You've got your fat boys for powder and your carving skis for corduroy. But do you really need a quiver of goggles? The short answer: No. You just need the right pair for the conditions. Most companies now offer a range of choices suited to different amounts of light. Last spring, we tested 30 pairs in variable Rocky Mountain skies, breaking them down into two categories: Bright-light, which are often mirrored and generally let in between 18 and 30 percent of available light, and low-light, which let in roughly 60 to 85 percent. Then we rated them on comfort and field of view (1=poor, 5=excellent). Here's what became clear.
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Spherical vs. traditional lenses
The big buzzword in goggles these days is spherical. Unlike traditional lenses, most of which are stamped out of a flat sheet of plastic, then bent into a curved frame, spherical lenses are baked in bubble-shaped molds. This design enhances optics by mimicking the shape of the eye and allowing varying degrees of thickness in the plastic, which reduces distortion. The bulbous shape also enhances peripheral vision and reduces fogging by increasing volume within the goggle. The only downside: Lenses can take up to 20 hours to produce—and you pay the price.
Lenses that adapt to changing conditions—and a futuristic helmet-goggle combo.
Uvex Magic $209; uvexsports.comPrefer to lug just one goggle to the mountain? Using liquid crystal technology, the Magic lets you switch instantly from a dark (20 percent) to a light (60 percent) lens. With the push of a button, an electric charge excites the crystals inside the lens: They shift from a parallel formation, which makes for a clear view, into a spiral configuration, which causes the tint to darken. Gimmicky as it may seem, we found the sorcery really did work. The only glitch with our prototypes: The tint wasn't completely uniform (there was some spotting). Uvex promises they've worked out the kinks.
Bollé XP with Modulator lens $80; bolle.comA less, uh, magical, solution to the changing-skies dilemma is a goggle with a photochromatic lens. While the technology isn't new, this is the first year Bollé has applied it in a high-contrast lens. The Modulator automatically adjusts (from 28 to 66 percent) as conditions change from, say, shaded glades to sun-washed slopes. Testers detected some glare in the brightest sun, but otherwise found the effect subtle yet noticeable.
K2 Black Hawk One $285—$325; K2skis.comHelmet and goggle manufacturers have been designing goggles to fit well with helmets—and vice versa—for several years now, but there's nothing quite as symbiotic as the Black Hawk One. In collaboration with BMW, K2 has created the first truly integrated helmet-goggle system. Part Beemer, part Robocop, the Black Hawk One features a spherical goggle that attaches to a sleek (and comfy) helmet via a hook-and-toggle system with three adjustable settings. The helmet features 16 passive vents, 2 active vents, and removable earpieces. Too hot for a helmet? Take off the toggles and attach the traditional strap that's included.