New lens designs are improving the view even on low-contrast days
Atomic Count 360° HD ($200)
Dual-lens goggles have been the standard in winter sports since the 1960s. Just like with thermal windows, the air between the first and second lens has an insulating effect, reducing fog. But flaws inherent in that construction (refraction, image mirroring) have dogged designers. Despite advances, the view through a single lens is just better. Atomic solves this conundrum with the revolutionary Count 360° HD, which features two lenses fused together. Double-thick plastic compensates for the loss of that thermal air layer, for similar fog-reducing performance. The benefit is immediately apparent. The optics are tack sharp, with (to our eyes) zero refraction or mirroring. And the advantages don’t end there. Atomic's goggles give you a massive field of view—wide enough to see skiers coming up alongside without turning your head—and the lenses are coated in a crystal dye that basically kills flat light. We were able to pick up subtleties in the terrain while bombing a groomer at 40 mph. And our best efforts to get them to fog—like walking straight out of our bindings into a heated lodge—met with failure.
Smith I/O Mag ($240)
Best Magnetic Frames
Changeable-lens systems are great in theory, but they tend to be a pain to use. Magnetic frames are particularly frustrating. Often, in exchange for a quick swap, you have to put up with watery eyes caused by air leakage below the lens. Smith eliminates this problem with the I/O Mag. Yes, magnets hold the lens in place, but two barely perceptible clips where the strap meets the frames lock it in place. Unlike a lot of ill-designed goggle tech, the clips don't require an advanced degree to operate, and we were able to change lenses in just a few seconds. Best of all, there was no wind channeling or goofy lens dislocation. The I/O Mag comes with two lenses: one for full sun and another for storm days, when the light is gray and flat.
Oakley Fall Line XL with Prizm React Lens ($299)
Best Photochromic Lens
Traditional photochromic lenses transition too slowly for skiing or snowboarding—for example, when riding from a sunny open powder field into dense trees. Oakley’s new React Lens changes that. Charge the goggles via micro USB, and with a push of a button you can select one of three lens-tint levels, from clear to dark. The technology is similar to the sort used in cutting-edge electrochromic windows, which manipulate lithium ions to go from light to dark. (Goodbye, crappy blinds!) In Oakley’s goggles, a little vibration lets you know that it’s working. The upshot: we loved them at Jackson Hole when there was a whiteout at the summit but the Hobacks had full sun.
Scott Linx ($130)
Best on a Budget
At $130, the Linx was the best value performer in our test. It features an optically sharp spherical lens of the same quality used in Scott’s top-of-the-line goggles. Up in the alpine, we found that the Enhancer lens boosted contrast and heightened definition in flat light as capably as any competing brand. The frames rest against your face with the same comfy three-layer foam supplied by Scott’s finest products. We took the Linx out in storms and used it during blue-sky sessions through the spring and completely forgot about the budget price point. It doesn’t allow for quick lens changes like the Smith or change tints on demand like the Oakley, but for daily shredding on the cheap, the Linx is a steal.