The Best Ski Goggles of 2019
We researched the best ski goggles for skiing and snowboarding. Here's our findings.
When it comes to snow sports, goggles might be one of the most undervalued pieces of gear. Folks new to the sport might not realize just how important they are. After analyzing data from professional review sites, reading hundreds of customer reviews, interviewing snow sport professionals, and considering our own experiences, we put together a list of the best ski goggles for most people. Whether you’re making your first investment in the sport, dedicated at upping your game, or looking for the classic gold standard goggle that will serve you for many years. We think the Smith I/O are the Gold Standard among ski goggle users. The Giro Blok is the best value investment for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Those who are willing to pay extra for what is widely considered the finest goggles available should consider the Oakley Flight Deck Prizm.
The Best Ski Goggles for Most People: The Gold Standard
The Smith I/O, with its interchangeable lenses, Chromapop technology, and effortlessly sleek design, is widely regarded as the gold standard of goggles for folks who ski more than 10-14 days every year. It features a spherical lens shape, comes with two lenses, and comes in three sizes (Small: I/O S, Medium: I/O, and Large: I/O X) as well as an Asian fit.
While it’s a little more time consuming to switch out the regular I/O line’s lenses (the brand has a new magnetic system in the I/O Mag if you are willing to drop another $40 on it), the Chromapop lens technology can’t be beat by any other brand. This is the product that comes with me in bounds and in the backcountry, and I usually always carry two extra lenses to swap on the chairlift if I need to rather than check the weather report ahead of time.
The Smith I/O by far has the most reviews on popular online snow sports retailer, evo. This means that it’s the model that people who spend a lot of time skiing and riding are buying and talking about the most. It also has great customer reviews on Amazon and REI and is consistently mentioned by publications such as Outside, Powder, Outdoor Gear Lab, and other gear reviewers.
Upgrade Ski Goggles: The Show Stopper
Oakley Flight Deck Prizm
With its oversized (and what skiers and riders might call stylish or “steezy”) lens, the Oakley Flight Deck Prizm will definitely turn heads and make you look like the best skier on the mountain. All jokes aside, this goggle doesn’t just look good, it performs.
Aside from offering one of the largest fields of view on the market, the oversized lens also accommodates an over the glasses (OTG) fit. It’s considered to be the best goggle out there for folks who like seeing what’s in their peripherals. The lens tint and technology is on par with Smith’s Chromapop. The goggle is rimless, giving it a seamless and almost futuristic look.
The Oakley Flight Deck Prizm beat out other contenders because it comes highly recommended by ski patrollers and search and rescue team members out of the Tahoe area who ski over 100 days each season. It’s also a favorite of customer reviewers and professional reviewers.
Oakley Flight Deck Prizm
Best Bang-For-Your-Buck (and our pick for intermediates to beginners)
The Giro Blok is priced right for folks who are brand new to the sport and/or plan to ski about 3-7 times in a season. What we like about it is you’re saving about half of what you’d spend on mid-range goggles but you’re investing in something that will last for a few seasons.
While it’s tempting to cut corners financially in this really expensive sport, the Giro Blok will hold up and is worth the investment. We recognize that there are other, more inexpensive goggles available in the $40-70 range that beginners might be tempted to buy. But for a little more money, the Giro gives users something that will last several seasons---which they won’t find in less expensive goggles. It’s well loved for its retro design, impressive expansion view (i.e., wide lenses), and anti-fog coating. This design also comes in Asian fit (although the colors are unfortunately limited).
The Giro's only cons are that it is relatively basic compared to higher end models. It comes with just one lens and less sophisticated design in terms of its ventilation, lens technology, tint, and anti-fog coating. Still, we think that the Giro Blok is a solid pick that beginners can grow into and that will continue to serve them well as they advance in the sport.
As an avid skier both in bounds and at the resort, I ski well over 40 days a year and write about the experience as well as the gear I take with me on the slopes for outdoor publications, including Outside, SNEWS, and Outdoor Project. I live in Truckee, California and ski primarily at Squaw Alpine and in the surrounding backcountry of the Sierra.
I’ve tried my fair share of faulty goggles–some that fog, others that were too dark or too light for the harsh lighting skiers and riders often encounter in the mountains. Not only do the wrong lenses or faulty goggles put a dent in the fun snow sports bring, but they can also be dangerous. Hitting an uneven patch of snow or an unseen feature can have huge consequences for everyone from beginners to advanced.
