Perhaps the single most important and overlooked item of your ski gear are goggles.
Many skiers and snowboarders have the misconception that they are all basically the same and they simply buy a pair based on style, color or price.
A good pair of ski goggles will make BIG difference in flat light and snowy conditions.
To find out which goggles performed best we took 10 different pairs and tried them out in snowy, sunny and flat light conditions to see how they would perform.
First lets take a look at the ski and snowboard goggles, then we’ll talk about how to choose the right pair for you.
- Smith Optics Scope Goggles
- Oakley O2 XL Ski Goggles
- OutdoorMaster Ski & Snowboard Goggles
- Smith Optics I/O Ski and Snowboard Goggles
- Bolle Mojo Ski Goggles
Here is a feature overview of the ski goggles (for Men and Women), full reviews and our buying guide is below.
The Best Ski and Snowboard Goggles
Ski Goggle ReviewsSmith Optics have been making ski goggles for over 50 years now and they were the original creator of the double pane goggle with a sealed thermal lens.
Dr. Bob Smith who was an orthodontist and self described “ski bum” got tired of his goggles fogging up and as a result created the worlds first double pane goggles.
The Smith Optics Scope Goggle is the latest in a long line of quality ski goggles and is a great option for any skier or snowboarder, regardless of your ability level.
These goggles are durable and comfortable, and their lens combines both anti-glare and anti-fog qualities.
Not surprisingly they have a dual lens design with a breathable foam liner which prevents the moisture build up by providing adequate air flow.
The strap is wide and fully adjustable and ensures a firm, yet comfortable fit for anyone. They are compatible with any ski helmet and work best with the Smith Optics helmet. The goggles have a soft urethane foam lining the inside to prevent chafing, pinching, or sliding.
The Smith Optics Scope Goggles are available in many styles and colors. Some examples include the “blue sensor mirror”, “neon black light”, and “fire red ignite” lenses. Some less exotic lenses include standard black, clear, and rose.
Regardless of your style preference, you will find one you like. I bought the “Blue Sensor Mirror” for my evaluation.
They work great in cutting glare in sunny conditions but also work fine in overcast and cloudy conditions.The Smith Optics Scope Goggle is my number one pick because they offer exceptional quality and are the best ski goggles under $100.
You probably know Oakley from their sunglasses that are worn by most professional athletes and people who want to look good and protect their eyes. Oakley was founded by James Jannard in 1975 out of his garage with an initial investment of $300.
In 1980, Jannard released a pair of goggles called the O-Frame with the ‘Oakley’ logo present on the strap.
Their latest and best offering to date are the O2 XL goggles. I bought a pair to evaluate on a trip to Breckenridge this past January and I am glad I did.
These goggles have a unique design that gives you excellent visibility especially from the sides allowing your peripheral vision to see people coming at you from the sides.
They have a triple layer of polar fleece foam that even after a full day on the slopes they were still comfortable, in fact I really didn’t even notice I had them on.
The foam also has moisture wicking properties that helps keep the goggles from fogging by keeping the moisture away from your face.
If you wear prescription glasses you will appreciate the frame notches that allow you to wear them comfortably unlike most goggles.
They have an anti-glare coating and block 100% UVA, UVB, UVC rays giving you superb visibility under almost all conditions.
They fit my Smith Optics helmet perfectly and should fit any ski helmet.I really liked these goggles and highly recommend them, they are a great bargain in my opinion.
The Outdoor Master ski and snowboarders goggles is one of our top picks based on price and performance. They are designed for maximum comfort and clear visibility. They offer a dual layer (anti-fog) detachable lens. The lenses are easily snapped on and off with (10) quick release magnets.This is our favorite feature, as conditions can and do change rapidly on the mountains, the removable lens allows you to use the proper lens for the conditions you are encountering.
If you start the day off in bright sunshine with a dark lens then clouds roll in later in the afternoon, all you have to do is snap off the lens and put on a lighter tint to improve your visibility.
The headbands are also designed to be easily changed. These ski goggles are compatible with just about every helmet. These are frameless ski goggles, with a spherical lens giving you excellent visibility and peripheral vision.
The Smith Optics I/O are a high end pair goggles that are not inexpensive. They have one of my favorite features: detachable lenses. The I/O goggles come with 2 lens; a darker mirrored lens and a lighter mirrored lens for overcast conditions or night skiing. You are able to choose from a variety of lens colors so you should be able to find a color you like.
The main reason these goggles are on the expensive side is because of the lens technology. They have what Smith Optics calls “Tapered Lens Technology” which is a fancy way of saying they correct for the fact that light refracts when it passes through a medium, in this case the lens.
What this means to you is they give you a crisper view of the slopes while reducing eye fatigue. I don’t know about you but sometimes I get a headache after wearing goggles all day. These goggles significantly reduce eye strain.
