The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Ski Goggles

The Nomad looks brilliant  and our tester is trying to live up to them here.
By Jason Cronk ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday November 20, 2018
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Ready to rip into a fresh ski season with the best ski goggles? We spent off-mountain days researching the latest tech and top models before putting the best 10 models head-to-head in our on-snow tests. Our expert testers spent 100+ hours skiing, snowboarding, shoveling, and winter living in the Sierra Nevada. A winter in the mountains brings all kinds of weather, from sunny and warm(-ish) days to soggy ones to blitzing snowstorms. We tested the goggles in all these conditions and more at both the resort and in the backcountry. Our experts investigated breathability while skinning, comfort during all-day resort riding, and lens quality in bright and dim conditions, just to name a few key aspects tested. Whether your google search is driven by price, all-around performance, or simply the steeziest style, our review brings the perfect goggles right before your eyes.


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Awards Best Buy Award     
Price $95.00 at Amazon
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$101.99 at Amazon
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$90.93 at REI
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$199.95 at MooseJaw
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$21.99 at Amazon
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Pros Inexpensive, durable, multiple lenses includedLow price for spherical lens, cool look, tough-to-scratch lensComfortable, soft frame, fits small facesExcellent lens qualityClassic look, good lens for the price, durable
Cons Not the most stylishItchy on warm days, ships with a single lensToo much airflow, poor fit for larger usersSpecific fit, moisture build upBreathability, difficult lens swap
Bottom Line An all-mountain goggle for any condition.Zeal provides an awesome value option for a spherical lens with hip style.A classic all-around lightweight goggle for backcountry users.A decent all-around option that has fallen behind when compared to the new high-quality options on the market.A great option as a "just in case" goggle, or for backcountry skiers that might not use as often as sunglasses.
Rating Categories Squad ChromaPop Zeal Optics Nomad Oakley A-Frame 2.0 POC Lobes Bolle Carve
Ventilation And Breathability (20%)
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Specs Squad ChromaPop Zeal Optics Nomad Oakley A-Frame 2.0 POC Lobes Bolle Carve
Number of lenses included 2 1 1 1 1
Lens tested Chromapop Sun, Yellow Phoenix Mirror Prizm Snow Jade Iridium Butylene Blue/Persimmon Red Vermillion Gun
Lens Shape Cylindrical Spherical Spherical Spherical Cylindrical

Updated November 2018
Like all gear categories at OutdoorGearLab, we stay on top of the ski goggle market to continue bringing you detailed assessments of the best and hottest products. To kick off the 2018/19 ski season, we've got a few new pairs added into the mix. Most notable is the Julbo Aerospace for its incredible ventilating abilities. The lens can extend 1 centimeter from the frame for all the venting we could ever need on the mountain, making it an awesome choice for high-intensity skiing. We also brought the Zeal Nomad on board for some hard testing. It didn't break into our award winners' circle, but still impressed us for its relatively low price point with a spherical lens. The Oakley Airbrake remains our Editors' Choice winner.

Best Overall in the Fleet


Oakley Airbrake XL


Editors' Choice Award

$239.95
(4% off)
at MooseJaw
See It

Included Lens(es): 2 | Lens Shape: Spherical
Easy lens changing system
Solid protection and durability
Includes high and low light lenses
Cost
Heavy aerobic activity results in some fogging

The Oakley Airbrake XL came out on top as a clear winner of our Editors' Choice Award. Others in our test lineup compared favorably in some ways, like the Dragon NFX for overall protection and comfort. Other Smith contenders placed towards the top, but the Airbrake scored high enough marks in all categories to take the top prize. Its breathability and soft liner make is a pure creature of comfort, and its lens quality went unmatched, despite having worthy contenders. It also strikes us as the most durable model tested. In addition to top performance, the ease of swapping lenses guaranteed this pair will be a favorite. This pair is equally appropriate at the resort and in the backcountry.

