What is the VLT of ski goggles? | Ridestore Magazine

Once upon a time, choosing the VLT of snow goggles was irrelevant. You got what the brands decided, it was one rating fits all, and if you were lucky, they’d maybe call a lens ‘high light’ or ‘low light’. Now, it’s all VLT ratings; Prizm and Panotech, toric shapes, ultrawide FOVs, and that’s just scratching the surface of the oleophobic coated lens. Nevertheless, VLT is a crucial part of choosing your next pair of ski goggles, so let’s jump into it and get you up to speed, shall we?
If you want to check out our full range of ski goggles (technical definitions included!), then why not head over to our dedicated ski goggles page to see what jumps out at you?

VLT stands for Visible Light Transmission and is the percentage rating given to the tint level of the goggle lens. If the VLT of a goggle lens is 50%, that means seeing through the lens will dim the world to 50% of its average brightness. It's easy to get dazzled when riding in bright sunlight and the snow. Your pupils need to constrict to prevent you from getting blinded, making your eyes very tired. Goggles not only protect your eyes from impacts and obstacles like tree branches but also from the sun. Full UVA and UVB protection, as well as protection from bright light, means your eyes can function at a higher level than they would normally. Pretty cool, right?

How does VLT work in ski goggles

How does VLT work?

Visible Light is a wave that passes through transparent materials, so when you talk about Visible Light Transmission, we’re looking at how many of those waves can pass through the material in question. The darker the tint, the fewer waves get through. The lighter the tint, the more waves get through. The cones and rods in your eyes absorb light reflected off objects (the whole world, really), which is how you see them. Too many waves will overwhelm your eyes and make it tough to see. Too few, and you won’t see anything.

VLT ratings differ because more waves are flying around on brighter, sunny days. On cloudy days, there are fewer. So on bright days, we want low VLT lenses (below 20% usually), and on those darker, cloudier days, we want a high VLT lens (above 30%), so we can find that optimum balance and keep our eyes sharp all day long.

What is the best VLT for variable conditions?

As we said above, below 20% is great for sunny days, and 30%+ is good for darker days. But what about variable days where you have a mixture of both sun and clouds, or if you just want one pair of goggles with one lens for everything?

A VLT of around 25% is a great all-weather balance. It’ll be dark enough so that you get good protection on bright days, but not so dark that your riding will be compromised on those dimmer days. Goggles that are this sort of VLT are often red in colour. Though colour isn’t always an indicator of VLT, so make sure to check that percentage rating before buying!

What is the best VLT for variable conditions when it comes to ski or snowboard goggles

Do I need a ‘low light lens’?

Many riders will keep two lenses — a high and mid-light lens that’s around 15-25% VLT, and then a low-light lens with a 30-50% VLT rating. While it’s unnecessary to have a specific low-light lens, lenses designed with high VLTs will make riding in low and flat light conditions much easier. In addition, low light lenses are often pink or yellow, which are proven to help boost contrast in flatter conditions.

As such, having a specific low-light lens can improve your riding and make it safer to ride in tricky conditions, especially when it’s snowy, and the visibility is extremely low. While not needed, if you intend to ride in all weathers and conditions, a low-light lens certainly proves useful. I can say that much from personal experience.

Does colour affect VLT?

Colour doesn’t necessarily affect the VLT of goggles, but many brands will use the same sorts of colours for the different VLT bandings of their goggle lenses. Different coatings can interact with light in different ways, so it’s important to always check the information before buying. We can’t stress enough that VLT is more important than colour! So always check that rating to ensure you’re buying the right goggle for your needs.

High-Light (Low VLT) <20% - Black, Silver Mirror, Green, Blue

Mig-Light (Mid VLT) 20-30% - Red, Rose

Low-Light (High VLT) 30%+ - Yellow, Pink, Brown, Clear

Note: This is only an indicative guide, and colours and VLTs may vary between brands. Always check the product descriptions for more information.

What kind of tech should I look for in goggles?

On top of the VLT and colour, it’s also important to think about the other features of goggles, too. For example, companies will often employ technologies designed to boost contrast, like Montec and Dope’s Dual Layer Lens, Oakley’s Prizm Lens, and Dragon’s Panotech Lens systems. Even in poor light conditions, these offer enhanced visibility to improve riding and safety. And honestly, in my experience, they are worth it!

The shape of the goggle may also be a factor, with cylindrical (single-axis curvature), spherical (identical dual-axis curvature), and toric (differing dual-axis curvature) to choose from. This is purely aesthetic, though, so choose whichever you like best!

Some lenses are also magnetic, which means they’re easy and quick to change and easy to clean too. But again, this is all preference. So long as you go for a reputable brand, the goggles will likely be great!

Some of our favourite brands: Montec, Dope, Oakley, Dragon, Smith, Spy, Giro, Anon, POC

What tech should I look for in goggles

In summary

VLT is an integral part of getting your whole riding set-up dialled in. Many goggles manufacturers now offer multiple options when it comes to VLTs and goggle colours, so do your research to ensure you’re getting the best choice. If you want one lens for everything, go with a medium VLT in the 20-30% range, but otherwise, spend a little more and get a low and high light lens specifically. Hopefully, this guide has given you the information you need to make that decision. Happy trails, everyone!

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