The lens are coated with what Smith Optics calls Carbonic-X. It just means that they are very impact and scratch resistant. The dual lens design also means they resist fogging no matter the weather conditions.
They of course are compatible with most any helmet out there, and the lens sleeve also has a separate to store the extra lens to prevent scratching.
The DriWix foam liner on the goggles is very comfortable on your face along with being moisture wicking allowing sweat to pass through while keeping your face warm.
The only reason these goggles are not my number one pick is because of the cost, these are more money than the other goggles I reviewed. You will want to buy these goggles because of the lens technology. You will really see the difference once you hit the slopes with them.
I put the Bolle Mojo Snow Goggles on my list because if you are really looking for cheap ski goggles, these are about as good as get in their price range. They are a good value for their quality. These particular goggles are best worn on partly cloudy or sunny days as they don’t have a dark tint.
The goggle’s design best fits the medium to large face. Those with smaller and flatter faces will not get as good a fit but its still acceptable.
Bolle Mojo Snow Goggles provide excellent clarity while their Flow-Tech venting technology keeps them virtually moisture and fog-free. The venting system also prevents snow and ice clogging.
A double layer lens typically that are typically found in more expensive goggles, is a feature that allows for a secure seal that helps creates a thermal barrier. They also have an anti-scratch lens helps keep the lens clear.
How To Choose Ski Goggles
It goes without saying that your ski goggle must fit properly in order to protect your face and eyes. The best ski goggles will significantly improve your visibility on the slopes and allow you to see hazards as well as help you choose your line down the slope.
One thing many people don’t realize is that at the altitudes most skiing is done, the thinner air doesn’t filter out as much of the UV rays as when you are at sea level. The result of this is, there will be more glare. The sun appears a bit brighter and when combined with light reflecting off the snow, your eyes are going to be really strained.
I see some people who wear sunglasses and they seem ok with it, but for me, they just don’t work. Maybe because I tend to ski fast and the wind tears my eyes.
There are a lot of advantages to goggles, especially some of the new models that allow for rapid changing of the lens for flexibility and the best vision possible for the conditions at hand.
Another major consideration is the goggles must fit well with your helmet. If they don’t, they will let in cold air and defeat one of the major advantages of a helmet.
There are many brands and models of goggles available. You can buy goggles that have 2-3 lens sandwiched together for anti-fogging, goggles with UV protection and anti-glare coatings.
A friend of mine just showed me a pair of goggles he got for Xmas, they had a battery operated fan for anti-fogging! Seems like a gimmick to me, you really don’t need a fan for anti-fogging.
If you wear prescription glasses; you need ski goggles that fit properly over the glasses. You can find goggles that are marketed to Women only. Other than color and style there is no difference. Same with goggles that are targeted for snowboarders, there is no discernible difference.
Collision with a tree, rock, or skier is a common accident that can sometimes be directly attributed to poor vision caused by your choice of ski goggles.
Using a cheap pair of goggles can cause you to lose definition on the trails and you may not be able to see obstacles, moguls or other hazards. This is one of the major causes of injures and accidents. Its hard to overstate how important good visibility on the slopes is.
Considerations for Ski and Snowboard Goggles
The tint of the lens is going to determine how much light is allowed though to your eyes. Most goggles will have a VLT rating or Visible Light Transmission. Its just like it sounds, its a measure of the amount of light allowed through. The higher the number (rating) the more light is let through the lens. So on a bright sunny day a darker lens with a lower VLT is ideal. Well go into this in more detail below on lens selection rules.
Once you start skiing your body will warm up and start to perspire, when the warm air coming off your face hits the cold air from outside it will generate condensation that will form on the inside of the goggles. A good pair of goggles will allow the air to flow through to evaporate the moisture.
Almost any pair of goggles you can buy now will have at least 2 lenses some have 3 lenses sandwiched together to further eliminate the buildup of condensation on the inside of the lens. A fan inside the goggle is not necessary…
Shape of the Lens
There are only two type of lens shapes, cylindrical and spherical. Cylindrical lenses are curved horizontally across your face but lie flat vertically. This is the most common type of goggle. Spherical lenses curve not only horizontally BUT also vertically, from your forehead to your nose. You will notice them immediately because they have a bubbled look.
The wider the lens the better you will be able to see to your sides. This is critical for avoiding collisions, especially common where trails merge.
Glare and Distortion
Better ski goggles will have special coatings that can reduce the glare caused by the sunlight being reflected off the snow. Distortion is caused by imperfections in the quality of the lens. It should be noted that spherical lenses have reduced distortion due to the shape of the lens.
As a general rule of thumb, the further the lens of the goggle is away from your face the less fogging will occur. Fogging can also be reduced by having extra lenses so the inside lens is closer to the same temperature as your face, eliminating condensation forming. The extra lenses function as insulation in the same way dual pane windows provide better insulation.
I love this feature, carry an extra lens in your pocket so you are ready for whatever lighting conditions Mother Nature throws at you. Conditions change rapidly on the slopes, being able to change your lens quickly can really help out.
