Playing the Goggle Game: How to find the perfect pair

Ski goggles

Whether you’re new to skiing or grew up in the park, you probably noticed quickly that having the right pair of goggles can make or break your day. In addition to details like fit and frame shape, you also have to ensure you have the right lens – and what lens is the right lens changes based both on the weather and on what kind of terrain you’re skiing in.

Fortunately, figuring out how to pick a goggle lens isn’t as hard as you’d think, provided you read up on a few basics first. There are certain shades that work better in certain conditions, and a few fairly standard options for shapes and sizes that exist across nearly every different brand. So, here’s a handy cheat-sheet to help you figure out how to pick the right ski goggle.

Frame size:

The easiest thing to get right when it comes to goggles in the frame shape. Nearly all frames are divided into just four sizes: small/medium, medium, medium/large, and what’s called “Asian-fit.” While most people could comfortably fit in a medium, women may find that they appreciate a slightly smaller sized frame, as they’re usually a bit shorter and shallower, which can eliminate cold air gaps on small faces. Men, or women who prefer to have more of their faces covered, should opt for a larger size – just note that a frame that’s too large may not sit properly below a large helmet, as the helmet could potentially push them down a bit too low on your face.

Many brands also offer Asian-fit goggles, which have slightly more padding under the eyes. These can be better for people who have a flatter nose bridge and find that air and wind sneak in while wearing other frame sizes.

You’ll also see sometimes goggles billed as a “women’s fit,” but these are often identical to a medium in a men’s fit.

Lens tint and shape:

Snowboard goggles

The most important decision you’ll make when it comes to your goggles is what tint lens to get, and it’s based mostly on what type of conditions you normally ski in. If you live in New England and frequently ski in overcast or snowy weather, you’ll want your primary lens to be something designed to enhance contrast and let in more light. Lens tints range in color but are measured in VLT, or visible light transmission. The higher the VLT percentage, the more light is let in. So if you’re skiing in dark or cloudy conditions, you want something with a 50-80% VLT range to let in as much light as possible, enabling you to see as much as possible. If you live on the west coast and are spoiled with dozens of sunny bluebird days every year, you’ll want a lower VLT percentage and a darker colored lens to protect your eyes from squinting, much like how sunglasses work. If your conditions vary or change throughout the day, opt for a middle-of-the-road 25–50% VLT rating. Lenses with higher VLT percentages tend to be in slightly lighter colors like yellows and pinks, while sunny-day goggles with lower VLTs come in highly reflective shades of blue and grey.

Of course, conditions change based on where you’re skiing, so it can be a smart idea to buy a google that comes with two or more lenses. If you buy one of those, make sure you choose lenses suited to different conditions; there’s no point in having two lenses if they’re both for sunny days. A safe bet for the average skier is a sunny day goggle (with a VLT percentage below 20) and a cloudy day goggle around the 45-55% VLT range. Goggles with interchangeable lenses tend to cost a bit more, but are still cheaper than buying two pairs of lenses.

The other consideration aside from lens tint in lens shape. Your two options are cylindrical, a.k.a flat, and spherical, which is slightly curved around your face like a bubble. Spherical lenses give you a wider field of vision and help reduce glare on sunny days, but are generally more expensive. Cylindrical lenses have no top or bottom curve, which means they can slightly distort your field of vision on the edges. For the casual skier or first-time goggle buyer, a cylindrical pair will be easier on your wallet. 

Other cool tech:

Oakley ski goggles

Have trouble with low contrast? Sick of getting vertigo? Don’t feel like carrying around multiple lenses? Well, no worries – several brands on the market are introducing new technology to help address all your goggle-related woes. A few of my favorites include:

  • Giro’s new VIVID™ technology, which lets in blue light to create a super-high contrast field of vision in any conditions. It’s especially helpful for skiers and riders who have trouble seeing the terrain on cloudy/flat-light days. 
  • The Ace EC Electrochromic Goggle from SPY, which has a button on it that allows you to adjust the tint between three different types of conditions: sunny, mixed, and flat light. It’s rechargeable and very helpful for people who don’t want to make mid-mountain lens changes.
  • Smith makes goggles with lenses that use a technology called ChromaPop. Essentially, the lenses help your brain distinguish better between colors, creating sharper and clearer fields of vision; another piece of tech that comes in handy while skiing in any type of conditions

A few other useful goggle-buying tips 

Snow goggles

  • Make sure your goggles fit with your helmet. That means choosing a strap that will sit flat against the back of your helmet – don’t buy a goggle with a large buckle on the back if it needs to fit under a goggle-securing snap on your helmet. Also look at the shape of the top of your frame: if the top curves up, it may not sit smoothly against the bottom of your helmet.
  • Don’t make your decision based on appearances. Yes, it’s cool to pick a goggle with a strap design that matches your set up, but don’t pick your lens based on what color you think will look best in photos. Nothing is worse than skiing with no sense of where you’re going, which is what will happen if you wear a dark blue lens on a storm day.
  • Try and try again: Try your pair on inside with your helmet when it arrives. If it doesn’t fit smoothly or you need a different size, return or exchange it. Peter Glenn gladly accepts returns within 30 days, which will give you plenty of time to try on your pair and see if it’s a good fit.
  • Take care of ‘em: Okay, not a shopping tip, but once you find a pair you like, take care of them! A good pair of goggles will last season after season with some simple care. Keep your lenses in the goggle bag when not in use to prevent scratching, and try to store your goggles at room temperature to prevent fogging from temperature changes. And with many goggles, you can replace the strap if it becomes stretched out, rather than replacing the whole pair.

And as always, be sure to check out for all your goggle needs. We have a wide selection with some of the top brands and features, keeping you protected on the mountain, so you can focus on what matters most – having fun.