A pair of snowsports-specific goggles will protect your eyes from glare, cold and blowing snow – they’re a must if you’re heading for the mountains this winter.
The main factor to keep in mind when buying a pair of goggles for skiing or snowboarding is which colour lens to go for, as different hues are best suited to different weather conditions.
You may see goggles sold according to their lens category – Cat 1 lenses are best for bad weather, and are usually transparent or lightly tinted. Cat 2 goggles are aimed for use in medium to bright conditions, with lightly tinted lenses. Cat 3 goggles are great for sunny weather, and are more heavily tinted.
Lenses usually also come with a VLT rating, and the lower the number, the better the lens is suited to bright sunshine. For example, a lens with a VLT of 40 per cent will be effective for low light, while one with 9 per cent VLT is ideal for bright bluebird days.
Most goggle models offer 100 per cent protection from UVA and UVB light as standard. Look for goggles constructed with double lenses (this helps avoid fogging) and lenses treated with anti-fog and anti-scratch technologies to keep them clear.
Conditions can change fast in the mountains, so we recommend buying a frame that allows you to pop in different lenses – these goggles are more expensive but usually come with two different category lenses included, so you can swap them while you’re out on the pistes. We’ve included some of the best interchangeable goggles on the market in our round-up, as well as some more affordable single lens options.
Check the strap on the model you buy is easy to adjust, and fits snugly over both a beanie hat and your helmet (some helmets have clips you can pop a goggle strap into). When worn with a helmet, your goggles should sit flush to the helmet lid, so that there’s no gap on your forehead (otherwise you can end up with an odd suntan!). Try out goggles against your face and check that the foam-clad frame feels comfortable around your eyes.
Goggles tend to be unisex, but smaller or female-specific fits are a good shout if you find that regular models feel enormous on your face. If you wear glasses, pick goggles designed to fit over them (sometimes labelled OTG, for over the glasses). Goggles can scratch easily – look after them by storing in them a case or a soft lens bag when not in use.
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Dragon Alliance RVX OTG
These high-performing frameless goggles ticked all the boxes on test. They’re nicely sized to fit most faces, with wide vents and anti-fog lenses to keep your vision crystal clear. Two lenses are included – we tested out the red ionised 23 per cent VLT lens, designed for bright light, and the pink 36 per cent VLT, designed for overcast days. Both proved excellent, and between them should have you covered for most Alpine conditions. The lenses click on and off quickly and easily using a lever – and this is manageable even with snow mittens on. The goggles are lined with thick, fleece-lined foam and sit quite far out from the face, but the benefit is that you get a very comfy fit and there’s plenty of space for glasses beneath them. The RVX is well worth investing in and looking after for many ski trips to come.
Bloc fifty five G550
Bloc’s fifty five G550 goggles comes with two swappable lenses (one blue Cat 3 and one clear Cat 1), making it ready to tackle most mountain weather as well as offering good value for money at £85. A well-designed magnetic system lets you clip off the lenses in seconds – and it’s a doddle to swap between them even if you’re wearing thick gloves and standing halfway down a ski slope.
A wide foam lining does a good job of keeping the goggles in place, but we were less impressed with the fabric band, which is surprisingly stiff, and a pain to adjust.
Dragon Alliance DX3 OTG
If you can’t afford to splash the cash on our top-performing Dragon Alliance goggles, you can still get a slice of the action with its more affordable offering, the DX3. This is a great value goggle, with single lens versions available for £50 and interchangeable versions supplied with two lenses for £60 – the latter are well worth the extra spend.
Dragon Alliance describe the DX3 as a “no-frills, no-nonsense” frame – but it still performed highly on test, sitting snugly on the face thanks to a solid comfortable strap, and offering a decent range of vision. The DX3 comes in various smart colourways and doesn’t have the flimsy feel of other budget-friendly goggles. A wide range of lens colours are available – we rated the 23 per cent VLT Dark Smoke and the 53 per cent VLT Amber on test, as between them they are suitable for most weather conditions.