I also learned to ski (well, ski well, that is) as an adult, which means I remember well the transition from friends’ hand-me-downs or cheaper gear to equipment that can actually keep up with me as I transitioned from a beginning intermediate to an advanced skier.
How We Researched
Aside from my own experience on the hill, I consulted snow sport retailers and ski instructors to survey the most popular goggle options for skiers and riders. I compiled a list of a dozen popular options and whittled it down from there to select the our best options for three types of skiers and riders. For more information on the models we considered, see our comparison chart.
I also combed an extensive list of third party reviewers, including Outdoor Gear Lab, Powder, Outside, and Switchback Travel. These expert opinions helped me define what technology and features are state of the art in this category. Where these reviews focus primarily on higher-end products, our recommended picks at Treeline reflect a broader overview of what each goggle manufacturer has on the market in 2019.
This review features middle and budget models as well, so that folks newer to the sport or who spend fewer than 10 days on the mountain each winter can also find an affordable yet functioning product that works best for them. It should be seen as a complement to some of the other product reviews out there this season that all provide great information on goggle specs and the technology that goes into each product.
What Makes Good Ski Goggles/How to Get on the Contender List
When it comes to snow sports, goggles might be one of the most undervalued pieces of gear. Folks new to the sport might not realize just how important they are. Not only do goggles keep your eyes protected like sunglasses would, they also come with various lens shades and treatments to make it easier to see bumps in the snow or other features that might trip you up and lead to injury. Plus, zooming downhill means wind will cause you to tear up if you’re just wearing sunglasses, and goggles will also protect your face from sun, wind, and other extreme alpine conditions. Whether you are a downhill skier or snowboarder, you’re going to need goggles.
There’s a ton that goes into finding the perfect goggle–including how to fit one to your face and helmet and matching a lens to the riding conditions.
Here’s a list of all the features we took into consideration when selecting our top choices.
Arguably the most important feature on a goggle, lens technology is also one of the determining factors in price for any given pair of goggles. The basics to lens tints are pretty obvious: dark lenses are better for sunny days. Lighter ones will serve skiers and riders better on stormy days or when it’s cloudy.
But thanks to modern technology, ski goggles can get pretty sophisticated when it comes to visible light transmission, or VLT. The lower the VLT, the better they are for bright conditions. For example, if you like skiing on sunny, bluebird days, you would be best served by a lens with less than 25% VLT. If you are a powder hound or don’t mind getting after it in a storm, you might prefer something closer to 50-65% VLT. Does your local resort offer night skiing? It might be worth investing in an 100% VLT lens.
While it’s all well and good to know what light conditions you find ideal, the reality is that most of us who like sliding around on the snow take what we can get, so it’s likely that your answer to these questions is “all the above.” If so, you’re not alone. Most goggles on the market above the $100 range offer interchangeable lenses, letting you swap out the lens depending on the day’s conditions. Unless you only ski or snowboard a few times a year, it’s definitely worth investing a little more in an interchangeable system so you can swap out your lenses throughout the day or season to match conditions. Not only will this make you safer on the mountain, it will improve your skiing or riding immeasurably.
Lower end interchangeable lens pop in and out, whereas the state of the art goggles on the market features magnetic technology that means you can swap lenses fast, efficiently, and without even removing your gloves.
Lens Technology (Photochromic and Polarized)
Anyone who has spent hours staring at snow, either in bright or flat light, can attest that the sea of white can play tricks on the the eyes regardless if you’re looking through tinted ski goggles. If you ski or ride more than 10 days in a season, it’s also worth investing in lens that are photochromatic (alters the tint of the lenses in response to changes in ambient light) or polarized (divides light so it enters the eye through just one axis).
Each brand usually calls their own lens technology by a trademarked name, such as Smith’s Chromapop. And most skiers prefer photochromatic lenses over polarized lens, which often aren’t the best for seeing the difference between soft and icy snow. Polarized lenses are designed to reduce intensely reflected light, but when you are looking at snow you might lose certain details that you can see better with photochromatic technology.
Lens Fit and Shape
We prefer spherical lenses to flat lenses because they mirror how the eyeball takes in information. But, like everything else on this list, spherical lenses bump up the price tag on a pair of goggles because they are a little harder to make.
Fogged goggles are the worst, but ventilation and anti-fog technology help a lot. (As does care and maintenance of your goggles, which should always be stored in a dry, room-temperature location.)
