Best Ski Goggles of 2020
Best Overall in the Fleet
Smith 4D Mag
The Smith 4D Mag was a much-anticipated model for our goggle test this season. Smith has been producing eyewear for over 50 years, and their experience shows in the 4D Mag. This goggle continues its reputation of innovation with a rounded bottom edge of the lens that increases the user's field of vision, a design feature unique to this model. In addition to the highest quality optics, the 4D Mag has a flexible frame and medium fit that is sure to please most skiers and riders. This goggle is stylish and durable, too.
While the 4D MAg fits most face sizes better than the competition, some other options will fit larger faces a bit better. And, of course, you have to pay for the goods. This is one of the most expensive models on the market, which prices it out of many budgets. That said, when it comes to performance, our testers generally agree that you can't do better than this unique and charts-topping model.
Read review: Smith 4D Mag
Best Bang for the Buck
Smith Squad ChromaPop
The Smith Squad ChromaPop delivers performance-oriented features at an affordable price. While they had some stiff competition, the Squad remains a favorite because it comes with two high-quality lenses for bright and low light conditions, and outperforms several higher-priced models in this review. Smith's cylindrical lenses, a ChromaPop version for bright light conditions, and a basic yellow version for low-light days, provide a crisp and clear view of the mountains around you. The Squad is well ventilated and suitable for use everywhere from the resort to the backcountry. It has a crowd-pleasing medium to large fit that is comfortable on a vast range of face sizes and shapes, plus it fits great with or without a helmet.
The Squad isn't the flashiest goggle out there, sporting a more classic shape and style with a little bit of modern flair. It is also available in a range of frame and strap colors, as well as lens options to meet your needs or to match your kit. If the best value is what you seek, then look no further than the Smith Squad.
Read review: Smith Squad ChromaPop
The Julbo Aerospace brings some fancy new technology to the world of ski goggles. Unique to this model, the lens is capable of extending up to a centimeter away from the frame while remaining attached, and our backcountry skiing testers raved about the ventilation this provides, which makes fogging pretty much impossible. When working hard in the mountains, this proved to be a valuable asset. The photochromic lens adapts to varying light conditions quite well, and the strap stayed comfortable on our heads all day. And as a bonus, our friends agreed, it looks pretty darn cool in the fresh, light blue model that we tested.
One drawback is that this model only comes with a single lens. To get another lens, Julbo told us we'd have to send the goggles in for the replacement. The single lens performs well in all but extremely dark or bright conditions, though, so this isn't a massive drawback for most folks. We also don't find this model to be extremely durable as the moving parts feel a bit flimsy, specifically the hinges that extend the lens. So, some of the characteristics that make this goggle great can also potentially become drawbacks. That said, our testers loved the innovation on these never-foggy goggles, and we recommend the Aerospace to folks working hard, both up and down in the mountains.
Read review: Julbo Aerospace
Best for Large Faces
Anon M4 Toric
The Anon M4 goggle is outstanding. The differences in performance with the Smith 4d Mag are so small, and we think you're doing right by choosing either model. The deciding factor should depend on the size and shape of your face. If you have a rather large mug, or typically find goggles to fit a little small on you, we recommend considering the Anon M4 over the Smith 4D. The M4 has the most effortless lens-swapping capabilities of them all, featuring magnetic attachments that are secure while allowing the lenses to be interchanged in seconds. Along with the extra lens, Anon ships these goggles with a buff that also have magnets inside, allowing the buff to snap into and stay in place quickly. The lenses are built to last, and their quality leaves nothing to desire.
Holding it back from our top spot is that it's a large goggle, which allows it to fit fewer face shapes than most medium-sized models. The comfort is there for large faces, but less so with mid-size and smaller faces. It's also priced higher than the Smith 4D Mag — not by a ton, but it's worth noting. In the end, the Anon M4 is exceptional and our top recommendation for folks looking for a genuinely large goggle.
Read review: Anon M4 Toric
Why You Should Trust Us
WThis review is brought to you by a team of gear-hungry testers with several decades of experience to research, test, and relay the results to you. Review author Jeremy Benson is a former sponsored big mountain and backcountry ski athlete. He has lived in the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area for the past 18 winters, where he's skied between 100-150 days each season. Whether riding lifts at the resorts or hiking for turns in the backcountry, Benson spends more time on snow in a season than most people do in a decade, making him acutely aware of the importance of quality eye protection. He has a long history or product testing, including nine years as a ski tester for Skiing Magazine and consulting on design and product development with various sponsors. Jeremy is also the author of Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: California, published by Mountaineers Books.
