After researching 100 of the best ski goggles available, we bought and tested the 10 best models side by side. Our team of testers spent countless hours skiing at resorts and throughout the endless backcountry of the Lake Tahoe area to put each contender through its paces. The variable Sierra Nevada weather allows us to test these goggles in the full range of conditions. Our experts examined breathability while hiking in the backcountry, comfort while spinning laps at the resort, and lens quality in varying light conditions. Whether you seek the best value, all-around performance, or just the trendiest style, our detailed comparative review can help you find the perfect goggles.
The Best Ski Goggles
|Price||$280.00 at REI|
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|$300 List||$240.00 at REI|
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|$240.00 at REI|
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|$54.97 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||High quality optics, easy lens changes, field of vision||Magnetic lenses, magnetic facemask, 2 lenses included, great optics||Magnetic lenses, 2 lenses included, great optics||Excellent optics, durable, easy to change lenses||Inexpensive, durable, multiple lenses included|
|Cons||Price||Expensive, larger fit||Expensive, medium fit||Expensive, visible frame around nose, drafty||More basic styling, lenses aren't the easiest to change|
|Bottom Line||A top performing goggle choice that is at the top of the heap in almost every category.||The M4 may be expensive, but they are incredibly user friendly with excellent optics, innovative integration, and a great fit.||This model carries on the quality and performance tradition of Smith's popular I/O line of goggles with a new user-friendly magnetic lens interface.||A top performer in nearly every way and one of our highest rated models.||An affordable goggle for all purposes and conditions, the Squad is our Best Buy Award winner.|
|Rating Categories||Smith 4D Mag||Anon M4 Toric||Smith I/O Mag||Oakley Airbrake XL||Smith Squad ChromaPop|
|Lens Quality (20%)|
|Ventilation And Breathability (20%)|
|Ease Of Changing Lenses (15%)|
|Specs||Smith 4D Mag||Anon M4 Toric||Smith I/O Mag||Oakley Airbrake XL||Smith Squad...|
|Number of lenses included||2||2||2||2||2|
|Lens tested||Chromapop Sun Red Mirror, Chromapop Storm||SONAR Red, SONAR Infared||Chromapop Sun Red Mirror, Chromapop Storm||Prizm Snow Torch Iridium, Prizm Rose||Chromapop Sun, Yellow|
|Lens Shape||Spherical||Toric. Frame is compatible with both Cylindrical and Toric lenses.||Spherical||Spherical||Cylindrical|
|Layers of foam||Triple layer||Triple layer||Triple layer||Triple layer||2-layer Dri-Wix|
|Ventilation||AirEvac||Full Preimeter Channel venting, Outlast Fog Management Face Fleece||Anti-fog treated||Dual-Vented Lens with F3 Anti-fog coating||Not specified|
Best Overall in the Fleet
Smith 4D Mag
The Smith 4D Mag was a much-anticipated model for our goggle test this season. After our shipment of goggles arrived, it quickly became apparent why. Smith has been producing eyewear for over 50 years and it really shows in the 4D Mag. This goggle continues its reputation of innovation with a rounded bottom edge of the lens that increases the field of view at the bottom of the lens, a design feature unique to this pair. In addition to the highest quality optics, the 4D Mag has a flexible frame and medium fit that is sure to please most skiers and riders. These goggles are stylish and durable, too. Full package!
Of course, you've gotta pay for the goods. These are one of the most expensive models on the market, which prices them out of many budgets. That said, when it comes to performance, our testers generally agree that you can't do better than this unique and charts-topping pair.
Read review: Smith 4D Mag
Best Bang for the Buck
Smith Squad ChromaPop
With its affordable price tag and performance-oriented features, the Smith Squad ChromaPop is our Best Buy Award winner. While they had some stiff competition, the Squad still came out on top due to the fact that they come with two quality lenses for bright and low light conditions. In fact, the Squad outperforms several higher-priced models in this review. Smith's cylindrical lenses, a ChromaPop lens for bright light conditions and a basic yellow for low-light, provide a crisp and clear view of the mountains around you. The goggles are well ventilated and suitable for use everywhere from the resort to the backcountry. They have a crowd-pleasing medium to large fit that is comfortable on a huge range of face sizes and shapes, plus they fit great with a helmet.
The Squad isn't the flashiest goggle out there, instead, they have a more classic shape and style with a little bit of modern flair. They are also available in a range of frame and strap colors and lens options to meet your needs or match your kit. If the best value is what you seek, then look no further than the Smith Squad.