The main drawback is the cost. At $250, this model is far from affordable for infrequent skiers. But for anyone getting after it all winter long, it's hard to put a price on reliable goggles providing excellent clarity and performance for those 50+ days on the mountain. They cost the most but are also the best.

Read review: Oakley Airbrake XL

Best Bang for the Buck


Smith Squad ChromaPop


Best Buy Award

$95.00
(5% off)
at Amazon
See It

Included Lens(es): 2 | Lens Shape: Cylindrical
Great price
Offers excellent durability
Comes with a few lenses
Not the most stylish

With its affordable price tag and performance-oriented features, the Smith Squad is our pick for Best Value. While there are more stylish goggles (which is, of course, subjective) choices in our test lineup, the Squad is a more classically styled model that had comparable function and performance to some of the pricier models. For the lower, non-bank-busting price, the Squad is fully featured and has several options for frame and strap colors, as well as replacement lenses.

Read review: Smith Squad Chromapop

Top Pick for Extreme Ventilation


Julbo Aerospace


The 2018 Julbo Aerospace with Snow Tiger REACTIV lens
Top Pick Award

$229.95
at Amazon
See It

Included Lens(es): 1 | Lens Shape: Spherical
High-tech design works
Gets compliments
Lens adapts to varying light
Durability
Only one lens

Perhaps the most exciting ski goggles we have tested in a while, the Julbo Aerospace brings some fancy tech to the world of goggles. Our backcountry skiing testers raved about the ventilation; the lens is capable of extending up to one cm away from the frame (while remaining attached). This allows for incredible air movement through the goggles, making fogging pretty much impossible. When working hard in the mountains, this proved to be a valuable asset. The lens adapts to varying light conditions quite well, they stayed comfortable on our heads all day, and our friends agreed, they look cool in the fresh, light blue model we tested.

One bummer is that this model only comes with a single lens. To get another lens, Julbo told us that we'd have to send the goggles in for the replacement. We also don't find these to be extremely durable with its more-than-usual moving parts, specifically the hinges that extend the lens. So, some of what makes these goggles great can also be seen as drawbacks. That said, our testers loved the innovation on these never-foggy goggs and recommend them to folks working hard up and down the mountains.

Read review: Julbo Aerospace

Top Pick for Resort Riders


Dragon NFX


Top Pick Award

$89.99
(31% off)
at Amazon
See It

Included Lens(es): 2 | Lens Shape: Cylindrical
Protection
Daring style
Durability
Substantial in size

Bold, sleek, and shiny, with an armor-like build to boot, the Dragon NFX is our pick for skiers and snowboards who are looking for solid protection at the resort. The NFX has a futuristic appearance, especially when paired with the available red Ion lens and its brilliant mirrored finish. Due to the substantial construction of the NFX, it may not be suited to the backcountry, but shines (literally) at your favorite resort.

Dragon released the NFX 2 model for the 2017/18 season. To be honest, we like the original NFX much better. The field of vision is larger in the original, and the NFX 2 model has a lens release toggle that we inadvertently opened repeatedly, causes the lens to pop off when we didn't want it to. Luckily, the original Dragon NFX remains in production, and we recommend it over the second iteration.

Read review: Dragon NFX


Analysis and Test Results


The goggle test lineup waiting for action at Carson Pass  CA.
The goggle test lineup waiting for action at Carson Pass, CA.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of trying to ski or board with a pair of scratched, fogged up ski goggles can attest to how frustrating and potentially terrifying that can be. A pair of goggles can make or break any skier, rider, or climber's day so we've come up with a comprehensive review to help you snowboard or ski safely and happily. With a dizzying array of new goggles to choose from, some characteristics that you should take into account include overall eye protection, how well the goggles ventilate and breathe, comfort and fit, lens quality and optics, durability, and style. How important each metric is to you depends on your preferences and intended usage.

Enjoying the Smith I/O7's.
Enjoying the Smith I/O7's.

