Ski goggles are about as hard to choose as the right puppy. With so many choices, which way do you lean? Fear not, because our experts were on hand to weed the wheat from the chaff.
Ski goggles are a mountain essential. Bright sun or swirling snow, you need to see where you’re going. Goggles protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, as well as improving your vision, and of course stopping anything from hitting you in the face!
But they need to be comfortable, too. And of course they need to look good. The market is flooded with brands all claiming the best tech, the most comfort, the highest degree of contrast. And it’s natural you aren’t sure which to go for. Good thing we’re here then, right? Below, is our complete buyer's guide to ski goggles where we've broken down all the tech jargon so you can make the most informed choice possible, and of course we'll also share our top picks for this season.
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Psssst! Before we get going, if you're looking for other gear to complete your ski outfit, check out our latest collections here:
Let's dive in! We'll break down all the aspects you ought to consider when buying a new pair, so you can find your new favourite new goggles that'll stay with you season after season.
When it comes to lens shape, you’ve got three to think about. The easiest way to visualise these is by thinking about the axis and curvature. Don’t worry — it’s simple. The X axis is from side to side — horizontal — and the Y axis is from top to bottom — vertical.
Cylindrical lenses have a curve on the X axis, but are flat on the Y axis — like a section of a cylinder.
Spherical lenses are curved to an equal degree on both the X and Y axises — like a section of a ball.
Toric lenses have a tighter curvature on the Y axis than they do the X axis, which improves peripheral vision by creating a fish-eyed effect.
Spherical and cylindrical lenses don’t have much of a physical effect on peripheral vision, and the choice between them comes largely down to style. Though with a Toric lens, some companies have embraced the design trend, believing that it offers better FOV than a traditional cylindrical or spherical lens. Though peripheral vision varies widely from person to person anyway, before we even talk about lenses! So how beneficial that extra potential FOV is is still up for debate! The best ski goggles should be comfortable, and perform well. The shape, as we said, is more an aesthetic choice than anything else.
Now this is where things do get interesting! Each of these options works differently with light and understanding how they function will help you make the right choice. While polarised (or Ionized for some brands) are the most popular choice for high-quality goggles, each does have its merit.
A mirrored lens will work to reflect the majority of light away from the eyes of the wearer. This will create a ‘darker’ effect by working to keep a high degree of light away from the eyes. This is especially effective in harsh or bright sunlight because the combination of sunlight light and the snow reflection can cause eye strain and make it difficult to see. If you’re regularly riding in very bright conditions, mirrored can be a great choice.
These are a bit more technical, and work off a laminate mesh. This mesh functions at a molecular level, and prevents certain light-waves from passing through. These lightwaves are the ones that produce ‘glare’. As such a polarised lens functions best in those glaring conditions and is ideal when riding with light in your eyes or again, in bright conditions, where it lets the eyes feel more comfortable. However, much like mirrored lenses, a polarized lens will make things ‘darker’, so it’s tricky in low-light situations! A polarized lens, however, can have a higher VLT rating (lets more light through) but protects the eyes more, so may be a little brighter than mirrored lenses in the same conditions with the same protection. But for this nifty tech, you usually have to pay a little extra.
Photochromic lenses react to light and darken accordingly. These can be useful for more casual situations, or for those riding in reading-glasses or prescription goggles, which can’t be swapped out on the fly, but for most cases, this tech isn’t used as both mirrored and polarized are favoured for performance. As most lenses can be swapped on goggles these days, too, photochromic occupies a small niche in the market.
VLT or Visible Light Transmission is a rating given to goggle lenses which refers to how much light is allowed through at any one time. The darkest lenses — usually blacks, greens, and blues — can let in anywhere from 10-20% of light. This means 80-90% of light is blocked, reflected away, or kept out thanks to the tint of the goggles. Our eyes can only cope with so much light, and function better when not overwhelmed. A low VLT like this is ideal for direct sunlight and very bright days.
Medium-dark lenses usually let in anywhere from 20-40% of light, which is a solid figure for all-around use. A lot of riders favour such lenses for continual use as it’s a good middle ground.
When the light drops and it’s low or what they call ‘flat light’ conditions — i.e. grey, misty, snowy — and you can’t see the ground in front of you, a low light lens is necessary. Usually light pink or yellow, these lenses let in a lot more light — often 60%+ to help you see all the little contours and ridges in the snow.
