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How To Choose Goggles

close up of a woman in a white Giro ski helmet, pink Giro ski goggles, and a flower face cover.

How To Choose Goggles

Goggles are an essential piece of ski gear but with so many choices, how do you pick the right ones?

There are too many of us who can relate to ski goggles and snowboard goggles as afterthoughts: we've run into a sporting goods store at the last minute and have picked out a seemingly “okay-ish” goggle style that, at first glance, appears to do the job. Here's the thing — there's a lot (at least much more than you would think) that goes into finding the best ski goggles and the best snowboard goggles.

Arguably, goggles are one of the most essential pieces of gear. Not being able to see will foul up your day just as much as wearing boots that don't fit properly. There are so many choices; just because a pair of ski goggles or snowboard googles is a good brand or costs a lot (because the most expensive goggles must be the best, right?) doesn't mean they're right for you. So, how do you pick the right ones? How do you know which are the best snowboard goggles and the best ski goggles for you?


Choose a frame style that is appropriate for your face size. For smaller sizes and petite faces, kids or youth sizes might be a good choice. Oversized goggle frames aren't just a fashion statement, they offer better peripheral vision, broadening your vision field both vertically and horizontally. Some goggles are designed to be worn over eyeglasses. They are usually deeper and feature built-in channels for the arms of your glasses. You should also think about the shape of your helmet when picking out goggles to make sure the shape of the frame lines up with the shape of your helmet for the best possible fit.


The lens color and lens features are some of the biggest ski or snowboard goggle differences. Those mirrored finishes and funky colors aren't just so you look super cool, they serve a specific purpose. Different types of lens colors and lens tints will filter light differently; some are better for low light and low visibility. Some are better for sunny days where, if you're not covered correctly, snow blindness can become a very real thing. Lens features also can be mirrored, have an anti-fog coating, be photochromic and/or be double-lensed. UV protection is important, but it is pretty much a given these days: every goggle provides UV protection. Cylindrical lenses are typically less expensive but may cause more distortion in the peripheral vision. Spherical lenses tend to cost more but decrease optical distortion.

Each pair of goggles will have a VLT range between 0% and 100%, which is the percentage of visible light that is allowed to pass through. VLT ranges go hand-in-hand with lens color and tint. The higher the VLT percentage, the more light will pass through that lens. Goggles with high VLT are generally better for cloudy days, for low visibility and for “flat” light. For the best experience on lower light days, look for a VLT range between 60% and 90%. Low light goggles often are blue, rose or yellow.

Goggles with low VLT are better suited for sunny days; they're the goggles (often mirrored) with those darker lens colors, such as gray, gold or black. For sunny days, check out ski and snowboard goggles with a VLT range from 5% to 20%. Many lenses are somewhere in the middle and are fine for everyday use.

Because one pair of goggles doesn't fit all of your eye protection needs, some goggles feature an interchangeable lens system and/or a bonus lens. In these cases, there is typically one lens designed for bright conditions and another for cloudy conditions.

You will likely be wearing your goggles for several hours at a time. Like that small pebble in your shoe that doesn't seem like such a big deal at first, poorly fitting goggles can soon turn into a major issue when it is a constant source of discomfort. Goggles that are too narrow will cause too much pressure on the outer eye socket. Poor-fitting goggles can either pinch the bridge of your nose or can cause a gap. Goggles that don't fit well can also pinch your temple, causing headaches.

The best advice? Start trying multiple goggle styles and designs to find the best snowboard goggles and the best ski goggles for you. Take the forecast into account; better yet, go for an interchangeable lens situation or purchase two goggles: one for lower light days and one for bluebird.