Value


We're all coming 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 sub-$50 and go all the way up to $250. For about the price of a lift ticket, you can get behind a pair of the Smith Squad ChromaPop, which we thought couldn't be beat for $100 or less. If having the best is more important than saving a bit, the Oakley Airbrake XL will set you back $250, but you'll have a goggle that can do everything.


Breathability and Ventilation


While good wind protection is imperative, some airflow is desirable, especially in helping keep lenses unfogged. With no breathability, condensation from perspiration and body moisture, as well as environmental moisture buildup, can easily 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. A goggle's breathability closely relates to the wind protection we'll discuss later in regards to a goggle's overall protection.


The most breathable goggle we tested was the Oakley Airbrake XL, the two Smith models, and the Bolle Carve, whereas the POC Lobes tended to breathe less, keeping more heat in and potentially allowing more fogging. The amount of breathability you prefer is also tied to the type of conditions you're likely to experience.

The Airbrake goes chuting - all while ensuring optimal breathability from this Editors' Choice.
The Airbrake goes chuting - all while ensuring optimal breathability from this Editors' Choice.

Skiers who gravitate to the backcountry and tour in stormier environments may end up hiking uphill in their ski goggles which would make a more breathable option a good choice. And when it comes to combining breathability with ventilation, no model matches the Julbo Aerospace. By extending the lens away from the frame (which can be done while wearing gloves), air exchange is massively amplified. The foam padding also breathes well. If you tend to fog up on the ups, or even on hard-charging downs, this pair is definitely worth a close look.

The lens in open/extended position. The moving parts here create greater potential for failure down the road  although we never experienced any problems in the test period.
The lens in open/extended position. The moving parts here create greater potential for failure down the road, although we never experienced any problems in the test period.

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. Once again, keep in mind that some breathability is a good thing, but too much may result in your eyes drying out.

Focus on the fun  not your foggy goggs  when you don the Aerospace.
Focus on the fun, not your foggy goggs, when you don the Aerospace.

Comfort


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 structure and nose shape, frame material and flexibility, padding material and quantity, as well as strap comfort, and whether you will primarily use your ski goggles with a helmet or a beanie.


The overall dimensions of this piece of face protection are the foundation of fit and comfort. We found that not all goggles are created equally when it comes to fit, and subsequently, comfort. An option with a wider construction allows for skiers and snowboarders with larger faces to find a good fit. Conversely, goggles with a narrower construction provide a viable 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, while larger goggles caused issues with gapping around the frame on smaller users faces. Testers with smaller faces preferred the POC Lobes, the Smith I/O7, Bolle Carve and the Oakley A-Frame 2.0 while larger testers enjoyed the fit and comfort of the Oakley Airbrake, Smith I/OX, and Dragon NFX. Some of our test goggles had good crossover appeal and skiers and boarders with medium face sizes were comfortable in goggles at both ends of the size spectrum.

Getting some laps in with the Airbrake which has one of the highest comfort scores of all models.
Getting some laps in with the Airbrake which has one of the highest comfort scores of all models.

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 were constructed with three layers of foam. The outermost layer (closest to the frame) is the densest layer, 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 softer, brushed feel that contacts the skin.

The I/O7 eats up backcountry turns and is one of the most comfortable pairs in our review.
The I/O7 eats up backcountry turns and is one of the most comfortable pairs in our review.

Strap comfort is also important, and thankfully, except for the Bolle Carve, all of our test 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 major issue, this part of overall comfort becomes apparent 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, will quickly become more and more annoying over the course of a long day on the slopes.

Tester Steven ripping up a backcountry lap off Trimmer Peak above Lake Tahoe in the Nomad.
Tester Steven ripping up a backcountry lap off Trimmer Peak above Lake Tahoe in the Nomad.