However, it’s also important to check out what kind of tech the goggle company is using to help improve things like colour and contrast. Oakley have Prizm, and Dragon have Luma Lens, for example, which boost contrast and dynamic range for safer riding!
As we all love to ride in all weathers, the need to be able to swap lenses on the go has become super important. Every brand has their own system. From Swiftlock to Ridge Lock to magnetic snap in — there’s no right or wrong way to do it. But each brand has recognised the rider’s need to be able to quick change their lenses without changing their goggles, and now interchangeable lenses have become the norm. Be aware, however, that some cheaper goggles won’t have this ability, or if they do, it may not be super secure! So always do your homework and if in doubt, trust a trusted brand!
Field of View or FOV relates to how wide a field of vision is visible through the goggles. This is likely to be limited more by your own field of vision rather than the goggles, but some cool tech like Toric lenses has now gone beyond human capability, offering a fish-eye effect in certain cases to enhance your FOV even further. A larger goggle, ultimately will offer the best FOV. So if you need ultra-wide, then go big!
Fogging occurs inside a goggle for the same reason it does on any surface. Condensation is formed by the sudden meeting of a warm and cold. Either cold air on warm lenses, or warm air on cold lenses. The two primary causes of fogging are from either poor ventilation, or breath getting into your ski goggles!
Most reputable brands have venting which allows the heat from your skin to escape out of the top of the goggle. This convection of the hot air escaping causes a vacuum effect which draws cool air in through the foam around the goggle, keeping the temperature inside and outside relatively normalised. This will prevent fogging in most cases! As such, ventilation is a a factor to look for when buying a goggle. And if you see ‘armoured venting’, what that means is that the vents aren’t just holes that weaken the structure of the goggle, but are rigid. This means, even in crashes, the ski goggle won’t break or deform. Definitely a great addition to any design.
The second reason goggles fog is due to your warm breath travelling into the goggle chamber. This can happen if you have a mask on that’s tucked under your goggles and you exhale. Or even if you have a jacket zipped up and your breath is reflected back at the outside of the goggles! Fogging outside like this will clear quickly as the cold air cools the surface, but internal fogging can be an issue. This is usually down to the mask fit rather than the goggles, so be aware of your setup, and your breathing!
Framed and frameless goggle models both have their pros and cons, as well as looking different, too. The main difference, however, is how they interact with lenses. And this could be a deciding factor for you! Framed goggles are a little more classic, and have usually what’s known as a pop-out lens change system. A soft rubber or plastic frame can be pushed back off the lens for it to release, and a new one then can be pushed in in its place. This can be a little bit of a finicky process and can take a little extra time. But, these kinds of goggles avoid unplanned pop-offs — a major issue with magnetic lenses!
Some frameless goggles employ magnets to hold the goggles in place. To remove all you need to do is to pull the lens up from one corner, and the magnets will release. They won’t come off easily otherwise, so you’re going to be safe 99% of the time! However, in bad crashes, sometimes the lens can come loose and if conditions are powdery… Well, you can imagine it’s hard to see where your lens has gone when you’re rag-dolling. Magnetic lenses also tend to me a little more rigid than other lenses, so it’s important if you’re going with magnets to make sure you get a goggle size that suits your face!
Other frameless designs utilise a lock system where the lens sits on the frame and is held in place by clasps or locks. This is a fanstastic system that combines security with style, but the clasps can be small and doing this in gloves can be tough.
Is there a best option? No. All companies work towards making their goggles and lenses safe, secure, and comfortable to wear. If you’re crashing a lot, maybe stay away from magnets. But if you’re hiking backcountry and you need to swap lenses without taking the gloves off, magnets are easiest! Pop-out and lock systems are a great middle ground, though. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to preference, and style, too!
Most goggles will employ a triple-layer foam construction for their padding these days. What that tends to be is a layer of porous foam next to the frame which allows for maximum airflow to prevent fogging. Layer two is then a super soft and thick layer that conforms to the face for a good seal and reduced pressure buildup.
And then layer three is the ‘comfort’ layer. Often made from a super soft foam or a micro-fleece coated foam, this layer is in contact with the skin all day long and can often be hypoallergenic, moisture wicking, or a number of other things to keep your goggles feeling good! Pay attention to the padding as often its an overlooked factor that makes a big difference.
