Tips for Selecting Snowboard or Ski Goggles

By: Don Shalin

The earliest use of snow goggles starts with the Inuit people who lived in the coastal regions of what are now Siberia, Greenland, and Alaska. Archeologists have uncovered prehistoric sites thousands of years old with snow goggles in them. The Inuit version of the snow goggle was a carved piece of bone, shell or driftwood, with horizontal slits for eye holes about an inch and half wide. The goggles were held in place by sinew, and were used to cut down on sun's glare and ultraviolet rays, thus preventing snow blindness (snow blindness is in effect a sunburn in your eyes, and is an painful as it sounds. In extreme cases it can cause blindness).

Thousands of years later, one of the primary functions of ski goggles remains the same: protection from ultraviolet rays of the sun. All but the most inexpensive ski goggles provide ultraviolet protection; do not purchase a pair that does not offer this most basic function. According to the American National Standards Institute, look for a lens that blocks the two components of UV radiation - UVB and UVA - by 99 percent and 95 percent, respectively. In addition to protection of your eyes from UV rays, goggles also serve as a physical barrier keeping snow, wind, ice, rocks and flying debris from your eyes. Keep the following tips in mind as you shop for ski goggles:

Be sure to choose a pair of ski or snowboard goggles that have good peripheral vision- when traveling at a high rate of speed it's important to be able to identify hazards quickly. Those hazards can be natural- such as uneven terrain, rocks or trees, or even your fellow snow boarding or skiing enthusiasts.

Fit- You are going to be on the slopes for hours at a time, make sure to try on several pairs of snowboard goggles to get a comfortable fit. If you wear a helmet, be sure to try the goggles with it before you hit slopes -- there's nothing worse than constantly having to adjust your equipment, or worse yet discovering you can't wear those expensive snowboarding goggles at all.

Anti-Fog - Look for a ski goggle with anti-fogging technology built in. There are several approaches- a double layer lens, chemical treatments of the lens during manufacturing, and finally as a last resort, you can pick up an anti-fogging spray or wipe at the store.

Match your lens color to the conditions you'll be skiing or snowboarding in. In low light or overcast conditions, yellow or rose snowboard goggles will provide better contrast, and you'll be able to see more. If you're going to be out on the slopes at night, wear clear goggles. Finally, with bright conditions, use a darker tint (purple, green, etc.) to reduce eye strain. Some newer ski goggles have interchangeable lenses, which allow you to select the correct lens color for the current conditions. Finally, Uvex has come up with an interesting approach to having the correct lens at hand. Using a battery powered liquid crystal technology you can switch from high contrast (for flat light) to a darker lens for bright conditions by simply pressing a button.

Ski goggles have come a long way in technology, and comfort, but their basic purpose- protecting your irreplaceable vision, remains the same.

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