Weather conditions and visibility on the mountain can change drastically from day to day, even hour-by-hour. There is nothing worse than your vision being impaired while skiing or riding. It can be sunny and clear, then within minutes the weather can turn into a total whiteout. Having ski/snowboard goggle lenses that optimize your vision across a range of different conditions means you can keep shredding when others are headed for the lodge.
Lenses come in a variety of colors, tints, and swap-out options. Just like frames, choosing the perfect lens can be just as overwhelming. Our experts at Christy Sports are here to help! Consider the bit of science of lenses below when purchasing goggles for your upcoming season’s next ski or ride.
Visible Light Transmission and Lens Color
Besides the variety of colors and tints, all ski/snowboard goggles also carry their own unique Visible Light Transmission (VLT) rating. Lens color serves to filter and emphasize the colors in your vision while skiing/riding. VLT rates how much light a lens allows to pass through and is scaled 0% – 100%. Lenses with VLT ratings closer to 0% will block out more light, while lenses closer to 100% will allow more light to pass through for better visibility in low light conditions. Often times, lenses come with versatile VLT ratings which fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, providing ultimate visibility in a variety of conditions.
- Lighter Lens Tints: Lighter lenses have a higher VLT (21% – 54%) because more light passes through the lens. Yellow, gold, amber, green, or rose-colored lenses all offer increased VLT and make a good choice on cloudy, socked-in days. Some cloudy/variable light lenses – like the AnonM4 Toric or Smith’s I/O Mag – provide the widest range of UV protection and visibility.
- Darker Lens Tints: Darker lenses have a lower VLT (0% – 20%) because less light passes through the lens. Brown, gray, and copper-colored lenses all offer reduced VLT, which make them perfect for those bright bluebird days; not to mention provide the best protection from harmful UV rays in full sun conditions. Oakley’s Flight Deck with sapphire iridium lens is a great choice for sun soaked days.
- Night/Low Light Lenses: These lenses feature higher VLT (55% – 100%) ratings which make dark conditions and surroundings appear brighter with increased clarity for better overall visibility and depth perception. Amber, yellow, and clear lenses provide the best visibility in conditions with minimal natural light, making them appropriate for night skiing.
The “ABCs” of UV Rays
Ultraviolet rays are part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. While we can’t seem them, we should never ignore UV rays, especially while playing at higher altitudes. Some are more harmful than others.
Ultraviolet A (UVA), for example, is the longest light wave in the spectrum and accounts for 95% of UV sunrays touching the earth. UVA rays penetrate your skin’s second layer and contribute to skin aging/wrinkling and some types of serious ski damage. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is a shorter wave and tends to only damage your skin’s top layer. Its intensity varies by location, season, and time of day. Then, there is the shortest wave and least evasive – Ultraviolet C (UVC). It’s so short the ozone absorbs most of the light before it reaches earth!
Virtually all goggles sold today offer 100% UV protection from all three types of ultraviolet rays – UVA, UVB, and UVC. Don’t Forget – even when it’s cloudy, UV rays are still bouncing off the snow, again, especially at higher altitudes.
Polarized, Photochromic, and Prizm Lenses
The primary purpose of goggle lenses with a polarizing filter is to reduce glare from sunlight on snow or water. Photochromic lenses are another option as these lenses automatically change their tint level according to conditions and UV intensity. The more sun and UV rays, the darker the lenses become. If it’s snowing or overcast the lens stays lighter; fades darker on sunny, bluebird days. Indoors, photochromic lenses always stay light no matter the light intensity. Smith’s ChromaPop line and Anon’s M-Fusion series make great choices if you are looking for a photochromic lens.
Prizm Lenses such as Oakley’s Prizm™ Lens technology, adapt to changing light conditions by blocking strategic color wavelengths in order to maximize contrast. Similar to photochromic lenses, prism lenses have a broader usable light range, making them extremely versatile.
Additional Lens Features
- Mirrored Lenses: Mirrored lenses have a partial or full lens coating on the outside of the outer lens. This reflects more light, allowing in less light – between 10% and 50% than non-mirrored lenses.
- Interchangeable Lenses: These lenses let you easily swap out different colored lenses to suit changing light conditions.
- Digital Display Lenses: Some lens styles offer advanced technology that may pair with GPS and Bluetooth to display navigation, performance, and smartphone information within the goggles in real time.
There you have it – some simple science behind UV rays and ski/snowboard goggle lenses. Be sure to stop by any of our Christy Sports locations and let our professional, friendly staff help you choose the most appropriate lens combination and best protection against the elements on the mountain this season. We’ll see you out there!