We like goggles with either interchangeable lenses or well-made photochromic lenses that adapt to quickly-changing spring conditions. Both systems come in handy when you start the run in overcast skies on the top of the mountain and finish in blinding sunlight, or when you’re sidecountry touring on a bright day.
Although goggles with interchangeable lenses are getting a lot of interest lately (like this one with a nifty magnetic lens lock), photochromic lenses are the easiest to use, since they automatically adapt. They take up to 28 seconds to adjust, but then again, you don’t have to stop to make the change in the middle of the trail. Unless you’re darting in and out of tree cover, that adjustment delay isn’t usually too long for most skiers.
We like the following models for the ability to change their visible light transmission index very quickly, as well as features like total UV protection, ventilation, and anti-fog coatings.
The Best Photochromic Ski Goggles: Julbo Orbiter
The best thing about the $180 Orbiter goggle from French company Julbo is the ability to order up a specific type of photochromic lenses depending on your favorite activity and preference. The Zebra Light lens changes from almost no protection to a dark lens; the Zebra goes from medium dark to very dark; and the Camel is like the Zebra, but with polarization to cut glare. The kicker? Orbiter’s rugged silicon strap and extended outrigger makes the goggles stay put on your head or with a helmet.
The Best Photochromic Ski Goggles: Zeal Slate
The best value in a photochromic goggle, the Slate doesn’t offer a polarized version, but its anti-fog lens lets you see good detail while its many vents prevent fog and moisture build-up. The mirrored lens goes from very light to medium shaded, with a visible light transmission range of 58 to 75 percent. We like the bead of silicon that Colorado-based Zeal puts on the strap to keep it secure on your helmet or on the back of your hat. The goggles are listed at $150, but you can find a deal on them if you hunt a bit.
The Best Photochromic Ski Goggles: Smith I/OX
For the ultimate flexibility in lenses, the Smith I/OX has a quick-change system with a photochromic option among its dozen or so other choices. That way you can ski with a Smith’s Photochromic Red Sensor lens that automatically switches between a medium to light shade, or swap the whole lens out for a clear one or the absolute darkest glass in Smith’s line. Useful features on the I/OX are its frameless design, which offers huge peripheral vision, a helmet-compatible strap, and an anti-fog inner lens coating. The version with the photochromic lens costs $235, with an additional lens included.