Ski Goggles! How to Choose the Proper Lens // Ski Reviews
Here at SkiEssentials.com we field a lot of questions about goggle lenses. There are so many lens choices within so many goggles choices that it can be somewhat overwhelming when trying to choose what tint is right for you. While it would take a textbook-length document to cover every different lens tint on the market from all the major goggle manufacturers we thought we would take some time to cover what we consider the four major categories for goggles in terms of the lens tints they provide and the appropriate use of each. While you’ll see some slightly varying information and terms across different brands, in our opinion these categories are most easily described as: Sunny Weather, Mixed Weather, Stormy Weather, and Interchangeable. We don’t expect this to be the end-all, tell-all of goggle lens guidelines, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer service representatives either via phone, email, or through a comment right here on this article. Without further ado, here are some examples of goggles and lenses in each category:
High alpine environments on sunny days require some pretty serious eye protection. At high elevations you’re physically closer to the sun and its rays are increasingly more powerful. The sun also reflects off the snow, effectively doubling its strength and ability to harm your eyes (not to mention burn your skin; that’s a whole different article). If you live in a high elevation area that receives a lot of sunshine (We’re looking at you Colorado and California) having a dedicated sunny day lens is crucial. Even for those of us that live in cloudier climates (SkiEssentials.com is located in Stowe, VT, so we have our fair share of cloudy days) can benefit from having a pair of sunny day goggles on hand for those rare. Goggle lens tint is measured by Visual Light Transmission (VLT) or in other words the amount of light they are letting through to your eyes. The lower the number, the less light is being let through. Sunny day lenses have the lowest VLT, while lenses intended for cloudy, dark days will have very high VLT ratings.
While there are a lot of different lens tints out there intended for sunny days, black lenses are a safe way to go and often offer the lowest VLT. We’ll share some sunny day lenses that aren’t black further down in the Interchangeable section, but first we want to show you three examples of blacked out lenses that will allow your eyes to completely relax on a bright, sunny day. From Poc, their Black lens is far and away the darkest they offer. If you’re specifically shopping for a sunny day goggle and prefer to go with Poc, you’ll want the black lens. These lenses offer 7% VLT, so only 7% of the sun’s rays are actually reaching your eyes. On super sunny days, especially at high elevations, these lenses work phenomenally. They allow your eyes to relax and thus reduce fatigue from squinting and completely change the skiing experience on a bright sunny day. Marker’s Black HD lens found on the 16:9 shown here and on many of their other goggles is a polarized lens with a 21% VLT. These lenses are letting more light through when compared to Poc’s black lens, and would be a great choice for days when you expect very few clouds, but want to be prepared if they do roll in and things get a little darker. While we wouldn’t put it into the category of mixed weather lenses, they offer more versatility than the Poc lens, but less protection from full on, high elevation sun.
There are a ton of mixed weather goggle lenses on the market from various manufacturers. There’s definitely some personal preference in this category in terms of base tint color, but for the most part you’re going to see a base tint with the same or a different color mirror finish. The base tint is typically designed to increase contrast for cloudy conditions, while the mirror finish helps reduce glare and reflect the sun when it comes out. Poc, for example, has a lot of different mixed weather lenses that range from 31 to 41% VLT. You’ll notice we’ve jumped up a bit from the sunny day lenses, especially from Poc’s ultra-dark 7% black lens. If you’re only going to own one pair of goggles and one lens, this is probably the way to go, unless you specifically know you want a brighter or darker lens for a specific application (say you only get to night ski, you’d want a much brighter lens, or if you only ski when it’s sunny, you could just have a sunny day lens). For those that ski in a variety of weather conditions, however, and want the simplicity of just having one pair of goggles, we’d stick this style lens.
We have two examples from Poc here: the Lid with Lead Blue frame and Persimmon Red Mirror lens and the Iris Stripes with a Terbium Blue frame and Pink Gold Mirror Lens. The Persimmon Red Mirror lens has 41% VLT, so it lets through a fair amount of light. These lenses are a great choice for area that receives quite a lot of cloudy days. The persimmon base helps boost contrast and the red mirror finish helps cut glare when the sun does come out. Our staff has quite a lot of experience skiing in this lens here in Stowe, VT, where it works great for most days. Here in Vermont it’s not uncommon to get a wide range of weather conditions in a single day and this lens helps adjust to different conditions. Pink Gold Mirror is slightly darker, with a 32% VLT. This is still a very versatile lens, although gives slightly more protection from the sun on bright days. Marker’s Surround Mirror lens, shown here on the Projector in the Blue Bird frame, is very similar. It also uses a pink (sometimes referred to as rose) base tint with dark mirror finish to cut glare. It comes in with a 35% VLT rating.
