Everyone knows snow sports are expensive. There’s a lot of equipment to buy and it all adds up, so it’s natural that you might try to cut corners here and there. But there’s one area you just can’t skimp on – eye protection. Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding you need a decent pair of ski goggles.

Why You Need Them

Goggles are designed to protect your eyes from glare, U.V. rays, freezing wind and flying snow, ice and rain. By doing this they not only safeguard the health of your eyes, they support clear vision – an important consideration when you’re flying down a hill at 40 kph. The range of goggles available at most ski shops is bewildering. They all have polycarbonate lenses, they all have a nylon or rubber frame, they all have foam padding and a strap. But they’re all…different. So how do you choose this important piece of equipment? There are two main areas to consider – fit and lens.


When trying on a pair of goggles place the strap against the back of your head, pull the goggles up over your head and forward so that they are held an inch or so away from your face, relax your grip and allow the goggles to move back horizontally until they settle against your face.

Are they comfortable – not just at that moment, but will they stay comfortable when worn for a whole day? Are there any pressure points? A little pressure now may be bearable, by the end of a day skiing or boarding it may not be quite so easy to dismiss. Is the foam scratchy or abrasive?

Do the goggles form a soft but snug fit all round? Are there any gaps? If there are, try a different pair. Gaps will let wind and water in, freezing your face and making your eyes tear.

Pay attention to the strap and buckles. Are the buckles placed so that they don’t dig into your head? Do they provide sufficient adjustment. Do the goggles stay firmly in place? Does the strap irritate your skin?

Is the frame too stiff? Frames that are too rigid are uncomfortable and my contribute to injury during a fall.

Does the goggle allow good peripheral vision? You should be able to see through a 180 degree radius. This range of vision can be a lifesaver when and out of control snow sport enthusiast comes at you from the side.

Take Your Helmet With You

Do you plan to wear the goggles with a hat or a helmet? If so, try the goggles on while wearing your hat or helmet. Taking your helmet into the shop when choosing goggles is standard practice – do it, don’t try to guess the right fit.

Note: the goggle strap should go on the outside of your hat or helmet.

If you do wear a helmet, pay particular attention to gapping at the sides of the goggles – there shouldn’t be any. Also, to protect your forehead from the elements, it’s preferable that the top edge of your goggles sits flush against the underside of the brim of your helmet.


U.V. Protection
Ski/snowboard goggles should provide 100% U.V. protection. Extended exposure to U.V. rays has been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and photokeratitis (snow blindness).

Note: There are different types of U.V. radiation – UVA, UVB and UVC. Your goggles should protect you against all three variants.

Lens Colour
Lens colour isn’t a matter of taste or fashion. It is directly related to the function and performance of the goggles and care should be taken to match lens colour to the conditions you generally ski in.

You need to be able to read the snow, to be able to see its dips and humps. Different colours provide greater visibility and contrast under particular light conditions and so do a better or worse job of revealing the terrain ahead of you.

Great all-round lens colours that function well from low light through to moderately bright conditions are amber, gold, orange, yellow-orange and brown. A lens from this colour range will suit most recreational skiers in most conditions.

Rose and light-yellow lenses are great for grey days when there are “flat” light conditions, but they provide insufficient protection on bright days.

Black, grey and green lenses offer the greatest protection on very bright days, but will be too dark at other times.

Some goggles have a mirror coating on their lenses. Though this is purported to reduce glare, its effect is often not much more than cosmetic.

Other Lens Characteristics

A number of goggle manufacturers offer polarized lenses. Polarization is very effective at reducing glare and so helps with eye-strain and makes reading the snow easier in bright conditions. The downside of polarization is that it makes it difficult or impossible to see icy patches in the snow (the glare that warns of ice is eliminated) and some authorities recommend against it for this reason.

Flat or Spherical?
Goggles are also differentiated by the shape of their lenses. In any ski shop you’re likely to see two types – flat and spherical.

Flat lenses curve horizontally to fit the face, but the vertical plane of the lens surface is flat. Spherical lenses curve both horizontally and vertically and give something of a fishbowl look.