General Rules For Lens Colors
- Yellow, gold or amber lenses filter out blue light and emphasize snow shadows.
- Rose or rose copper lenses are for low-light days.
- Dark copper, dark brown, dark green and dark grey are for bright days.
- Mirror (“flash”) coating enhances the effect of tinted lenses. They reflect sunlight. These are great for sunny days. (This is a very popular choice.)
- Use clear lenses for night skiing/boarding or for wearing over prescription sunglasses.
There are ski goggles with photochromic lenses that change from light to dark depending on the sun. These are a great investment if you are an frequent skier. Interchangeable lenses are very popular for people who ski in varying conditions.
Pro Tip: Use polarized lenses to reduce glare and insist on ultraviolet light protection to shield your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Tips For Choosing Ski and Snowboard Goggles
- Purchase your ski goggles before you go skiing. Many ski shops only carry a select few pair of goggles. The limited selection makes the chances of you getting the wrong pair more likely. The prices will likely be inflated.
- Before buying goggles, measure your head. You need to have a good idea of the circumference of your head around the proper area in order to shop for the right size.
- Consider what the conditions will be like. If the weather is going to be bright and sunny a goggle with a darker lens will be best. If it’s going to be overcast and snowy you will need a lighter tint to give you as much definition as possible. The ski goggles with interchangeable lenses are a major advantage because you can take extras with you and ensure you have good vision even in changing conditions. This is less expensive than purchasing a second pair plus much more convenient.
- The color and tint of the lenses will be critical. Are you skiing where it is sunny and bright or hazy and grey? Will you be in an area where there are a lot of trees and rocks? You need lenses that provide the right vision and prevent tired eyes.
- Make sure you have adequate peripheral vision. This is an area that is often overlooked but extremely important.
- Inquire about the return and exchange policy. Just in case they either don’t fit your head or they are not compatible with your helmet.
- Look for anti-fogging and anti-scratch features. The additional cost is low and the benefits are well worth the few dollars you will add to your purchase. Ski goggles that do not protect against moisture buildup will cause vision issues
- Look for flexibility. Ski goggles should flex easily to fit your face properly and fit comfortably.
- Foam Liner: Be sure the foam is thick enough to follow the curvature of your face without pressure points. Make sure there are no gaps between the foam and your face. They should have a consistent pressure for a snug fit without being uncomfortable.
- Goggle Strap: All goggles have an adjustable strap that will allow the goggle to fit different size heads. Be sure that it will allow for a good and comfortable fit, if you have to have it fully loosened and its still tight, they are probably not right for you. A wider strap is going to be more comfortable and usually stay in place better.
- Helmet Compatibility: Make sure your goggles fit comfortably and snugly to your face with the strap around the helmet. On some goggles the strap does not extend far enough out so the goggle will not fit flush to your face. The larger size of spherical lens goggles can be an issue with some helmets. Make sure the goggle doesn’t leave too big a gap between the goggle and the helmet.
Though style and looking good is important, safety is your top priority. Keep that in mind while making your purchase.
Caring For Your Goggles
Once you have chosen your goggles, you need to care for them. Here are some tips:
- Even scratch resistant goggles will scratch if you lay them face down on a table, even the wood picnic style found at ski lodges can scratch them. Lay them foam side down.
- When you’re done skiing for the day, allow them to dry before storing them. Also be sure to store them in the carry case they came with to protect them.
- When cleaning them or wiping off condensation, be sure to use a SOFT cloth, not a polyester base layer. It can either scratch them and/or remove the anti-fog coating.
Some Tips to Avoid Goggle Fogging
Even goggles sold as anti-fog can still fog. If you’re still having problems, try these tips:
- Wipe any snow off of the vents to keep them open.
- Don’t put goggles on your forehead when stopped, This assumes you are not wearing a helmet.
- If they do get fogged, don’t wipe them with your glove, either put them in jacket pocket or go into the lodge.
- You can try shaking them, it may move enough air over them to defog them.
Best Ski Goggle Brands
This is a common question and there is no easy answer. To some degree it is subjective, if you ask 1o skiers what the best brands are you will probably get 5-6 different brands. There are some that always seem to come up so I will list those here:
Not all of them made the cut, not because they are inferior quality its just my top 5 goggles are based on price vs performance. So even if a pair of ski goggles was slightly better than one of my reviewed googles but if cost twice as much I didn’t include it.
The Bottom Line
Getting a good pair of ski goggles is important and its worth it to spend a little more to get exactly what you want. The cost of the goggles is really a pretty minor expense when compared to how much you’ll spend on everything else skiing related.
Choose well and be safe.
Need a great helmet? See our reviews here. And if your in need of a pair of ski gloves, read our reviews for men’s and here for women’s. If you need to get a pair of long underwear I reviewed the best base layers here and the best ski socks here.