Are Ski Goggles Polarized? (Why They’re Not Great For Overcast Skiing)

by Alaina Johnson | Updated: September 19th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

Have you heard that polarized goggles are better and wondered if your ski goggle lenses should be polarised too?

Only some ski goggles come with polarized lenses. Some skiers prefer the additional protection against the glare from the sun onto the bright white snow. Polarized ski goggles can negatively impact the overall vision of the skier, especially on cloudier days.

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What Are Polarized Ski Goggles?

For those who are unaware of the concept behind polarized lenses, it's simply a type of lens that effectively reduces glare. They're commonly used with water sports, as they can help ameliorate the bright sun reflecting off of the water into the eyes of the wearer.

Polarized goggles are also popular with snow sports, following a similar concept of blocking the glare off of the bright white snow.

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Polarized lenses have a chemical that has been applied that effectively allows them to better filter light. This is a common addition to many glasses that are meant to be worn outdoors, in sporting situations, or in everyday life.

These types of lenses are generally more expensive. For anyone driving or spending time on the water frequently, polarization can make an immediate difference in one's ability to see with clarity and comfort.

When it comes to polarized ski goggles, skiers may notice a sharper and clearer image while using them. However, they don't come without their faults and many skiers recommend against using polarization in ski goggles for issues of safety on the mountain.

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Not only are polarized goggles more expensive, but they can also make the sport a bit more dangerous. Instead, skiers should save their money and throw on a pair of polarized sunglasses at the end of the ski day. There are also clear ski goggles on the market and these should only be used for night skiing generally, as they offer little to no protection against the sun's rays.

Are Polarized Lenses Good For Skiing?

While many people may lean towards polarized lenses, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, the polarization can make it more difficult to see icy patches in the snow. This can potentially lead to an avoidable injury or accident.

On darker days, polarization can affect vision and make it harder to gain a perspective on your surroundings.

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Polarized lenses aren't necessarily bad for skiing but they should only be used under certain conditions. Newer skiers may want to avoid them altogether, as they can make it more challenging to get a grasp of everything happening around them. Grabbing a regular pair of non-polarized goggles can allow new skiers to use their peripheral vision to the fullest extent.

In skiing and snowboarding, noticing the glare off of icy patches in the snow is a key tool in an athlete's back pocket. Without being able to notice this glare, the skier or snowboarder may hit the icy spot and suffer from an accident. Polarized lenses effectively reduce the athlete's ability to notice the extra glare and they're at the mercy of the mountain.

Luckily, several options on the market are designed specifically with snow sports in mind. Some brands effectively reduce the glare of the snow, while accentuating the icy spots. This allows skiers to make quick and effective judgment calls.

Some lenses adapt to light conditions, which creates the ideal set of goggles for those on the slopes. These are known as photochromic lenses.

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Should You Wear Sunglasses or Ski Goggles?

It shouldn't come as a surprise that you need some form of eye protection while you're skiing top speed down a mountain. After all, snow and ice can sting your face and you'll want something to form a barrier between your eyes and the elements - and most importantly to protect against harmful UV rays.

Key Takeaway: As a general rule of thumb, goggles are going to be the safest and most popular option.

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While skiing on your next trip, you may also see some people sporting a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses may look "cool" but they offer fewer benefits when it comes to snow sports eyewear.

Ski goggles provide a wider field of vision, which is a huge plus when you're skiing around other people. They cover more of your face, which provides an extra boost of protection. They're also more likely to stay on during a fall or a crash.

When wearing sunglasses on the mountain, skiers are more likely to fight against fog. Goggles restrict airflow in a way that sunglasses don't, so fog is less of an issue. Foggy lenses can cause a variety of issues, such as impaired vision.

Important: Polarized lenses can reduce light energy by 50%, which can protect the delicate pupil from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

Polarized Versus Non-Polarized Ski Goggles

Polarized lenses are ideal for reducing the bright glare that often bounces off of the white snow. This can be distracting for many and may even cause headaches after experiencing the reflections all day. On an extra bright day, a pair of polarized ski goggles may be your best bet for reducing eyestrain and avoiding a headache.

On most other days, non-polarized ski goggles are ideal. With a regular pair of goggles, you can rest assured that you have a clear view of your surroundings. Nothing is darker than it should be and you can view all of the potential dangers around you, such as inanimate objects or other skiers.

This allows skiers to swap out lenses based on the weather conditions and whether the sun is fully visible or if it's a cloudy day. This is an added convenience that many avid skiers like to have in their gear.

Tip: To find the best of both worlds, there are ski goggles like OutdoorMaster that feature interchangeable lenses.

How to Choose Ski Goggles

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For those new to the sport, choosing their first pair of ski goggles may feel a bit overwhelming at first. However, it doesn't need to be. Going into a brick-and-mortar ski shop where there are a variety of choices to try on can help make the decision process straightforward.

As always, you'll want to check to ensure the goggles fit properly. To do so, make sure that they're securely fastened around your head. They should feel snug but not uncomfortable. You'll want them to stay on while you're speeding down the slopes or when you potentially fall. You don't want airflow inside of the goggles, which can cause fogging.

Some varieties of goggles come equipped with anti-fogging technology, which often comes at a premium price. For those planning on getting a lot of use out of their goggles, this addition may be well worth it. After all, it gets incredibly annoying to constantly have foggy goggles on the slopes.

Depending on the model, some ski goggles are better suited for smaller or larger faces. When trying on different pairs in the store, an experienced employee should be able to provide tips and advice for the most suitable brand.

Nearly all types of ski goggles come equipped with UV protection these days. Even on a cloudy day, skiers are at risk against UV rays. Having the built-in support from your goggles can be an extra layer of risk reduction.

Which Lenses Should You Choose?

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Choosing between polarized and non-polarized ski goggles may sound difficult but the answer is relatively straightforward. Many skiers are better off opting for the non-polarized variety, as they'll be able to notice icy patches by the amount of glare they reflect.

For skiers who enjoy having polarized goggles, there are safer options on the market than regular polarized lenses. Some goggles come with safety features such as adapting to light conditions and enhancing glare on ice. These options help to keep skiers safe and to allow them to ski all day long, without suffering from strain on their eyes.