Generally, goggles come in two sizes: medium, and large. When you see XL or XM — for example with Oakley goggles — this is just their version of large and medium. Known for oversized ski goggles, they’ll put the ‘X’ in there to make it clear that they’re going to be oversized!
Because most goggles these days have flexible frames and lenses (and we say most), you don’t really have to worry about fit, and can often go for whatever size you think looks best. A soft goggles combined with plush foam padding will mean that even an oversized goggles will conform to a smaller face.
However, a good rule of thumb to follow is to think of your helmet sizing! If you’re a medium (or larger) helmet size, you can wear a large goggle with no problem! If you’re a small (or smaller) helmet size, a medium goggle will look oversized anyway.
OTG is a great idea for those who need to wear glasses every day. If you don’t like contacts, then it’s a good idea to get a pair of ‘sport’ glasses anyway — which are often made from impact and shatter resistant materials to keep your eyes safe on the slopes!
OTG goggles won’t differ from regular goggles in terms of fit or function, but they will have two ‘notches’ cut from the foam at the temples to allow the wearing of reading glasses underneath.
Some goggles also come with prescription inserts — which is a special compatibility that allows you to insert prescription lenses into a special frame that sits inside the goggles. This makes the goggles prescription, and means you can go glasses-free underneath. Neat, right?
But what if you don’t wear glasses and you’ve found the perfect goggles, but they’re OTG? Should you still buy them? There’s really no reason not to. And OTG goggles offer amazing ventilation thanks to the missing notch. Which is why many manufacturers make their goggles OTG anyway. There’s really no downside.
Helmet compatibility usually refers to both the width of the goggle, and the curvature of the top of the goggle in relation to the curvature of the brim of your ski helmet. Most are ‘universal’ fit, which means that most goggles manufacturers pay attention to helmets on the market and make the size and shape of their goggles to fit pretty well. You can mix-and-match brands of goggles and helmet without any trouble and as we said, they’ll fit fit fairly nicely.
However, companies like Oakley, Anon, POC, Smith, Giro — just to name a few — make both goggles and helmets, and offer complete compatibility. That means the curve of the goggles and the curve of the helmet match perfectly to provide a perfect fit with no gaps.
Is this a reason to match brands? That’s up to you. As we said, most goggles will fit most helmets without any issue. So don’t feel pressured to buy a new helmet too if you’re switching up your goggle brand!
When it comes to durability, impact and shatter resistance are top priority. All main brands these days will make their goggles and their lenses from materials that bend instead of breaking.
Not only does this improve fit, but it also means that your goggles will stand up to impacts and crashes with ease. However, durability goes beyond that now, and also includes things like scratch-resistant-coating, oleophobic coatings, and armoured venting.
It’s easy to scratch your ski goggles when you’re stuffing them in bags and jackets, so a scratch-resistant coating is a great if you’re someone who does that a lot. Oleophobic means that oils and dirt won’t stick to it as much — but we think this is sort of gimmicky, as you can always wipe off any fingerprints or smudges with a cloth. Armoured venting means that the vents on the top of the goggles have a rigid structure that won’t collapse on impact. This is common on lots of goggles now, and is a big plus for those who need a super sturdy goggle. But not essential by any means.
There’s not a whole lot we can say about style, other than possibly run through the latest trends for you. Goggles started out with thick frame and a cylindrical lens. They were often chunky, stiff, and not all that comfortable. Over the years, fashions developed and frames got thinner until the ‘frameless revolution’ happened. That was a big year!
Once we got there, Oakley led the charge into the spherical market with their Flight Deck, a goggle modeled on fighter-pilot goggles that had that big bubble-eyed look. From there, things developed in two styles — cylindrical, and spherical.
Flash forward to now, and frames have made a comeback. Producing framed goggles is cheaper than frameless or those with thinner frames, so you’ll often find budget goggles will have that classic thick-framed look.
However, there’s no performance benefit to going frameless or even thin-framed. That boils down to the lenses and the construction. So whether you’re into the bubble-eyed look or the minimalist cylindrical style, the choice is yours. Choose your gear and just go riding!
It can be tough to choose the right goggles, and while there are lots of great brands and styles out there, hearing from someone who wears and swears by their goggles day-in and day-out on the mountain goes a long way to helping make the decision. So, what are we wearing when we ride?
