WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN YOUR GOGGLES?
Goggle Deep Dive
Ski goggles have become like designer shades—a fashion statement that’s far too expensive for the function they serve. They’re tossed in ski bags, bumped on chairlifts, stuffed into packs for the bootpack hike, and their price tag—sometimes upwards of $400—becomes more insane with every scratch.
So what, exactly do you need to know about goggles to choose a pair that’s both cool and cost-effective? We asked Curt Nichols, who founded Glade Goggles precisely because he was frustrated with the expense of the offerings on the market.
“There are a lot of passionate skiers who can’t afford a good goggle,” Nichols says. “That’s why we’re in existence.” Glade’s MagFlight model (which comes with multiple lenses) just got named best goggle in Bister’s gear review. It costs $159.
When it comes to technology, Nichols says there’s a lot of jargon out there, but not actually not all that much differentiation in the market. The tech that nearly all goggle companies use is readily accessible, and there are well-known manufacturing processes for all of it. “Any company worth its salt has a lens that’s anti-fog and anti-scratch,” he says. And all that other tech like “VLT” (visible light transition) is more marketing speak than actual benefit.
So why the high price tag? There are relatively few players who have all the game, he explains, and they’ve had the same legacy systems of selling through retail for nearly 40 years. “The market is controlled by two companies: Smith and Oakley,” he says, who all go through traditional retail channels, which means prices for the consumer are higher. But because Glade sells direct to consumer, they can sell their products for close to cost. “We’ve returned the rest of that margin to the consumer.”
So if the tech between brands isn’t all that different and the price doesn’t actually reflect quality, what, then, should you actually be paying attention to when it comes to purchasing your next pair?
According to Nichols, the single biggest thing skiers should focus on is to buy a google with a lens that’s suited for the location where they ski. Is the light frequently flat, like in the Pacific Northwest or New England? Or is it sunny most of the time, like in Colorado? You need to purchase the lens depending on the light conditions you encounter most of the time.
“A lot of skiers don’t seem to know that,” Nichols says. “It could be a complete white-out, and you put a low-light lens on, and that’s going to help a lot.”
There are, of course, many goggles that come with multiple lenses or with one that is photochromatic and change automatically according to the conditions. If having options appeals to you, the next question to ask is if you don’t mind carrying an extra lens with you when you ski. If you do, choose one that changes tint automatically.
“Our Adapt goggle is photochromic. We sold out of it in mid-January. It was a smash hit because of the convenience factor,” he said.
To get the best goggle for your buck, check out Glade’s entire collection here.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.
--Photos by Andres Santiago