Wondering which goggles to wear on the mountain? A frameless model? Spherical or cylindrical lens? Which lens tint should you go for? Whether you're a novice, or seasoned backcountry rider, we've put together all the information so that you can get goggle-ready, and head out on the hill.
When heading out on the hill, a good pair of goggles is the ultimate mountain accessory. Wake up to a whiteout? Goggles can give you the tools to still have an incredible shred, protecting you from wind and cold as well as providing a tint so that you can still see your line. And for those dreamy bluebird powder days, you'll be needing kit that can reduce glare and enhance definition, so that you can effortlessly shred from first tracks to last run down.
So, why do we need to wear goggles on the mountain? Well, to put it simply, the higher up you venture the stronger the Ultra Violet, (UV) light. Sunlight is also reflected off the snow to intensify the brightness. Thus, it's important to protect your eyes. As well as protecting your eyes from bright light, goggles can also keep out snow, wind and cold air.
How to Choose Snow Goggles
The one aspect of goggles that can make or break a day out on the hill is the lens. From shape to tint, the lens gives you the tools to reduce glare and eye fatigue, and enhance contrast and depth perception. There are two types of lenses for goggles: Cylindrical and Spherical.
• Cylindrical lenses are 'flat', curving around its vertical axis. These lenses are more traditional and are often found in lower price point models. As these are cheaper than Spherical lenses, you can experience more glare and slightly distorted vision due to the shape and the way they filter the sunlight.
• Spherical lenses curve both horizontally and vertically, creating a 'bubbled' look. As a result, these lenses enhance peripheral vision, in comparison to a flat lens. This allows you to see more with the greater lens surface area. You also experience less glare from the sun and less distortion than with a flat lens.
• Single Lenses
Usually found in budget and kids goggles, the lens is made of one sheet of plastic. This makes the goggle lighter, but single lens goggles tend to steam up more than a double lens goggle.
• Double Lenses The lens is made from two sheets of plastic with a sealed gap between them, like double glazed windows. The gap creates a barrier between the warm air from your face and the cold air from the elements, thus preventing the lenses from fogging up.
Lens Colour / Tint
No one wants to head out on a bluebird day and become blinded, nor have cloudy, flat vision on an incredible powder day. That's where different lens tints come in as each colour will filter light differently and are best suited to varying conditions - the lens you use for a very bright sunny day won’t be suitable for a very cloudy flat light day as it won’t pick out the contours of the slope.
The amount of light that a lens allows to pass through is called Visible Light Transmission, (VLT). This is noted as a percentage figure and represents the percentage of light allowed through the lens.
• Very Bright/ Sunny Conditions: The lower the VLT percentage, the more the lens is suited to bright sun and bluebird conditions, where it's more important to keep the light out. These will tend to be dark colours, such as black and grey, as well as gold and mirrored lenses. The VLT tends to vary from 5-20%. , (Category 3 - 4)
• Low Light Conditions: Although lens tints vary from brand to brand, it is a general rule that the higher percentage of VLT, the more suited the goggles are to low/ flat light and snowy or foggy conditions. These low light lenses tend to be rose, yellow or blue with VLT generally varying from 60-90%, (Category 1 -2)
• Variable Conditions: And what about varying conditions? Well, lenses in the middle of the spectrum are able to offer a reliable performance in all conditions, from sun to cloud. These tints are particularly perfect for if you experience varying light conditions throughout the day, (Category 2 -3).
Typically, each brand will offer specific lenses for bright weather days, whiteouts and cloudy days and then everything in between.
It is worth noting that when goggles come with a spare lens, it is often one lens for bright conditions and a spare lens for flatter light.
Brand Lens Tech - Oakley
Prizm™ is Oakley's revolutionary lens technology. Heading out in flat light? The Prizm™ lenses offer unparalleled control of light transmission so that you can ride in confidence. As a result, colours become precisely tuned to enhance contrast and visibility, so that you can see those contours and textures in overcast light, bright sunshine, or any conditions in between. As 4x World Cup alpine skiing champion Lindsay Vonn explains: '[With Prizm] I'm able to see those holes, bumps and little details in the snow that I normally wouldn't be able to see'.
The lenses are designed to work over a wider range of light conditions than traditional snow lenses. This reduces the need to change lenses if the conditions switch.
The Prizm™ lenses come in three different lens options:
• Black Iridium for bright sun to mixed conditions • Jade Iridium for sun and clouds • Rose for snow and overcast
For Winter 2015/16, the Prizm collection features new colour choice:
• Prizm Torch Iridum for bright sun to overcast conditions • Prizm Sapphire Iridium for bright sun to overcast conditions
Dragon - Transition® Lens
Dragon have partnered with Transitions Optical to create a new lens technology so that when conditions change, your lens does too. With a self-adjusting tint, the lens automatically switches from a yellow lens tint to a dark gray lens when the light changes from cloudy/ overcast to bright sunlight. If the clouds come back over, the lens simply switches back to the contrast-enhancing yellow This all ensures that you spend less time faffing with your equipment, and more time focusing on the most important thing: snowboarding.
Colour is also optimised to enhance visual performance, with contrast heightened and depth perception increased.
Read here about our Lens Tints Guide
So, is it worth taking 2 different lens options with you? Realistically, it's fine to have one pair of good goggles with only one lens option, if you know that the weather will be consistent. Yet, if you ski in a range of conditions, and are planning to head to the mountains for a season, it's advisable to have two pairs of goggles/ lens tints, or one pair with the ability to swap lenses.
Some goggles with a Spare Lens. However, replacement goggle lenses are also available if you're after a different tint for varying light conditions.