The Dope Sight goggles are a one-size-fits-all solution to your squinting eyes and mogul-munching face plants on account of that ‘flat light’ that makes snow ruts nigh-on invisible. Though they’re by no means a one-trick pony, and are the result of years of development and iteration by the in-house product team at Dope Snow. They’re relatively new to the goggle scene — not like the dinosaurs (we’re looking at you, Oakley!) out there — but while some see that as a negative, we think it’s a positive.
Building on the design and development legwork done by other brands, Dope Snow offer up the sight in a slick, sleek, modern package that expertly blends high contrast, impeccable vision-quality with an ultra-wide FOV, and a bombproof yet timeless design. With a cylindrical profile and a face-hugging curvature complete with triple layered, triple density foam, they fit snuggly on the face, contouring to everyone’s unique physical makeup without any pressure points, ensuring all-day comfort.
The tech that’s gone into everything, frankly, is pretty impressive. With an impact-rated, flexible TPU frame, and a lightweight, flexible double-layered lens with anti-glare, anti-fog, anti-scratch, and an oleophobic and hydrophobic coating, you can comfortably shrug off face shots and zero in on the next stash with ease. Finished off with an adjustable, non-slip strap complete with silicone grip pattern, and of course, quick-swap pop-out lenses, these goggles are dialled in and ready to rip the whole mountain. We know that because we ride them every day.
The Montec Scope goggles have been painstakingly designed to meet the unique challenges faced by riders who want to by on snow for a long, long time. Lots of goggles aim for the holy-grail — all-day comfort, zero fogging, the ability to shrug off face-shot after face-shot — but few achieve it. Montec’s whole brand identity is geared towards going further, riding harder, and getting out there in the name of adventure. But do their goggles live up to this ethos?
The design is geared towards comfort and performance in equal measure. A soft, high-impact rated TPU frame, coupled with a triple-density foam pad means that the goggles conform perfectly to every face shape. And with built-in, meshed venting around every side, airflow is guaranteed to help you stay cooler and your vision clear.
The lens itself is a dual-layered anti-glare lens available in a wide variety of VLTs and colourways, and has a pop-in construction meaning you can easily change them out on the fly depending on the light conditions. They’ve been finished off with an oleophobic and hydrophobic coating which also adds and anti-scratch quality to them, too, meaning that fingerprints wipe off easily, water beads off, and they’re damn-hard to damage — unless you’re ploughing head-first into a copse of black alders in the side country. In which case, we can’t really help you. But, on the bright side, you’ll look stylish doing it.
Now that we've covered all the basics, we want to dive into some of the frequently asked questions on the topic of ski goggles, in case you were wondering about some of this as well...
Fixed lenses are a thing of the past! Photochromic lenses may claim to do it all, but having the ability to change out your lens to match the conditions is definitely the way we’d want to go. Go interchangeable if you can. The method of swapping, though, is up to you! Magnetic, pop-out, or lock/clasp are all great choices.
There’s no conceivable benefit to going framed or frameless in terms of performance or peripheral vision when the goggles are the same size. Of course, a small framed goggle model and a large frameless goggle type will have different FOVs. But on goggles the same size, there’s no tangible benefit, so it comes down to your personal preference.
Fogging is caused by hot air getting trapped in your goggles. This can often happen when your breath travels up under your mask and into the goggle chamber. Check your mask positioning, and that there are no gaps, as this is the likely culprit! Otherwise, your goggles may be defective, faulty, or just not be very good! Cheap goggles that don’t have anti-fogging tech or coatings can get steamy over time. So if this is the case, consider an upgrade.
It will be on your face for 6-8 hours per day. So pretty important! Triple-layer is the standard and every brand has their version. Choose the one you think sounds the best. If the brand is reputable, they’ll all be pretty good!
Most goggles are flexible so fit isn’t such a big deal these days. However, there are a few things to consider. If you’ve got a size medium or larger head (helmet size), you can wear a large goggle without issue. If you have a small or smaller head (helmet size), then a medium will be an optimal choice! As for helmet compatibility, check out the section in our guide below for more info — but the long and short of it is that most goggles fit most helmets without issue!
You can, providing the goggles have OTG compatibility. A small notch is cut from the padding at the temples to accommodate the glasses arms. Some goggles have prescription inserts, too. So do your homework to find out what’s best for you!