How to Choose Ski Goggles: Finding the Right Lenses & Fit

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Ski goggles are essential to a skier’s comfort and ability to see well on the mountain. Not only are ski goggles a critical piece of gear, but they have also become part of a skier’s style. With all the different kinds available today, you may be wondering how to choose ski goggles that are right for you. Discussed below are all the key considerations and factors you should know before buying a pair for yourself. We want to make sure you’re heading to the slopes sporting gear that’s functional (and fashionable).

In This Post

The Importance of Ski Goggles

If it’s going to be your first time skiing, you may wonder why it is even worth wearing ski goggles. They improve your riding experience and protect you from the rough winter conditions on the slopes. Many skiers consider their goggles to be part of their look and appreciate the extra comfort and safety features.

Should you wear goggles skiing?

Yes, you should absolutely wear goggles while skiing. Here are some of the benefits of wearing them.
  • Protection From the Sun & UV Rays: Ski goggle lenses protect your eyes by filtering out harmful UV rays. The sun’s rays get stronger at altitude and when reflecting off the snow, making proper eye protection absolutely essential.
  • Protection From Wind & Moisture: With a proper fit, ski goggles wrap around and seal off your face completely. Having your face protected from wind and water protects your eyes from tearing up and getting irritated. So, this is important for preserving your vision on the slopes while also retaining warmth.
  • Protection From Injury: If you tend to ski in tight trees or happen to fall, goggles protect your eyes from objects like trees, rocks, or even the end of your own ski poles. Any one of those items could cause severe injury to the eyes, so the additional protection is worthwhile.
  • Improves Lighting & Vision: Most notably, goggles improve your vision by altering the lighting and contrast. Everything is white on the mountain, which can make it hard for your eyes to distinguish bumps and variety in the terrain. Ski goggle lenses are made specially to increase contrast and improve lighting so that you can see better in typical skiing conditions.

Can you wear sunglasses instead?

Sunglasses do not protect your eyes and face as well as goggles. Wind, water, and sun rays can penetrate through the gaps in sunglasses as compared to the full face protection that ski goggles provide. With that said, you can wear sunglasses if you really prefer them (pictures from the 70’s prove it).

How much do ski goggles cost?

Ski goggles can vary dramatically in cost, ranging from $20 for cheap, minimal goggles to $250 for name brand goggles with premium features and top notch technology. If you’re going on your first ski trip, we recommend going with an affordable but decent brand, such as bollé. 

Two People Smiling in Ski Goggles

Ski Goggle Lenses

The lens is one of the most important parts to your ski goggles, so choose wisely. Different shapes, colors and technologies influence the performance of ski goggle lenses. Learn more below about lenses so that you know how to choose ski goggles that will work best for you.

Lens Shape

There are two different general shapes for goggle lenses.
  • Cylindrical (Flat): While the lens curves from side-to-side across your face, the lens surface is vertically flat in cylindrical goggles; hence why they’re also known as flat lenses. Cylindrical lenses are typically cheaper, but don’t have as much of a natural fitting feel on your face. Additionally, the flat edges can cause distortion and increased glare in certain spots.
  • Spherical: On the other hand, spherical lenses curve both side to side and from your nose to forehead. The additional shaping provides better peripheral vision all around you while helping to reduce glare.

Lens Color & Visible Light Transmission (VLT)

The color of your lenses aren’t just for looks. They play an important factor in your goggle’s performance. Different colors usually have different visible light transmission (VLT) properties, which affect how they perform under different conditions (e.g. sunny days vs. snowy days).

You want to match your lenses with the type of skiing you do majority of the time. Do you mainly ski when it’s sunny or snowy? Do you ski moguls or stay in the trees? You want to get proper contrast, depth perception, and sun protection for the conditions you primarily ski in.

VLT is a measure, expressed in a percentage, of the amount of light a goggle lens will allow to pass through. A lower number allows less light and therefore puts less strain on your eyes throughout the day. A higher number provides better color and perception in low light conditions.

Ski Conditions VLT Range Typical Lens Colors Explanation
Bright, sunny < 25% Platinum, black, grey, red Less light passes through the lens, reducing glare
Partly cloudy, partly sunny 25% - 50% Red, green, blue A standard amount of light passes through the lens; for all-purpose use
Overcast, cloudy, snowy > 50% Blue, yellow, gold/copper, rose More light passes through the lens, improving visibility

Google Lens Technologies

Beyond the shape, color, and VLT properties, certain technologies can provide a goggle lens with different characteristics. Below are some common goggle lens technologies to look out for.