It's a known fact that weather isn't predictable. Sure, your snow forecast site might tell you one thing, but when you're on the hill and the weather suddenly changes, it's never fun not to be prepared. However, your visibility and performance can be maximised by having multiple lens tints. That's where it's handy to have a goggle that offers an easy lens changing system.
Many brands have created new ways of quickly and easily changing lenses, and some now even with a magnetic changing system. These quick-changing lens systems are perfect for when you're on the go.
• Anon feature their Magna-Tech technology for quick, easy lens changing. Goggles like the M3 model combine 18 rare earth magnets at 9 points of connection, each with a pull force of 2.75lb. All you need to do is ensure that you connect the lens to the top of the goggle and do the same when taking the lens off. The magnets do all the work. Simple, easy and fast!
• Dragon Alliance present their Swiftlock Lens Technology, enabling riders to change lens instantly. This system uses an easy on-and-off mechanism that features a pair of small, locking levers incorporated into the goggle's frame. The levers are simply flipped up to release the lens, the new one popped in, and with one quick movement, the lens is locked into place.
• UV Protection - Almost all goggles offer 100% UV protection. It is particularly important to protect eyes from harmful UV rays when skiing or snowboarding, as UV intensity is enhanced with altitude. Without it, UV rays cause eye fatigue and may damage your retinas.
• Mirrored Lenses - A mirror coating to the outside of your lens reflects a larger amount of light. This results in reduced glare and enhanced visual clarity in sunny, bright conditions.
• Polarized Lenses - Polarized lenses offer a larger reduction in glare than a standard mirror lens. This is via the polarised lens acting as a filter of vertical light. It also offers added definition and contrast, as well as visual clarity.
Polarized lenses work well in flat and sunny conditions simultaneously.
• Double Lenses - A common goggle construction, double lenses act as a thermal barrier to cut fogging.
• Photochromic Lenses - These lenses automatically adjust to altering light conditions, (see Dragon's Transition lenses above). When exposed to stronger UV light, the lenses darken, and then lighten when there is less UV light. This is a highly versatile lens that reduces the need to have more than one lens/ goggle with you on your trip. However, theses lenses don't tend to adjust instantly, and it could even take quite a few minutes for the lens to fully change to the different light conditions.
• Anti-Fog Coating - Fogging can be greatly reduced through a hydrophilic chemical treatment being applied to the inside of the lens.
• Ventilation - In order to avoid fogging, venting is essential. Ventilation may be integrated into the frame, or into the lens itself. It's worth nothing that spherical lenses goggles ten to fog up less than cylindrical lenses, due to the larger volume frame automatically providing better ventilation. However, it's worth checking that the ventilation system in your goggles is compatible with the shape of your helmet, otherwise it may block the vents. Some goggles even go as far to have battery powered fans in order to defog the lens.
Goggle frames provide comfort, stop any snow from entering the goggles, and keep your lens in place. In order for a goggle to be comfortable on your face all-day long, it's important to take some factors into consideration:
You wear your goggles all day so you want them to be comfortable. When trying your goggles on make sure that there are no gaps between your skin and the goggles and that they are not crushing your nose or causing any pressure points. Make sure that you have good peripheral vision. You want a snug fit against your face, but not tight as this can cause pressure points.
Frame size often correlates with the size of helmet that you wear, (so a small helmet will mean a small goggle). Frame sizes generally come in Small, Medium and Large.
• Oversized - Many brands are now creating oversized goggles in order to provide a more peripheral vision. In general, a larger goggle will offer more lens for the amount of frame for widescreen vision. Some goggle designs are even frameless for enhanced peripheral vision.
• Women's Specific Fit - Some goggles are made to fit women's faces. These often have less volume over the bridge, and a smaller frame size than a standard sized adult goggle.
• OTG, (Over The Glasses) - If you look out for goggles that state OTG (Over the Glasses), these are specially designed to fit over glasses. Alternatively, some brands make optical inserts that you take to your optician to fit your prescription into them. The insert then fits inside the goggle.
• Face Foam - Face Foam around the frame offers a snug, comfortable fit. There should be no gaps between the foam and your face. Some models offer foam with wicking properties for extra comfort.
• Strap - Most goggle straps are adjustable to the perfect fit. Most straps are elasticised with side sliding adjusters. Some goggles have a silicone layer to the inside of the strap. This provides a no-slip grip in order to be worn with or without helmets.
• Helmet Compatibility - Some goggles have arms that extend out from the frame in order to position the strap on the outside of the helmet. Most goggles tend to be helmet-compatible. However, some spherical goggles leave gaps between your helmet and goggle frame, otherwise known as the 'goggle gap'.
In order to make sure that your goggles last season after season, it's worth following some basic care tips:
• Never set your goggle lens-down onto a table or hard surface. Instead, place them on the foam side with the lens facing up.
• Use an anti-fog cloth or soft cloth to gently blot, not wipe, the goggle lens dry. Wiping can remove the anti-fig coating to the inside of the lens.
• Goggles should be allowed to air dry first before being stowed in bag.
• Do not dry goggles in high heat or direct sunlight.
• Store goggles in a soft sack, which most models are provided with.
Even if your lens has an anti-fog treatment, some goggles may still fog up. These tips may help in preventing a misty build up:
• Shake any excess snow from the goggle. Don't wipe as this may scratch the lens or remove any anti-fog
• Clear vents from any snow
• Don't put goggles on your forehead if you can help it as this will cause fogging.
• Place any fogged goggles into a dry, warm pocket of your jacket.