Last Updated on 05/02/2024
In this guide to the best sunglasses for cross country skiing, we share the features we look for that make a pair of shades good for Nordic Skiing. We focus on things like polarization, lens color, and eye coverage as well as how they look and how well they stay on your face. After reading this guide you may be reconsidering whether to wear a ski mask/goggles or get some sunglasses you can wear for other sports too.
Cross-country skiing, aka Nordic skiing, can be strenuous on the uphills and even on the flats when the snow is too deep. Then once you reach the top it is an adrenaline rush all the way down.
Having a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes, improve your vision, and stay on your face is crucial if you want to avoid snow blindness. And of course, it is important that they look good too.
10 Best Sunglasses for Cross Country Skiing
Ombraz Classic Armless Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: Yes with 3 Lens Colors (prescription lenses also available)
- STABILITY: 10/10 DURABILITY: 10/10 COMFORT: 10/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 7/10 FIELD OF VISION: 9/10
The Ombraz Classics are the best sunglasses for cross-country skiing and most other outdoor sports. We have never tried a pair of sunglasses that stay on your face so well. No matter what you do, they don’t move a millimeter. We tried headbanging with them on at a music festival and I would have pulled a muscle before these things came loose. The frames are also incredibly durable which means you can hang these around your neck, on your head, or even stuff them in your pocket.
The armless design is not for show. Not only does the Ombraz perform better than traditional sunglasses but feels better too. Because the straps are soft and flexible you get a perfect fit every time. They don’t even look any different from the front or sides. It is only when you see the cord around the back (which can be hidden if you have long hair) that you realize these are unlike any other nordic skiing sunglasses.
The way these sunglasses feel is amazing, so lightweight, and no pressure on your nose at all. You don’t have to wear the strap tight at all, it can be loose and the shades stay perfectly in place. The lenses are nice and big on the Classic aviator design which is ideal on the slopes but there are other models available with smaller lenses. The large lenses give your eyes lots of coverage from snow and wind hitting your eyes and also give you a very wide field of vision.
VERDICT: The Classic Armless Sunglasses from Ombraz are not just a gimmick, they are genuinely better than traditional sunglasses with rigid arms on hinges that often break. They are comfier, lighter, and stronger, with higher performance for nordic and cross-country skiing. When you have a skiing pole in each hand the last thing you need is to have to constantly push your sunglasses onto your face as you persevere up a hill in deep snow. These are the future and you can even get them with prescription lenses.
Oakley Sutro Lite Nordic Ski Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: Prizm™ lenses
- STABILITY: 9/10 DURABILITY: 8/10 COMFORT: 8/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 8/10 FIELD OF VISION: 10/10
The Oakley Sutro Lite Sunglasses are semi-rimless and are ideal for cross-country skiing even though they are predominantly designed for cyclists. They are an updated variation of the full-framed Sutro sunglasses released in 2019 and offer a much better field of view when looking directly down. You can get a range of lenses including the Prizm lens which enhances colors and contrasts so you can see what lies ahead as clearly as possible. This includes lenses with ventilation holes to prevent fogging up.
Something that the entire Sutro line has is an Unobtainium grip on the nose which is super comfy and gets tackier the more you sweat. The Sutro Lite shades also have an Unobtainium grip on the inside of the temple arms which provides additional grab to keep them in position all the time. These are the most lightweight option in this model and so they never slip down your nose unless you are hanging upside down.
You can get them in men’s and women’s sizes but the frame is fairly wide so if you have a narrow face then maybe check out the Sutro S which is a slightly smaller size. Unlike cheap gas station sunglasses, these are built for impact and the lenses are tested like safety goggles to make sure your eyes are safe in the event of a collision.
VERDICT: This style of single-lens sun spectacle is not to everyone’s style but it offers the best coverage and is most alike to ski goggles but without the misting up. You get an excellent field of view thanks to the semi-rimless frame as well as excellent contrast against the snow so you can see what is coming up ahead. Some awesome lens colors are available too.
Julbo Vermont Classic Mountain Sunglasses With Alti Arc Lens
- POLARIZATION: No but Mineral Glass lens instead
- STABILITY: 10/10 DURABILITY: 9/10 COMFORT: 7/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 10/10 FIELD OF VISION: 7/10
The Julbo Vermont Classic Mountain Sunglasses with Alti Arc Lens provide total sun protection for your eyes at any kind of altitude or snow-covered landscape. They have leather blinders on the side and a removable leather bridge cover so that you aren’t exposed to any unfiltered UV rays or surface glare from snow-covered pistes. The lenses are circular and not the biggest but because they sit so close to your face you still get a nice field of view in all directions.