Lens Quality


The best fitting and most comfortable goggles also need a good quality lens. Fortunately for skiers and boarders today, lens quality is at an all-time high, providing users with a multitude of high-quality choices. Today's lenses provide a crisp, clear view while keeping lens fog to a minimum with several different proprietary anti-fog treatments. While none of our lenses completely avoided fogging up under every circumstance, they all outperformed 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, each manufacturer utilizes a proprietary anti-scratch coating to keep the lenses scratch-free. Lens scratches can grow increasingly frustrating, especially as conditions become more monochromatic as is commonly found with snowsports, especially when skies become increasingly cloudy and the snow starts flying.

Trying to make the Lobes fog up with some heavy snow removal  shovel  then snow blowing.
Trying to make the Lobes fog up with some heavy snow removal, shovel, then snow blowing.

Lift the lever on the left side of the goggles to easily swap lenses.
Lift the lever on the left side of the goggles to easily swap lenses.

Matching a lens to light conditions is also crucial, and most goggles have interchangeable lenses just for this purpose. Some goggles have easier to swap lenses, like our Editors' Choice standout Oakley Airbrake, whereas others like the Oakley A-Frame 2.0 and Bolle Carve proved harder to swap out. With some lenses, light contrast was improved for lower light and stormy conditions, like the Smith Chromapop Storm and Oakley Persimmon lenses. Other lenses are better for bright light and sunny conditions, like the color definition that the Dragon NFX Red ION and Smith's Chromapop Everyday lenses delivered.

View through the Phoenix Mirror lens on a mostly sunny day.
View through the Phoenix Mirror lens on a mostly sunny day.

During testing, particularly when swapping lenses, we put a lot of fingerprints, sunscreen, sweat, and food residue on our test subjects. We found that all of our test goggles cleaned up nicely with water and the included storage sacks. Today's ski goggles, and more specifically their lenses, are easier than ever to keep clean.

The NFX Red Ionized lens where it belongs  soaking up the sun.
The NFX Red Ionized lens where it belongs, soaking up the sun.

Durability


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…not particularly ideal. Long-term durability is difficult to evaluate, but we can look for obvious weak spots, like scratched lenses or loss of strap elasticity. A reliable pair of ski goggles needs to be able to stand up to repeated use and abuse in all weather conditions and environments.


Something that most of us might not consider is being crammed into luggage, the repeated packing and unpacking of our bag and a multitude of other situations that aren't quite as glamorous as ripping powder turns on a post-storm bluebird morning. These particular situations may not be a primary consideration but can significantly contribute to the long-term wear and durability.

Smith's Chromapop Everday lens in variable but scenic conditions. It earned an 8/10 for durability.
Smith's Chromapop Everday lens in variable but scenic conditions. It earned an 8/10 for durability.

After months of extensive and sometimes abusive testing, we inspected all of our test subjects, checking the lenses, straps, padding, and lenses for signs of wear or damage that may have happened on the way. All of our test goggles fared surprisingly well and showed almost no wear even at the end of our testing.

Through regular skiing abuse  the Airbrake didn't break  nor show any signs of doing so down the road.
Through regular skiing abuse, the Airbrake didn't break, nor show any signs of doing so down the road.

Protection


The biggest reason most of us wear goggles is to protect our eyes to make skiing and riding more enjoyable - while also increasing safety. Our eyes provide some of our most important sensory information, especially for motion sports like skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. One of the most distinct elements the eye needs protection from is bright sunlight, especially in the extremely bright environments we find in snowy mountainous places. Aside from the direct light from the sun, the reflected light from the snow intensifies things. While bright light can be unpleasant and make it difficult to see your environment quickly, the unseen portion of the light spectrum can do real damage to the eye.