Smith I/O MAG
These are a hefty pair of goggles, with a thick foam frame that stands out from the face but still feels light and comfortable to wear despite its bulk. Wide spherical lenses use “chromapop” technology to improve colour and contrast, and lenses for bright and low light are both included. These lenses offer a good frame of vision when you look forwards but there’s a lot of foam visible when you look down – not quite Smith’s boast that the I/O is like “switching to widescreen”.
Magnets (the MAG in both the Smith goggles in our round-up is short for magnetic) make swapping between colours fast and intuitive. The sugary pink frame we tested out wouldn’t be for everyone, but there are plenty of other colourways on offer in neutral shades or graphic patterns.
Smith 4D MAG
These big frameless goggles mean business. Smith’s generously-sized 4D MAG goggles feel like lovely quality, and we rate the wide fit, which offers a large field of vision and hugs the face in all the right places – there’s no risk of dodgy goggle line tans here. Whichever colourway you pick of the 10 that are available, two lenses, one for bright light and one for low, are included, and are easy to pop in and out using magnets for quick lens changing on the fly.
The 4D MAG strap is comfortable and lightweight despite the big plastic clip in its centre, and the goggles also come with a hard zipped case, which is ideal for travel or for popping in your backpack if you’re exploring off the beaten track on skis.
Shopping on a budget for your next snowsports holiday? Our top pick for affordability is TOG24’s Megève, which is available with either a silver Cat 3 lens for bright light or a purple mirror Cat 2 lens for low light – we tested the latter, and were impressed with how well it performed in most weather conditions.
The Megève punches well above its £40 price point, with a comfortable fleece lining around the eyes, a stretchy strap and a decent range of vision. There’s no second lens included, but this would still make a great goggle for your first ski trip, or to have as a handy spare.
Roxy’s cheerful patterned goggles for women always stand out in the style stakes, and this season’s feenity model is no exception, available in two bold graphic colourways. It’s on the pricey side at £100 considering you only get one lens – either a blue or a red option, both Cat 3 and best used on sunny days.
The Zeiss-made lens is the stand-out part of the feenity, never fogging up even when you’re speeding down the mountain and with good enough anti-scratch treatment to withstand everyday knocks and scrapes. Despite that top-notch lens, you’d get more bang for your buck elsewhere – so we think it’s a good one to wait for a sale.
Spektrum ostra bio premium
Spektrum aim to deliver sustainable sports kit, and have gotten creative with its approach to finding plastic alternatives in the goggle construction – the ostra’s “bio” frame is made from 64 per cent organic materials derived from castor oil. The ostra looks rather large on the face, but the benefit is that you get a wide, unimpeded range of vision whether you’re going for a ski jump or just spying out the nearest après spot, and we liked that you can adjust how tightly the frame sits around your temples for a custom fit.
The widest strap we tested holds the goggles snug against your face whether you’re sporting a beanie or a helmet. Use the rose gold anti-fog Zeiss lens in low light conditions, or swap to the clear purple lens, included, when the sun comes out. A great quality and eco-conscious choice.
Oakley flight path XL
Oakley’s eyewear always impresses on test, and the flight path XL, new this season, is no exception. It comes with a wide range of lens incarnations, but we liked the Prizm Sapphire lens on test, which is great for mixed sun and cloud conditions and should work as a quiver-of-one goggle for most ski trips. Oakley’s prizm range of lenses are designed to enhance colour and contrast, which definitely helps with visibility in a snow-white landscape.
As the XL in the name hints, these semi-frameless goggles offer a massive field of vision, and you’ll quickly forget you’re wearing goggles at all, especially when you’re looking down the mountain. Great design comes at a price –there’s only one lens included, and while you can swap in lenses that are sold separately, spares cost a whopping £90 each.
The verdict: Ski goggles
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