Ski Goggles Vs Sunglasses: Which is Best?

Last Updated on 21/11/2022

Ski Goggles Vs Sunglasses for Skiing

Ski Goggles Vs Sunglasses for Skiing

In this article, we look at the pros and cons of wearing ski goggles vs sunglasses to see which is best. You will learn about the benefits and downsides of using sunglasses vs a ski mask and be able to make a decision based on the facts.

Ski goggles provide the most protection from wind and harsh weather as well as providing the best field of view. Ski Sunglasses are lightweight, breathable, and more comfortable. Many people base their decisions on how they look but we are here to share the many other considerations.

Other things to think about are the types of skiing you will be doing and in what conditions. If you are Nordic skiing then cross country sunglasses make the most sense as sweat and fogging will be worse with goggles on. If you are at the snowpark throwing shapes off a jump or skiing in bad conditions then you may sway more towards a ski mask.

7 Benefits of Sunglasses Vs Goggles for Skiing

Goggles and sunglasses both have their pros and cons when using them for Nordic skiing. Here are the differences broken down into the advantages and disadvantages of using sunglasses vs goggles for skiing:

Sunglasses are Breathable

Sunglasses are way more breathable than ski goggles both on your face and around your head. The only place you may experience increased sweating when wearing sunglasses is on the bridge of your nose and where the arms make contact with your head. Ski goggles can make your entire upper face sweat not to mention the wide headband which can become wet with perspiration very quickly.

Sunglasses are Easy to Store

Sunglasses can slide into almost any jacket, shirt, or pants pocket without a problem which makes them super easy to store when you don’t want to wear them. I often just hook an arm over the top of my shirt for easy access or wear them on my head or around my neck when possible. Snow goggles are much bulkier and only fit in large jacket pockets.

Sunglasses are Lightweight and Comfortable

Sunglasses are much more comfortable to wear than ski masks which work by being pulled onto your face with a strap instead of resting on your face like sunglasses. Because sunglasses are much more lightweight than goggles they just feel less intrusive and more comfortable. You don’t get any pinching around your eyes with sunglasses and they are actually quite pleasurable to wear.

Everyone Has a Pair of Sunglasses Knocking About

Most people have at least one pair of sunglasses in their possession and most people probably 3 or 4 pairs in a drawer somewhere. Unless you ski often then you probably don’t have a ski mask or goggles. So long as your sunglasses are UV protecting and are reliable enough to wear skiing then you can use your existing sunglasses and don’t have to spend any extra money.

Sunglasses are Stylish

While ski goggles look pretty cool on the slopes, they look out of place in most other situations. Even if you are sitting on a balcony for some Apres-ski then sunglasses are far more practical and look much better. Most people who care more about looks than performance choose to wear sunglasses vs Ski goggles.

Prescription Lenses are Better with Sunglasses

If you have bad eyesight and need to wear prescription glasses then our advice is to get yourself some prescription sunglasses that you can use for skiing. We know, we know. You can get prescription ski goggles now too. The problem is they are just not as good as prescription glasses and often distort things to affect your depth perception.

Less Misting on Your Lenses

Sunglasses don’t fog or mist up as much as ski goggles do because they are more breathable. The lack of a thick headband or foam padding allows sunglasses to stay very well ventilated when skiing. Even if sunglasses do get a little bit of condensation on them, they are much easier to wipe clean than goggles for skiing.

disadvantages of wearing sunglasses for skiing when it's snowing

3 Downsides of Sunglasses Vs Ski Goggles

The downsides of sunglasses vs ski goggles only really become apparent when you compare them side by side. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to avoid using sunglasses for skiing:

Can Let Wind and Snow In

Unlike ski goggles which are sealed onto your face, so nothing can get in, most ski sunglasses have open sides as well as at the top and bottom. This means that snow and rain can essentially get in your eyes or land on the inside of your lens causing condensation build-up. Also, when you are traveling downhill at speed or there is a strong wind blowing in it can easily find its way in and make your eyes water. It isn’t the end of the world but if you are expecting bad weather then goggles for skiing are probably better than sunglasses.

Not as Secure as a Headband on Goggles

Unless you have a glasses cord to fasten around your neck or the Ombraz shades featured here then ski goggles are more secure on your face and less likely to come off if you fall or make a sharp turn. Most sporty sunglasses do have rubber grips and stay on your face without an issue but it is something to think about if you are even half as clumsy as me.

Smaller Field of Vision (most of the time)

Standard sunglasses with individual lenses for each eye have a smaller field of vision than most ski goggles. The smaller the frame and lens that you use, the smaller your field of vision will be. However, you can get single-lens sunglasses that use a similar sized shield lens as ski goggles do.

benefits of snow goggles vs ski sunglasses

4 Benefits of Snow Goggles Vs Sunglasses for Skiing

There are times when skiing goggles are more appropriate than sunglasses even if you prefer wearing the latter. These times are mainly when the weather is bad and you want extra protection. Here are some of the advantages of snow goggles

Total Eye Protection

Snow goggles provide better protection for your eyes than sunglasses. They will block branches and twigs from hitting your eyes if you are skiing through forests and are much more likely to stay on your head if you take a fall. If you fall head first towards a rail or tree stump then goggles will provide more protection than sunglasses which are more likely to break or fall off.

