The beauty of skiing is comparable to that of diving: an athlete can admire the stunning breathtaking landscapes on the mountain summit or deep in the sea while most people can only see them in the movies. The skiers who find themselves on a slope on a piercingly bright sunny day say that the view is spectacular. Just like a diver needs a scuba and an astronaut needs a space suit, a skier needs goggles to protect their eyes and save them from falling. Today, we’ll describe to you in detail the process of choosing the right snowboarding goggles, the differences between various products, what their price depends on and, of course, we’ll pick the 10 best snowboard and ski goggles.
Table of Contents:
- The Principles of Choosing Snowboard Goggles
- Snowboarding Goggles Peculiarities
- Тоp-10 ski and snowboard goggles
- Is a Marketed Brand Worth Overpaying For?
Let’s first figure out the terms. There is no difference between snowboard goggles, snowboarding goggles and ski goggles. All three mean a framed or strapped lens to be worn over a hat or a helmet.
Confusion sometimes arises with the term Electric snowboard goggles. Some might believe that this is some sort of fancy electric gadget with heating or intense ventilation. Such products are indeed available on the market (they are manufactured by such renowned brands as Smith Optics), but they aren’t called electric. In this case, Electric is a popular Californian brand name. This company specializes in manufacturing not only snowboard goggles but also sunglasses and trendy watches and clothes in various price segments. Perhaps, that is the reason for the increased interest of the public to the brand.
Choosing the best snowboard goggles, especially for the first time, is not an easy job. If you prefer calm skiing to extreme sports, then it probably makes no sense to invest in the expensive $200 products by famous Oakley, Smith, VonZipper, Anon, and Spy. At the same time, be critical of any offers under $12. The lens of such options might be of inferior quality and might scratch easily, mist or, worse, distort the view. In this case, you risk doing harm to your eyesight, or falling after stumbling on an unseen obstacle.
Convenience is nonetheless important, as you should feel comfortable. No pressure on your nose or other parts of your face is acceptable. If you wear a helmet, your forehead should be covered entirely so that the mask and the helmet form a whole together. Goggles look very pretty on pictures in online stores: they have bright, shiny specular lens. Mind that the sun, wind, frost and snow will test your stamina in the mountains. You won’t be able to shelter in the subway or in a mall from the bad weather, so you can’t just rely on the appearance of the goggles when picking your ski equipment. If you can’t afford an item with several removable filters, go for the versatile dark brownish-orange filter rather than a blue or a black one (as they are suitable for bright light only). As for the specular lenses, they are only good in sunny weather and not very suitable for gray gloomy days.
Here we’ll discuss lens characteristics, misting and ventilation, removable filters, photochromic and polarized lenses, lens shape and view angle, special items for those who wear glasses and women’s snowboard goggles. And if you cannot wait, scroll directly to the Top-10.
The quality of snowboard goggles depends first and foremost on the lens. Most of the lenses are made of polycarbonate, a durable, lightweight, cold-resistant plastic that will not break, even under strong impact. The only weakness of polycarbonate is its optical transparency, i.e. a complete absence of any visual distortions. Here there is no limit to perfection, so many manufacturers experiment with a polycarbonate base and offer their own kinds of lenses (Oakley calls their lenses Plutonite, Smith Optics named theirs Caprbonic-X). Polycarbonate’s potential competitor is Trivex. Its optical clarity is considered to be better than that of polycarbonate due to the higher refractive index of light passing through the lens. However, Trivex is not used in the mass production of ski glasses.
The good news is that today, practically all products are equipped with full UV protection lenses (100% UV Protection or UV 400 label attest this). Moreover, they will protect you regardless of their price and filter color as even a transparent polycarbonate lens will save your eyes from harmful radiation. So, if you face a dilemma of either buying a cut-rate item or not buying anything at all, this is an argument for actually making the purchase. It is very dangerous to find yourself in the mountains on a bright sunny day! The snow will reflect bright light basically blinding a rider and causing cornea burns (or the so-called “snow blindness”).