  • UV Protection
    It doesn’t always feel like it, but skiing is a sport where you are very susceptible to harmful sun rays, especially at altitude. Almost every ski and snow goggle should provide UV protection at this point, but double check anyway.
  • Polarized
    To reduce the glare of sunlight reflecting off the snow, look for polarized lenses. Glare can be just as harsh on snow as it is on the ocean or other bodies of water, making polarized goggles just as vital to skiers as polarized sunglasses are for fishermen. Reducing or eliminating bright, harsh glare will save your eyesight and protect your eyes over the long haul. However, polarized lenses do make it more difficult to recognize icy patches. So, keep this in mind if you tend to ski in icy conditions, such as on the east coast.
  • Mirrored
    These lenses are similar to polarized lenses in that they reduce glare. Mirrored goggle lenses reflect light back to the source, stopping the light from shining into your goggles and straining your eyes. Additionally, the mirrored coating on ski goggles can provide some additional protection to wear and tear.
  • Interchangeable Lenses
    For frequent skiers, it’s worth looking into goggles with interchangeable lenses that allow you to easily switch between different lenses. This way you can swap out your lenses in accordance with the conditions of the day to ensure you have optimal vision no matter the situation.
  • Photochromic
    Lenses that are photochromic adjust to changes in the light. When the light is reduced, photochromic lenses allow you to see better. When the brightness increases, the lenses get dimmer and help block out glare. This is a truly unique feature as it allows your goggle lens to naturally adapt to different conditions without needing to change lenses.
Close up shot of ski goggles

Ski Goggle Ventilation

There’s nothing worse than foggy goggles on the mountain. It impedes your vision, which can be both frustrating and unsafe. Below are some key features to look for in anti-fog goggles, as well as some helpful tips to ensure you ventilate your goggles properly to prevent this from happening.

Anti-Fog Features

Picture yourself skiing down the trail without being able to see. Scary, right? Most goggles have properties to prevent fogging, but they differ in quality and effectiveness. Read below about some common anti-fog features so that you know how to choose ski goggles that will reduce the likelihood of this scenario occurring.

  • Anti-Fog Coating: A waterproof coating on the outside should prevent moisture from staying on the lens, while an anti-fog coating is applied to most lenses on the interior of the lenses. Contrary to some advice on the internet, you should NOT remove, or rub off the interior coating.
  • Vented Lenses: The frames surrounding your lenses often have small openings that allow for ventilation. Letting air flow through the goggles helps disperse the moist air before it can stick to the lenses.
  • Two Frame Design (Dual/Double Pane): Allowing one lens to contact the cold air, while the other remains warm against your face, double-layered lenses can be found in most ski goggles. This two frame design creates a pocket of air in between the lenses, which acts as a thermal barrier to reduce fogging.

Tips to Stop Your Goggles from Fogging

Goggle Frames & Fit

Like other pieces of gear in your ski setup, make sure to get goggles that fit well. They should feel snug and comfortable on your face, without being too tight. Here are some other considerations for how to choose ski goggles that provide the right frame and fit.

Padding: The padding around the goggle frame should follow the shape of your face without creating pressure points or leaving any gaps. A snug and sealed off fit all the way around is what you are looking for. Any pinching or discomfort means you should adjust the strap tightness or consider a different goggle.

Helmet Compatibility: Your goggles should rest up against the bottom of your helmet brim. A gap between the top of your goggles and your helmet is known as a “gaper gap” in ski lingo and will earn you the shame of being laughed at by the locals. Not only is the gap poor fashion, but your forehead could get cold or sunburnt from the exposure. So, make sure to choose a helmet that is compatible with your ski goggles.

Strap Adjustments: Check that you can adjust the tightness of the goggles to fit your head when wearing a helmet. Wider straps can be easier to adjust and tend to stay in position better.

Over the Glasses (OTG) Style: If you wear prescription glasses, OTG styled goggles are for you. These goggles are often a bit bigger and come with additional space in the foam to account for the arms of the normal glasses.

Peripheral Vision: Peripheral vision is a great asset on the mountain. Typically large lenses provide the best peripherals. Small faced skiers will need to balance smaller frames that fit properly with larger lenses to get the best vision.

Scratch Resistant: Increase the life of your goggles by looking for lenses that have scratch resistant qualities or coating.

Up close shot of woman with ski goggles on

Final Thoughts

Your vision, comfort, and eye safety when skiing are all determined by choosing ski goggles that fit properly and are adequately designed for the conditions you will be skiing. A good pair of goggles should last you years, so taking the time to do some research and going beyond the cheapest and most minimal pair will save you some money and frustration in the long run. When determining how to choose ski goggles, your primary concern should be the fit, VLT properties, and lens technology in use. These factors will determine how well you can see, which enhances your overall riding experience.