Flaxta Prime ($120)
How does a brand-new player in the goggles space earn Gear of the Year status? By nailing everything we look for: optics, comfort, compatibility, and value. Flaxta launched this year with former POC visionaries at the helm. Goggles count as safety gear because they shield eyes from UV damage, not to mention errant tree branches, and can help cushion a blow to the face. But as with smart technology in cars, the best safety features are the ones that help prevent accidents from happening in the first place. To that end, when designing the Prime, Flaxta put most of its effort into sharp, fog-free optics with excellent peripheral vision. The lens is cylindrical, which helps boost the view at the sides by wrapping the face. But clarity is only part of the equation. The Prime’s lens was crafted by Zeiss (known for making some of the sharpest on the market) and employs tech designed to improve contrast in mountain environments. We tested Flaxta’s goggles in low-light conditions in Montana and blazing sun at Squaw Valley. Not once did we feel like we needed to swap lenses. Astonishingly, the Prime—which has three layers of face foam—costs just $120. It’s rare to have a Gear of the Year winner that’s also a killer deal.
POC Opsin Clarity ($130)
POC was an early adopter of cylindrical lenses, but the Opsin Clarity is the compa-ny’s first cylindrical design for the nonrace world. With a frame that works far better for small and medium faces than previous POCs, these were the most comfortable goggles we tried, with no pressure points and a seamless fit with a range of helmets. The Spektris/Orange lens (codeveloped, like the Flaxta’s, with Zeiss) is especially well suited to the challenging conditions in New England and the Pacific Northwest, but consumers can pick and choose; the Opsin Clarity ships with two lenses. It doesn’t have a quick-change system, but swapping is painless enough. “A few years ago this would have been $190,” said a tester. “Trickle-down is real.”
Sweet Protection Interstellar ($220)
Best for Sensitive Eyes
You might know Sweet Protection for its much adored helmets, which freeskiers smuggled in from Europe back in the early aughts, before the brand came to U.S. shores. This is the Scandinavian company’s first foray into the goggles market. And it’s a successful one. The Interstellar is loaded with features, including what Sweet’s calling RIG, for retina-illumination grading. It reduces eye exposure to harmful UV rays, but also to blue light, which has been shown to cause fatigue, and boosts red light, improving contrast in winter weather. That tech is paired with the industry’s first sculpted toric lens, which helps limit distortion. On the hill in a Colorado storm (and during a partly cloudy day at Big Sky), contrast was superb.
Smith 4D Mag ($280)
Largest Field of Vision
Featuring perhaps the most ingenious lens development we’ve ever seen, Smith’s new 4D Mag goggles are a marvel. The top portion of the lens is cylindrical, our pick for tack-sharp optics and enhanced peripheral vision. But as it slopes down, the view gets subtly more spherical. And then something truly unexpected happens: the bottom of the lens curves under the frame, toward your face, opening up a huge field of vision. If the goal is to make you forget you’re wearing goggles at all, the 4D Mag comes impressively close. Add in Smith’s proven ChromaPop light filtering and two lens options (standard and storm) and the 4D Mag is up for gnarly blizzard skiing, chill spring days, and everything in between.