Misting and Ventilation
Manufacturers consider eliminating misting to be just as rich in innovation opportunities as optical transparency. Today, there is even heated snowboard goggles powered by a small battery (for instance, Abom lenses have a heat-conducting layer). Smith Optics offers products with a built-in battery-powered fan to evaporate all liquid. Julbo’s Aerospace lenses are removable for ventilation. The disadvantage of such equipment with compulsory ventilation is their premium price ($200-$250) and certain bulkiness (you’ll have to put the battery somewhere, watch its charge and take care of the wires). On the other hand, Abom snow goggles are USB-charged and the battery lasts for 3 hours (the starting price is $250). The company calls its lens heating technology the electronic anti-fog technology.
It’s fair to say that many products are equipped with a passive ventilation system which is often sufficient. Cold air enters the case through special holes and pushes the warm air out so that the lens won’t mist. Moreover, the manufacturers apply Antifog coating on the lenses, which is why it is not recommended to wipe them with rough cloth. Dual lenses are known to prevent misting while singular lens items are only suitable for high-speed descents.
Life hack: if you want to warm up in a café after descending a slope, take off the goggles before entering and let them dry on their own (they are sure to mist due to temperature changes). To reduce misting when actually snowboarding, reduce your body temperature: unzip your suit, take off the balaclava or an extra sweater. If you ski in dry frosty resorts, you will rarely face a ventilation issue.
Ideally, you should have a separate filter (i.e. lens color) for all kinds of weather and lighting. In reality, this is impossible as first of all, mountain weather is extremely changeable and it is inconvenient to change filters all the time, and second of all, each brand produces their own color line along with use recommendations, although the issue is very individual. The only objective criterion in this matter might as well be VLT (Visible Light Transmission). The manufacturers indicate VLT rate ranging from 0 to 100%. The higher the percentage, the more light is transmitted by the filter. That is why, for instance, you can use 90% VLT goggles with yellow lenses in the evening and you should opt for smoky 10% VLT filters early in the morning. Modern snowboarding goggles simplify the filter change to the maximum which is why many riders buy two filters that can be changed right on the slope.
Photochromic (Chameleon) Lenses
These magical lenses needn’t be replaced as they adjust to the ambient light level. The filter becomes darker when the sun shines bright and becomes lighter when it’s darker. Still, those who wear diopter sunglasses know that such chameleons are very slow. Once you enter the room after leaving a brightly lit street, you’ll have to wait several seconds for your glasses to lighten. The same is true for snowboarding photochromic lenses: you’ll need to wait about 20 seconds before they switch color. This is too long for free riding or riding in the woods where bright light and shadows alter all the time. However, if you don’t leave the designated trails, you can try Julbo, a French brand specializing in such chameleons. There are various Julbo products available on Amazon.com, such as small and light Women's Luna (their price is ~$180) or large Julbo Universe with Zebra Lens (their price is ~$220).
Lens Shape and Viewing Angle
Sometimes, a lens’ shape greatly affects convenience. If the slope is milky, i.e. the land merges with the sky because of swirling winds from the snow, then goggles with a cylindrical (flat) lens become uncomfortable, and it feels like the viewing angle is limited. Wide lenses, on the other hand, are not always beneficial. The image may be distorted at the edges, which only hinders visibility. Therefore, convex spherical lenses that repeat the human eye shape are considered to be of superior quality. As a rule, spherical lenses are more expensive than flat ones.
Life hack: you might think that the bigger the frame, the less chance there is of a frostbitten face. In fact, when it’s freezing and a strong wind is blowing, the nose tip which is bound to stick out freezes the most. To avoid being frostbitten, wear a balaclava when snowboarding.
This is a yet another factor affecting the price. Polarizing lenses are known for not only saving you from the blinding sun, but also for eliminating glare, enhancing contrast and clarity. That is why polarizing lenses are popular with aquatic athletes – it is no secret that water surface shines bright in the summer. As for mountain skiing and snowboarding, polarizing lenses aren’t always useful because the sun doesn’t shine 24/7 in the mountains.
Snowboarding Goggles for Those Who Wear Glasses
Such products are labeled OTG (Over the Glasses). They have extra room inside and sometimes a special adapter for which you will have to pick lenses. Naturally, choosing OVT goggles is more complicated as first you need to carefully measure the frame. The ventilation issue is also aggravated. In this case, OTG products with compulsory ventilation (such as Smith Optics’ Knowledge Turbo Fun OTG) should be helpful.
