Goggle Tech: Finding the Right Goggle
by Adam Riser
A couple winters ago my wife's goggles finally bit the dust with a cracked lens. I surprised her with a pair of Oakley A Frames a couple days later. We rode at Park City in foggy weather, and she started raving about how sweet they were. I didn't believe her until she made me try them. I put 'em on andů "These things are amazing!" They didn't fog, provided great contrast, fit well-basically did all the stuff my five-year-old goggles didn't. After only one run she demanded I give them back, but I was so reluctant to switch that I though about ducking out of the lift line and running away with them. Instead, I bought myself a new pair the next day.
You get what you pay for, and new goggles give you a lot. As a result, the prices tend to vary from "that's pretty pricy" to "people actually pay that much for goggles?" Knowing the difference between features is the key to getting the most bang for your buck. Want goggles that don't fog? Need a pair that fits your helmet? We broke it down so you wouldn't have to.
How do I keep my goggles from fogging?
Fogged goggles have been cursed by skiers and snowboarders as long as there have been skis and snowboards. Double lenses were the first attempt to fix the fogging problem (nearly all goggles now have double lenses), but some people need more fog prevention.
Just about all goggles have some sort of ventilation on either the frame or the lens. The ventilation ranges from foam-covered slots in the top of the frame to racecar-style air intake ports. Adjustable vents can be closed in bad weather so no moisture can get inside (which pretty much guarantees fogging).
This is the Tool-Time "more power" solution to the fog problem. Skiers and snowboarders who always fog their goggles may want a model with a small fan (about the size of a 9V battery) on top of the frame. This fan drives air directly to the inside of the lens like a car's defroster. It's the most dependable solution currently available.
What do these fancy lenses do?
Lenses make or break a goggles performance. The key is to get a high-quality lens that does what you need it to do. Dark lenses, light lenses, high-contrast lenses, and polarized lenses perform well in specific conditions. The key to getting the right goggles is to match your lens to the conditions you ski or snowboard in regularly.
Darker lenses are the way to go for bright, bluebird days when blocking the sun is your main concern. For overcast and low-light days, brighter lenses become the ticket. Not only do yellow and orange lenses keep you from feeling like you're riding at night, they increase contrast to help you see the snow's features.
Most goggle companies have at least one type of lens specifically created to increase contrast in flat-light conditions. Manufacturers use a variety of coatings and special materials that anyone without a chemical engineering degree has a hard time understanding. The result, however, is amazing contrast in conditions where you normally have a hard time seeing anything.
A polarized lens eliminates reflected light. These lenses allow you to look into water or a car windshield that would otherwise be obstructed by glare. What does this mean for snow goggles? It means you see the snow's features on a super bright day instead of a blinding spotlight shining in your face.
Curved, tapered lens:
Many companies engineer the curve of their lenses to eliminate distortion. Thickness is often changed along the length of the lens (thick in front and thin along the sides) to correct the distortion created from looking diagonally through a lens. Consult your high school physics book to learn more about the causes of distortion.
Will my goggles fit my helmet?
Few things are more annoying than discovering that your new goggles don't fit your helmet. What should you look for to make sure your eye protection and head protection live together in winter bliss?
Clips, long straps, and wide attachment points:
A nice long strap that fits around your helmet without undue stretch is essential. Some helmet-compatible goggles feature a rear clip which makes them easier to put on and take off. Many goggles have pivots where the strap attaches to the goggle frame. This allows the strap to fit naturally around the helmet without pulling outward on the goggles and pulling them away from your face.
Goggles with flat tops tend to fit helmets better than goggles with stylish shapes. Any big bumps and curves virtually guarantee the dreaded gaper gap (the gap between your helmet and goggles). Take a look at the Helmet Test for more information on helmet/goggle compatibility.
Can I wear my glasses with these goggles?
Skiing and snowboarding become much harder when you can't see the terrain ahead. Contacts work great with goggles until sub-zero temperatures freeze them to your eyeballs. For those who don't want to risk such medieval torture, there are a few things to look for to ensure your goggles fit with your glasses.
Frame shape and padding:
Eyeglass-compatible goggles generally have deeper frames that provide more space between your face and the lens (so your glasses can fit there). The sides of the frames either have a cutout notch for your glasses' temples, or that section of frame is removed to allow the foam to conform.
Do these goggles look good?
All this is well and good, but for some, it's all about the style. Custom frames, mirrored lenses, studded straps, and signature-series goggles are just a few of the options available to boost your steeze on the hill. Check out these top picks from Backcountry.com's skiers and snowboarders.
- Anon Figment Leather - Leather-wrapped frames, mirrored lens
- Smith Anthem Crystal Edition - More sparkles than a jewelry store
- Oakley Shaun White Signature A Frame - Mr. White wears 'em
- Dragon DX Hi-Lite Series - Neon colors and sweet prints
- Anon Realm Leather - Snakeskin or denim, take your pick
- Dragon DX Beer Series - Frames that match your favorite brew
- Smith Phenom Crystallized Series - More bling than a Bentley
- Oakley Wisdom - Racecar style with an incredible lens
- Electric EG.5 Chrome - More styles than you can shake a stick at
- Anon Majestic Hydro Print - Always impress