VISUAL CLARITY is paramount when it comes to getting down the hill in one piece, and moreover, simply enjoying your time in the mountains. Having a basic understanding of goggle tech will help to ensure that your next purchase is one you’ll be happy with.
Polarization, Lens Tints and Visible Light Transmission
Polarized lenses (first image above) cut down on glare (reflected light that is sometimes dangerously intense) in order to increase contrast and definition. A glare-free ride translates to less strain on your eyes, and thereby all-day comfort. You’ll appreciate polarized lenses when the sun is at its brightest, no doubt.
The tint of your lens relates directly to its visible light transmission (VLT)—the percentage of natural light that can pass through a goggle lens (first image above). A darker tint (10- to 35-percent VLT) is best for sunny days (middle image). Lighter tints (35- to 80-percent VLT) allow more sun to filter through and are best for gray, cloudy days (bottom image). Many manufacturers offer photochromic or “light adaptive” lenses that self-adjust to the ever-changing light conditions in the mountains.
Vents in your goggles help to prevent lens fogging and also allow airflow to cool you down during steamy-hot skiing adventures. Keep in mind, some goggles channel air better than others.
Spherical lenses, pictured here, are built like the shape of your eye (a sphere). They’re curved on both the horizontal and vertical axes, providing notable advantages: more surface area allows for greater vision above, below and to the sides; glare is reduced; and distortion is minimized. Cylindrical lenses are only curved on the horizontal axis, delivering excellent performance at a lower price point.
Color “Tuning” Lenses
Many of the top goggle manufacturers boast proprietary light filtering technologies in their lenses. In simple terms, these lenses essentially tune the dials on various wave- lengths of light, resulting in a major boost of color, contrast and detail. Basically, “it’s the bee’s knees.” Oakley’s PRIZM (seen above), Smith’s ChromaPop, Giro’s VIVID, POC’s Clarity and Spy’s Happy Lens are just a few examples.
A snugly integrated goggle and helmet provide comfort and streamlined ventilation. Ideally, the vents of your goggle will line up with those on the underside of your helmet brim, resulting in a continuous airway. This will keep you cool and prevent your goggles from fogging.
Quick-Change Lens System
Defined: A mechanism (buttons, levers, sliders or magnets) that allows skiers to swap “low light lenses” for “sunny day lenses” or other tint levels easily, and with little interruption to the ski day.
Anti-fog coatings are generally applied to the inside of your lens. Dirty fingers may affect this coating, so keep off! Despite anti-fog coatings and all of the manufacturers’ other efforts to prevent fogging, sometimes you just can’t win… In the case of fogged goggles, air them out or gently use a goggle cloth. Or, if you’re serious about fog-less skiing, carry a spare lens or extra pair of goggles.