Our other primary reviewer, outdoor veteran Jason Cronk, is an experienced and active multisport outdoor athlete with several other gear reviews here. He has been climbing and skiing for over 25 years, with experience throughout the Western United States, Canada, and Alaska, as well as the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps, and the southern Alps of New Zealand. Jason is a seasoned medevac flight RN/EMT with experience as a National Ski Patroller and continues to provide emergency medical education to ski patrols in the Lake Tahoe area. Even with the full-time air medical career, he racks up nearly 100 ski days, mostly backcountry, every season.
In addition to staying abreast of the latest models and trends throughout the year, our team spends hours researching the best new models and technologies to keep this review as up to date as possible. After selecting and buying the best new competitors, our testers took them to the snow. We extensively tested each model and frequently swapped between different pairs for genuine back-to-back comparisons. We also called upon our friends, both men and women, to check the fit and comfort of each model on faces of different shapes and sizes. From the expansive Sierra Nevada backcountry to the resorts above and around Lake Tahoe, we pushed each model's visibility, comfort, and ventilation in all kinds of conditions. Vetted and thoroughly tested, our experts got to know each product very well before dropping their final verdict.
Related: How We Tested Ski Goggles
Analysis and Test Results
A quality pair of goggles is an incredibly important part of any skier or snowboarder's kit. The best goggles help you to see clearly, fit comfortably, look good, and will last you for several seasons if cared for properly. With a dizzying array of new goggles to choose from, we've narrowed it down to the essential characteristics that you should take into account when making your eyewear choice. These include lens quality, ventilation and breathability, comfort and fit, ease of changing lenses, durability, and style. How important each metric is to you depends on your preferences and intended use. To utilize our in-depth assessments to the fullest, focus on the products that score the best in the performance metrics you care about most.
Related: Buying Advice for Ski Goggles
Everyone comes to the goggle market with different sets of expectations and needs, and fortunately, this product category can accommodate most budgets. Of the models we tested, retail prices start relatively low and increase from there. For about the price of a lift ticket, you can get behind a pair of the Smith Squad Chromapop. If having the best is more important than cost concerns, a goggle-like the Smith 4D Mag or the Anon M4 will set you back significantly more, but you'll have a top of the line model that can do everything and in all conditions.
The best fitting and most comfortable goggles also need a high-quality lens. The quality of a goggle's lens directly impacts not just your fun factor on the hill, but also safety. Fortunately for skiers and boarders today, lens quality is at an all-time high, providing users with a multitude of high-quality choices. From the most expensive models to the more budget-friendly options, today's lenses provide a crisp, clear view with little to no distortion while also protecting our eyes from bright sunlight. Beyond that, today's goggles bring up the contrast in low light conditions, which also increases skiers' and riders' safety. Lenses come in a variety of shapes these days, like cylindrical, spherical, and toric. As a general rule, spherical and toric lenses provide a more optically correct view, while cylindrical lenses may have the slightest bit of distortion. Each manufacturer also puts its proprietary technology in the lenses, such as Oakley's Prizm or Smith's ChromaPop. These types of lens technologies are all intended to do roughly the same thing, increase contrast, enhance definition, and generally make you see the world around you more clearly, especially in challenging light conditions.
Goggle manufacturers also aim to keep lens fogging to a minimum, each with their proprietary anti-fog treatments. While none of our lenses altogether avoided fogging up under every circumstance, they did all outperform lenses from just a few years ago. Beyond fogging issues, another potential frustration and hazard is lens scratching. Like the anti-fog treatments available from each manufacturer, modern goggle lenses utilize a proprietary anti-scratch coating to keep the lenses as scratch-free as possible. Lens scratches can grow increasingly frustrating and potentially dangerous, especially as conditions become more monochromatic as is commonly found with snowsports, especially when skies become overcast and nature turns on the storm faucet.
When it comes to lenses, Oakley's Prizm, Smith's ChromaPop, and Anon's SONAR lenses proved to be our tester's favorites overall. These lenses are all slightly different, but each provides a clear distortion-free view, enhances contrast, and resists fogging and scratching better than the competition. Additionally, the Smith 4D Mag, Anon M4, Smith I/O Mag, and Oakley Airbrake XL all come with two lenses, one for bright sunny days and one for stormy or low light conditions. On the more affordable end of the spectrum are also models that come with two lenses, like the Smith Squad, Dragon NFX, and Spy Ace. There's a noticeable difference in the lens and visual quality between these two tiers, but this might not be worth the price jump to many skiers.