The design characteristics of spherical lenses allow for thinner frames with a consequent increase in peripheral vision. This increase is particularly noticeable at the bottom edge of the goggle – useful when you’re looking for something in your pockets.

Spherical lenses suffer less glare than flat lenses as their curvature means the sun cannot strike them from one angle in many places at once. The curved design of spherical lenses also holds the lens surface further from the face and by so doing reduces the lens’s propensity to fog.

While there are advantages to spherical lenses, they are significantly more expensive and a good pair of flat lens goggles will serve most skiers/boarders just as well.


One of the most annoying equipment-related problems skiers and boarders face is fogging goggles. Goggles that constantly fog can wreck an otherwise perfect day’s skiing. It is worth the effort, then, to choose goggles that reduce the possibility of fogging as much as possible.

Fogging occurs when warm air inside the goggle (heated by your face) condenses against the colder inner lens surface. Goggle manufacturers attack it in three ways:

Double lenses. Double lenses function a little like double glazing. A thin layer of air is sandwiched between an inner and outer lens. This insulation keeps the inner lens slightly warmer and so, under most conditions, prevents condensation. Double lenses are the standard today and no adult should risk buying single lens goggles, the money you might save just isn’t worth a miserable day on the slopes.

Anti-fog coatings. Many manufacturers coat the inside surface of their lenses with a coating designed to inhibit condensation.

Ventilation. A good flow of air through the goggles will reduce the temperature differential between the environment outside the goggles and that inside. To this end many ski goggles are equipped with vents.

Note: Some goggles make a big deal about having adjustable vents. Don’t be dazzled by this – in practice you’ll rarely, if ever, close them.

On the slopes, leave your goggles on as much as possible, rather than constantly taking them off and fussing with them. Every time you take them off you cool the inner lens surface. As soon as you put them back on the warm air from your face will hit this now-cold surface and you’ll fog.

What if I Wear Glasses?

No problem – you have three options.

OTG (Over The Glasses) goggles. This type of ski goggle is designed to fit over glasses. They are necessarily a little larger than standard goggles and there is not as much choice style-wise, but OTG goggles are a very convenient choice for the spectacle wearer.

Inserts. Certain goggles are made to accommodate inserts for prescription lenses. These plastic inserts sit between the goggle lens and your eyes.

Contact lenses. The warm, moist air inside ski goggles actually creates a good environment for contact lenses. Remember to blink regularly, though – on those bowel-loosening high-speed runs it’s easy to forget. A wetting or lubricating agent may also be beneficial.

Care and Cleaning

Prevent scratching by always storing your ski goggles in the protective bag they came with. If you’ve lost the bag a sock makes a good substitute.

To clean your goggles, wipe the outside lens surface with a micro-fibre cloth – many goggle bags are made from this material and are designed to be used for the same purpose. Don’t use paper towel – believe it or not, it will scratch your goggles.

Do not use solvents. If you need something more than a cloth on the outside surface, use water. Chemical cleaners can damage the lens and its plastic housing.

As the inside lens surface of your goggles is likely to be covered with an anti-fog coating avoid wiping this surface if at all possible. If the inside of your goggles gets wet, the best course of action is to let it air dry (don’t use a hairdryer – you could melt the lens and damage the coating).

If you absolutely have to clean the inner surface, wait until it is completely dry and then use an unwrinkled micro-fibre cloth in light horizontal strokes (as opposed to a circular scouring motion).

Choose With Care

Good ski or snowboard goggles don’t have to be horribly expensive, but they do need to be chosen with care. When buying them leave yourself plenty of time, try on lots of pairs and don’t be scared to ask questions (that’s what the staff are there for). The hour or two you spend in the ski shop will pay for itself handsomely in the comfort and performance of your new goggles.

Ski Goggles – Eye Protection for Snow Sports This Winter, 4.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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  1. Dominic says:

    I have a problem!

    At this moment my goggle are A FRAME Oakley with the polarized Fire Iridium lens. But I mostly do night skiing and with these lenses I can hardly see where I’m going (I mostly do parks). What lenses do you recommend for night skiing?

    Thank You!

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