New To Ski

Skiing With Glasses: Ultimate Guide

by Simon Naylor | Updated: October 27th, 2022
glasses snowboarding

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If you wear prescription glasses and you’re wondering what to do when you go skiing or snowboarding then this guide is for you. With the wrong setup, skiing with glasses can be uncomfortable and off-putting. No one wants to ski with fogged-up lenses or damage their expensive frames.

Skiing with glasses is not without its challenges but there are sure-fire ways to see clearly on the slopes and enjoy your day out on the mountain without having to constantly adjust your eyewear. Before I dive into the solution, let’s run over the main challenges that skies who wear glasses face.

wet glasses

Main Challenges of Skiing With Glasses

  • Fogging
  • The goggles are too tight
  • Google bending frames
  • Goggles pushing glasses upwards toward the forehead
  • Pinching at the bride of the nose
  • Too loose or slipping down the face

At this point you might be thinking, why can’t I just wear my glasses without goggles?

That’s a bad idea, mainly because normal clear prescription glasses won’t protect you from UV – which is stronger at higher altitudes and even more intense when reflected off clouds and snow.

Not only that but in extreme cases, you can get snowblindness from the high reflectivity of snow.

It’s also very difficult to see where you’re going without protection from the glare of the sun that obscures shadows and the contrast of the slope ahead of you.

Key point: You need UV protection, glasses aren’t enough.

yellow jacket

Here Are The Best Ways To See Clearly And Protect Your Eyes:

1. Wear OTG Goggles 

OTG stands for “Over The Goggles” and they are oversized goggles that are specially designed to be worn over glasses. They’re not only bigger, but internally spaced to comfortably fit your spectacles without squashing your face or bending your frames.

While OTG goggles fit with more glasses, the smaller your frame the more compatibility you’re going to have across different brands.

Many people wear large goggles thinking they’re the same as OTG goggles and end up suffering because of it (Some larger non-OTG goggles do work for some people but it’s hit & miss).

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True OTG goggles have a cut-out of the frame to allow the temples of your glasses to rest comfortably without squeezing or digging into your face.

If you’re buying OTG goggles online, it’s worth measuring your glasses while on your face and measuring how far they protrude out, so you can compare them against the OTG specs to determine the fit.

2. Helmets with Built-in Visors

Another option is to buy a helmet with a built-in visor, which sites far enough from your face not to intrude on most spectacles. Still, double-check the measurements of your glasses and how far the visor sits from your face. The benefit of built-in visors is that there’s no ‘google gap’.

3. Wear Prescription Inserts

Another preferred method of wearing ski goggles with glasses is to use prescription inserts. These are larger frames (without arms) that clip into the front of the ski goggle, giving you a wider field of view.

Inserts fit inside most ski goggles.

The great thing about inserts is that they sit that little bit further away from your face than wearing glasses under OTG goggles and so are less likely to fog up under the same conditions.

You buy the inserts separately with your unique prescription and these will fit into your ski goggles. Most inserts will fit most ski goggles and come with flexible top and bottom arms that flex into a snug position. source.

4. Wear Contact Lenses 

Many skiers like to wear contact lenses beneath their goggles instead of glasses. The great thing about contact lenses is that they don’t fog up and there’s no risk of damaging your expensive glasses if you take a tumble.

Personally, I use contacts when I’m skiing. That see a bit off, as it is about the only time I ever wear them and normally prefer glasses BUT for skiing I like them.
Rupert Baines, Quora

Dr. Samuel Pierce from the American Optometric Association, recommends wearing single-use contacts which allow for the best contrast vision because you have a fresh lens each day. It’s also a good idea to choose contact lenses with UV protection so that when you take off your goggles during breaks on the mountain your eyes still stay protected.

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Prescription Sunglasses – Warm Weather 

In warm weather or spring skiing, you could ditch your goggles and wear a pair of prescription sunglasses.

Ideally, they will have a wrap-around shape that blocks light from the top and bottom and stay secure to your face as your move at speed down the slopes.

Sunglasses
Photo by Mitch Barrie under CC BY-SA 2.0

If the wind picks up, your exposed face may get cold, so it’s always best to have your clear spectacles and OTG goggles (or prescription goggle insert setup) in your backpack as a backup.

In cold or windy weather you could potentially wear clear OTG or large goggles or very low light blocking goggles over your prescription sunglasses but it’s probably not the best setup.

Key Features to Look for in Ski Goggles

1. UV Protection (essential)

Luckily, unless you buy ‘fake’ ski goggles almost all ski goggles (apart from some clear frames) will have UV400 as standard which blocks all harmful ultraviolet light.

2. Polarized Lenses (not essential)

Polarisation is a special type of filter that some ski goggles have within their lenses that block glare from very reflective surfaces like water or snow that are gleaming in the sunlight.

Polarisation is a great feature but not an essential one and ski goggles without it still do a great job of blocking out glare. Polarised goggles will block out a bit more light than non-polarised goggles.