Ski Goggle Have a Larger Field of Vision

The large single lens you see on almost all modern ski goggles provides the maximum field of vision at every angle. Not only is your view straight ahead uninterrupted by a nose bridge but you also get a wider view up, down, and to the sides. So when you wear goggles your peripheral vision is able to do its thing so that you can keep your wits about you as you ski down a mountainside at 40 miles per hour.

Snow Goggles are Warmer and Stormproof

In cold weather, you want to wrap up as warm as possible and ski masks certainly help to keep your eyes and face a little bit warmer. Paired with a ski mask, scarf, or balaclava and a hat you can really keep your face warm and frost-free using a good pair of ski goggles. Snow and wind can be bitterly painful if they pelt your face or eyes and so in blizzards snow goggles are almost a necessity.

Snow Goggles Fit Under A Helmet Better

When you wear a helmet to ski then sunglasses are not always the best option. They can rattle against the plastic, get squashed against your ears, and get knocked about when your helmet moves. Snow goggles have a wide but thin elasticateed strap that can be worn underneath or over the top of your helmet which is way more comfortable and convenient.

Downsides of Skiing Goggles compared to sunglasses

3 Downsides of Skiing Goggles Vs Sports Sunglasses

On the flip side of ski goggles being warmer than sunglasses, this also has some negative downsides. Snow masks don’t breathe as well as sunglasses and they are often less comfortable over time. Here are the main disadvantages of wearing snow goggles for skiing:

Snug Fit can be Uncomfortable

What some people might see as a bonus, most other people view as a disadvantage to snow goggles. The snug fit that goggles require can help keep you warm but it also makes you sweat, can mess up your hair, and cause a pressure build-up around your sinuses. At first, it isn’t very noticeable but after 8 hours of wearing a ski mask, you will be ready to hang it up for the day.

You Sweat More With Goggles

Ski masks are much sweatier than sunglasses in almost every way. They have foam padding which causes you to perspire as well as a wide fabric strap that can become saturated in sweat after an intense run or if you are cross-country skiing uphill. What makes ski masks even sweatier is the fact that you need to wear them under or over your hat too which provides additional insulation.

Fogging Up is More Common

While modern snow goggles are often made from double lenses, much like double glazing, which is designed with ventilation so they don’t steam up. It still happens more with goggles than it does with sunglasses when skiing. If you are wearing your glasses underneath your ski goggles then these will also steam up much faster than if you were to wear prescription sunglasses or even your regular glasses underneath a pair of polarized shades.

Snow goggles from Captain Nares expedition of 1875.

A Brief History of Ski Goggles and Sunglasses for Skiing

Sunglasses can be dated back all the way to the 12th century although it wasn’t until the 18th century when James Ayscough started experimenting with tinted lenses in the then-modern spectacle frames. In 1936, Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid invented Polaroid filters which brought about the first polarized lenses.

Ski Goggles were developed in the late 1800s and resembled modern swimming goggles with metal and leather frames holding a smoked glass lens. They were originally created for explorers and extreme cold however as aircraft became a thing in the 1900s it was the pilot industry that helped to progress the design and materials. The last big design shift was in 1965 by Dr. Bob Smith, who created the first pair of anti-fogging, double-lens ski goggles using his dentistry equipment.

Ski Goggles or Sunglasses for Beginners?

If you are just starting out or have only been skiing a few times then you may be wondering if it is time you got some goggles. While both sunglasses and ski masks are fine for beginners, the extra protection you get from goggles makes sense for beginners who, let’s be honest, are more likely to take a few tumbles.

If you don’t want to spend the extra money then the sunglasses you already own will be absolutely fine to keep the sun and snow glare out of your eyes. If you would rather get a new pair of sunglasses that you can wear all year round just to go to the shops then you can look at some that are perhaps better suited to skiing than your Raybans, Guchi, or other designer sunglasses.

Ski Mask or Sunglasses for Beginners

Snow Goggles or Sunglasses for Cross Country Skiing?

Cross country skiing is different from downhill skiing in many ways. The way this affects your choice of eye protection is because you are using so much more physical energy to ski uphill than you use to glide downhill.

Sunglasses or Ski Goggles for Skiing on Cloudy Days?

The first thing to consider before deciding whether to wear sunglasses vs ski goggles is the weather. If the weather doesn’t look great but isn’t so bad you need goggles then wearing sunglasses without super dark tinting is probably best. If your goggles are too dark then it can be a disadvantage when traveling through forested areas. Sunglasses at least let a little bit of light in around the sides.

Ski Goggles or Sunglasses for Backcountry Skiing?

If you’re backcountry skiing in the forest, on hiking trails, or off piste snow drifts, then you’ll want to wear goggles because they will provide protection from snow glare, powder spray, and low branches hitting you in the face. If you’re doing Nordic or Alpine skiing on well used trails with low light levels, then sunglasses will be sufficient to protect your eyes from sun and snow glare.

Skiing Sunglasses or Goggles for Freestyle Skiing?

For freestyle skiing where you are hitting jumps and performing tricks you need something that is going to stay in position even if you whip out a double backflip. Ski goggles and Ombraz sunglasses are your only real option here as they fasten securely around the back of your head and wont slip if they are tight enough. Snow goggles are prefered because they have more cushioning and because they sit a little further off your face it provides that little bit of extra protection for your nose.

We hope you found this debate on ski goggles vs sunglasses for skiing answered some of your questions and gave you a new point of view to think about. Let us know what you think.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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