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It’s a pretty common occurrence for every skier; the wind picks up and clouds roll in, blocking out the glare of the sun, but bringing with it a new challenge. In flat or low light conditions: the sun shines through clouds or fog and makes for a massive loss of depth perception and contrast across the mountain.
In the extreme clouds, the white snow and the white sky begin to merge making it difficult to judge your speed or see bumps and dips in the terrain.
In cloud and fog, skiers who want to see clearly need to wear flat light-specific goggles that let in more light (high VLT) and have a lens tint that increases contrast.
Our Top Picks
- Oakley Flight Deck With Prizm Hi Pink
- Smith I/O MAG Asian Fit Snow Goggle
- Oakley Canopy Ski Goggles
- Outdoor Master PRO Light (Blue Lens)
1. Oakley Flight Deck With Prizm Hi Pink
The Oakley’s flight deck has HDO (High Definition Optics) for maximum contrast and to enhance visibility in cloudy/whiteout conditions.
The Oakley flight deck are large spherical lenses that deliver an excellent field of vision that is crisp, using their propriety Prizm technology. The lenses have a dual color tone, which has a unique look – that is not very everyone’s style – but it does serve a purpose.
The Oakley’s flight deck has HDO (High Definition Optics) for maximum contrast and to enhance visibility in cloudy/whiteout conditions. If you like the look of these, the Prizm Hi Pink is a great color choice for flat light.
- Very wide field of vision (like a pilot in a fighter jet.)
- Uses Prizm lens technology to filter light and boost contrast.
- Interchangeable lenses.
- Excellent anti-fog with moisture-wicking foam.
- Interchangeable lenses for more options.
- Will fit over some glasses (like OTG goggles)
- Only 1x lens.
- Not for budget skiers.
(VLT) Visible Light Transmission: 30%-40%
Where to Buy:
2. Smith I/O MAG Asian Fit Snow Goggle
Designed for ultimate integration with Smith helmets for maximum comfort, venting and fog-free performance. Three-layer DriWix face foam wicks moisture for a fog-free fit.
What I love about these Smith Snow Goggles is that they have interchangeable lenses and out of the box they always come with two pairs of lenses. These lenses are not cheap, but they are beautifully made and have the latest optics for crystal-clear clarity on the mountain.
These goggles have 16x lens options at the time of writing each with a different tint and VLT rating – from light blue to dark black. Bear in mind, that these goggles will fit medium/large ski helmets (not small). If you’re having trouble deciding on which lens color to go for here is a handy guide.
- 2x Beautiful lenses (low light and bright light).
- Chromopop technology for high-definition contrast.
- Wide spherical lens for excellent vision in all directions.
- Triple-layer DriWix foam for comfort and reducing moisture (warmer).
- Interchangeable lenses for more options.
- Very strong anti-fog rating.
- Some reviewers note that changing the lenses is not always easy.
- Not for budget skiers
(VLT) Visible Light Transmission: 12% and 50%
Where to Buy:
3. Oakley Canopy Ski Goggles
Flexible O Matter chassis with rigid strap anchor plates for support and comfort of balanced pressure. All-day comfort of triple-layer face foam with moisture-wicking fleece lining.
Another solid frame from Oakley. These lenses use the same Prizm technology but use a different more flexible shape than the Flight Deck and are not interchangeable (can’t swap out lenses).
It comes in 16 beautiful lens color tints. I’d recommend the Prizm Rose lens for low light or the Jade Iridium for an all-weather tint (bright sun and overcast days). They’re compatible with ‘most’ eyewear under 145mm in width.
- Prizm lens technology.
- Excellent anti-fog coating.
- Flexible frame for optimum face fit.
- Large oversize fit for wide angle view.
- No interchangeable lenses.
- One reviewer notes that if you get water on the inside of the lens doesn’t run off easily.
(VLT) Visible Light Transmission: 21%
Where to Buy:
4. Outdoor Master PRO Light (Blue Lens)
Outdoor Master PRO Light is one of my more budget-friendly picks. It’s not got the same technology behind it but is a great option in low and flat light conditions. Because of the high VLT, these won’t be optimum for bright light, but will still protect you from glare, UV, and the cold just fine.
- Large spherical lens.
- Excellent price.
- Magnetic interchangeable lens
- Great for late evening or night skiing
- Great range of lenses 10-99% VLT
- Some reviewers complain of fogging issues.
- Not all lens available to buy (until new stock).
(VLT) Visible Light Transmission: 60% – Blue lens.
Where to Buy:
Understanding Flat Flat Light Conditions
What Is Flat Light?
Flat light in skiing is the weather that produces very little contrast between the highlights and shadows of the mountain. When you combine this flat light with white snow you get an environment that is almost all white and grey except for shrubs, buildings, and other skiers.
Flat/low light conditions span a wide variety of weather conditions from overcast (cloud cover blocking the sun) all the way through to whiteout conditions where it becomes hard to identify anything beyond your outstretched hands.
Flat or low light conditions occur when:
- Fog rolls in
- It’s snowing or raining
- The sky is overcast and cloudy
Why Do Goggles Help You See Better?
The right pair of goggles will help you see better in low-light conditions because they will increase contrast and stop you from squinting your eyes.
Even in flat light, the cloud cover will let in plenty of UV rays that you need to stay protected from. Wind and snow will make your eyes water and skiing without goggles won’t be very fun.
The optimum ski goggle for flat light will block less light and have a specific color tint that is designed to improve contrast.