3. Photochromic Lenses (not essential)

Photochromic lenses are clever in that they actually change the tint and the amount of light your goggles block based on how much light is hitting them. So in bright light, they will get darker and in low light, they will get lighter and let in more light. They take about a minute to go darker and a few minutes to get lighter. (source). Photochromic lenses are not an essential but very cool feature to have and are great for skiing in varying weather conditions.

4. Mirrored Lenses (not essential)

Some ski goggles have an external mirrored coating that reflects light back. They block out 10-50% more light than a non-mirrored lens so are not ideal for low-light weather unless they are combined with a very low-light lens.

Understanding VLT

VLT = Visible Light Transmission: Percentage of light blocked 

A key thing to know when buying any ski goggles (including OTG) is the percentage of light that the goggles block out. This is measured by VLT, which is the percentage of light that the filter blocks out. Ski goggles are rated on a scale from 0% VLT (Clear) to 90% (Blocks much of the light).

The higher the number, the darker the goggles and the better it is in the brightest most reflective conditions. The lower the number, the lighter the goggles, and the better it is low-light conditions all the way down to clear (ideal for night-skiing).

A low VLT number such as 15 percent means less eye fatigue on sunny days. And a high VLT number such as 70 percent means better color and depth perception on low-light days.

All About Vision

Optimum Tint Colors

Different ski goggles come in a range of tint colors which change the shade and hue of everything you see through them. Not only do different skiers prefer to see different color hues, but the color tint actually makes it easier or harder to see contrast and shadows depending on the light conditions.

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Here are some popular hues and their corresponding weather.

  • Grey = Bright conditions Sunny & sun cloud.
  • Brown, Rose = Overcast Cloudy weather
  • Blue = All-rounder (depends on lens finish)

There is a wide range of tints that block out more or less light depending on its VLT rating (0-100%). For example, you can have a blue lens with a low or high VLT that would work better in different conditions. LVT and tint go hand in hand for optimum clarity across a range of conditions. Darker or lighter lenses will still work across a range of conditions, they just won’t be AS clear.

Key Takeaway: Know the lens tint and LVT before buying, so you know what weather conditions it’s the best in and chooses the most appropriate for the average weather conditions you ski in. 

How To Stop Your Goggles & Glasses From Fogging Up

So let’s get to it, here’s what you need to do stay fog free on your mountain adventures:

1. Choose Large & Spherical 

The best way to prevent fogging is to buy spherical goggles (rather than cylindrical ones) that have a wider curve and sit further away from your face. The more interior volume, the more distance there is between your warm face and cold lens.

2. Ventilation & Anti-fog Coatings 

Goggles with anti-fog lens coatings and large vents that allow more air to circulate will also significantly reduce fogging. It’s hard to know how good a lens anti-fog coating is before you use it on the slopes, but generally cheaper budget lenses won’t be as good at preventing condensation from forming.

Now that you’ve got your goggles, there are lots of things you can do to prevent fogging based on how you use and care for them.

3. Don’t Get Too Hot 

Too many layers can trap moisture and excess body heat which will make it more likely for your goggle to fog. If you’re wearing a balaclava or neck warmer make sure the material isn’t tucked up too far inside your goggle. Ideally, you don’t want any material to sit between your face and the foam layer, or more moisture will rise up and condensate.

4. Keep Fingerprints Off 

If snow hits the outside of your goggles, resist the urge to wipe it off with your fingers or it will smear. Shake it off, or dab it with the soft cloth that comes with your goggles.

5. Keep Lenses Clean 

Water vapor condenses onto any dirt or grease on the glass. The cleaner your glasses and goggles lens surface, the less likely fog is to form.

That said be sure to heed the manufacturer’s advice on how to care for your goggle lenses. Using the wrong cleaner can strip the surface of its fog-free coating and make it MORE likely to fog up.

Here’s How to Keep Your Spectacles Clean

  1. Rinse your glasses under lukewarm water.
  2. Put a small drop of lotion-free dishwashing liquid onto each lens
  3. Gently rub both sides of the lenses and all parts of the frame for a few seconds.
  4. Rinse both lenses and the frame thoroughly.
  5. Carefully dry the lenses and frame with a clean, lint-free towel. source

Best OTG Ski Goggles to Wear With Glasses

Outdoor Master Basic OTG Goggles

These are a great budget pick with over 1,000 4 & 5-star reviews. These goggles are lightweight and great for all weather but perform best in low-light conditions (11% VLT). They may be on the small side for those with bigger heads or glasses.

Pros

  • Simple but effective ventilation
  • Dual layer lens
  • Anti-fog coating

Cons

  • Not spherical, on the small side
  • It May be too tight for larger glasses

Where to buy: 

Final Thoughts

Skiing with glasses shouldn’t be a burden. Once you’ve got the right pair of goggles and a strategy to stay fog free – your days on the slopes are going to be much more fun. Sure, there will be times you need to adjust your glasses and wipe your lenses, but hopefully, you’re on your way to clear, hassle-free skiing.

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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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