One of the features that make these sunglasses so suited to Nordic skiing is the flexible temple arm grips that bend right around your ear to give a custom fit that doesn’t come loose. They have a Grip Tech coating on the arms which doesn’t stick to hair but gives good traction on bare skin which is super soft and comfortable. Once you have adjusted the flexible arms to ergonomically wrap around your ear you will hardly ever have to mold them again.
This style of classic mountaineering sunglasses is what explorers first wore to the South Pole and they are perfectly adapted for skiing through open country where everything is white as far as the eye can see. You can choose between a range of lenses but we highly recommend the Alti Arc option which is made from Mineral Glass with an Anti-reflective infrared filter for maximum protection and precision vision on the XC snow trails.
VERDICT: The Vermont Classic Mountain Sunglasses from Julbo are kind of retro-looking but we think they are one of the best sunglasses for cross country skiing. Above that though is how well these perform on bright sunny days high in the mountains where the ozone layer is thinner and UV rays are much stronger. The blinkers are such a good feature that directly lends to nordic cross-country skiing.
SMITH Flywheel Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: ChromaPop
- STABILITY: 9/10 DURABILITY: 7/10 COMFORT: 8/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 8/10 FIELD OF VISION: 10/10
The SMITH Flywheel Sunglasses are another single lens option much like the Oakley Sutra Lite’s. You can choose a variety of lens options but for cross-country skiing we highly recommend choosing the ChromaPop lenses which amplify color and definition so you can see subtle changes in the snow. You get a really wide field of vision as well as complete coverage from all angles thanks to the shape of the lens which sits close to your face all the way around.
These have more of a retro vibe to them than the Sutra’s when you choose some of the funkier color combos but you can also get them in a matt black with black ChromaPop lenses which look badass. Durability isn’t an issue for these sunshades and the lenses are highly scratch resistant so you don’t lose any of the nice shiny coatings.
VERDICT: The Flywheel Sunglasses from SMITH are what you might expect from such an established brand with high-quality everything. The AutoLock hinges are strong with no wiggles or squeaks when you apply pressure and the adjustable Megol nose grips are made from a non-slip material. These cross-country skiing sunglasses are an excellent alternative to goggles and they really own the retro look on top of performing better than most.
Cébé Proguide Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: No
- STABILITY: 8/10 DURABILITY: 8/10 COMFORT: 8/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 9/10 FIELD OF VISION: 7/10
The Cébé Proguide Sunglasses are so light they feel like they should not cost as much as they do. But this is actually one of the benefits you are paying for. Lightweight glasses are much better for physical sports like nordic skiing and will not slide down your nose even half as often as a pair of heavy Raybans. They look very sporty or futuristic even but believe me. They fit like a dream.
The lenses are a category 4 which is the highest rate of tinting which lets through just 6% of light (VLT). This means that these sunglasses are perfect for clear sunny days skiing up and down hills but can be a bit too dark on gloomy days or if Nordic skiing through forest trails. If you are like me and drop your sunglasses all the time then technologies such as antifog coating, anti-reflective coating, and thick anti-scratch coating are important for mirrored lenses. Otherwise, the scratches ruin your line of sight.
The rubber grips around the temple don’t really provide much grip, but they do help block the sun coming in from the side. The rubber grips on the nose and around the ears do provide some good grip, though. An additional benefit to the lightweight frame design is that it is actually very breathable so your hair doesn’t stick to your head with sweat.
VERDICT: The Proguide Sunglasses from Cébé are specially made for skiing but because they are so lightweight and comfortable they excel for cross-country skiers who have to put in much more effort than downhill skiers. They block out 94% of light so they are not good in low light conditions, but much better on the open slopes where snowblindness can occur. Highly recommended if you don’t like having to constantly push your shades back up your nose.
Oakley Holbrook Snow Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: Prizm Polarized
- STABILITY: 7/10 DURABILITY: 8/10 COMFORT: 8/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 9/10 FIELD OF VISION: 7/10
The Oakley Holbrook sunglasses have been some of our favorite sunglasses to wear to the beach or while driving for the past few years now. They are the perfect combination of sporty and casual, and they look good on almost everyone. But how do they perform for Nordic skiing? Pretty good, actually.
