Ski Goggle Lens Colour Guide | Ridestore Magazine

Like every other part of skiing and snowboarding, snow goggle lens tech has moved on leaps and bounds in the last few years. What used to be an exercise of simply keeping snow and wind out of your eyes has now become a space-race between the top companies to maximise peripheral vision, boost contrast to inhuman standards, offer protection from wind, snow, UV rays, and yetis, and make you look cool, too. But with so many lens shape, style, and colour options, which is best, what are they for, and where, oh where, do we begin? Well, right here, and right now. Read on to check our lens colour guide for ski goggles.

Do ski goggle lens colours matter?

Yes. But also no. Lens colour has an interesting relationship with what you might ‘tint’ or the darkness of the lens. Traditionally, certain colours would be darker than others, and that still holds true for the most part — a black lens is darker than a yellow lens, for example. But there’s a lot of movement within the world of lens colours and what’s known as VLT or ‘visible light transmission, which is a percentage figure attributed to a lens to let the wearer know how ‘dark’ that lens is going to be.

VLT percentages and colours

The VLT percentage of a lens is the primary indicator of how dark a lens will be when wearing it and is how you determine the suitability of a lens to the conditions at hand. The lower the VLT percentage, the darker the lens will be. As we mentioned above, black lenses tend to be the darkest!

Mirrored silver lenses, greens, and blues are also often quite dark with VLTs in the 15-25% VLT range. Reds, pinks, roses, and even champagnes are often mid-tint goggles with VLTs ranging in the 25-40% range. And then yellows, oranges, and pale pinks are usually around 40-60% depending on the intended usage!

Some companies also produce clear lenses for use at night or indoors as these two forms of riding become more popular. But while colour is usually indicative of tint, it’s always important to check the two. For example, Oakley makes several pink lenses, some of which have a low VLT and others a high VLT, so always good to check!

Now, you might be wondering what the implication will be of choosing a colour based on how it looks. This again depends on what kind of riding you do, how many lenses you want to carry, what brand you go for, and a few other factors. If you just want one lens that does everything, then aiming for a mid-level VLT in that 25-40% range is usually a good catch-all option. If you choose a dark lens with a low VLT then you’ll likely struggle in low light conditions. And conversely, if you choose a lens with a high VLT then you’ll be blinded in bright sunshine.

Low and high light lenses

low and high light lenses

If you only ride when the weather is good, and you’re never going to go out in snowy, grey, flat-light conditions, then having a lens with a high VLT isn’t really necessary. 

High VLT lenses will change the ‘base colour’ of the world around you and will make picking out the terrain in front of you a lot easier. Even in flat light or cloudy conditions, snowy landscapes are still extremely bright and overwhelm our eyes. Changing the colour without dimming the world is what high VLT or ‘low light’ lenses do to help our eyes see more. This is aided with tech like polarisation and contrast-boosting, but we’ll come to that in a little bit.

Low VLT or high light lenses will do the primary job of dimming the light coming from the sun. In low-light conditions, there’ll be fewer shadows on the snow, which means that dimming the brightness of the world will only make things tougher. In high-light conditions, shadows are abundant, but the glare from the snow can make them hard to see. Low VLT lenses protect the eye from glare and sunlight and make it easier for your eyes to do their job. Much like sunglasses.

For what they called ‘mixed’ or ‘variable’ conditions, cloudy and sunny days, basically, a mid-range VLT lens is the best choice. Red lenses remain the most popular as a one-lens-for-all-conditions choice, but for riders who want the best performance and don’t mind swapping their lens in the morning before hitting the chair, having at least two lenses, one with a mid-low VLT around that 25% mark, and a high VLT lens in the 50% range will give you the ability to adapt to the weather at hand and provide you with the best chance to see obstacles as they arise. Literally!

Polarised lenses

polarized lenses

If you’re in the market for a new pair of goggles, you may see some being marketed as polarised and others not. Polarisation is not a new technology in lenses but is essential if you really want to make sure you’re getting the best from your snow goggles. Polarisation removes glare, which is abundant in the snow. The long and short of the whole polarisation/VLT/contrast-boosting conversation is that our eyes can only do so much, and goggles aim to allow them to work at their absolute best. Polarisation is something that definitely does this and is a must-have for anyone wanting a good pair of goggles.

Contrast-enhancing technology

‘Contrast-enhancing’ or ‘contrast-boosting’ technology may sound gimmicky, but all the big brands have their own version of it. There’s quite a lot of nuance to it, but generally, the idea is to make the dark things darker and the bright things brighter. Through clever use of special coatings, layers, angles, and materials that interact with light in different ways, goggles can make the dimmer parts of the world (like shadows) darker without affecting the brightness of the lighter bits.

At this point, it’s basically wizardry. But what it does do is make those tiny ridges in the snow that would otherwise be invisible completely visible, meaning you can ride better, and safer. Another must-have for anyone wanting to get the most from their goggles.

Magnetic lenses and other designs

magnetic lenses

Some goggles come with fixed lenses (quite uncommon for decent goggles these days!), others come with pop-out lenses, and some come with magnetic lenses. Each lens will have its own positives and drawbacks, but in general, the tech will be pretty much the same.