Not far off the mark set by our top-rated models, the Zeal Nomad, Julbo Cyrius, and Julbo Aerospace also have high-quality lenses, with the Julbo model sporting photochromic lenses which adjust with light conditions. These photochromic lenses are convenient in that you never have to change a lens since they're constantly adapting to the light conditions in your current environment. The drawback is that you can't change lenses out, even if damaged, and you would have to send the eyewear back to Julbo for repair. If you tend to be hard on your goggles, a model with interchangeable lenses may be a better choice. Higher quality lenses are more expensive to produce, so it comes as no surprise that the goggles with the best lenses are typically also the most costly.
During testing, particularly when swapping lenses, we put a lot of fingerprints, sunscreen, sweat, and even food residue on our test subjects. We found that all of our test goggles cleaned up quickly with water and the included storage sacks. Today's ski goggles, and more specifically their lenses, are easier than ever to keep clean.
Comfort is one of the test criteria that proves more difficult due to its subjective nature. Several factors come into play here: goggle shape and size in relation to the wearer's facial size, structure, and nose shape. A goggle's frame material and flexibility, padding material, and quantity, as well as strap comfort, are also important considerations when making your goggle selection. Additionally, keep in mind whether you will primarily use your ski goggles while wearing a helmet, or simply while wearing a beanie.
The overall dimensions of a winter goggle are the foundation of fit and comfort. Some goggles, like the Smith 4D Mag, have a medium fit that can provide a comfortable fit for a wider variety of skiers and boarders. This pair also has a very flexible, responsive frame that molds well to the skier's face.
Some of our test goggles had excellent crossover appeal, and skiers and boarders with medium face sizes were comfortable in models at both ends of the size spectrum. Not everyone falls into this medium-sized category, and other models have a broader construction that will allow for skiers and snowboarders with larger faces to find a good fit. Conversely, goggles with a narrower construction provide a more comfortable fit for riders with smaller facial structures. We found that smaller models were prone to creating pressure points, primarily to reviewers' cheekbones and bridges of their noses. Larger goggles caused issues with gapping around the frame on smaller users' faces. Testers with smaller faces preferred the Smith goggles in general, while larger testers enjoyed the fit and comfort of the Oakley Airbrake XL, Anon M4, and Dragon NFX.
Another factor influencing comfort is the style of padding and its materials. Except for the Smith Squad, all of the models in our test lineup are constructed with three layers of moisture-wicking face foam. The outermost layer (closest to the frame) is the densest, providing a buffer between the relatively hard plastic of the eyewear's frame and the softer layers that contact the skier's or snowboarder's face. The middle layer in the foam sandwich is a bit more porous than the outer portion, providing an intermediate connection point for the materials at either end of the spectrum. Finally, all of our test ski goggles have an innermost layer with a thinner, softer, brushed feel that contacts the skin.
Strap comfort is also important, and thankfully, all of our test model's straps contained some form of integrated silicone, which means the strap stays where you put it. Without this technology, there is a tendency to over-tighten a goggle's strap to keep them in place. While this tightening may not sound like a significant issue, this part of overall comfort becomes more significant after a day on the slopes with an overly tight strap. A comfortable no-slip strap prevents those deep red grooves that become imprinted around your eyes for hours. While trying on goggles, keep in mind that a seemingly minor issue, like cheekbone pressure, or pressure to the bridge of your nose, can quickly become more and more annoying throughout a long day on the slopes.
Ventilation and Breathability
While proper wind protection is imperative, some airflow is desirable, especially in helping keep lenses unfogged. With no breathability, condensation from sweat and body moisture, as well as environmental moisture buildup, can quickly accumulate on the inside of the lens. Fog prevention is always more effective than attempting to clear the lens after the fact. As is the case with so many other things, it's better to be proactive than reactive.
The most breathable goggles we tested were the Julbo Aerospace and the Oakley Airbrake XL, which has a drafty feel with more airflow than most. The Anon M4 and all the Smith models are all well ventilated, although they don't feel drafty around the eyes. Other models like the Dragon NFX tended to breathe less, which can keep more heat and moisture in, although we didn't experience any fogging issues during testing. The types of conditions you're likely to experience, as well as how aggressively you ski or board, will likely dictate the importance of ventilation.
