The 10 Best Ski Goggles
Less Light, Please
Depending on a few variables–snow conditions, gear quality, etc.-the average recreational skier heads downhill at around 20 mph. That said, Ivan Origone set the current world record for the fastest human being traveling downhill on a pair of skis at 156 mph, so there's a wide range of possible speeds for you to attain.
At such potentially incredible speeds, your eyes would take a beating from falling snow, ice, and wind, not to mention the incredible glare that the sun casts off of the snowy hills. Ski goggles work specifically to protect you from all of these elements so that you can ski safely without worry or distraction.
You may have noticed that the majority of ski goggles on our list have a very intense coloring to them, a coloring so opaque that it often hides your eyes from anyone looking at you. This opacity serves to reduce the intensity of the light reaching your eyes (expressed in a percentage of visible light transmission, or VLT), but the coloring itself has a certain power, as well.
When you strap on a pair of good ski goggles, the coloring of their lenses–often an intense orange-yellow or purplish blue–actually catches and prevents certain wavelengths of light from passing into your eye. On the mountain, the snow's glare casts out ultraviolet light like a broad laser across your eyes, and manufacturers utilize a certain color combination to dampen those wavelengths, taking a tremendous burden off of your vision.
Goggles built for lower light settings like cloudier, foggier, or snowier days will employ glass with a higher VLT percentage and a coloring less concerned with cutting out ultraviolet rays and more concerned with increasing contrast. Lenses that increase contrast make bumps in the trail and other obstacles stand out more than they would to the naked eye. That way, if something unexpected, like a rock buried just under the powder were to enter your path, you could identify it by its shape and avoid it.
The Glass Makes The Difference
Weather conditions on a mountain tend to be pretty unpredictable for the majority of us. Our cell phones have certainly made it easier to see what's coming over the peak hour-by-hour, and with a thin pair of texting gloves under your skiing gloves, you can check the incoming patters right there on the slopes without risking frostbite.
The problem with unpredictable weather is that it can quickly alter the efficacy of your goggles. You may be wearing a pair designed for a cloudy day, and if the sun suddenly breaks through and starts beating hard off the snow, you'll find yourself rather blinded. The opposite is true of goggles built with minimal VLT in the event that a thick fog were to roll in. Everything would suddenly get very dark.
Some skiers will lug around an extra set of goggles if they know the conditions of a certain peak to be fickle, but a set of goggles with interchangeable lenses would significantly lighten their load.
Not all of the goggles on our list boast interchangeable lenses, but the ones that have them allow you to quickly snap off a piece of glass intended for one condition and replace it with glass intended for whatever suddenly moves in on you. A lot of this glass is pretty sensitive to anything that might scratch it, so it'd be wise to keep them wrapped in a safe place.
The shape of the glass should be a factor in your selection process, as well. Most of the lenses on our list are spherical, meaning that they curve on both their vertical and horizontal axes. A few of the pairs on our list, however, are cylindrical lenses, meaning that they only curve on their horizontal axis.
Spherical lenses tend to cover more surface area than their cylindrical counterparts, providing you with better peripheral vision and more face protection. They also tend to be the models with the easiest types of interchangeable lenses. The only problem with these models is that they tend to be more expensive, so if budget is a big concern, you might not be able to grab them.
A Long Way Downhill
Though they may not have spent very much time skiing, Arctic Eskimo tribes created what we should consider to be the first goggles meant to reduce the painful effects of snow blindness. They didn't have glass or plastic to work with in their days of antiquity, but instead they cut thin lines in pieces of carved driftwood, bone, or antler that let in only small amounts of light.
Meanwhile, in the hillier parts of the snowy world, hunters and farmers used skis as a means of accelerating their movements over ground. The recreational aspect of their use is hard to verify from these time periods, but by the early 19th century, the military use of skis and its attendant competitive training methods created an air of athletic sport around the tools.
It wasn't until the middle of the 20th century, however, that goggles became a standard among skiers intent on preserving their eyes and faces against the elements. Inventors like Bob Smith and Wilhelm Anger innovated the manufacturing processes toward the kind of high-tech, protective ski gear we use today.