Ski goggles measure the amount of light they let in using the VLT scale (Visible Light Transmission). The lower the VLT, the more light is blocked.
The higher the VLT, the less light is blocked. So for flat light conditions, we want to look for ski goggle that does not block too much light. Ideally a 25% VLT or higher.
Low Light Lens Colors
There is a range of lens colors that work well in flat light. Permission, brown, yellow, and orange are great lens tints for overcast flat-light days.
There are many other tints that ski goggle brands use for low light, the key point is for the goggle to deliver high contrast and one that doesn’t block too much light (high VLT).
Low Light Lens Technology
It’s worth mentioning Smith Optics (Chromopop) and Oakley (Prizm), which over the last decade or more have been developing lenses specifically to increase contrast.
Both technologies are now built into their top-tier lenses and although they cost more than a regular lens, they do give skiers a much better depth perception in low-light weather conditions (source).
Here is a more in-depth R&D video of how Oakley has developed Prizm lenses to create better detail by exaggerating the effects of certain colors within the spectrum and blocking those that make it harder to see detail – based on how the human eye perceives light.
Top Tips for Low Light Skiing
Once you’ve got your flat light ski goggles in hand, there are a few things you can do to stay safe on the mountain.
1. Ski with Trees
Although it might sound dangerous, it is actually safer to ski near trees when there is less visibility. The color of the trees will pop out of the landscape and provide a backdrop to judge distances and improve your depth perception.
This will help you know how fast you moving and allow you to control your speed or stop before you end up in danger.
2. Change your Elevation
Sometimes the cloud is going to be concentrated at the top or the bottom of the slope. If you can change elevation you may be able to ski above the clouds or beneath them.
If you get higher and above the clouds, you’ll have more light and if you get below then you’ll have greater visibility.
3. Use your Poles
If you’re not in the habit of pole planting, flat light is a great time to get into it. Pole planting not only allows you to set a rhythm while you ski making your parallel turns smoother and more dynamic, but pole planting also has the added benefit of helping you to perceive the depth of snow and the steepness of the slope ahead – like a cat’s whiskers.
If you don’t know how to pole plant yet, read my free guide on using your poles while skiing.
Skiing While it’s Raining
If you’re skiing at the end of the season, it can occasionally rain instead of snow on the mountain. Not only will you need your low-light goggles at the ready, but you’ll also want to wrap up in ski clothing with high breathability (over 10k) and waterproofing rating (over 15k).
Rainwater will get you wetter faster than during snowfall. Don’t get soaked through or you are much more likely to get hyperthermia.
During a rainfall, warm snow can get slushy and nighttime temperatures can cause re-freeze turning parts of the piste icy.
If you want to know how to ski in these conditions, I wrote an article called: How to Ski While it’s Raining
Skiing While it’s Snowing
If it’s snowing heavily, skiing can be really fun or miserable depending on how prepared you are. You’ll get fresh powder, but visibility will be reduced and you’ll get much colder if you’re not wrapped up.
There are a few changes you can make to your technique to have even more fun skiing while it’s snowing.
Skiing in a Whiteout
Skiing in a whiteout is difficult, and challenging and can be dangerous if you accidentally go off-piste. The best thing to do is ski slowly, be aware of any piste markers, and stick together with your buddies. If a storm is approaching, or you feel in danger – seek shelter.
I wrote a whole guide on skiing in a whiteout, how to stay safe, and warm, and what to look out for.
How to Stop Goggles Fogging Up?
The best way to avoid fogging is to invest in a decent pair of goggles with vents, anti-fog coating (the effectiveness of coatings varies), and a quality lens.
The next best way is to:
- Keep your lens clean (dirt attracts condensation).
- Don’t touch your lens directly with your fingers.
- Shake or use a soft cloth to dab water droplets (no smearing).
- Keep the goggle in a dry internal pocket when not in use (the heat will reduce the build-up of condensation.)
Read my full guide to stopping google fog
How Should Ski Goggles Feel?
The perfect fit should be snug but not squeeze or put pressure on any part of your face. You should not have red marks at the end of the day (if you do, loosen up your strap more.) The perfect fit is goggles that you forget you wearing within a few minutes and it’s a surprise when you realize you’re still wearing them at the end of the day.
I discuss the most common goggle fit problems and the solutions to them in my main ski goggle guide.
Can I Wear my Glasses Under Goggles?
Most spectacles will find under the large spherical goggles (like the Pilot Deck) but may cause squeeze issues for those with more protruding lenses or bigger faces.
If in doubt, #1 goes for ski goggles marked with OTG “Over The Glasses”, #2 buys spectacle inserts that will fit most standard goggles, OR #3 you can wear single-use contact lenses.
I discuss all this, the pros and cons, how to stop glasses fogging, and everything you need to know in my full guide: Skiing with Glasses.
Skiing in low light can be a challenge if you’re wearing ski goggles that block out too much light, or a storm is approaching.
Skiing with reduced visibility requires more concentration and for you to react faster to changes in the terrain as you may hit hidden bumps or troughs, so ski on runs that you’re comfortable with and match your skill level.
With less light, temperatures will start to dip. Wrap up, drink hot drinks, stay warm, and most of all enjoy your day in the mountains.
NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I share everything I wish someone had told me when I was learning to ski. My name is Simon & I've been skiing since 2005. This winter, our family is taking a 3-month camper ski trip across the Alps. If you enjoy our articles, please join the free email club. We'd love to have you.
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