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Buyer's guide for ski and snowboard goggles

Ski and snowboard goggles: stylish protection for your eyes

Ski or snowboard goggles are vital accessories. They enable you to see on the mountain. A goggle offers protection from the UV rays of the sun, amplified at altitude and capable of causing snow blindness. Goggles also provide the best protection from snow if you’re getting faceshots when riding and also from branches which could catch you if you’re riding through woods.

A goggle consists of a frame, a lens, face foam and a strap. The lens is designed to give contrast and reduce glare, to help you see in short. The frame maintains the shape of the goggle and keeps the lens secure. The face foam is the connection between the goggle and face and is designed to be comfortable and reduce pressure on the face from the frame. The strap is used to hold the goggle in place, whether it’s over a beanie or helmet. These straps are adjustable, tough and some feature a buckle for easy adjustability and silicone to keep the strap from sliding over a helmet.

For the most comfort, performance and safety choose a model which fits you perfectly.

  1. Functions of goggles: why do I need goggles?
  2. Lenses: keep a clear view
    1. Spherical lenses: curved on two axes
    2. Cylindrical lenses: horizontally curved and vertically flat
    3. Visible light transmission
    4. Ski and snowboard goggle technology
    5. Goggle lens change systems
  3. Frame: fit and comfort
    1. Fit of the frame
    2. What you should consider with the fit of your goggle
    3. Goggle strap – keeps everything in place
    4. Materials and shapes
    5. Ventilation
  4. Helmet compatibility
    1. Tips to avoid small mistakes
  5. Ski and snowboard goggles with special features
  6. Magnetic facemask integration
  7. Care for your accessories

1. Functions of a goggle: why do I need ski goggles?

UV-protection – On a sunny day on the mountain the UV radiation, despite the cold temperatures, can be a lot stronger than you think. Because of the reflection of UV rays you can damage the cornea. Ski goggles protects your eyes from dangerous rays and snow blindness.

Protection from the elements – sunglasses don’t protect the eyes from wind and it can get in through the side. Ski goggles avoid this and supply your eyes, thanks to the ventilation openings, with fresh air. Furthermore, the lens protects your eyes from snow and ice when you’re riding powder or when it’s dumping.

Visibility in all conditions – fog and heavy snowfall no longer ruin your day. With a wide selection of different lenses there's something for every weather condition. Plus, with Prizm, Chromapop and Transitions lenses you can cover an ever-wider set of conditions with one lens.

Change system – to make sure that you always have the right lens goggle manufacturers, including Anon and Electric, offer interchangeable lenses and quick change systems. You can adapt the goggle to the weather situation within seconds. So you can focus on ripping the mountain rather than struggling to see.

Glasses compatibility  if you wear glasses do not fear! You don’t have to choose between your glasses or a ski goggle. Manufacturers like Oakley or Atomic have developed goggles that you can wear together with glasses. These goggles are called OTG (over the glasses).

Lenses, frame and headband of a Shred snowboard goggle
Lenses, frame and headband of a Shred snowboard goggle

2. Lenses: keep a clear view

Not all lenses are the same. There are several differences that you have to consider before you make a choice of what kind of goggle lens you want. One of those is the shape of the lens. These can be divided into spherical and cylindrical lenses.

2.1 Spherical lenses: curved on two axes

With a spherical lens, you get the best peripheral vision. The lenses are both horizontally as well as vertically curved, this serves a couple of functions. A spherical lens is closer in shape to a human eye, and will have less optical distortion. A spherical lens due to its curvature will reduce glare. In addition, there is more space between your face and the goggle. The airflow in a spherical lens, due to the space from your face, is better and fogging up will be reduced.

2.2 Cylindrical lenses: horizontally curved and vertically flat

These lenses are curved only horizontally and are vertically flat. The field of view is, in contrast to the spherical lens, slightly reduced and glare can’t be absorbed as well. However, manufacturers have developed technologies to reduce distortion and glare. Plus, a goggle with a cylindrical lens is often cheaper and can have a cool retro look.

Oakley Flight Deck XM Matte Black
Spherical Goggle
Oakley O2 XL Factory Pilot Blackout
Cylindrical Goggle

2.3 Visible light transmission

Light transmission of the lens is really important because it affects the contrast and what you see on the mountain. The light transmission of your lens can make the difference between a perfect day on the mountain and not being able to see anything. The lens colour and technology, for example a mirrored lens, influence the light transmission of the lens. Therefore, there are lenses for every condition. Normally, dark, mirrored lenses have a low light transmission and lighter lenses a higher light transmission.

Oakley Flight Deck Replacement Lens Dark Grey
Black lens with a low VLT (4-8%)
Oakley Fight Deck Replacement Lens Hi-Yellow
Yellow lens with a high VLT (approx. 80%)

Visible light transmission (VLT) is how much light a goggle allows to pass through its lens, reaching your eye and helping you see. It’s worth noting that all of the goggles which Blue Tomato sells have 100% UV protection, they just differ on the amount of the visible light spectrum they allow through.

