Goggles are one of the most important pieces of equipment you can purchase; they are just as important as your jacket and pants. Any skier or snowboarder can tell you that not being able to see ruins a day as fast as poor fitting boots or a bad chili dog. All ski and snowboard goggles will offer some basic protection from wind and cold, but beyond the basics there are some key features to consider: lens type, lens color/tint, interchangeable lenses, frame size and fit.
To find the right fit for you, let's take a look at the different parts and features of goggles:
The biggest differentiator between goggles is the lenses. We will make it easy by breaking them down into lens type, lens color, and other features from fog prevention to glare protection.
There are two choices of lens type when choosing your new goggles.
These lenses curve horizontally while remaining flat vertically. Cylindrical lenses offer good performance at a lower price point.
Spherical lenses, on the other hand, curve both horizontally and vertically around your face, which will give the goggles a bubbled look. Beyond the look there are significant advantages to wearing cylindrical lenses:
There is nothing worse (and more dangerous) than having cloudy vision on a powder day or being blinded when it’s blue bird. There are dozens of lens colors to choose from that vary from brand to brand, and although one color might match your jacket better, each color will filter light differently and offers unique advantages in certain weather and light conditions. The amount of light a goggle lens allows to pass through is called Visible Light Transmission (VLT). VLT is expressed as percentage of light allowed through the lens falling somewhere between 0% and 100%.
Some lenses are designed to perform much better in low light, low visibility situations, such as when it is snowing, foggy, or the light is flat. These lenses will allow a higher percentage of VLT. Typical colors for low light lenses are yellow, rose, and blue with VLT ranging from 60-90%. Other lenses will function better on sunny days with high visibility where it is more about keeping the light out. These lenses will have a lower VLT percentage and typically come in dark colors of black, grey, and gold, often mirrored and have VLT ranges from 5-20%. Of course there are lenses in the middle of the spectrum that perform fairly well in all conditions and are great if you experience changing light conditions during the day. Each manufacturer produces a wide range of lens tints for bright days, storm days, and everything in between.
So, how many different lenses do you need? Many people can get away with just one pair of good goggles with only one lens option. For example if you only ski or ride in Colorado on bright, sunny days, you will probably be fine with only a dark lens. However, if you ski in range of conditions, it is probably best to have two pairs of goggles or one pair with multiple lenses to swap out.
The more time you spend in the mountains, the more weather conditions you’ll encounter. Having multiple lens colors on hand can help to maximize visibility and performance throughout the day, as the reality is that no one goggle lens can provide optimal visibility across the full spectrum of lighting and weather conditions. Although many goggles do allow you to change lenses (extra lenses typically sold separately), manufacturers have come up with a bunch of ingenious ways to make swapping lenses a cinch with easy to use toggles and even magnets. These quick changing lens systems can be more expensive but offer a very fast means of changing lenses and typically come with a second lens. Interchangeable lenses give you the option of quickly changing lenses without the added bulk of carrying a second pair of goggles.
Beyond just the lens type and color, goggle manufacturers apply additional features to their goggles in order to make them better at doing their job. Some lens features to keep an eye out for include:
You can count on virtually all quality goggles to have vents, but some are better than others. In general, more venting is better in order to prevent fogging. It is important to check that the venting system in your goggles is compatible with the shape of your helmet. In other words, don’t block the vents; otherwise your goggles might be a little more susceptible to fogging. Some goggles even have battery powered fans that move air and defog the goggles.
Goggle frames are crucial to the whole goggle operation. While goggle frames come in a bewildering amount of sizes and shapes, they basically have three jobs: hold your lens in place, keep snow out, and make your face as comfortable as possible. Any frame should be able to handle the first two parts, so the crucial part is keeping you comfortable. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Many adults can comfortably fit into multiple sizes of goggles, but here are some general guidelines. A simple way to think about frame size is that it often times correlates with the size of your head so if you wear a small helmet consider a small frame and if you wear a large or extra-large helmet consider a larger frame, medium to large helmet consider a medium frame size. Here are some other ways to think about frame size:
Medium sized frames will fit most people. It should be noted here as well that most goggles are essentially unisex, apart from some feminine color schemes and shapes on some overtly women’s goggles.
Since everyone’s face is different, goggle fit is highly personal and an important consideration to make when looking at goggles. Frame shape and size (mentioned above), padding, and strap attachment all play a huge role in the fit.
Make sure the foam follows the curvature of your face without pressure points. There should be no gaps between the foam and your face for wind or snow to flow through. You want a consistent, snug fit all around the perimeter of the goggle. If the goggles pinch your face or feel uncomfortable, they probably aren’t for you.
Goggles have an adjustable strap, sometimes with a clip or a buckle; you should be able to tighten or loosen the strap so you get the right fit on you head. If you can tighten your strap all the way and it’s still too loose, it will not work for you. When wearing a beanie, a clip or buckle shouldn’t jab into the back of your head, and keep in mind that wider straps are much easier to adjust and tend to stay put much better. A quick note in case you’re buying goggles for a child: Some children’s goggles don’t have adjustable straps – it’s important to check for this feature so they have room to grow.
When checking your goggle fit, make sure that they work with your helmet or beanie, both for performance and aesthetics. Your goggles should fit smoothly on your face with the strap around the helmet – if they don’t fit tightly to your face, or deform when the strap is tight, try another model. Some goggles have arms that extend out from the frame to better position the strap outside of a helmet. Most goggles are helmet-compatible, but some of the larger spherical goggles may have compatibility issues and a goggle that’s too small may leave gaps.
If your goggles don’t feel right, consider why they are uncomfortable:
Once you have made an investment and purchased a pair of goggles, you’ll want to protect them in order to ensure that they last as many seasons as possible. Here are some basic tips:
Having problems with your goggle always fogging up? Here are some tricks to keep your goggles working as efficiently as possible:
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