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Geartrade explains: Goggle tech 

Goggles are called a mere “accessory,” but nothing ruins a ski or snowboard day faster than a goggle you can’t see out of. Whether the goggle fogs up or your lens is the wrong color for the day, you lose your vision and depth perception, which can be so troublesome that you call it quits for the day.

These days most nice goggles are a bit pricey (much better if you’re buying UnNew on Geartrade, though), so it’s important to know what you’re paying for exactly. A well-chosen, high-quality goggle will last you multiple seasons and actually enhance the quality of your days on the mountain, as good visual clarity adds up to confident skiing and riding.

Here’s a very brief, summarized primer of some of the options and technologies you’ll read about as you goggle-shop.

Lens shapes

The shape of your lens has a lot to do with its visual quality. Less expensive goggles are typically an un-fancy “cylindrical” shape—it’s like if you were standing inside a glass cylinder, like a drinking glass, and looked out through it. There may be some mild visual distortion, but it gets the job done. Higher-grade goggles get a little more creative and innovative with lens shapes, such as “spherical” lenses that are rounded from top to bottom as well as side to side. These ones feel more like looking out of a round fishbowl, with the advantage that visual clarity is sharper and you have an increased field of vision.

Zeal takes an even more creative approach with its “Observation Deck Technology,” which angles your lens slightly away from the face, giving you an enhanced view of the snow surface immediately in front of and below you.

You can read a little more about lens shape details on manufacturers’ sites, but the lowdown is that a fancy lens shape with better clarity really can help you ski a little more boldly. If you’re a totally recreational skier who only cruises corduroy groomers in sunny conditions, maybe that extra tinch of visual clarity doesn’t matter. But if you’re trying to shred hard and fast in dynamic conditions, every little advantage adds up.

Rimmed vs. rimless design 

Most high-end goggles now have a “rimless” frame design, which means you can see through the goggle all the way from the far left to far right, and top to bottom, without a rim blocking any of your field of view. If this slight edge feels important to you, it’s a good thing to prioritize. Not only does it enhance your vision for pleasant shredding, but it’s a bit easier to peripherally spot any speedster gapers who might be on a collision course with you.

Anti-fog properties 

One of the worst things that can happen during a ski/ride day is a foggy goggle. If you can’t see, you can’t ski. You’ll take the goggle off repeatedly, wipe the inside down with a corner of your shirt, and curse the skies when it fogs up again two minutes into your next run.

Fog happens when condensation forms on the inside of your lens thanks to a big difference in temperature between the cold air outside and the warm air around your face. (It’s just like how condensation forms on an ice-cold glass of water sitting on the table on a warm day.)

Pretty much all goggle manufacturers put an anti-fog coating inside their lenses to help prevent this. Most nicer goggles have a double lens, too, with a tiny layer of air between the interior and exterior lens—this air acts as a temperature buffer between the cold outside and warm inside, helping to reduce condensation even further. On top of this, pretty much all goggles have some sort of air vents around the top and sides, letting warm humid air evaporate out.

Be aware, though, that if this warm air evaporation gets blocked by the brim of your helmet or beanie, the vents can’t do their thing and the goggle might fog up. For this reason, companies that make both goggles and helmets align the vents in both to work in one seamless flow drawing condensation away. So if you go with a Smith goggle, consider a Smith helmet. Same goes for Giro.

Lens colors and VLT ratings

Lens choice is a huge determining factor as far as what goggle is best for which kind of day(s). There are a whole range of colors available, each with their own selling points. Before you choose a lens, read its description on the manufacturer’s site to see what kind of day they designed it for.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice lenses’ VLT (visible light transmission) ratings, which explain how much light gets through a lens. A goggle that says it has 22% VLT only lets 22% of the light through, which helps a ton on a blindingly bright day, but would make it too hard to see on a cloudy day. A goggle that has 65% VLT lets most of the light through, which is a godsend on low-light days but would be blindingly bright on a sunny day.

Meanwhile, lens colors are more than a fashion statement. The colors are all designed to enhance your visual clarity on different kinds of days. On a bright sunny day, a grey lens tint will enhance the greyness of shadows and give you great visual sharpness. On a grey, stormy day, a blue-ish or purple-ish tint accentuates the soft shadows on the snow surface, giving you better depth perception in the low light. Lenses with a reflective surface not only look cool and astronaut-y, but they help reflect the most glaring light on bright bright days.

Some colors are a reasonable jack-of-all-trades, such as green or rose-hued lenses. And Smith even makes a photochromic lens that automatically adjusts to different amounts of light and responds by lightening or darkening.

Since no one goggle is perfectly perfect on every ski day, and it’s expensive to buy multiple pairs of goggles, the bigger brands now offer goggles with interchangeable lenses. These cost a bit more but are a godsend if there’s any chance you’ll want to swap lenses. Smith and Giro rely on magnets to hold different lenses to the goggle frame, while Zeal uses a slide-on mechanism that works great, too. Goggles with interchangeable lenses usually come with a couple of lens options in a set, so you have something for light days and dark days. For an added fee, you can purchase more lenses to round out your options, too. The extra lenses fit in a protective bag or case you can tuck into a pack or pocket, so it’s easy to swap mid-day if the light shifts.

Great depth perception and visual clarity are one of the biggest contributors to shredding with confidence and minimizing wipeouts on surprise changes in the snow surface. So your choice of goggle color is no small matter.

Frame fit 

Frame fit is another important question. It’s crucial that your frames nestle comfortably against your face and don’t smoosh your nose or cheeks. And you don’t want any air gaps that will let cold air whoosh in and make your eyes water.

For this reason, you’ll notice manufacturers listing frame sizes in small, medium, and large-face fits. If you have a huge (or small) head, consider sizing your frames accordingly to fit your face as well as possible. Major brands now offer a fit for people whose facial bone structure includes a lower nose bridge and wider or higher cheekbones, which is particularly common for people of Asian descent. Watch for a goggle labeled “Low bridge fit” or “Asian fit” if your facial structure warrants it, and you’ll enjoy a nice, smooth fit.

The nicer goggle models also use a multi-layer, multi-density foam between the frame and your face, sealing the fit against the contours of the wearer’s unique facial structure. Less expensive goggles might have less fancy foam layering, but they get the job done if you’re on a budget.

Smith even just came out with custom 3D printed frames made just for the wearer based on a 3D-mapped model of their face. If you have a unique, hard-to-fit bone structure or just don’t mind spending a boatload of money, this sounds super cool.

Goggles for glasses-wearers 

A few brands also offer oversized goggles that will fit over eyeglasses, such as Smith, Zeal, and Giro. Giro and Zeal even offer prescription goggle lenses so you don’t need to worry about glasses or contacts.


Finally, it’s one of the more low-tech aspects of a goggle, but make sure it has a silicone-beaded strap that won’t slip off your helmet. Dangly goggles can’t do their job, and they make the wearer look downright silly.

That’s our quick rundown of goggle technology … Buying used here on Geartrade is a much better bargain than sticker price, but now you know what you need to know to research whether a given goggle is right for you!

Happy shredding, and hit us up with any questions as always.

Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.

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