Although there is no fancy grip on the temple arms and the ear hooks aren’t all that pronounced, these sunglasses stay on your face very well when XC skiing. In a sport that requires you to constantly keep looking at the snow and terrain ahead and then back down at your feet and the snow beneath them. The frames are made from O Matter which is Oakley’s signature material known for durability, impact resistance, and being ultralightweight.
You don’t get as big of a range of view as with the Sutro Lite, but on the flip side, you can wear them all year round without feeling ‘overdressed’. You can get a range of lenses, including Oakley Prizm technology or polarized prescription lenses, which is great if you have bad eyesight like me. The orange, reds, and yellows are all good for low light conditions however we highly recommend the Prizm Deep Water Polarized Lenses which are mirrored and great for reflecting the bright sun and pure white snow.
VERDICT: The Holbrook sunglasses from Oakley are the perfect balance between shades you can wear every day or to the beach and sunglasses you can wear for sports like cross-country skiing. The only downside to wearing such a good-looking pair of sunglasses is that you don’t get the wide field of vision that you get with some more sporty types. If you’d rather look cool than obtain peak performance when Nordic skiing cross country, then these classic sunglasses fit the profile.
HUK Polarized Lens Eyewear Spearpoint Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: Yes
- STABILITY: 7/10 DURABILITY: 7/10 COMFORT: 8/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 9/10 FIELD OF VISION: 7/10
The HUK Polarized Lens Eyewear Spearpoint Sunglasses with performance frames are actually designed for fishing, but their design also makes them an ideal pair of sunglasses for nordic skiing. The fact that they are designed to prevent glare from the sun reflecting off the water also means that they block snow glare as you are constantly looking down and up again. They have a superb grip around the ear and are extremely comfortable to wear.
The lenses are made from polycarbonate material for the best durability and clear vision, which are polarized for total UV eye protection. You can choose a selection of frame shapes that are all made from lightweight and rugged injected TR90 plastic, which bends instead of being brittle. We like the Spearpoint model pictured above and also the Spar model with green mirror lenses and a camo pattern frame.
VERDICT: The Polarized Lens Eyewear Spearpoint Sunglasses from HUK are designed for fishing but are better than most cheap ski sunglasses. They are lightweight, durable, and very comfortable to wear whilst gliding up a mountain trail in the snow. The lenses do an excellent job of blocking sunlight from above and the sides as well as from reflecting off the snow. We really like the way these are made.
Bose Frames TempoSports Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: Yes
- STABILITY: 7/10 DURABILITY: 7/10 COMFORT: 7/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 8/10 FIELD OF VISION: 8/10
The Bose Frames TempoSports Sunglasses are something a little extra than your standard eyewear. These sunglasses are made by the speaker manufacturer Bose and have miniature speakers built into the temple arms. The lenses are mirrored and block up to 99% of UV rays, allowing just 12% Visual Light Transmission (VLT) which makes them ideal for Nordic skiing.
These are not a substitute for earphones and will never deliver as clear of a sound as something directly in your ear, but they are about 80-85% there in my mind. The music feels like it is coming from all around instead of directly into your ear, which is just like when you hold your phone speaker to your ear to hear something. Without any earphones in, you can still hear everything going on around you, which is important when skiing cross country where avalanches may be a risk.
VERDICT: The Bose Frames TempoSports Sunglasses are not a replacement for headphones, but they are a good choice for outdoor sports where you have to be aware of your surroundings but still want to listen to music. The battery life is really good, and the music sounds as clear as day when wearing them but to everyone around, it is nothing more than a whisper. They won’t fall off your face when skiing Nordic style and mean you can listen to music without being antisocial.
Nike Skylon Ace Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: No
- STABILITY: 7/10 DURABILITY: 7/10 COMFORT: 7/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 7/10 FIELD OF VISION: 8/10
The Nike Skylon Ace Sunglasses have a cool sporty look with a semi-rimless frame that works well for nordic skiing. The frames are made from a durable nylon composite which is very lightweight and abrasion resistant. These are popular sunglasses for lots of different outdoor sports like running, baseball, football, cricket, and skateboarding but having used them once or twice on the slopes, I can confirm they do a perfectly good job.
