5 BEST Photochromic Ski & Snowboard Goggles 2020

by Simon Naylor | Updated On: January 3rd, 2020

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If you’re looking for just ONE pair of ski goggles that you can wear all day with crystal clear vision, then buying a Photochromic lens is a smart idea.

Photochromic lenses automatically change tint depending on the light conditions, darkening in bright light and clearing up in flat or low light conditions. The great thing about photochromic lenses is their versatility and ability to provide excellent clarity throughout the day and across weather conditions – from bright sun to foggy evenings. 

Comparison Table

Ski GogglesNameAwardPrice
Julbo SkydomeBest All RoundCheck Price
Julbo AerospaceRunner UpCheck Price
Julbo ElaraBest Women’sCheck Price
Bolle Z5 OTGBest BudgetCheck Price

While photochromic lenses are more expensive (it can be the same as buying two different pairs of goggles) they combine the best and it is like wearing flat light goggles and bright light goggles at the same time.

Some models take a few minutes to react while more advanced (and more expensive) lenses, like those in the Julbo range, take as little as 33 seconds to darken or lighten – which makes for a pretty seamless transition while skiing form shade to sunlight. A quick photochromic reaction allows you to see more clearly – so you can react to dips and bumps in the snow or avoid ice.

1. Julbo Skydome Photochromic

Best All round

Julbo has been building quality gear for 125 years so while their goggles are not cheap, the performance is next level. All Julbo ski goggles on this list come with a full lifetime warranty.

The Julbo Skydome are large spherical lenses with a wide panoramic view in all directions. It comes with REACTIV lenses in five tint options. The tints are gradients colors for optimum contrast across a range of conditions.

The Chameleon lens block out the most light and ranges from across 15% VLT from 5-20 making it ideal for brighter conditions. The Cameleon lens is made of NXT material, which has the clarity of glass and the durability of an anti-ballistic material.

The Zebra Light red options are the most versatile and darken and lighten across a range of 60% – ideal for low light whiteout conditions and bright sunny days. You can ski from dawn till dusk and see clearly through the red tint which improves contrast.

The lenses have exceptional anti-fog capabilities and an external hydrophobic layer stops water marks or smudges from fingers or snowfall. The lenses are well padded and comfortable to wear all day – using two layers of foam.

Julbo Skydome Photochromic – Check Price on Amazon

2. Julbo Aerospace Photochromic

The Julbo Aerospace Photochromic goggles are similar to the Skydome, but they have a framed edge, a few different lens options and are slightly cheaper. The Julibo come with the same lifetime warranty, double foam layer and a full silicone strap for comfort.

The Aerospace lens is built with Jubilo’s propriety SuperFlow ventilation system that enables to snap forward from the frame to improve the ventilation on warmer days or when you want to increase its anti-fog capabilities. More ventilation prevents water vapor inside the goggles condensing onto the lens surface as fog.

The REACTIV Snow Tiger lens combines photochromic technology with polarisation to eliminates 50% of glare and to improve contrast in all weather – but especially bright light glare or whiteout conditions. Spotting and then avoid icy sections will be easier.

Lens options for the Julbo Aerospace:

Like the Skydome the Zebra option has the largest photochromic range of nearly 60% and come in a few different strap color options and mirror finishes (when seen from the outside)  but all with the same red tint (what you see) which improves contrast across all weather conditions.

Julbo Aerospace Photochromic – Check Price on Amazon

3. Julbo Elara Photochromic Women’s

Best Women’s

The Julbo Elara are slightly smaller designed to be a better fit on a woman’s face. While all Julbo ski goggles are unisex, these slightly smaller Elara model may be a better fit for those with smaller face shapes.

They are backed by the same lifetime warranty and feature the same range of high tech photochromic lenses that adapt to light conditions.

They Elara have a spherical double lens with anti-fog coating, full silicone strap and double foam for all-day comfort. The Camelon lenses have both photochromic and polarization powers which will cut out glare.

Lens options for the Julbo Elara:

Julbo Elara Photochromic Women’s – Check Price on Amazon

4. Bolle Z5 OTG Photochromic

Best Budget

The Bolle Z5 OTG Photochromic are a great pair of photochromic lenses that can be worn with a pair of spectacles beneath them. While you can wear spectacles with other large lenses on this list, the Bolle are specially marked as OTG or ‘Over The Glasses’ which means that have a specially adapted shape that will work with a wider variety of glasses and channels cut into the foam for the spectacle legs. Wearing these goggles without glasses is also fine and won’t make any difference to how you experience them.

