Goggles for snow sports

Goggle shoppers can find everything from basic eye/fog protection for less than $75 all the way up to GPS-enabled models with interchangeable lenses for hundreds of dollars more. Also new this winter: rimless designs that promise maximum visibility.

What are the best goggles for you? This article will help you hone your choices.

Shop REI’s selection of ski goggles and snowboard goggles.

Why Wear Goggles?

The superior coverage offered by goggles—versus sunglasses—protects you from these on-the-mountain hazards:

  • At high altitudes, the air is thinner and filters less ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • The sun's reflection on snow is brighter and more intense.
  • Wind can make your eyes tear and blur your vision.
  • Ice particles can get into your eyes, especially when descending fast.
  • Twigs and branches can hit your eyes when dropping through the trees.

Goggles by Price Range

Here are features you can typically expect at various price ranges:

  Under $75 $75 to $125 $125 & more
UV protection 100% 100% 100%
Helmet compatible Yes Yes Yes
Eyewear compatible No Some Some
Gender Unisex
Women's and unisex Women's and unisex
Lens shape Flat Flat or spherical Mostly spherical
Lens type Single or double Double Double
Mirrored lenses No Yes Yes
Polarized lenses No Yes Yes
Photochromic lenses No No Some
Interchangeable lenses No Some Some
Venting ability Fair Good to excellent Excellent
Frame padding Double Triple Triple
Strap adjustment Clip Clip; some with buckle Clip and buckle

How important are each of these features? Let's take a closer look.

Lenses and Ventilation

The quality and features built into lenses represent the biggest difference between basic and high-end goggles.

Lens Shape

Lenses are usually either flat or spherical. REI lists this information in the product specs on REI.com. Be aware though that some manufacturers use proprietary terms on their own websites to describe these 2 basic shapes.

  • Flat. The lens curves left-to-right across your eyes and face, but the lens surface is vertically flat (between the nose and forehead). Flat-lensed goggles are priced lower and work fine, but the flatness can cause more glare and slightly reduces peripheral vision.
  • Spherical. This lens, too, curves across your eyes and face, but it also curves vertically. Curved spherical lenses give better peripheral vision, less distortion and less glare, but their cost is higher.

How to Avoid Fogging

When warm air (your body heat) meets cold air (the outside temperature), condensation can form. Goggles use a variety of approaches to avoid fogging.

Double lenses

Double lenses: Found on virtually all goggles since they do not fog as fast as single-layered lenses. Sealed properly, they create a thermal barrier (like storm windows) that is more resistant to fogging. An anti-fog coating will help any lens to ward off fogging.

Anti-fog coatings: Integrated into virtually all mid-level to high-end goggle lenses to help deter fogging.

Vents: The top, sides and bottom of goggles are the keys to help control fogging. Wider vents generally create better ventilating airflow than smaller venting holes. The trade-off? Your face may get cold, particularly in extreme climates.

Fans: A few high-end goggles include small, battery-operated fans to help disperse moisture. Fans with different settings can be adjusted for standing in a lift line, riding the gondola or going down the slope.

Tip: If you're not wearing a helmet, don't put your goggles on top of your head. Rising heat from your body escapes through your head and cap, and goggles sitting on a head will trap this moisture.

Anti-fog products: These can be used on lower-end goggles without a coating or on old goggles that are starting to fog.

  • An anti-fog solution can be applied to the lens before hitting the slope. Just let it dry and you're ready.
  • A fog cloth is a soft, lint-free cloth with inhibitors that help deter fog on the lenses and removes smudges.
  • A fog eraser is a sponge on one side to blot and absorb moisture, and a soft chamois on the other side to dry a goggle lens.

Tip: To avoid scratches, use the goggle sack or a lens-specific cloth to blot (not wipe) any snow or moisture off of goggle lens.

UV Protection

Virtually all goggles sold today offer 100% UV protection from all 3 types of ultraviolet rays—UVA, UVB and UVC. Remember, even when it's cloudy, UV rays are bouncing off of the snow.

Selecting a Lens Color

Standard Lenses

standard color lenses

Note: VLT (visible light transmission) figures provided by goggle manufacturers.

Your lens color serves to filter and emphasize the colors in your vision. In addition, some goggles have photochromic lenses that adjust to different light conditions. Other goggles provide interchangeable lenses so you can swap out different colored lenses for changing conditions.