Stormy weather lenses are all about boosting contrast in the snow and letting as much light through as possible without causing eye fatigue (blanketed snow is bright even when the sun isn’t out). You often won’t see a mirror finish on a lens intended for darker, stormier conditions, although in some cases, which we’ll cover later, we do see a subtle mirror finish on bright lenses. Poc’s Sonar Orange lens shown here on both the Fovea and Retina goggles actually only has a 39% VLT, which you may notice is lower than the Persimmon Red Mirror lens. The difference here is that there is no mirror finish. Instead the lens is designed specifically to increase contrast and visual definition in flat light and low light conditions. If you want a lens that’s suitable for even the darkest of days, Poc’s Yellow lens has a super high 71% VLT rating. These lenses are great for those days when it’s absolutely dumping, or when you have dark clouds above and drastically reduced visual contrast in the snow. Stormy Weather lenses are a must for stormy powder days if you want to maximize your vision and the amount of fun you’re having. Every brand has their own version of a stormy weather lens and we’re going to see more in our next category: interchangeable Lenses.
Let’s start here by mentioning that every goggle lens can be replaced, but interchangeable goggles are specifically designed to make it way easier. If you’ve ever changed the lens in a non-interchangeable goggle you’ll know what we’re talking about. It can be a challenge and it’s not exactly something you’d want to do on the chairlift. Goggles that are specifically designed for people who want to change out their lenses, however, make it quick and easy and typically offer both a sunny lens and a stormy lens, with some slight variation. For avid skiers we strongly recommend having either an interchangeable goggle or having multiple pairs of goggles for different weather conditions. The clarity of your vision plays a huge roll in both enjoyment and safety while skiing. If you can’t see where you’re going you’re not going to have much fun, we can promise that.
Smith has been a leader in interchangeable goggles ever since their introduction of the I/O. This goggle basically started it all and continues to be one of the most popular goggles on the market. There are now many different variations of the I/O, including the newest model the I/O 7 that we are showing as well. These goggles will all come with both a sunny day lens and a stormy weather lens allowing you to customize your eyewear for the day’s weather conditions. We mentioned in the Sunny Lens category above that there are other sunny lenses other than black. Here we have two examples from Smith: Red Sol-X and Green Sol-X. Red offers 17% VLT and Green offers 12% VLT. You’ll notice that although they’re not black, these lenses are actually darker then the black Marker lens we talked about earlier and are great examples of good sunny day lenses that aren’t black. Smith also offers their interchangeable goggles with ChromaPop lenses: a technology we covered here on Chairlift Chat that you can read about here.
In addition to the sunny day lenses you’re also getting a stormy day lens. In the non-ChromaPop goggles these lenses will either be red sensor mirror, blue sensor mirror, or yellow sensor mirror. These lenses offer 55%, 60%, and 65% VLT respectively. You’ll notice that these lenses all have mirror finishes, unlike the lenses we talked about from Poc in the Stormy Weather section above. Smith’s low light lenses are famous for boosting contrast in snow conditions. Marker also offers interchangeable goggles in a similar style. Any time you see a Marker goggle with “Plus” in the title it’s going to come with two lenses. This particular example uses Marker’s Green Plasma mirror for sunny days with a 15% VLT (again, notice this is actually darker than their black lens!) and their Clarity Mirror lens with 68% VLT that’s perfect for those stormy days. There are, of course, more options from both Smith and Marker as well as many other brands, each of which with slightly different lens combinations, but almost always following the sunny day and stormy day pattern.
As we mentioned above it would take a textbook length document to cover every lens tint option from every goggle manufacturer, so we’re not even going to try to do that. We do hope, however, that this guideline gives you a better understanding of what you’re looking at when you’re shopping for goggles. We encourage anyone with questions to reach out to our customer service staff or leave a comment right here on this article. We’re very happy to recommend a goggle lens tint for your specific application and understand that the process can be somewhat confusing. Moving into 2018 we are hoping to build a more user-friendly lens tint guideline for each goggle, but in the meantime please reach out to us and we can help guide you through the process personally.