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How to Choose Ski and Snowboard Goggles

Whether you are skiing, snowboarding, or traversing the Presidential Range in winter, you will need a pair of snow goggles to protect your eyes from the wind, cold, and glare. Here are a few tips to help you select the goggles best suited to you and your activity.

Fit

One of the most important things you'll need from your pair of ski goggles is a good fit, which is why it may surprise you that they typically only come in two sizes: adults and children. Because of their ill-defined size, it's important to choose goggles based on individual fit. Look for something that rests comfortably on your face, creating a snug seal all around the frame, but also has some flexibility. Try to ensure there are no pressure points where air might be able to seep in and cause your eyes to water.

However, depending on your typical outdoor attire, you may want to factor in other considerations to your purchase, such as:

Hats: A popular piece of snow gear many skiers and snowboarders are likely to sport as they hit the slopes is a simple winter hat. It is a smart choice, helping to trap in heat and keep you warm, but a hat changes the shape and contour of your head, which could affect the fit of your goggles.

Helmet: Helmets provide skiers and snowboarders with a lot of extra protection, but enthusiasts need to be careful about choosing the appropriate goggles. They need to have a strap that's large enough to comfortably encompass your head, as well as the helmet. If the band is being stretched too wide, it can become permanently distorted, as can the goggle's frame.

Immediately under the brim of your helmet, your goggles should remain fixed and tight. If there is a space between the two, commonly known as a gaper gap, cold air will fill your helmet as you make your way down the slopes and it will not be pleasant.

Helmet and Goggles Glasses: Most goggles are not specifically designed to fit over prescription eyeglasses; they're too small and shallow. Fortunately, there are options available, like the Smith Knowledge OTG snow goggles. OTG stands for "over the glasses." These specially designed goggles are wider, taller and deeper than their traditional counterparts, making for a comfortable fit even while wearing glasses. The selection of OTG goggles available in the market is relatively limited. Be sure that the snow goggles specify that they can accommodate eyeglasses.

Over the glasses Goggles Smith Knowledge OTG Goggles
You might also look for goggles that allow for prescription optical inserts, so you can do away with the glasses altogether - at least while out and about.

Lenses

The technology of goggle lenses has come a long way since the Inuit people used carved caribou antlers with thin viewing slits to fight snow blindness. Now manufacturers use multicolored lenses, anti-fogging treatments and a variety of other advancements to keep things clear and dry.

Today, the typical goggle lens is either flat of spherical.

Flat: Common in more basic models, flat lenses, while technically flat, actually curve from left-to-right. They provided limited peripheral viewing, are prone to glaring and the flat surface causes light to bend at odd angles, creating a sometimes distorted effect of magnified and misshapen surroundings. However, many manufacturers have taken steps to lessen the disadvantages of flat lenses, like with Julbo's Meteor snow goggles, which use a gold lens for improved light receptivity and protection. While not the usually the first option for advanced winter sportsmen and women, flat lens goggles are affordable and work fine in most situations.

Spherical: Like flat lenses, spherical goggles curve from left-to-right, but they also curve top-to-bottom. Their unique shape gives them several advantages over flat lens. Take, for instance, the increased peripheral vision. With spherical lenses, you benefit from an increased surface area, allowing their field of vision to be extended on each side. Manufacturers have also strategically reshaped lenses to reduce both glare and distortion. By tapering the lens, sunlight is able to hit your eye naturally.

Spherical Goggles Spy Optic Marshall Goggles

As a side note, many ski and snowboard goggle lenses are actually interchangeable and can, on average, stand up to about two to three changes in a lifetime.

Lens Color

Many first time buyers of ski and snowboard goggles are quickly attracted to the aesthetic qualities of lens color. Does this amber match my skis? How are these going to look under my helmet? With so many options, it's easy to get lost in the fashion of it. But with each color comes a specific set of light filtering attributes that should play a much stronger role in your purchase decision.

Yellow/Orange/Gold: A common lens color, these goggles are going to perform best in overcast and hazy conditions. They're designed to heighten contrast in low light areas and block out blue light, which results in clearer vision when conditions aren't the best. The soft tint of goggles such as Julbo's Eric Spectron 3s come with the added benefit of sharper focus, making it much easier for skiers and snowboarders to uneven surfaces, moguls and whatever other hazards may exist on the route.

Julbo Eris Spectron Goggle Julbo Eris Spectron 3 Goggles
Copper/Brown: There is no better time to hit the slopes that on a cloudless, sunny day. Unfortunately, such clear conditions are accompanied by a major increase in glare. Copper, brown and similar lens tints work well in sunny weather because they're designed to diffuse bright light, effectively reducing glare. As an added bonus, goggles like Smith's Transit model work to block out blue light while simultaneously increasing contrast, helping you see better in hazy conditions.

Smith Women's Transit Goggle Smith Women's Transit Goggles
Amber/Rose/Red: On the color spectrum of goggle lenses, amber, rose and red tints rest somewhere in the middle. Their unique position gives them several advantages in both sunny and partly cloudy conditions, and makes them the best choice for moving over flat landscapes – cross-country skiing anyone? You'll appreciate the added contrast and depth perception as you make your way through long routes, now able to clearly see patches of stray ice and subtle changes in the snow's surface

Optic Nerve Columbine Goggle Optic Nerve Columbine Goggles
Black/Grey: Like the older brother of copper and brown lenses, black and grey tints are made for the brightest and sunniest days - hence their popularity on the west coast. Goggles like Smith's I/OX darkness offer the best glare protection available while also improving the endurance of your eyes on particularly bright days. However, as conditions diminish, so do the effectiveness of dark lenses. On a cloudy day, depth perception and your ability to identify nuances in the terrain can be greatly impeded because of the low light penetration.