Ultraviolet (UV) light overexposure can quickly and easily cause a horrible case of photokeratitis, which is the fancy medical term for "snow blindness." In a nutshell, snow blindness is a sunburn of the eye, or to be more precise, a sunburn of the cornea. Descriptions like "sand and jalapeno juice in my eyes" make the condition sound like something to avoid like the plague and the best way to do that is with good lenses that block UV light. Fortunately, most modern goggle lenses, with the exception of some clear lenses, are designed with this in mind. For overall protection, all of our test goggles fared well, but some stood out more than others. Not surprisingly, our Editor's Choice Oakley Airbrake and the Dragon NFX, as well as the Smith I/OX and Smith I/O7, kept our eyes safe and happy throughout the testing process.

The Airbrake is a premium pair of goggles  earning it one of the highest scores in our test.
The Airbrake is a premium pair of goggles, earning it one of the highest scores in our test.

Visible light transmission (VLT) is another consideration when picking ski goggles and lenses. This is a measurement of how much visible light can pass through the lens and on to the user's eyes. Lenses with higher numbers allow more light to pass through to the eye and are more suited to lower light conditions and conversely, the opposite is true for lenses with small numbers. Mirrored lenses, like the big and bold lenses of the Dragon NFX, also add to a lower VLT number and can be appealing for skiers and boarders who get out in extremely bright mountainous environments. While a mirrored lens can be your best friend on a bluebird, sunny day, but they're obviously not the right choice on a stormy or overcast day. On days like that, a lens with a higher VLT rating, like Oakley's Persimmon lens or Smith's Chromapop Storm lenses are the way to go. Every manufacturer offers lenses with varying degrees of VLT to tailor your goggles to particular weather and light conditions. Matching lenses to your environment is an important part of goggle and lens selection.

Goggle testing the Smith in 80-90mph winds...ouch! Both Smith models scored 8 out of 10s for protection.
Goggle testing the Smith in 80-90mph winds...ouch! Both Smith models scored 8 out of 10s for protection.

Another important factor in regards to protection is wind protection, which is also closely related to fit. A poorly fitting pair will leave gaps between the eyewear's foam and the rider's face, which creates openings that allow airflow to enter. Some airflow is a good thing, keeping the lens fog-free as well as providing ventilation when things get too warm. A greater degree of airflow, like the Oakley A-Frame 2.0 and the Bolle Carve, can dry the eyes out and make skiing or snowboarding more difficult. If more protection is something you're looking for, the Dragon NFX or POC Lobes may be a better choice.

The low light Persimmon lens in its element - the Flight Deck scored above average for protection  earning a 7 out of 10.
The low light Persimmon lens in its element - the Flight Deck scored above average for protection, earning a 7 out of 10.

An often overlooked element of snow eyewear protection is keeping the eyes safe from impacts. Tree branches, twigs, random foreign bodies in the air, your ski poles, ice chips, and even sliding falls into rocks are some of the inherent hazards involved with skiing and snowboarding. Even though impact protection may not be as high on the list, becoming involved with just one of these hazards may quickly make impact resistance a desirable feature. Fortunately, all of our test goggles have impact-resistant lenses included, but additional coverage like the Dragon NFX can aid in keeping skiers' and boarders' faces protected from things like tree branches and rock.

The red Ion lens on the NFX on a sunny day.
The red Ion lens on the NFX on a sunny day.

Style


Goggle style is a subjective criterion and a matter of personal taste. While we can objectively test things like breathability and protection, as of today, there is no test for style - which may be a good thing for some of us who are style-challenged. Some of our test goggles had a more classic look, like the Oakley A-Frame 2.0 and the Bolle Carve, while others had a more modern appearance like the Dragon NFX and POC Lobes.


Stylin' at a resort above Lake Tahoe in the Nomads.
Stylin' at a resort above Lake Tahoe in the Nomads.

Conclusion


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 performance and even the fun factor, for a relatively low cost. Purchasing $200 ski goggles seems downright affordable when compared with $2000 carbon fiber skis, $1000 boots, etc. A performance snow goggle with good fit, comfort, protection, breathability, optical quality, and durability can increase safety and enjoyment while playing or working in the snow.

Happy testers!
Happy testers!


Jason Cronk