Bolle is a renowned French ski brand with many years under their belt producing quality lenses (since 1937). These are no exception and come in at a much more affordable price tag than the Julbo options I’ve reviewed above.

The lens has a powerful anti-fog coating and Bolle’s FlowTech venting system which promotes directional airflow across the inside of the lens surface – reducing moisture build-up and maintaining clear vision in all weather conditions from sun to snow.

These are a medium/large fit and other OTG googles in the range include the

Bolle Z5 OTG Photochromic – Check Price on Amazon

5. Unigear Skido X3 Photochromic

These Unigear Skido X3 lenses are my budget pick. They have a photochromic lens range of 42-68 VLT – which isn’t as strong as others on this list, this 25% VLT range is a decent compromise for their affordable price.

The Skido lenses come with a 90 day refund period and a 12-month replacement guarantee (more terms on the product page) = which show that Unigear does stand fully behind their product. The strong reviews also back up these goggles as a great option,

These goggles come in two main options a blue and red tint both with the same VLT range but offering a different color filter to see the slopes. They are a medium/large fit with a wide field of view and a frameless edge to edge design. Good airflow and triple layer foam make for a comfortable fit without pressing too hard on your nose and face. They work well with a helmet or a beanie.

Unigear Skido X3 Photochromic – Check Price on Amazon

What is VLT?

This stands for Visible Light Transmission and it signifies the amount of light that the lens allows to pass through. So the higher the number the more light enters your eyes and the bright the vision. Generally, a higher number is preferred in low or flat light conditions (whiteout, foggy, cloud, dusk) while a lower number is better for bright sunny days. Because photochromic lenses change the amount of light their let in depending on how bright or dark it is, I have put the VLT range that the lenses adapt through in the reviews above.

Why are ski goggles important? 🤔

Ski goggles are an essential part of a skiers kit to protect against harmful UV rays, make it easier to see contrast against the white of the snow and insulate the face against the cold.

The sun produces ultraviolet rays which can damage skin and harm eyes if there is too much exposure. UV rays penetrate through clouds and bounce of the snow making the effects at altitude more severe than at sea level. All certified ski goggles protect against UV rays and by wearing them all day you can drastically reduce your exposure to your upper face and your eyes. In extreme cases spending too long with naked eyes can cause snowblindness and eye damage.

“Fresh snow reflects nearly 80 percent of UV radiation, and UV radiation intensity increases 16 percent for every 1,000 meters above sea level.”
American Optometric Association. UV protection this winter.

Ski goggles also protect your eyes from the cold and the wind, meaning you can open your eyes without squinting or your eyeball watering. While ski goggles are ventilated to prevent fogging, they do shield against the cold and insulate your face. When combined with a balaclava you can cover all or almost all of your bare skin with insulation.

Another benefit of wearing ski goggles is that they will help to protect your eye during a crash or a fall. Check this out If want a full rundown of all the reasons to wear ski goggles.

How to stop goggles fogging up

Goggle fogging is less common when you buy a more expensive pair of goggles like the Julbo’s because they have better ventilation, spherical lenses that sit further from your face and a strong anti-fog coating.

Condensation occurs when water vapor in the air within the goggle comes into contact with the cold surface of the lens and condensates into droplets that reflect light and make it hard to see where you’re going.

The best way to prevent goggle fog is to:

Don’t overheat: by controlling your temperature you not getting hot and sweaty your much less likely to produce the vapor that leads to condensation.

Don’t tuck in balaclava: another common cause of goggle fog is warm humid air getting trapped and fed into your goggles from breathing into your balaclava or neck warmer that is tucked too far into your goggles. Untuck to relieve the fog.

If you want the full rundown of my top tips then take a look at my post all about preventing goggle fog

Best Overall Ski Goggles.

If you’re looking my overall pick for the best ski goggles – read my in-depth review for this season.

ski goggles

Final thoughts

Photochromic lenses are awesome. While their not cheap they are a worthwhile investment for skiers who want unparalleled clarity throughout the day. If you want the best ski goggles money can buy without compromise, then you can’t go wrong with a quality pair of photochromics.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know by posting below this post. I read every one.

Bonus: Best Goggles for flat light

If your budget can’t stretch for photochromic lenses but you need a pair of goggles for whiteouts, foggy or evening skiing. Then you might find what you’re looking for here:

Read my full review of the best flat light ski & snowboard goggles

Simon Naylor, the founder of New To Ski, started skiing in 2005. He has continued to practice his skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other new skiers. He launched New To Ski in 2018 to help first-time skiers have more fun on the slopes and get out and explore the mountains safely.