Read review: Smith Squad ChromaPop
Best for Extreme Ventilation
Perhaps the most unique ski goggles we have tested in a while, the Julbo Aerospace brings some fancy tech to the world of goggles. Our backcountry skiing testers raved about the ventilation; the lens is capable of extending up to a centimeter away from the frame (while remaining attached). This allows for incredible air movement through the goggles, making fogging pretty much impossible. When working hard in the mountains, this proved to be a valuable asset. The photochromic lens adapts to varying light conditions quite well, they stayed comfortable on our heads all day, and our friends agreed, they look cool in the fresh, light blue model we tested.
One drawback is that this model only comes with a single lens. To get another lens, Julbo told us that we'd have to send the goggles in for the replacement. We also don't find these to be extremely durable as the moving parts feel a bit flimsy, specifically the hinges that extend the lens. So, some of what makes these goggles great can also be seen as drawbacks. That said, our testers loved the innovation on these never-foggy goggles and recommend them to folks working hard up and down the mountains.
Read review: Julbo Aerospace
Why You Should Trust Us
Review author Jeremy Benson is a former sponsored big mountain and backcountry ski athlete. Benson has lived in the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area for the past 18 winters, where he's skied between 100-150 days each season. Whether riding lifts at the resorts or hiking for turns in the backcountry, Benson spends more time on snow in a season than most people do in a decade, making him acutely aware of the importance of quality eye protection. He has a long history or product testing, including nine years as a ski tester for Skiing Magazine and consulting on design and product development with various sponsors. Jeremy is also the author of Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: California, published by Mountaineers Books.
Benson also received input from fellow skiing veteran Jason Cronk. He has been climbing and skiing for over 25 years, with experience throughout Western North America, including Canada and Alaska, as well as the Alps of Europe, and also New Zealand. Jason is a medevac flight RN/EMT with experience with the National Ski Patrol. He still provides emergency medical education to ski patrols in the Lake Tahoe area.
In addition to staying abreast of the latest models and trends throughout the year, our team spends hours researching the best new models and technologies to keep this review as up to date as possible. After selecting and buying the best new competitors, our testers took to the snow. Each model was tested on its own, and goggles were swapped out regularly for back to back comparison. We also called upon our friends, men and women, to test the fit and comfort of each model on faces of different shapes and sizes. From the Sierra backcountry to the resorts above Lake Tahoe, each model was pushed to provide visibility, comfort, and ventilation in all kinds of conditions. Vetted and thoroughly tested, our experts got to know each product very well before dropping their final verdict.
Related: How We Tested Ski Goggles
Analysis and Test Results
A quality pair of goggles is an incredibly important part of any skier or snowboarder's kit. The best goggles help you to see clearly, fit comfortably, look good, and will last you for several seasons if cared for properly. With a dizzying array of new goggles to choose from, we've narrowed it down to some of the most important characteristics that you should take into account when making your eyewear choice. These include lens quality, how well the goggles ventilate and breathe, comfort and fit, ease of changing lenses, durability, and style. How important each metric is to you depends on your preferences and intended usage. To utilize our in-depth assessments to the fullest, focus on the products that score the best in the performance metrics you care about most.
Related: Buying Advice for Ski Goggles
Everyone comes to the goggle market with different sets of expectations and needs, and fortunately, this product category can accommodate most budgets. Of the models we tested, retail prices start relatively low and increase from there. For about the price of a lift ticket, you can get behind a pair of the Smith Squad Chromapop, which is our Best Buy Award winner. If having the best is more important than cost concerns, a goggle like the Smith 4D Mag or the Anon M4 will set you back significantly more, but you'll have a model that can do everything.
The best fitting and most comfortable goggles also need a good quality lens. The quality of a goggle's lens directly impacts not just your fun factor on the hill, but also safety. Fortunately for skiers and boarders today, lens quality is at an all-time high, providing users with a multitude of high-quality choices. Today's lenses provide a crisp, clear view with little to no distortion while also protecting our eyes from bright sunlight or bringing up the contrast in low light conditions. Lenses come in a variety of shapes these days, like cylindrical, spherical, and toric. As a general rule, spherical and toric lenses provide a more optically correct view, while cylindrical lenses may have the slightest bit of distortion. Each manufacturer also puts its own technology in the lenses, such as Oakley's Prizm or Smith's ChromaPop. These types of lens technologies are all intended to do roughly the same thing, increase contrast, enhance definition, and generally make you see the world around you more clearly, especially in challenging light conditions.