Most modern goggles on the market are helmet compatible, but as you purchase your goggles, check out the corresponding brand’s helmet designs. When you purchase goggles, you are marrying into a system, so to speak. While you may find some helmets and some goggles of different brands match up decently along the forehead and at the temples, if you purchase the same brand of each, this is almost guaranteed. And it’s important–aside from avoiding the dreaded Gaper’s Gap, a seamless fit also helps prevent fogging lenses and exposure to the elements.
Consider your face size and features when selecting a goggle. Lenses usually come in small, medium, or large sizes. When in doubt, size up because your goggle's second objective after improving your sight is to protect your face from snow, wind, and sun.
The only difference between men’s, women’s, and most kids’ goggles is size. So when you pick out a goggle that fits your face, it may come with a label that doesn’t match with how you identify.
Also, most major goggle brands offer an Asian fit for all their leading models, like the Oakley Flight Deck. This video from SportRx on why this is an important consideration for certain face shapes. The video describes it as fitting people who have a “flat nose bridge or no nose bridge.”
Fit is important to create a full seal around your nose. With Asian fit goggles, there’s more foam around the nose area to prevent snow coming through the gap.
Many brands offer OTG (over the glasses) fits for folks who wear glasses while skiing. If you fall in that category, it’s an important feature to look for so your glasses won’t be squished against your face.
Here’s a few more resources on how to choose the right goggle for you that you might find helpful:
How We Picked/Judged from the Contenders
Our winning selections are goggles that perform well, excel among goggles of similar price range, and offer the right technology to hold up on the mountain in a variety of conditions. To narrow it down to three top contenders from a list of about a dozen, we looked at general reputation of product, customer reviews, and top gear publications. We then factored in that information with our own personal experience on the mountain to narrow it down.
Because skiing and snowboarding are such expensive sports and each piece of gear is so important, we tried to steer clear from the most expensive models, although they perform great.
After your helmet and soft goods like gloves, socks, and perhaps even clothing, your goggles will be the least expensive piece of gear you purchase when you first get into snow sports. While we believe that you should buy goggles that will last, we also think there’s no reason for beginners or those who don’t get out at least ten days every season to empty their wallets on this piece of gear.
We consulted numerous gear reviews from leading outdoor publications, like Outside, Powder, Outdoor Gear Lab, Gear Junkie, and many others. We also factored in customer reviews. The most influential reviews, however, were informal, word-of-mouth recommendations from ski professionals. Outdoor retail sales associates, ski patrollers, and search and rescue team members weighed in on the three models below.
How to Choose the Best Ski Goggles for You
Before you hit the purchase button on any of the goggles listed below, consider what kind of skier or rider you are and what your needs are. Follow the links to each brand’s site and play around with their interactive lens graphics to find the right one for you and where you ride.
Also consider how many days a year you ski and how important it is for you to have the best technology on the market. If you only get out every so often or like to stick to groomers (where you are less likely to come across variations in the snow that are hard to see), you might not need state of the art goggles.
If you are interested in stepping up your skills, skiing all the time, and/or are really into the sport, it’s definitely worth it to buy nice rather than buy twice. Remember too that with certain models with interchangeable lenses, you can always start with less expensive lenses and then purchase the more technical lenses down the line.
Another pro tip is to shop around for sales. At the end of the season (spring), many retailers and brands will put the last year’s color choices on sale to move inventory. Even during peak season you might be able to find a last season’s model. Treeline Review’s Deal Finder Page scans sales at outdoor retailers for the items we recommend in our guides and alerts you when they are on sale.
Care and Maintenance
Goggles can be temperamental, especially when it comes to fogging. To reduce the fog, I bring mine inside every night and store them at room temperature. I make sure the face foam dries out but doesn’t get too warm. I know some folks who drive with the goggles on the dash to get warm on their way to the resort–just be careful they don’t heat up to the point where the plastic is in danger of melting.
It’s also easy to scratch goggles. When you aren’t skiing, take them off your helmet and store them in the soft cloth bag they came in, which usually doubles as a cleaning cloth. Some folks invest in hard plastic goggle cases that function like hard plastic glasses cases.
To clean the outer lens, use a microfiber cleaning cloth. Never use paper towels or rags.
Avoid cleaning the inner lens if possible. Most manufacturers apply an anti-fog coating which can be damaged by cleaning or wiping.
These small steps will preserve the longevity of your goggles, making your investment last longer. Skiing and snowboarding are expensive sports but most of the gear you purchase, including goggles, should last for several years.