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What Color Lens is Best for Ski Goggles? How to Pick The Right Lens

What color lens is best for ski goggles

There are a ton of ski goggles and lenses available today. If you are new to skiing it can seem like a daunting task to choose a set of ski goggles with the right lens. The correct lens color can make it easier to see. The wrong lens can leave you feeling like your skiing blind. We have spent lot of time on the mountain over the years in all kinds of conditions with different goggle lenses. We know which lenses work best. Keep reading to learn more about ski lens colors and how to choose the best color ski lens.

1) What color lens is best for ski goggles? Factors to consider when choosing a lens color

When choosing a lens color for your ski goggles, there are several factors to consider that can impact which lens will work best. These include:

  • Weather conditions – A snow day has much different outdoor lighting than a bright sunny day. You want a dark lens for bright days. Snowy days, foggy days, overcast days, and partly cloudy days all give you flat light that makes seeing the snow terrain difficult. You want a yellow, orange, or amber lens for those conditions. The right goggle lens can make it easier to see in any weather condition.
  • Time of day – Skiing in the middle of the day when the sun is brightest requires dark low VLT lenses. Skiing at night under artificial lighting needs an almost clear, high VLT lens. Skiing in the morning after sunrise and evening before sunset requires a middle VLT lens.
  • Exposed terrain with no shade or trees? – The lighting can be much darker while skiing glades in the trees. If you have a very dark lens on for skiing in bright light, it might be too dark if you head off into a dense forest glade. Later in the day, a large portion of the mountain that was in direct sunlight can become shaded. Shaded terrain has very flat lighting compared to terrain in bright daylight.

The most popular goggle lens colors you will see are Amber, Orange, Yellow, Grey, Brown, Blue, and Clear. 

First I need to clarify something.  When we talk about goggle lens colors were referring to the color you see on the inside of the lens looking out.  Modern goggle lenses can have a mirror finish on the outside that is virtually any color and have a different color from the inside. Most goggle lenses use a dual pane lens and the inner lens tint is what sets the color you see looking out.

The images below show some examples of the huge variety of ski goggles lens colors there are out there.

Amber, Orange and Yellow

Amber, yellow and orange ski goggle lenses all perform similar on the mountain. Some people have a slight preference for one color vs the others depending on how they see.

An amber, yellow or orange ski goggle lens can help to enhance contrast and depth perception in flat-light conditions making it easier to see the terrain. This makes them good for overcast, foggy or snowy days. These color lenses block blue colors, helping to prevent eye strain and fatigue. Blocking out blue light also helps increase the definition of the snow terrain so you can see it better. Amber, orange and yellow ski goggle lenses all help you see better in flat light conditions.

Grey

Dark grey colored lenses are good for blocking out a lot of sunlight. They are good when you do not need any help seeing the snow surface. You just want to make it less bright on the mountain.

Light grey lenses do not provide any color filtering benefit like amber, orange and yellow do. They only block the sunlight but do not help you see the snow surface any better. You usually don’t see light grey lenses in use.

Brown

Dark brown lenses are used on similar days to dark grey. A dark brown lens will block most of the sunlight but give you a little bit of blue color filtering. It will act the same way as a yellow/amber/orange lens except it’s good for a bright sunny day.

Blue

Dark blue colored lenses are also good for sunny day skiing when you want to block out a lot of light. They do not provide any color filtering benefit for flat light days. There are light blue goggle lenses out there. They are not as good as using a yellow, orange or amber lens when the light goes flat or dark.

Clear

Clear goggle lenses are the best color choice for night skiing. Use clear when it’s dark out. They work best for late in the evening around sunset and for night skiing.

Mirrored Lenses

Mirrored lenses can be any color on the outside. Their main benefit is just that they look good. They are a coating on the outside of the lens sometimes called a “Revo coating”. They do not change what color you see looking out from the inside of the goggles. You can have a blue mirror lens that looks blue on the outside but you see yellow or orange looking out through the goggle lens.

3) Lens VLT

VLT refers to Visible Light Transmission.  This is the percentage of light that is allowed to pass through the lens. A VLT 8% lens only allows 8% of the light to pass through it. A VLT 8% lens is a dark goggle lens used for bright sunny days.  A 90% VLT lens is clear or almost clear and allows almost all the light to pass through it. A 90% VLT lens is great for night skiing.

What are Photochromic lenses?

Photochromic lenses change VLT or darkness depending on how bright the light they are exposed to is. Photochromic lenses have a VLT range of 20-30%. Common photochromic lens VLT’s are 20-40% and 30-50%. Photochromic ski goggles are an attempt at a one lens that is good for all light conditions goggle.

4) How to choose ski goggle lens color

Check the weather forecast before you leave for the day to make sure you bring the lenses you might want. If it’s starting sunny and turning partly cloudy you might want an everyday lens. If it’s going to be bright all day you will want a sunny lens. If it’s going to ski from daylight into night skiing you may need a second lens good for night skiing. Let’s discuss which lens color and VLT is best for which lighting condition.

Bright and sunny – 8-15% VLT lens. Choose a dark brown, grey, blue or mirror finish in any color. If it is a mirror finish lens like ChromaPop it can be yellow or orange from the inside which will enhance your view of the snow terrain

Partly cloudy – 20-30% VLT. Choose a less dark, grey, brown, blue or mirror lens. If you pick a mirror lens it can be grey on the inside or yellow/orange/amber on the inside. These are also called “everyday lenses”.