Goggle manufacturers also aim to keep lens fog to a minimum with several different proprietary anti-fog treatments. While none of our lenses completely avoided fogging up under every circumstance, they all outperform lenses from just a few years ago. Beyond fogging issues, another potential frustration and hazard is lens scratching. Like the anti-fog treatments available from each manufacturer, modern goggle lenses utilize a proprietary anti-scratch coating to try and keep the lenses scratch-free, with varying success. Lens scratches can grow increasingly frustrating and potentially dangerous, especially as conditions become more monochromatic as is commonly found with snowsports, especially when skies become overcast and nature turns on the storm faucet.
Oakley's Prizm, Smith's ChromaPop, and Anon's SONAR lenses proved to be our tester's favorites. These lenses are all slightly different, but each provides a clear distortion-free view, enhances contrast, and resists fogging and scratching better than the competition. Additionally, the Editors' Choice Smith 4D Mag, Anon M4, Smith I/O Mag, and Oakley Airbrake XL all come with two lenses, one for bright sunny days and one for stormy or low light conditions. On the more affordable end of the spectrum are also models that come with two lenses, like the Smith Squad, Dragon NFX, and Spy Ace. There's a noticeable difference in lens quality between these two tiers, but this might not be worth the price jump to many skiers.
Not far off the mark set by our top-rated models, the Zeal Nomad and Julbo Aerospace also have great lenses, with the Julbo model sporting photochromic lenses which adjust with light conditions. These photochromic lenses are convenient in that you never have to change a lens since they're constantly adjusting. The drawback is that you can't change lenses out, even if damaged, and the eyewear will have to be sent to Julbo for repair. If you tend to be hard on your goggles, a model with interchangeable lenses may be a better choice. Higher quality lenses are more expensive to produce, so it comes as no surprise that the goggles with the best lenses are typically also the most expensive.
During testing, particularly when swapping lenses, we put a lot of fingerprints, sunscreen, sweat, and food residue on our test subjects. We found that all of our test goggles cleaned up quickly with water and the included storage sacks. Today's ski goggles, and more specifically their lenses, are easier than ever to keep clean.
Comfort is one of the test criteria that proves more difficult due to its subjective nature. Several factors come into play here: goggle shape and size in relation to the wearer's facial structure and nose shape, frame material and flexibility, padding material and quantity, as well as strap comfort, and whether you will primarily use your ski goggles with a helmet or a beanie.
The overall dimensions of a winter goggle are the foundation of fit and comfort, and not all goggles are created equally. Some goggles, like the Smith 4D Mag, have a medium fit that can provide a comfortable fit for a wider variety of skiers and boarders. This pair also has a very flexible, responsive frame that molds well to the skier's face.
Other models have a wider construction that will allow for skiers and snowboarders with larger faces to find a good fit. Conversely, goggles with a narrower construction provide a viable fit for riders with smaller facial structures. We found that smaller models were prone to creating pressure points, primarily to reviewers' cheekbones and bridges of their noses. Larger goggles caused issues with gapping around the frame on smaller users' faces. Testers with smaller faces preferred the Smith goggles in general, while larger testers enjoyed the fit and comfort of the Oakley Airbrake XL, Anon M4, and Dragon NFX. Some of our test goggles had good crossover appeal, and skiers and boarders with medium face sizes were comfortable in goggles at both ends of the size spectrum.
Another factor influencing comfort is the style of padding and its materials. Except for the Smith Squad, all of the models in our test lineup were constructed with three layers of moisture-wicking face foam. The outermost layer (closest to the frame) is the densest layer, providing a buffer between the relatively hard plastic of the eyewear's frame and the softer layers that contact the skier's or snowboarder's face. The middle layer in the foam sandwich is a bit more porous than the outer portion, providing an intermediate connection point for the materials at either end of the spectrum. Finally, all of our test ski goggles have an innermost layer with a thinner, softer, brushed feel that contacts the skin.
Strap comfort is also important, and thankfully, all of our test model's straps contained some form of integrated silicone, which means the strap stays where you put it. Without this technology, there is a tendency to over-tighten a goggle's strap to keep them in place. While this tightening may not sound like a major issue, this part of overall comfort becomes more significant after a day on the slopes with an overly tight strap. A comfortable no-slip strap prevents those deep red grooves that become imprinted around your eyes for hours. While trying on goggles, keep in mind that a seemingly minor issue, like cheekbone pressure, or pressure to the bridge of your nose, will quickly become more and more annoying over the course of a long day on the slopes.
Ventilation and Breathability
While good wind protection is imperative, some airflow is desirable, especially in helping keep lenses unfogged. With no breathability, condensation from perspiration and body moisture, as well as environmental moisture buildup, can easily accumulate on the inside of the lens. Fog prevention is always more effective than attempting to clear the lens after the fact. As is the case with so many other things, it's better to be proactive than reactive.