Skiers who gravitate to the backcountry and tour in stormier or windier environments may end up hiking uphill in their ski goggles, which makes a more breathable option the right choice. And when it comes to maximizing breathability and ventilation, no model matches the Julbo Aerospace. By extending the lens away from the frame (which you can do while wearing gloves), air exchange is massively amplified. The spherical shape of the 4D Mag also encourages airflow through the actual rounded shape of the lens. The foam padding of both models also breathes well. If you tend to fog up on the ups, or even on hard-charging downs, these models are worth a close look.
On the other hand, skiers and boarders who stick to the resort or tour in drier environments may not care about the breathability to the degree that their wetter conditions compadres do. Keep in mind that some breathability is a good thing, but too much may result in your eyes drying out.
Ease of Changing Lenses
Matching a lens to your current light conditions is also crucial, and most goggles have interchangeable lenses just for this purpose. Most of the models in this test include two lenses for different light conditions, both bright and low light. How easy it is to change the lenses on your goggles is often overlooked, but if you only own one pair, or you live where the weather and light conditions may change rapidly, it can make a world of difference. Goggle manufacturers have continuously been improving lens attachment systems, making it easier and more user-friendly than ever to swap out the lenses.
We found the most natural lenses to change in the test are the quick swapping lenses of the Anon M4. Their "Magna-Tech" lenses are attached to the frame with several small but powerful magnets, and removing the lens is as simple as pulling it straight off. It takes only seconds to do and is the most simple lens change we've ever experienced. You can even change lenses while wearing the goggles and with gloves on. The Smith 4D Mag and Smith I/O Mag are the other easy changing models of this new breed of magnetic lens goggles, with lenses that are nearly as easy to change as the M4. The difference is quite small. The Oakley Airbrake XL comes in behind the magnetic lens competition with a unique "Switchlock" system that makes swapping lenses easy, but not at the level of the newer magnetic tech.
For skiers and riders who aren't interested in breaking the bank, the remaining models in our test have a more traditional lens attachment style with notched cut-outs in the edge of the lens that snap into place within the lip of the frame. These lens styles still allow for changing of lenses; it's just not quite as quick or straightforward as those mentioned above. Goggles like the Smith Squad, Giro Blok, and Zeal Nomad all share this style of lens attachment and are notably more challenging to switch out. After swapping lenses on these more traditional systems, we invariably had to clean the fingerprints from the lenses too. Depending on your preferences, this may or may not be a big deal.
A high functioning contender also needs to have a decent level of durability. After spending your hard-earned money on fancy new goggles, imagine them falling apart. Long-term durability is challenging to evaluate, but we can look for distinct weak spots, like scratched lenses or loss of strap elasticity. A reliable pair of ski goggles need to be able to stand up to repeated use and abuse in all weather conditions and environments.
Another factor that some of you globe-trotting skiers may want to consider is travel. Cramming a goggle into luggage, along with the repeated packing and unpacking of our bags, and a multitude of other situations that aren't as glamorous as ripping powder turns on a bluebird powder morning, is still an important consideration. These particular situations may not be a primary consideration but can significantly contribute to long-term wear and durability.
After months of extensive and sometimes abusive testing, we inspected all of our test subjects, checking the lenses, straps, and padding for signs of wear or damage that may have happened on the way. A durability standout was the Dragon NFX with its stout construction, although all of our test goggles fared surprisingly well and showed almost no wear even at the end of our testing. One particularly aggressive crash while wearing the Julbo Aerospace did result in a scratched lens, but we attribute this damage to user-error more than an inferior quality product.
Goggle style is a subjective criterion and a matter of personal taste. It's also constantly changing. We get a good chuckle looking at photos of goggles we tested only five years ago — most of them already look entirely outdated. While we can objectively check things like breathability and ease of changing lenses, as of today, there is no test for style. Some of our test goggles had a more classic look, like the Smith Squad and the Giro Blok, while others had a more modern or even futuristic appearance like the Dragon NFX.
Among our testers and friends, our style opinions gravitated toward the Smith 4D Mag and the Anon M4. Their high level of design is apparent, which positively affects their looks. We also really like a lot of the color options and style of the Zeal Nomad. In the end, style points are best awarded by you (and maybe your partner).
In the world of snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, equipment costs can quickly add up to a small fortune. A good ski goggle can dramatically improve a skier's or rider's experience, performance, fun factor, and even safety, for a relatively low cost. A performance snow goggle with excellent fit, comfort, breathability, optical quality and durability can increase your enjoyment, whether you play or work in the snow.
— Jeremy Benson and Jason Cronk