Womens’ Snowboard goggles
Most modern goggles have adjustable straps and are suitable for men, women and teenagers. As you must have already realized, color also indicates nothing as seeing a brutal snowboarder wearing neon pink goggles is not a big deal on the slope. The filter should correspond to the weather. When I picked my own equipment, I was looking for the items with two filters supplied which seems to me most convenient for amateur boarding. For instance, Oakley Airbrake Snow Goggles (~$220) sold with two filters: a colored specular lens for sunny days and a transparent one for overcast weather are available on Amazon.com.
Here we’ve picked the 10 best items within the price range of $11-$75 which will be suitable for different skiers and snowboards: for narrow and broad faces, cut-rate and expensive ones with magnet lenses and hi-tech NASA imitation filter technologies. There is also equipment made by Marilyn Monroe favorite brand and with compulsory ventilation for the hottest riders out there.
These goggles are made for those who snowboard rarely and don’t have any high expectations other than UV protection. The design is very simple as there is an irremovable lens, the body is plastic, and the strap is adjustable. There is no ventilation. Just like all other cheap masks, there is a single layer of interior foam (although it contains cotton to reduce misting). Sbeedo can become a useful riding accessory but at the same time, you won’t be afraid of losing or damaging it.
Price: ~ $11.95 Check the current price
This is a cut-rate option that deserved positive customer feedback. It is hardly any more modern than the equipment that snowboarding veterans used to wear, as there are no winter optic innovations and the lenses are irremovable. Some customers note that the quality of the inside polyurethane foam is low. We’ll turn your attention to the fact that it has dual spherical lenses rather than flat ones. The former ones are considered more advantageous for snowboarding. Moreover, the manufacturers guarantee 100% UV protection, and there are also ventilation holes. Traverse has introduced its own VLT scale, where you can pick a filter ranging from 8 to 100% VLT filter (a transparent or a dark one).
Price: ~$18.99 Check the current price
This is a classic mask with a dark open frame. It is quite versatile thanks to its traditional design and is light (it weighs only 0.3 pounds). The lenses are irremovable but the internal fleece and polyester triple lining is of incredible quality for this price range. The item is suitable for those who have a narrow face or wear glasses.
Price: ~ $23.99 Check the current price
These are wide and large goggles that will likely suit men more than women (pay attention to the sizes in the description). Spherical lenses have a REVO coating that redistributes light. Ski opticians have borrowed this technology from NASA as it was first implemented back in 1985 for spaceship window protection. REVO lenses make the view more vivid and contrast and partly filter the spectrum. This is needed because the blue shades that prevail when it’s overcast create a flat image as the relief merges. Customers recognize that these lenses have high optical transparency and it is the passive ventilation that is insufficient for the hottest riders and causes dissatisfaction.
Price: ~$32.99 (on sale) Check the current price
JULI, Anti-fog, Spherical Dual Lens
This spherical equipment lacks the outer frame and does not limit peripheral vision. It has specular lenses, high optical transparency, and an adjustable and removable strap. Inside, there is a system of passive ventilation, i.e. small holes for air circulation. The design allows changing color lens depending on the weather. However, you’ll have to buy a second lens because it is not supplied. You can choose lenses with a gold, black, red, blue, green or transparent filter with 7%-25% VLT (which is recommended for sunny and overcast weather).
Price: from ~$39.99 (on sale) Check the current price
The French brand Bollé has been manufacturing sunglasses since 1950s. It is this company that invented the infamous cat’s eye, the elongated lenses loved by Marylin Monroe and Grace Kelly. In 1960, Bollé launched its first line of snowboarding goggles and today it offers a great number of products within the price range of $16-$250. Carve has dual lenses and dual foam interior lining. There are ventilation holes, and a special coating protects the lenses from misting and scratching. Although Bollé does not specialize in skiing equipment, the company has been producing lenses for over half a century and can thus guarantee a certain level of quality.
