, in the name of fairness, here are a few other places to do your browsing too:
Got any other tips you think deserve to be added? Let me know!