Wind, sun, snow, and glare. All of these can damage your eyes while you ski unless you plan ahead by wearing quality goggles and sunglasses. But what should you look for when shopping for eye protection for skiing?
In addition to looking cool, sunglasses and goggles can help protect your eyes from ultra-violet rays, tree branches and other harmful elements you encounter during a day on the slopes. Experienced skiers never leave their hotel room without some type of eye protection. If you ski at resorts where weather conditions can rapidly deteriorate, you'll need both sunglasses and goggles.
For sunny and moderately overcast days, sunglasses are often the most comfortable eyewear. But, you don't want to wear the same sunglasses that you wear at home during the week. There are significant differences between fashion and sports eyewear. Things to look for in sports glasses are durable frames and lenses that won't shatter on impact. Sport lenses are made from glass, plastic and polycarbonate - the latter are best for skiing. Look for "polarized" lenses that reflect harmful ultraviolet rays away from your glasses. If you're the type of skier that likes to rip up the terrain, look for temple grips and nose pads available with Oakley, PanOptx, Bolle, Easton and Spy Optics that keep your glasses firmly in place while you ski.
Before buying a pair of sport glasses, it's important to understand a little about how light affects the way we see things. All light, whether it's natural sunlight or artificial indoor light, is composed of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red light with varying wavelengths. Glasses with colored lenses help filter out certain colors to enhance vision. For instance, amber and rose-colored lenses can emphasize shadows on mogul runs, making them easier to navigate and read.
Orange or yellow lenses are ideal for hazy, overcast days and filter out blue light in shadows. Copper, brown and gray lenses work well on sunny days and help to improve contrast and visual acuity under blue skies. When it's partly cloudy, try wearing amber, rose or red lenses. If you find that you ski in all types of conditions, consider buying a pair of glasses with interchangeable lenses. You can carry the entire array of lenses in your parka pocket.
On cold, snowy days, nothing compares to the warmth and vision you get with goggles. They not only help you see well, they'll keep your face warm and prevent frostbite.
Goggles come in hundreds of sizes and models. Oakley, Spy Optics, Smith, Scott, Bolle, Vuarnet and Quicksilver make good quality goggles for skiing and snowboarding. Like sunglasses, only way to tell which ones are best for you is to try on a few pairs. Depending on the size and shape of your face and your personal preferences, you can choose either large or small frames. Large frames generally offer the most protection, warmth and provide for the best peripheral vision.
Smaller frames are lighter and less bulky. Be sure that you can see well across 180 degrees, from right to left and that you'll be able to see other skiers. Most goggles are made from nylon, rubber or propionate that holds their shape, regardless of the weather conditions. All goggles are worn with wide, elastic straps. If you wear a helmet, be sure that the strap will fit completely around the outside. If not, you can buy a strap extension at most ski shops.
Goggles come in a variety of prices. You generally get what you pay for. Good quality goggle lenses are actually two lenses in one - an inside and outside lens. Like double-paned windows, the two layers help to insulate against cold weather and prevent fogging. Most goggle lenses are treated at the factory with a special anti-fog coating that can be damaged if you clean them with tissues or cloths, so be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning. If fogging is a problem, a number of models come equipped with a small, battery-operated fan that circulates cool air around the inside of your goggles.
If you wear prescription glasses, look for a pair of goggles that will fit completely over your glasses. Another option is to buy goggles that accommodate prescription lens inserts. Your optometrist can make you a pair of inserts that you leave permanently inside your goggles.
Sunglasses and goggles certainly aren't the most expensive gear you buy, but they can be the most important. Before your next trip, stop by your local ski shop and get a good quality pair of sport glasses and goggles. You'll be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you.