Lenses with a lower light transmission (3%-18%) – in good weather conditions with lots of light these are great. They let less light through so that you’re not snow blinded by sunlight and the reflection from the snow.

Lenses with a higher light transmission (44-100%) – you can use these best in low light conditions, like snow, fog and flat light. These allow plenty of light through and improve contrast so you will see enough in poor conditions to enjoy your day.

The VLT of lenses and their respective application is displayed in the chart below:

VLT Conditions Weather
3-8% Very strong light Very sunny

☀☀

9-18% Strong light Sunny, partly cloudy

☀⛅

19-43% Moderate light Changeable

☀⛅

44-80% Low light Cloudy, snowfall

☁❄

81-100% Very low light Fog, night time

❄☾

If you’re not sure which conditions you usually ride in or want a goggle to conquer everything you have a couple of options. Firstly, you could choose a goggle with a VLT of around 30%, which will work in all conditions, but not necessarily excel in any. Thankfully snowsports and goggle companies have been listening and working on versatile lenses. This season you can choose from Prizm™ and ChromoPop™ lenses from Oakley and Smith respectively which cover a wide spectrum of conditions and have been optimised to filter out certain colours. A second option is to go with a photochromatic or Transitions™ lens which will actually change or darken as the sun comes out. Finally, if you want to cover all the bases go for a google with more than one set of lenses. Recently goggle companies have been moving towards goggles with multiple sets of lenses so that you adapt to the changing conditions. Often these goggles will have a quick-change system which makes swapping in new lenses a breeze.

Goggles for the utmost fun
Choose the right goggle so that there's nothing to ruin your day on the mountain.

2.4 Ski and snowboard goggle technology

Mirrored lenses – with a mirrored snowboard goggle the outside coating ensures that more sunlight is reflected which reduces snow blindness. Blue bird and glacier days are no problem with a mirrored lens.

Photochromic lenses – whether super sunny or cloudy, with a photochromic goggle you are on the safe side without changing the lenses. Transition lenses are among photochromic lenses:

Transition – these lenses are photochromic and change the light transmittance according to the light conditions. This technology makes it possible to use the lenses in almost every condition.

Prizm™ – these lenses, designed by Oakley, are your best friend when it comes to the perfect view and the highest contrast. The glass refracts the light like a prism into different colours and enhances only those colours that you need for the respective weather conditions.

Polarised lenses – polarised lenses prevent reflections of certain surfaces. Ski goggles with polarised lenses improve your visibility and enhance contrast. From certain angles these lenses can reduce glare.

UV protection – at altitude and with sun reflected from the snow the threat from UV rays is amplified. Thankfully, all of the goggles we sell at Blue Tomato are 100% UV protection.

Anti-fog coating – an anti-fog coating on the inside of the glasses is vital for a clear and free view. Fogging is prevented by a special waterproofing (chemical coating) on most goggles. Smith and Zeal have the 5x anti-fog and Everclear technology which can’t be wiped from the inside of the lens.

Scratch protection – to prevent your goggle from scratches they have a scratch resistant layer on the lens.

2.5 Goggle lens change systems

Most snowboard goggles give you the possibility to adjust your goggle to the weather conditions on the mountain thanks to a lens change system. With this system you can put lenses in the frame with a different visible light transmission (VLT) to be ready for sun, snow and clouds.

There are several different systems:

  • Push-and-pull-clip system – the lens is attached by hooks or clips and can be opened with a small lever or buttons.
  • Click system: the lens is clicked into contact points beginning at the nose and then worked around.
  • Magnets: In the M series from Anon rare earth magnets are attached to the frame and lens to allow for a super quick change of lenses, with or without gloves.

Magnets and levers for changing lenses
Magnets and levers for changing lenses

3. Frame: fit and comfort

If you want a comfortable goggle which you can wear skiing and snowboarding all day long, a frame which fits well is essential.

3.1 Fit of the frame

Your ski goggle should not slip from your nose but it should not be too tight either. To make sure that the goggle fits like a glove you can adapt the goggle strap to your requirements. The frame is usually upholstered with a special foam to avoid uncomfortable pressure points on your face. This foam should complement your face everywhere.

Most goggles feature 3-layers face foam for an extra dose of comfort. This is completed with an extra layer of soft microfleece.

Frame of a Oakley goggle
Frame of a Oakley goggle

3.2 What you should consider with the fit of your goggle

  • Oversized fit – to experience a huge range of vision there are frames with an oversized fit. These large frames are usually more suitable for men; however, you should check whether they’re compatible with your helmet. 
  • Medium fit – this fit is suitable for most face shapes and can be worn by both men and women.
  • Small fit – for women and kids with a smaller face it is advisable to choose a smaller frame to make sure that the goggle complements the face perfectly. 
  • Asian fit – many brands also offer special goggles for smaller noses. The distance between the nose and goggle is lower with those. 

3.3 Goggle strap – keeps everything in place

To adapt your goggle perfectly to your individual head size and shape you can change the length of the strap with use of the buckle. There are also straps that you can open with a closure to make it easier to put it on over a beanie or a helmet.

