It’s fair to say that you can no more go out on the slopes without your sunglasses or goggles as you can without your ski or snowboard boots. They are a fundamental part of your ski kit. Just like your ski boots, it is worth considering the type of eyewear you need for the conditions you are likely to encounter, their performance characteristics, comfort and most important of all, safety.
Most eye injuries that occur from skiing or snowboarding are caused either through a bad choice or by not wearing them at all. If you take a serious fall when wearing improper eyewear, the lens could shatter or the frame break causing damage to the eye. By not wearing them you could suffer from the effects of ultraviolet light or by hitting objects on the piste such as low branches or someone else’s ski pole. The wrong type of lens can also impair your vision, reducing your enjoyment on the slopes and creating hidden dangers.
Below we have highlighted the key features that you should consider when buying sunglasses or goggles this winter.
UV Protection: In addition to pre-mature aging, ultraviolet light (UVA and UVB) has been proven to cause a variety of eye disease. These include damage to the cornea which can develop into problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, cancer of the eye and sunburn to the retina called photokeratitis. UV light bounces off snow even on cloudy day, what’s more, the effects of UV rays increases with altitude. It is therefore essential to have 100% UVA and UVB protection. The UV protection is provided adding an invisible film to the lens and should always be stated by the manufacturer on the label that comes with your eyewear. If it does not state a UV protection, do not buy them.
Polycarbonate/NXT Lenses: For skiing or snowboarding only polycarbonate lenses or the much stronger NXT lenses should be considered. Both glass and plastic lenses can shatter upon impact, which could cause lens particles can penetrate the eye. Polycarbonate and NXT lenses are extremely impact resistance, and will not shatter upon impact with the ground. NXT lenses are so strong, it has been proven to deflect the impact from a bullet. Polycarbonate is lightweight and more resistant to fogging than any other lens. The material is also naturally UV absorbing which means that the clear lens can boast 100% UV protection. Glass lenses should be avoided for skiing and snowboarding but is a consideration for high altitude mountaineering where impact resistance is less important. Glass is the most scratch resistant of all lens materials and offers the best optical clarity.
Fram e Material & Style: Plastic frames perform much better than metal frames in cold conditions. Metal frames can becom e brittle in the cold and may snap, nose pads could poke an eye and generally limitations in the frame design make them difficult to fit well around the face. Plastic frames can be designed to wrap around your eyes which have many benefits when skiing or snowboarding. They provide extra wide fields of view, excellent coverage and will not bounce or shift during activity. They also keep out the wind and snow which is important for contact lens wearers and help to minimise glare by blocking out incidental light from the sides. Some advanced eyewear have side protectors that can be added or removed to provide additional protection.
Make sure you choose lightweight frames. They generally offer better comfort and can be worn longer during the day. All frame weights are shown on this site. If you suffer from lens fogging or condensation during activity, consider frames that provide a system of ventilation to move air through the frame. This will ensure proper vision and safety. Finally, no-slip temple grips and nose pads that are usually made of rubber will ensure that your eyewear stay securely in place during the most demanding of activity such as mogul skiing.
If you are a snowboarder that prefers to wear sunglasses, select those that incorporate foam inserts and provide elastic straps. They will do the same job as goggles by keeping out the snow and wind and holding the eyewear firmly on your face.
Polarized Lenses: Polarized lenses can offer advantages and disadvantages to the active skier or snowboarder. They prevent glare which manifests itself in what is called polarized light. Glare is most noticeable on high reflective surfaces such as water and snow and absorbs around 98% of the glare reflected off the snow. However, it is so successful that it can prevent you from distinguishing patches of ice from regular snow. If you are worried about icy conditions, it might be better to avoid polarized eyewear and select mirrored lenses instead.
Photochromatic Lenses: These lenses change colour with changes of light. Therefore, they will become darker in bright sunlight, and lighter in an overcast sky. They avoid you having to change lenses or sunglasses in different light conditions as they will adjust to providing you with the optimum vision for the light available.
Mirror Coatings: Mirror coatings (or ‘flash’) are good for situations that require a reduction in the overall brilliance of light, such as the sunlight on snow. They cut some but not all glare so you should be able to spot those icy patches. A double gradient metalized coating works well for snow sports. Note that back reflectance will be more noticeable with a mirror, especially on darker lenses. An Anti Reflective coating on the back surface is strongly recommended.
Anti-Fog Features: If you have experienced fogging or condensation on the inside of your eyewear, look for sunglasses or goggles with anti-fogging feature such as double/treble lenses, anti-fog coating and wide vents in the lens.
Lens Colour: In sports eyewear, there is no such thing as an all-purpose lens. For each sport there are optimal lens colours For winter sports consider the following lens tints:
Grey/Smoke. The grey, smoke and grey-green tints are the most common of tinted lens. They block out glare without changing the overall colour perception and are great for all-weather use.
Brown Amber or Rose. Provide the best contrast against a white background enhancing snow shadows on a ski slope indicating ridges or bumps on the surface. Brown is better for bright sunny conditions and Amber and Rose are better for lower light conditions (i.e. when the sun goes behind the clouds) as they are good for blocking blue light which is common on overcast days.
Yellow. Yellow tints are good for highly overcast and low light situations such as fog. They filter out blue light emphasising shadows in the snow so that you are able to see the bumps better. Overall, they improve contrast and give a heightened sense of visual acuity.
Look out for the lens category values and environmental suitability icons that are provided with all our sunglasses and goggles. They are a good indication of the amount of light allowed through the lens and of the conditions that they will be most suited for. Also consider eyewear that offer interchangeable lens, they are great for variable weather conditions.
Goggles: For those who are new to skiing or snowboarding, goggles are generally used by snowboarders in both sunny and snowing conditions and by skiers when it is snowing or extreme weather. You would use the same lens colour guidelines as above. However, if you are a skier and only use goggles in adverse weather conditions, you should consider buying Amber, Rose or Yellow tinted goggles as these tints are better for low light conditions. Make sure the goggle is well ventilated. This is particularly important for contact lens wearers as you need to make sure that your goggle is well ventilated so your contacts do not dry up. Remember to blink a lot, as well, to help keep your contacts moist. If you wear a helmet, make sure the goggles are helmet compatible. They will incorporate an articulating outrigger that will flex to allow the strap to fit around the helmet while the goggles remain firmly on the face.
Prescription Lenses: Prescription lenses can be fitted direct in most sunglasses, including wrap styles. However, if you have a high prescription, it is better to stay away from wrapped frames, as the vision will be distorted on the periphery. There are many sunglasses that offer optical adaptors that fit neatly inside your sunglasses or goggles. Make sure they include an anti-fog coating. There is nothing worse on the slope than having a good pair of sunglasses that fogs up due to the optical adaptors. All prescription adaptors offered on this site will include an anti-fog coating. A benefit of having an optical adaptor is that you have the option of removing the adaptor when wearing contact lenses. There are also goggles that are made to fit over your glasses. These are a flexible solution, however, they can be uncomfortable, and glasses tend to fog easier. If you buy over the glasses (OTG) goggles, consider taking an anti-fog spray or wipes such as the ‘Fog-Buster’ accessories offered on this site.