Price: ~$39.99 Check the current price
This is one of the most versatile and functional items under $50. It is equipped with specular spherical lenses, magnetic fastening for quick filter change and sufficient OTG for boarding. Its shape and adjustable strap make it suitable for both teens and adults. Most of the customers’ complaints deal with glares but, as we’ve mentioned already, only the pricey polarizing lenses are able to deal with that.
Price: ~$49.99 Check the current price
Zionor Lagopus X Black
Apart from the REVO coating, the filters are removable here. Wide spherical lenses don’t limit peripheral vision. DROP BALL technology aimed at assuring additional strength and is approved by the FDA is used for the fans of extreme sports.
Price: ~$39 (on sale) Check the current price
ZIONOR Lagopus X4
Zionor fastens dual spherical lenses with magnets so it will take you only a couple of minutes to change the filters. This item’s owner would hardly hold out from buying spare replacement lenses as the manufacturer offers 17 options varying in color and VLT rates. If you are ready to board in any weather rather than merely on warm and sunny days, you’ll be able to pick the proper filter for any weather. Its panoramic design provides for a wide view angle without side distortion. Unlike cheap analogues, the product is lined with three layers of foam. By the way, it looks massive enough so it might not suit teens or narrow-faced people.
Price: ~$32.99 (on sale) Check the current price
SCOTT US OTG Storm
Each brand has a history and a competitive edge of its own. SCOTT’s edge is ski sticks. It seems like nothing new could be invented here, but SCOTT proved us wrong. In 1935, the company invented the first ever aluminum sticks and it has been considered a ski equipment master for over 80 years. A SCOTT mask is equipped with compulsory battery-powered ventilation. Its dual smoky spherical lenses ensure high visibility when it’s overcast. Moreover, it has a dual lining on the inside and the silicone Velcro strap will guarantee perfect fitting to the helmet. There are plenty of advantages of this $75 item that unfortunately has irremovable filters.
Price: ~ $75 Check the current price
Let’s summarize all of the above with our traditional chart.
Best Ski and Snowboard Goggles Comparison Chart
|Traverse Varia||Dual spherical irremovable||+|
|Zionor Lagopus||Spherical removable||+|
|JULI,Antifog, Spherical Dual Lens||Specular removable||+|
|Bollé Carve||Dual removable||+|
|OutdoorMaster PRO||Specular spherical removable||+|
|Zionor Lagopus X Black||Wide spherical removable||+|
|ZIONOR Lagopus X4||Dual removable||+|
|SCOTT US OTG Storm||Dual spherical irremovable||+|
I’ve been skiing for over 10 years: I began with mountain ski before getting on a snowboard. Judging from my experience, I can say that the best equipment is the one that fits well and that is comfortable, regardless of its price or brand. I used to board in my old skiing boots that I bought in a thrift shop several years ago. I liked them although I knew that they weren’t right and that no skiing pro would approve of them. Finally, I ended up buying new boots in a ski rack which I picked having measured my foot and following some pro tips. Unfortunately, they failed the slope test. I’m not used to tight boots and their high price only compounded my dislike. Perhaps that was one of the reasons for my switching to a snowboard.
The same can happen with goggles. If you sweat a lot when boarding, $250 items will mist just as hopelessly as the $20 one. Skiing has never been cheap and you can spend several thousands of bucks on full equipment. If that doesn’t fit your plans, don’t overpay. First, take a few rides in simple goggles and define your claims and look for a brand name option after that, if needed. Do they mist? You need compulsory ventilation. Are you dissatisfied with the contrast? Try Oakley with Prizm technology, for instance (Amazon.com lists this technology in the lenses color section for Oakley Men's Airbrake XL for ~$157.29).
They are endorsed by Lindsey Vonn, an Olympic alpine ski racing champion. The company has even launched a product named after her, FLIGHT DECK™ XM LINDSEY VONN PRIZM™. The lenses muffle unwanted colors of the spectrum, and the picture thus becomes sharper. However, this does not cancel the need for filter change, so in addition to $200-$250 goggles, you’ll have to buy at least one more lens. If this is not done, and you board wearing the wrong filter, the view will not be perfect. So, before you spend about $400 for a brand name product, try a simpler option, which may turn out to be the best for you.