This article outlines some considerations for or against sunglasses and ski goggles as well as the different motivation when choosing one over the other. Most important factors when making a decision are:
– experience and skill level of skiers
– weather conditions
– temperature and precipitation
– intended length of skiing
– objective of skiing
Experienced skiers would make the proper selection when it comes to choosing sunglasses or goggles. What is more, most of them have backpacks where they will keep a pair of sunglasses if the goggles are inappropriate or the weather changes. Trouble comes when all you have on your ski history is a few runs down the hill from the previous day and the weather turns and all you have is sunglasses.
Getting adjusted to ski goggles takes time and could be annoying at first. Many rookie skiers prefer sunglasses and are often sorry later. The main reason for this is that wearing a pair of ski goggles limits the peripheral vision a bit. Psychological discomfort factors exist also – beginner skiers often think that they must see everything which goes on the ski run at the same time.
Recommendation: get used to goggles. Uncomfortable as they can seem at first, it pays to wear them. The weather in the mountain can change rapidly.
Weather conditions are the most important factor when making the right choice. Wearing sunglasses on a warm sunny day in March or April is just fine. Having them on a powder day is bad judgment.
Temperature – when temperatures are low, combined with the low humidity typical for ski areas, sunglasses provide little or no protection of the face even if it is sunny out. Sunny days in January could still have a temperature of well below freezing. A proper pair of ski goggles will protect the better part of the face from frostbite and sun overexposure.
Precipitation – if it happens to snow, make no mistake – goggles are mandatory. Sunglasses do not provide enough protection when snowflakes flow in through the top and the sides in windy conditions. Also, if it is snowed the previous night, this normally calls for a powder day! Powder days mean that snow will be targeting your eyes all day by means of wind, skis of other people and your own ski front ski tips. Twin-tipped skis are very popular nowadays – among other features, they are known to create a snow cloud behind the skiers. Additionally, even experienced skiers take a fall or two in the fresh snow. If you happen to fall in the powder with sunglasses – you could lose them and if you do not – they will be wet and foggy. Ski goggles are designed to resist fog on the inside. Most sunglasses are not.
Recommendation: wear sunglasses only on warm sunny days in March and April. Use the goggles for everything else.
Intended length of skiing – if you plan to ski all day, do not use sunglasses. Often they leave a mark on your face and at higher speeds make your eyes water – caused by the air stream which goes in your eyes. If you only plan to take a few runs – all-weather condition considerations from above apply – yet you could break the rules since normally just a few runs will not cause too much damage. Always wear goggles or glasses – do not leave the eye unprotected altogether – the light in the ski slopes can cause damage.
The objective of skiing. Most people get fit to ski and then enjoy the snowy slopes. I have personally been into situations on powder days and steep slopes where time just stops for a minute – the ultimate relaxation, very hard to reproduce in other conditions. The good powder aficionados will agree with me – using a pair of goggles for this is a must. On the other hand, if you ski in Aspen or Vail, Colorado – the prevailing motivation could be to be seen in a Prada ski suit and skis and to be able to tell your friends that you went skiing. Most of the time, under these circumstances, is spent at the cafes located top, middle and bottom of the hill. Those types of skiers are rarely seen on powder days. If this is the case with you – skiing in your sunglasses is just fine. What is more, you could get a signature sunglasses case and show off as needed!
In conclusion, wear goggles in cold weather, snowy or after snowfall conditions, when skiing between trees or skiing terrain which is new for you. Also, in case you have a very fancy pair of goggles, such as the kind with two fans and a battery and would like to show off. Wear sunglasses on warm days, short visits to the slopes and always in the outdoor cafes! Some skiers even go as far as wearing their sunglasses with the goggles resting on the helmet right above their forehead! Enjoy the slopes safely!