Smith I/OX Goggle Smith I/OX Goggles
Clear: Essentially heavy duty glasses, clear goggles are meant for snowy conditions in very low light. Perfect if you're hoping to get in one last run before the sun goes down. Be sure to remember that wearing clear goggles in similarly clear conditions leaves your eyes susceptible to intense glare.

Smith Cascade Goggle Smith Cascade Goggles

Other Lens Tech

Goggle technology, as odd as those two words may sound together, is ever evolving. Manufacturers are frequently developing innovative and original updates to help reduce fog, increase UV protection and more. When shopping for goggles, consider what other features you may want your new gear to have.

UV Protection: At this point, most goggles made are going to offer complete, 100 percent UV protection. However, it's never a bad idea to simply check the manufacturers rating. If you're planning some high altitude excursions, remember that UV rays intensify the higher up you are.

Photochromic Lenses: Popular in common eye glasses, these special lenses have been developed to adjust to specific amounts of UV exposure, meaning that the sunnier it gets, the darker they become. The transition may take a few minutes to complete, but the ability to automatically change tint make these goggle types extremely versatile.

Mirrored Lenses: Would you like to look like a fighter pilot? Then get a pair of goggles with mirrored lenses, like Spy Optic's Doom snow goggles. Of course, making you look like Maverick's protégé isn't their only advantage. Mirrored lenses get their name from a small coating manufacturers apply to the outside of goggle lenses that act to reflect additional amounts of light, leading to less glare and better visual clarity.
Polarized Lenses: Like mirrored lenses, polarized goggles are designed to reduce glare. Instead of simply reflecting it, though, polarized lenses actually filter high intensity vertical light that's already refracted from a flat surface, making them more effective. Apart from cutting through sun light, these special lenses boost contrast, definition and overall visual clarity.

Ventilation

Most goggles will provide some system of ventilation, but there is likely to be great variance in their effectiveness as you look from goggle to goggle. Manufacturers, much with lens technology, have developed several unique features to help keep warm air in and cold air out, which in turn reduces the chances for condensation buildup. Consider these as you make your continue making your purchase decision.

Double Lenses: A second layer of protection against fog is found on almost all adult-sized goggles. Like a sealed storm window, the two separate lenses are sealed with a thin film of air between the two. The added volume creates a thermal barrier that makes it much more difficult for condensation to accumulate.

Anti-Fog Coatings: Another common feature in most mid- to high-end models, anti-fog coating is applied directly to the inside of goggle lenses. The treatment helps to protect you from fogging. However, because coatings are applied post-lens production, they're not integral to the structure and can therefore be removed. It's important to remember that if your goggles become wet or you're cleaning them that you don't wipe the lens dry. It's very possible you could inadvertently wipe of the anti-fog coating.

Vents: Look for vents to be located all around the goggle's face. The openings are essential for creating air circulation and, as a result, reducing condensation. A basic rule is: The larger the vent, the better the circulation. But be careful to factor in weather conditions with vent size. Smaller openings allow for less airflow, yes, but they also limit the amount of cold air coming in, which could mean the difference between leaving early and having that extra hour on the slopes.

Fans: As the technology continues to develop, fans are becoming more and more common in goggles. They are small, battery-operated and effectively work to eliminate moisture buildup. Fans usually come with a variety of settings designed to create the optimum internal airflow based on a particular activity. Unfortunately, at the moment, they're mostly only found in a few higher-end models.

Fog Prevention

Manufacturers have worked hard to streamline ventilation systems, using innovative tech like double lenses and anti-fog coatings, but there are several things you as the wearer can do to further increase your goggles' ability to fight fog.

Products: There are several anti-fog products currently on the market that boast impressive results, like the humorously named Cat Crap anti-fog lens cleaner, which features inhibitors designed to repel fog on lenses, as well as lint and dust. Or Chum's anti-fog kit, which includes a solution and microfiber cloth that requires only a simple spray and wipe to reduce condensation. There are many products available that are as easy to use as they are effective.

Check Your Cents: As any skier or snowboarder will tell you, eventually you're going to fall. It's inevitable. And when you do, after you've pulled yourself from the ground and brushed of the snow collecting in the folds of your jacket and pants, be sure to also examine your vents. Their openings aren't usually super big, but if they become clogged airflow will cease and you'll be left vulnerable to excess condensation.

Glass Cleaner: A simple rule of thumb: Never use glass cleaner on your goggles. The chemicals will quickly strip your lenses of any and all anti-fog coating.

Keep Your Goggles on: Winter activities are notoriously intense, burning far more calories than the average summertime sport, so it's easy to understand why you might want to push your goggles up to your forehead and take a break after a long trek back up the slope. Don't. Perched on your hot, sweaty forehead with no seal to speak of, outside air is free to envelope the inside of your goggles, which are still full from the warm air radiating from your skin. There are likely no better conditions for fog to occur. Instead, try putting your goggles on a hat, a helmet or just keep them on your face.

Goggle Care

Adequate goggle care is necessary if you want to extend the life and effectiveness of your pair, especially in regards to lenses. For one, never wipe off moisture or snow from your goggles, only blot and only use a cloth specially designed for lenses. This will help retain your anti-fog coating.

Avoid keeping your goggles strapped to your helmet for extended periods of time. The band will gradually stretch out and eventually the once perfect fit, which helped to keep out cold air and moisture, will be lost.

Finally, when storing your goggles, try to keep them exclusively in the protective pouch or case they came with. Bouncing around in gear bags, it's easy for things to get scratched or damaged. Keep your goggles safe and protected.


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