The most breathable goggles we tested is the Oakley Airbrake XL, which has a drafty feel with more airflow than most. The Anon M4 and all the Smith models are all well ventilated, although they don't feel drafty around the eyes. Other models like the Dragon NFX tended to breathe less, keeping more heat in and potentially allowing more fogging. The amount of breathability you prefer is also tied to the type of conditions you're likely to experience, as well as how you ski.
Skiers who gravitate to the backcountry and tour in stormier or windier environments may end up hiking uphill in their ski goggles, which would make a more breathable option a good choice. And when it comes to combining breathability with ventilation, no model matches the Julbo Aerospace. By extending the lens away from the frame (which can be done while wearing gloves), air exchange is massively amplified. The spherical shape of the 4D Mag also encourages airflow through the actual rounded shape of the lens. The foam padding of both models also breathes well. If you tend to fog up on the ups, or even on hard-charging downs, these models are definitely worth a close look.
On the other hand, skiers and boarders who stick to the resort or tour in drier environments may not care about the breathability to the degree that their wetter conditions compadres do. Keep in mind that some breathability is a good thing, but too much may result in your eyes drying out.
Ease of Changing Lenses
Matching a lens to light conditions is also crucial, and most goggles have interchangeable lenses just for this purpose. Many of the goggles in this test come with two lenses for different light conditions. How easy it is to change the lenses on your goggles is often overlooked, but if you only own one pair of goggles, or you live where the weather and light conditions may change rapidly, it can make a world of difference. Goggle manufacturers have been constantly improving lens attachment systems, making it easier and more user-friendly than ever to swap out the lenses.
The easiest lenses to change in the test are on the Anon M4. Their "Magna-Tech" lenses are attached to the frame with several small but powerful magnets, and removing the lens is as simple as pulling it straight off. This is the easiest lens change we've ever experienced, it takes only seconds. You can even change lenses while wearing the goggles. The Smith 4D Mag and Smith I/O Mag are other easy changing models of this new breed of magnetic lens goggles, with lenses that are nearly as easy to change as the M4. The Oakley Airbrake XL comes in just behind the magnetic lens competition with a unique "Switchlock" system that makes swapping lenses a snap. Testers were also impressed with the ease of changing lenses on the Dragon NFX.
Many of the goggles in the test have a more traditional lens attachment style with notched cut-outs in the edge of the lens that snap into place within the lip of the frame. These lens styles still allow for changing of lenses; it's just not quite as simple or quick as those mentioned above. Goggles like the Smith Squad, Giro Blok, and Zeal Nomad all share this style of lens attachment and are notably more challenging to switch out.
A high functioning contender also needs to have a decent level of durability. After spending your hard-earned money on fancy new goggles, imagine them falling apart…not okay. Long-term durability is difficult to evaluate, but we can look for obvious weak spots, like scratched lenses or loss of strap elasticity. A reliable pair of ski goggles needs to be able to stand up to repeated use and abuse in all weather conditions and environments.
Something that some might not consider is travel. A goggle being crammed into luggage, the repeated packing and unpacking of our bags, and a multitude of other situations that aren't quite as glamorous as ripping powder turns on a post-storm bluebird morning. These particular situations may not be a primary consideration but can significantly contribute to long-term wear and durability.
After months of extensive and sometimes abusive testing, we inspected all of our test subjects, checking the lenses, straps, padding, and lenses for signs of wear or damage that may have happened on the way. All of our test goggles fared surprisingly well and showed almost no wear even at the end of our testing. One particularly aggressive crash while wearing the Julbo Aerospace did result in a scratched lens, but we attribute this damage to user-error more than a poor quality product.
Goggle style is a subjective criterion and a matter of personal taste. While we can objectively test things like breathability and ease of changing lenses, as of today, there is no test for style - which may be a good thing for some of us who are style-challenged. Some of our test goggles had a more classic look, like the Smith Squad and the Giro Blok, while others had a more modern or even futuristic appearance like the Dragon NFX.
Among our testers and friends, our style opinions gravitated toward the Smith 4D Mag and the Anon M4. Their high level of design is apparent, which positively affects their looks. We also really like a lot of the colorways and style of the Zeal Nomad. In the end, style points are best awarded by you (and maybe your partner).
In the world of snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, equipment costs can quickly add up to a small fortune. A good ski goggle can dramatically improve a skier's or rider's experience, performance, fun factor, and even safety, for a relatively low cost. A performance snow goggle with good fit, comfort, breathability, optical quality, and durability can increase enjoyment while playing or working in the snow.
— Jeremy Benson and Jason Cronk