The grips on the arm tips have little dimples, and the nose bridge has tracks that improve ventilation and work like tread, so they rarely ever slide from their position. They are designed in such a way that they flex to fit any face shape, from tall and narrow to wide and round. Because there is no frame at the bottom of the lens, you have excellent vision downwards and straight ahead, which is useful for skiing up trails.
VERDICT: The Skylon Ace Sunglasses from Nike Vision is not specially designed for cross-country skiing and instead get used for football, golf, and more popular sports. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them for skiing. If you want a lightweight pair of shades you can use all year round when you aren’t XC skiing, then these are ideal for all sports.
Bertoni Cortina Glacier Polarized Sunglasses
- POLARIZATION: Yes
- STABILITY: 9/10 DURABILITY: 6/10 COMFORT: 6/10 LENSE DARKNESS: 7/10 FIELD OF VISION: 7/10
The Bertoni Cortina Glacier Polarized Sunglasses are very similar to the Julbo Vermont Classics but are much more budget-friendly. They feature similar temple arms with flexible tips that can be shaped right around your ear. Cross-country skiers often choose these over sports sunglasses because they never fall off and are specially designed for snowy conditions.
The lenses come in three colors, but for nordic skiing, we like the blue or green polarized smoke color, which helps to enhance and contrast the subtle changes in the snow. The lenses block 88% of light and have only let through 12.1% Visible Light Transmission (VLT). On top of that, you have additional sun protection with the leather shields around the frames that have ventilation holes to prevent any misting.
VERDICT: The Cortina Glacier Polarized Sunglasses from Bertoni are a much cheaper type of glacier mountaineering shades than the Julbo Vermont Classics. They do the same job, but they aren’t quite as durable or well-made, and so you have to take better care of them. The comfort around the ears and on top of the nose isn’t as well engineered either, but in terms of eye coverage and good looks, they are an easy choice.
Different Styles of Sunglasses for Nordic Skiing
There are lots of different sunglasses styles out there that all do the same thing but may suit different face types better than others. If you have a narrow or long face then you may want something sporty or if it is performance you are going for then you should be thinking about your field of vision, how lightweight they are, and also their aerodynamics.
Aviators were originally called pilots glasses because they were used to provide a large coverage over your eye to protect them at high altitudes. The frame is usually very thin metal with large lenses and a reinforced bridge or top bar which means they stay on your face really well but are not the strongest or most durable by any means. They are good for nordic skiing for the same reason, and they also look good on anyone.
Mountaineering sunglasses are also known as glacier sunglasses and are used by climbers to summit the highest mountains in the world. They are characterized by small circular lenses, leather side shields or blinkers, and a wrap-around ear bar to help keep them attached to your face. They provide the ultimate protection from the sun and reflection off of the snow surface so that you don’t go snow blind at altitude where the ozone layer is thinner, and UV rays are stronger.
Sporty sunglasses like cycling, running, or fishing sunglasses typically translate very well into cross-country skiing so long as the lenses have a dark enough tint. They typically have a much more aerodynamic shape to decrease wind resistance and have more of a focus on being lightweight, grippy, and having a wide field of vision… especially when looking downwards at the ground.
Shield sunglasses are basically single lenses that are more of a visor; see the SMITH Flywheel Sunglasses above for an example. They are also very sporty and aerodynamic and provide an even wider field of vision that is almost unobstructed. Many downhill skiers prefer this type of lens because it is the closes substitute for goggles, but when you spend most of your time gliding uphill in your skis, then the big protective shield isn’t so important.
Semi Rimless Sunglasses
Semi-rimless sunglasses will generally have a complete top half of a frame, and then the underside of the lenses will be totally open with no frame. They are perfectly durable but have the benefits of being more lightweight and having a better field of view straight down in front of you.
Guide to the Best Sunglasses for Cross Country Skiing
To decide which sunglasses were best for Nordic and cross-country skiing, we had to consider a number of different factors. Here are the things we looked for and why:
The shape of your sunglass lenses or lens will have the biggest impact on your field of vision in most cases. Larger lenses offer wider views however if you wear small lenses closer to your eyes, they also offer a wide viewpoint. Single-lens sunglasses (aka shields) are very similar to goggles in that they have a massive field of vision that is unobstructed by a nose bridge.
Blue lenses that are polarized and have a mirror finish are considered to be the best for snowsports in sunny weather. Green and orange lenses work just fine too, but if you have the choice, blue is where it’s at. Many sunglasses come in a range of lens colors that are often interchangeable so you can experiment with what works best for you once you have the frames sorted. Standard grey lenses are the best color for everyday use for things like waxing your skis or having a morning coffee.
