Why Are Ski Goggles Tinted?

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

When out skiing on a cloudless day it's easy to forget the danger of the natural elements. Stronger sunlight at higher altitudes, UV rays and reflected light can all injure your eyesight. Not a chance worth taking. Right?

Ski goggles protect your eyes from the sun. When on a mountain, at higher altitudes, UV (Ultraviolet Light) rays are stronger, mainly because there is less atmosphere to filter them out. At the same time, light coming from the sun reflects directly off the snow surface creating a higher intensity of light. The tinted coating on the outside of the lens helps to cut down the glare of the sun, or on cloudy days helps you to see the definition of the snow more easily. Some sunglasses and ski goggles have interchangeable lenses.

Man Wearing Ski Googles

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If you have ever skied just a short distance without sunglasses or ski goggles and struggled with streaming eyes and the glare of the sun, you will understand the protection they offer from the cold and wind. Their role is partly for safety and partly to make your vision better for snow and bright sunlight.

What are Ski Googles Made from?

Ski goggles are manufactured from a surprisingly large number of individual items. Generally, modern-day ski goggles are made with two separate lenses, which have a thin dividing piece of foam between them. This is to create an air barrier, which helps to stop the lenses from fogging up in the same way a double-glazed window operates.

Lenses offer UV Protection

The lenses themselves are manufactured from polycarbonate, which is very tough and shatterproof for safety. All modern-day ski goggle lenses will protect you 100% from UV rays, so harmful UVA, UVB, and UVC rays cannot damage your eyes.

Cataracts are among the injuries you can get from exposure to too much UV light. These are serious and long-lasting injuries so it’s always best to ensure your goggles are still in good condition.

Tinting Reduces Glare

Most goggles have tinted lenses, which usually darken the image when you look through the lens. When you first put on goggles the effect of the tint can be quite dramatic however after a few minutes your eyes will adjust, and you won’t notice the effect until you take your goggles off.

The tint of the lens is changed according to the conditions you will be skiing in but generally, tints follow this pattern:

Overcast / Snowing - Yellow, rose
Sunshine - Orange, gold, blue, grey
All-round - Amber, rose
Night Skiing - Clear

How Tint Color Affect Definition

Orange, gold, blue, grey tints usually help to reduce glare from the reflected light on snow, while yellow and rose tints help with the definition of the snow surface when it is cloudy or at the end of the day. It is quite common now for goggles to have interchangeable lenses, so you can easily adapt to the light conditions of the day.

When assessing the effects of different tints on lenses a standard measure, called the visible light transmission (VLT) enables manufacturers to make exact measurements for their different lenses. Generally, goggles that are good in low light as a lighter tint and a higher VLT, while lenses that perform in strong sunlight have a darker tint and a lower VLT.

What are Photochromic Lense? (auto darken with light)

Another type of tinted lens is the photochromic lens. This is a coating sprayed onto the exterior of the goggle lens. In bright sunlight the photochromic layer reacts with the rays of the sun in a photochemical reaction, darkening the lens.

Conversely, when lie conditions are becoming darker the photochemical reaction works in the opposite direction making the lens tint lighter. With this photochemical reaction, the lens can continually adjust to the ever-changing light conditions on the mountain.

A Mirror Finish

Some goggle lenses have a mirror finish applied to the lens, which the wearer can easily see through but people looking at the wearer only see a complete reflection of themselves. In the same way, the lenses can have a tint, which the wearer sees through, but he is not affected by the mirror finish the outside of the lens.

The technology of goggle lenses has advanced enormously in recent years. With the advent of Bluetooth and GPS, more advanced goggles have software that links them to a cell phone, where information about speed, direction, and location appears on the inside of the goggle lens similar to a head-up display.