The amount of light that reaches your eyes through the lens is called the visible light transmission (VLT).

  • Lighter tints have a higher VLT because more light passes through the lens.
  • Darker lenses have lower VLT because less light passes through the lens.

Lens Features

Lens layers

Mirroring: Mirrored lenses have a partial or full lens coating on the outside of the outer lens. This reflects more light and thus allows in less light (by between 10% and 50%) than non-mirrored goggles.

Polarizing: A polarizing filter's primary function is to reduce glare from sunlight on snow or water.

Polarizing color lenses

Note: VLT (visible light transmission) figures provided by goggle manufacturers.

Photochromic: These lenses automatically change their tint level according to conditions and UV intensity. The more sun and UV rays, the darker the lenses become. If it's snowing or overcast the lens stays lighter. Indoors, they always stay light no matter the light intensity.

Photochromic color lenses

Note: VLT (visible light transmission) figures provided by goggle manufacturers.

Goggle Frames and Fit

Make sure to get goggles that fit your face. Some models are best suited for smaller or larger faces. Women's and kids' sizes may be available, too. Check REI.com's product descriptions for this info.

Most frames are made of polyurethane because it allows for some flexibility. In general, a more flexible frame is best for cold temperatures. Again, our online product description will often give clues about a frame's flexibility.

Other fit considerations:

  • Helmet: Virtually all goggles are helmet-compatible, but it's still a good idea to try on new goggles with your helmet to ensure a comfortable fit. For more on helmets, see the REI Expert Advice article, Helmets for Skiing or Snowboarding: How to Choose.
  • Strap adjustments: Most goggles have a single, sliding clip to make adjustments. Others may have an open/close buckle with sliding clips on each side for adjustments. Some children's goggle straps are not adjustable.
  • Padding: This keeps the goggle from pinching your face. Foam should be thick enough to cushion your face but not be so thick that it promotes fogging. High-end goggles may use 2 or 3 layers of thin padding to enhance venting.
  • Peripheral vision: In general, a spherical lens offers better peripheral vision than a flat lens. The larger the lens, the better your peripheral vision becomes.
  • Fit: The fit should be snug (not tight) and comfortable.
  • Goggles and your glasses: If you wear prescription glasses, look for goggles designed to fit over your glasses, often referred to as OTG (Over the Glass) styles. These have space to accommodate glasses while avoiding pressure on your face from the temples and nosepiece.

Tip: You can also use an anti-fog treatment on your eyeglasses to help keep them clear under the goggles.

Top goggle brands include Anon, Bolle, Oakley, Scott and Smith.

Shop REI's selection of ski goggles or snowboard goggles.

Goggle Care

Avoiding Scratches

Though pretty durable, goggle lenses require some care to maximize their life.

  1. Get goggles with at least 1 scratch-resistant coating—2 coatings are even better.
  2. Keep the goggles in a soft-lined sack when you're not wearing them.
  3. Don't set the lenses lens-side down on a table or hard surface.
  4. Don't leave them on a heater or vehicle dashboard.
  5. Don't store them in sunlight.

Scratches usually are not covered under warranty, but some manufacturers do have replacement lenses you can purchase.

Cleaning

Check your instruction manual first. Use a recommended cleaner and a very soft cloth—paper products and ski gloves can make scratches. Keep fingers off of the lenses to avoid oil, dirt and smudges. Most goggle storage sacks double as a cleaning cloth.

To clean:

  • Shake off excess snow.
  • Clear snow off of vents.
  • Let any remaining snow melt.
  • Use a soft cloth or anti-fog cloth to blot (not wipe) the lens dry.
  • Put goggle back on and keep moving. Airflow will help goggles stay dry.

Goggle FAQs

Q: Do ski goggles and snowboard goggles offer basically the same function and protection?

A: Yes, differences are mainly cosmetic.

Q: What lens colors are best for bright, sunny days?

A: Brown, gray and copper-colored lenses all offer reduced VLT (visible light transmission) and thus excel on bluebird days.

Q: What lens colors should I consider for snowy or overcast days?

A: Yellow, gold, amber, green or rose-colored lenses all offer increased VLT and make good choices on socked-in days.

Q: What lens color should I use for night skiing?

A: Go with goggles that offer a clear lens option.

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