Understanding Goggle Lens Colors

Goggles can make or break a day on the slopes. We help you find the right goggle lens color for your skiing or riding conditions.

If you’ve ever been blinded by glare off snow or caught an edge because you couldn’t see the bump ahead, then you know the importance of having the right pair of ski or snowboard goggles for the conditions. Goggle lenses come in a wide variety of tints that filter color and light in different ways to enhance your vision. Some tints work best on bright, bluebird days. Others sharpen contrast on overcast days when it’s harder to pick up shadows and contours.

Which lens color is ideal for you? Here are some key considerations when trying to decide.

Think About the Conditions You’ll Be Riding or Skiing

When choosing a goggle lens color, first consider the conditions you’re most likely to ski or ride. Are you blessed with sun-drenched slopes at your local mountain? Or are cloudy socked-in rides a norm? Do conditions change quickly over the course of a few hours so it makes more sense to get a goggle for all-purpose use? You’ll want to find a tint that is most suited for the light and weather conditions you’re skiing or riding. (Of course, you may need different lenses for different situations and we’ll talk more about your options below). Either way, you’ll want to start by using a goggle’s visible light transmission, or VLT, measurement as a guide.

a bright light being shown through the lens of a pair of snowsport goggles

What does VLT Mean for Goggles?

VLT is the amount of light that passes through your lenses and reaches your eyes. Visible light transmission – measured as a percentage – is affected by factors such as the color, thickness, coatings and material of the lenses. Manufacturers will often list a goggle’s VLT (or light transmission) with their products specs. On REI.com, you’ll often find the light transmission percentage under a product’s technical specs.

Colors and light transmission can vary a lot from brand to brand, so be sure to consult manufacturer’s specs. But here’s a rough guide:

If you’re skiing or riding in … … look for a VLT in this range … … which are typically associated with these goggle lens colors …
Bright, sunny conditions < 25 % Platinum, black, red
Partly cloudy, partly sunny conditions 25-50 % Blue, green, red
Overcast, cloudy or low-light conditions 50+ % Yellow, gold/copper, amber, rose
  • Dark or mirrored lenses such as platinum, gray, black and red are suitable for days when the sun is blazing. They typically have a lower VLT (about 25 percent or less), which means less light passes through the lens and more glare is blocked.
  • Softer colors such as rose, yellow and gold increase contrast in overcast, low-light situations. They typically have a higher VLT (about 50 percent or more), which means more light passes through the lens.
  • For all-purpose use, tints such as red, blue and green cover a range of conditions, from partly cloudy to partly sunny.

If you can’t find a goggle’s VLT, don’t worry. Manufacturers such as Smith, Anon, Oakley, Zeal and others make it easy by calling out the conditions that certain lenses are best suited for or providing a guide based on bright, partially sunny or cloudy, or snowy conditions.

Which Goggle Color Is Best?

Once you’ve decided your riding conditions and the corresponding VLT for those conditions, then choosing the color is largely a matter of personal preference. Goggle manufacturers are giving you many color options to express your individual style through your goggles while enhancing visibility for the specific conditions you want to ski. Technology is allowing more lens colors to be used for bright light conditions, for example, so you’re not limited to just grays and blacks if you want to make a color statement. (A goggle with a low VLT may be layered with a blue mirror to give you a pop of color). Brands offer a wide array of colors for all weather conditions, so you’re likely to find a goggle in the shade you want for the riding conditions you need.

Multiple or Interchangeable Lenses

If you’re only buying one pair of goggles, look for one that covers you for a majority of your riding. For those who ski in different light conditions, it may make sense to get a second pair of goggles or one pair that has interchangeable lenses you can switch out depending on the conditions. Many brands make it quick and easy to change your goggle lens (even mid-run or while on the lift); the goggles use magnets, snaps or rails to swap out the lenses. Premium goggles that have interchangeable lenses also often come with a free “bonus” lens so you’ll typically have one lens for bright light conditions and another for low light conditions.

If you really can’t be bothered with switching your lenses but you ski or ride in varying conditions, photochromic goggles may be the answer. Like sunglasses, the technology on these goggles automatically darkens in bright light or gets lighter when there isn’t much light out. They’re convenient if you want just one pair of goggles but there is an upcharge for this feature.

To learn more about goggles, read How to Choose Ski and Snowboard Goggles.

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