Let’s not talk about fixed lenses because they’ll only be present on lower-end goggles and will likely lack the sort of tech you’d want on the mountain anyway! When it comes to pop-out lenses, you’ll need to physically pop them out of the frame to change them. With these kinds of lenses, they require a little more input to change, but the positives are that they won’t come free of the frame and get lost in a big crash, and sometimes they’re more flexible, too, which could mean a better fit to the face. Though with variable sizing in frames these days and lots of padding, fitment isn’t really much of an issue anymore.

Magnetic lenses’ main boon is that they can be switched out at the drop of a hat while wearing gloves or mittens. They can also be pulled off if you’re feeling hot and can be removed for easy cleaning without taking your helmet or goggles off. They’re also very safe in that it’s highly unlikely they’ll come off during a crash. The only downside is that they tend to be slightly heavier (due to the magnets) and more expensive (due to the magnets) than other goggles. But otherwise, there’s no real drawback.

Cylindrical vs. spherical vs. toric lenses

Cylindrical vs. spherical

Lens shape is, thankfully, an easy one to answer! There’s nothing to suggest that lens shape has any real effect on riding or peripheral vision. The amount of peripheral vision you have is based solely on two things — first, how much natural peripheral vision you have, which varied greatly from person to person. And secondly, where in relation to your peripheral vision limits, the frame of the goggles sits on your face. And now that most goggles have reached the point that the lenses are outside anyone’s peripheral vision unless they’re part chameleon, the question of which lens shape is better is one that’s now purely aesthetic!

Lens shape can be defined on two axes, the X-axis, or horizontal axis, and the Y-axis, or the vertical axis. A cylindrical lens will be curved on the X-axis but flat on the Y-axis, as though you turned a cylinder upright and moulded the lens shape around it. A spherical lens has an equal curve on both the X and Y axes as though you moulded them around a sphere. A toric lens has a curve on both the X and Y axes which are not equal, as though you moulded the lens around an [American] football or rugby ball.

How to choose the right colour for your snow goggles

How to choose the right colour for your snow goggles

When you’re choosing the colour of your next pair of goggles, find a style or model that you like, and then go right to the VLTs and decide whether you’re going single lens, or you’re going to get two or three.

If you’re going to use one lens for everything and never get a specific high or low light lens, then you should choose a lens with a VLT in the 30-40% range so that you’ll have good protection in bright sunlight, but it won’t be super dark on flat-light days.

If you’re going to choose two lenses, get one in the 20-25% range for bright and mixed days, and one up around 50% for those flat-light days!

If you’re going to choose three lenses, then get one low VLT lens (<20%), one mid-VLT lens (<40%) and one high VLT lens (>50%), and use the one that’s most appropriate for the conditions on that day.

After you’ve got the VLTs hit correctly, then colour comes down solely to how you want the goggles to look! Which hopefully, is good news.

Frequently asked questions about goggle lens colour

Frequently asked questions about goggle lens colour

We get asked lots of questions about snowboarding and ski goggles, and we put the most common ones below to help you make the right decision this coming season!

Is one colour best?

No, there’s no one ‘best’ colour. The outer colour of the lens may have some bearing on the VLT or Visible Light Transmission percentage (the darkness of the goggles), but not on what colour it turns the world (unless the goggles are really cheap!), unlike sunglasses. Some goggles even have different colours outside and in. For example, Oakley goggles with Prizm tech will always have a pinkish tinge while looking through them, but could be black, green, blue, or even red on the outside! VLT is what is important, the colour is more just a style choice. Hopefully the two match up for you!

What’s the best colour for all conditions?

The recommended VLT for all conditions (ie. one lens for everything) is usually around the 30% mark as it gives a good amount of sun protection while not being too dark for low light days. Goggles with a 30% (or close) VLT are often shades of red, and even some blue lenses have a 20-30% VLT rating.

Do I need one lens or multiple?

One lens is fine, especially if you’re not intending to ride on low-light or snowy days. If you intend to ride in all weathers, then getting at least a mixed light lens (20-30% VLT) and a low light lens (50%+ VLT) is the best option that mixes value and performance in all conditions.

Is there a best brand?

There are lots of reputable goggle brands, and while some of them are more expensive than others, goggles are definitely worth the price tag if you’re getting a good pair! Some of our favourite brands are Montec, Dope, Oakley, Dragon, Smith, Anon, Giro, and the new kid on the block, Zeal. All of these brands will serve you well and have a great choice of goggles. This list is not exhaustive, though. Just do your research!

Are magnetic lenses better?

They are more convenient. That’s pretty much all there is to say about it! Magnetic lenses are easier to change, so if your MO is swapping your lenses out ten times a day, then going magnetic will suit you. They’re also easier to clean on the inside and out, so there’s that, too.

Is cylindrical better than spherical?

This is a purely aesthetic choice. Go with whatever you think looks best. It’s always a point of debate, but honestly, it’s down to how they look to you. If it’s any consolation, once they’re on your face, you can’t even tell what shape they are!

Wrapping up

Hopefully, this guide has been useful in determining what goggles you’ll be choosing this year, and more importantly, how you’re going to choose them! If you have any more questions, reach out to our customer service team, but otherwise, we hope you’re now seeing a little more clearly when it comes to goggle colours. See you out there!

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