3.4 Materials and shapes

The frame is made from flexible and sturdy plastic which doesn’t change even in the coldest and most unforgiving temperatures. You should go for the most comfortable frame possible as you may be wearing the model for up to 8 hours of riding. There are large, medium and smaller frames which correspond to the size of your face, a too small frame might pinch whereas a frame which is too large may have gaps. You should also try to choose the right size of frame or your field of vision might be limited. A frameless model might also offer better peripheral vision. If you’re unsure about the right pair of goggles, then ask for advice from our Blue Tomato customer service or visit the closest Blue Tomato shop. They can give you advice on goggles from brands like Anon, Dragon, Smith and many others.

3.5 Ventilation

Goggles are equipped with a ventilation system. In this way you can be sure that your goggle will not fog up straight away. This ventilation system consists mostly of foam or plastic inserts on the top and bottom rim of the goggles and on the lens that ensure airflow. When choosing a goggle you should make sure that these vents are not covered by your helmet, this could lead to restricted airflow and fogging.

Airflow through the goggle
Airflow through the goggle

4. Helmet compatibility

With any frame it’s important to consider which other accessories you’ll wear while skiing or snowboarding. If you wear a ski helmet then your goggle should fit with the helmet which you already have or want to buy. To check the compatibility with your helmet you should try both on together.

If the frame of your goggle is too large or too small it can be uncomfortable. If you have a frame which is too large for your face or helmet the goggle can press down on the nose, which quickly will become a pain. A frame which is too small can create a gap between your goggle and your helmet. You should avoid this for two reasons. Firstly, this gap can cause a major case of brain freeze as the skin could be exposed. Secondly, the gap looks terrible and is known as a ‘gaper’ by some as it shows you don’t really know your equipment.

Furthermore, it’s important to consider how you wear your goggle with your helmet. If your wear the goggle strap over the helmet then it’s important that the strap fits around the helmet. Properties like a silicone strap or a goggle clip at your helmet assure that the goggle will not slide from your helmet. If you decide to wear the strap under the helmet then it‘s important that there’s enough space in your helmet for the strap. Otherwise, the strap will cause pressure points. One way to make sure that your goggles and helmet fit together is to buy them from the same brand, such as Smith, Giro or Shred.

If you wear glasses it’s, of course, important that the goggle fits over your normal glasses. Companies have thought this through too, so there are goggles which have been specifically designed to fit over a pair of glasses (OTG). Also with the plethora of oversized goggles on the market, often by sheer size, the goggles will fit over glasses comfortably, with only small cutouts in the frame. Goggles such as the Oakley O2 Xl and Canopy and the Vice and IOX from Smith aren’t named OTG but work with many pairs of glasses. It’s important to check whether all of your helmet, goggles and glasses work together as you don’t want to get to the mountain and find that it all doesn’t quite fit together.

4.1 Tips to avoid small mistakes

  • Pressure underneath the eye sockets – to prevent this you should choose a larger frame.
  • Slipping off the bridge of the nose – making the strap tighter can work wonders.
  • Pressure from the frame – to prevent pressure you can loosen the strap or choose a larger frame. 
  • Pressure on the bridge of the nose – you can try to tighten the strap so that the goggle sits slightly higher.

Google compatible with helmet
Scott goggle with the strap over the helmet

5. Ski and snowboard goggles with special features

For riders who want more than just a snowboard goggle that offers a crystal clear view, there are goggles with innovative features like HD cameras and GPS. These features are unfortunately not cheap and normally such a goggle will cost considerably more than a comparable goggle without those special features.

Snowboard goggles with cameras have already been on the market for a couple of years. Together with the improving quality of new action cameras the quality of camera goggles also improved. Now there are even goggles with HD cameras and a slow motion function. Zeal, in particular, are the leaders in this field combining top of the range ski goggles with high-resolution cameras.

Example of a camera goggle
Zeal Optics HD2 camera goggle

GPS goggles are goggles that measure statistics like speed, length of your jump and/or descent data for you. With this information you can see various analyses about your trip or descent live or later. These models normally feature a small heads-up screen on which you can read these data during your ride.

6. Magnetic facemask integration

Anon Optics has started with not only using magnets for the changing system but also to integrate your facemask with your goggle. With the Anon MFI Goggle your facemask is connected to your goggle seamlessly. The bandana is, thanks to the magnets that hold the facemask and goggle together, easily removed.

Goggle with integrated facemask
A goggle from Anon with the MFI system (magnetic facemask integration)

7. Care for your accessories

Good visibility is everything! Therefore, you should be very careful with your accessories and pay attention to the following points:

  • Never put your goggles with the lens side down on a rough surface, otherwise you will damage the coating (mirror/polarization) of the lens.
  • Please only clean the lens with the special lens cleaning cloths (microfiber cloths) or the microfiber goggle bag.
  • Please only remove the moisture on the inside of the lens by gently dabbing the lens or just leave it to dry. Otherwise, you will destroy the anti-fog coating.
  • Avoid drying the goggle close to strong heat sources or by direct, intense sunlight.

Follow this guide and you'll enjoy your new goggle for a long time in the snow.