Cloudy, Overcast, Snowing, Raining, or Foggy – 25-50% VLT Amber, Orange or Yellow. There are also mirror lenses in this VLT range. You want a mirror with amber/yellow or orange color when viewed from the inside. The yellow/orange/amber colored lenses help filter out blue color shades that will enhance your view of the snow surface and terrain.

Evening and Night skiing – 80-95% VLT clear lens. The lens can have a slight tint such as yellow which won’t really help or hurt when skiing at night.

If you’re buying a fixed lens set of goggles, that does not have an interchangeable lens, choose the light condition you ski in most often.  If you aren’t sure pick a 20-30% VLT everyday lens.  They work okay on bright days and okay on overcast/cloudy/snowing days.

See our best ski goggles gear guide if you need more help trying to decide which ski goggles to get.

Many ski goggle makers use special lens technologies to help improve your vision on the ski slopes. Smith ChromaPop and Oakley PRIZM are the 2 most common and the ones you will hear of most often. All of these technologies work in roughly the same way.

They work by filtering out some shades of color where blue, red, and green color wavelengths overlap. This separates the visible colors that you do see allowing you to see features on the snow surface more easily.

The reality is that they use a yellow/orange inner lens on the goggle that tints everything slightly yellowish/orange. This removes the blue shades from your vision by turning them yellowish/orange. This is why a plain yellow, amber, or orange lens will help you see better on flat light days.

Smith ChromaPop

Smith ChromaPop is one of the more popular advanced lens technologies. It works by filtering out colors of certain wave lengths so that you see a more defined snow surface. All ChromaPop lenses have a yellow/orange hue to them when viewed from the inside. It is more pronounced than some of the other color filtering lenses from other brands.

The video below gives a good explanation of how Chromapop and color filtering in general works. The explanation starts around 50 seconds into the vide.

See our review of the Smith 4D Mag Ski Goggles for the latest chromapop lens offering from Smith Optics.

Oakley Prizm

Oakley PRIZM works in a similar fashion to ChromaPop. It filters out some color wave lengths and enhances other color wave lengths. You see more of what you want to see and less noise in the color overlap wave lengths.

See the video below for an explanation of how Oakley PRIZM works.

See our review of the Oakley Fall Line Ski Goggles for one of the latest PRIZM offerings from Oakley.

Giro Vivid

Giro takes the opposite approach with their Vivid lenses and filtering approach. They do not filter blue shades. They filter out the red and green shades in the color wavelength overlaps. Vivid lenses tend to have a red tint as viewed from the inside. See the below video for an explanation of Giro Vivid lens technology.

Dragon Lumalens

Dragon Alliance calls their color filtering lens technology “LumaLens”. It works in the same manner as the others by filtering colors in the overlap region.

Outdoor Master Ultra

Outdoor Master introduced color filtering into their Ultra XL goggles. It is only available in some lenses. It works the same way as Smith ChromaPop and the color optimized lenses have a similar yellowish/orange hue to them when viewed from the inside.

See our review of the Outdoor Master Ultra XL Ski Goggles to learn more.

6) Polarized vs non-polarized ski goggle lens

There are advantages and disadvantages to skiing with a polarized ski goggle lens. A polarized lens only allows light to pass through it from certain angles. This helps reduce glare and reflections.

A polarized goggle lens will help you on a bright sunny day because it will block out all the glare and reflections on the snow surface.

A polarized lenses will work against you on a flat light day. By blocking the glare and reflections, it can make it harder to see ice on the snow surface. The polarization is blocking the reflective glare from the ice that would allow you to more easily see the ice.

Frequently Asked Questions about goggle lens color

Q: Does the color of ski goggles matter?

The color of the ski goggle lens can make a lot of difference in how well you see the snow surface. Yellow, amber and orange colored lenses make it easier to see detail in the snow surface on flat light days. Dark grey lenses can block more sun and make it easier to see on bright days. The color of the ski goggle frame and strap do not make any difference for performance.

Mirrored ski goggle lenses can be any color on the outside. Their inner color is independent of the outside look.

Q: What color lens is best for overcast days skiing?

The best color ski goggle lens for overcast days are yellow, amber or orange. Those 3 colors work by blocking some shades of blue colors which helps bring out detail in the snow surface. This will help you see better on flat light days.

Q: What lens color is best for bright day?

Dark colored lenses that block more sunlight are best for bright conditions. An 8-20% VLT (Visible Light Transmission) dark grey, brown, blue or black lens will block enough sunlight so that you can easily see.

Q: What are blue ski lenses good for?

Blue ski lenses are good for bright days. They are not good for flat light days such as cloudy days and overcast days. A blue color lens will make it harder to see the snow surface detail on a flat light condition day.

Q: Are brown or grey lenses better?

Brown lenses will provide a small bit of blue color filtering compared to a straight grey lens. A dark brown lens will provide a slightly more enhanced view of the snow surface on a bright day than a grey lens.

Q: When should I use yellow lenses for skiing?

Use a yellow lens when the light is flat. This includes days where it is cloudy, overcast, foggy, snowing or raining. Yellow, amber and orange lenses help enhance the detail in the snow surface making it easier to see and ski on those days.

Are you still confused about what to buy? Talk to an expert at Curated.com

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Ski Author

Craig Roberts
Staff Writer | Skiing

Craig grew up in Northern Michigan and spends an unhealthy amount of time these days skiing at Mount Bohemia. He has been known to take more than a trip or 2 out west. His favorite ski destination is Whistler, BC where he goes almost every year. He loves glade skiing and alpine bowls. Craig is a big fan of stand up paddleboarding and camping in the summer. If he can’t be on the mountains he’s out in the woods or on the water.

craig@endlessrushoutdoors.com