Whether your lenses are polarized or not will determine how well you can see contrasting colors when skiing in white landscapes on sunny days. Other influencing factors are whether they had anti-fogging coatings and scratch-resistant film over the top of them. Mirror finishes really help to reflect sunlight, and personally, I quite like it when you can’t see my eyes.
The frame shape will influence the style of sunglasses and how they look on your face. Once you know what style of frame you want you can really narrow down your search. The popular sunglasses maker Raybans has almost created its own frame-shape brand, including the popular Wayfarer style, among others.
The sportier sunglasses will have a more aerodynamic shape to them, whereas the glasses designed to look traditionally ‘cool’ will be boxier. We tried to find frames that were shaped to optimize your field of view and comfort while providing excellent grip and stability.
Some people can put on any pair of sunglasses and look good, while others may have a preference for a particular style that suits their face. There are also certain pairs of sunglasses that just seem to suit anyone, like Ombraz, Rybans, or Oakleys. The trick is to find a pair that suits you and then note down their width and height so that you know what to look for in the future. If you have a pair at home that you like, you can do this now.
Temple’s arms are the folding bars that rest on your ears and keep your sunglasses on your face. Things you should be looking for are strength when you flex them as well as on the hinge that connects them. Also, how well they fit around your head and what the grip is like. If the temple arms feel comfortable and grip well, then you will most likely have a good fit that feels comfortable.
Fit Around the Ear
Some types of XC skiing sunglasses have a wrap-around ear bar on the tip of the temple arms, namely mountaineering or glacier sunglasses. These are awesome for traversing up and down snow slopes on skis where you are constantly working your legs and arms and so you don’t want to have to keep pushing your sunnies back up your nose.
Even better than wrap-around arm bars is no arm bars at all. If you struggle to find sunglasses that fit around your ear then check out Ombraz, which uses a soft strap instead of hard plastic.
Grip on the Nose
This is often an underrated feature on snow sunglasses, and the regular nose pads you get on reading glasses are not the best. What you really need is some grippy and cushioned rubber-like material that provides padding and grip even when you are sweating. Oakley uses something they call unobtainium which is one of the best nose grips for nordic ski sunglasses.
Sunglasses should be comfortable to wear for long periods. It isn’t hard to find a pair that fit your face and so if your sunglasses feel uncomfortable, then get rid of them.
Two areas where you may feel discomfort from sunglasses when Nordic skiing are the bridge of your nose and around the top of your ears. If your sunglasses feel a little bit uncomfortable on your ear, you can try to gently manipulate them slightly so that they don’t feel so tight. If your ski sunglasses feel uncomfortable on your nose, then unless they are adjustable, you may have to try a different pair.
Durability is important to a certain degree. You want your lenses to be scratch resistant, and you don’t want them to pop out either. You also don’t want the hinges to break, which is why we highly recommend the Ombraz sunglasses because there are no hinges to break. If, in the unfortunate event that you sit on your sunglasses, a durable pair should be ok the first few times.
All of the sunglasses we recommend in this guide are lightweight, and there is a reason for that. If your sunglasses are not lightweight, they will end up sliding down your nose constantly as you ski uphill and are more likely to come off if you hit a bump going downhill. So the lighter your sunglasses are, the less they will move on your face.
What is the Best Color Sunglasses Lens for Snow?
Polarized blue mirrored lenses are the best color sunglasses for snow because they reflect the most light from bouncing off the surface. We couldn’t find any scientific studies done on this, so we had to test the different colors for ourselves and consult other uphill skiers. On the forums, it seems to be agreed that blue is the best color sunglasses lens for bright sunny days on snowy mountains.
What Does Polarized Lens Mean with Sunglasses?
Polarized lenses have been treated with chemicals to partially filter light from passing through. This helps to block out sunlight and enhance colors so you can see much more clearly in the distance or when moving at speed on your skis, and you need to make fast decisions. Polarized lenses are great for off-piste ski slopes on sunny days, but one downside is that it is hard to see any kind of digital display like a phone, watch, or GPS. Given the option, we would always choose polarized lenses for Nordic skiing
We hope you enjoyed reading this guide to the best sunglasses for cross country skiing and found our nuggets of information useful in your decision-making process. Let us know what you think in the comments below.