The winter season is almost upon us. You probably have started packing up the thermals and the winter gear for your next snowy excursion. But there is one vital piece of winter equipment that so many overlook. Sunglasses. Sure, you might think it’s winter and the sun won’t be to strong, but that doesn’t mean your eyes aren’t getting exposed to some damaging sunlight. When you’re surrounded by white snow and ice, light is hitting you from all sides. So, you need to protect your eyes.
But let’s get real—you can’t go wearing normal sunglasses on the slopes. Not if you’re serious. Extreme conditions, like a sunny day on the slopes, calls for extreme sunglasses. The best ski and snowboard sunglasses are all about cutting down the right amount of light so you can see more of your environment instead of squinting the entire way down the slopes.
Best Ski and Snowboard Sunglasses Reviewed
There are thousands of polarized sunglasses out there, but not all of them are going to meet your needs. To save you a bunch of time and frustration, we have selected four of the best mountain sunglasses available. The sunglasses listed below were chosen for their cost, UV protection, design, and additional features, like anti-dust and anti-fogging. Plus, we made sure that every recommended pair is comfortable, because the last thing you want is for your ears and face to ache from something other than the cold!
Best Sunglasses For The Slopes: Oakley Wind Jacket 2.0 Rectangular Sunglasses – Prizm Snow Sapphire
Oakley is a brand that is loved and trusted around the world for their quality. It should be no surprise that it is included in this list of the best sunglasses for ski and snowboarding. In fact, Oakley’s Wind Jacket 2.0 sunglasses with Prizm Snow Sapphire lenses are your match made in heaven for both sunny and cloudy conditions. Prizm lenses are fabricated to enhance color, not reduce it. Prizm Snow Sapphire lenses have the following specifications:
- 13% light transmission
- Best for sun and clouds
- Contrast between light and shadow is increased
- Base color: Rose tint
That is why Oakley’s Wind Jacket 2.0 sunglasses with the Prizm Snow Sapphire lenses are one of the best all-around choice for hitting the slopes. You can enjoy a balmy day without needing to switch your sunglasses every time a cloud passes overhead.
The overall design is also incredible. The lenses are rated to protect your eyes from all types of UV radiation and blue light. The lenses are crafted with Oakley’s patented Plutonite, which makes the glasses feather-light but extremely durable. Pair that with Oakley’s High Definition Optics (HDO) technology, and you get sunglasses that are both cool to look at and extremely functional. You won’t want to take them off.
- Designed with Oakley’s Three-Point Fit: contact happens at the bridge of the nose and at the temples for optimal alignment on the face
- Comes with technologies like Plutonite Prizm lenses, High Definition Optics, an O-matter stress-resistant glass frame, and superb UV protection
- Frame helps block out wind and glare
- Non-slip Unobtainium nose pads for enhanced grip
- Sleek, unisex design
- The slopes will look sharper and clearer than ever before
- Headband can be removed for increased ventilation
- Construction may seem a bit flimsy
- Does not come with a hard case, only a soft one
Best Low Light Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses with REACTIV
Julbo has been around for over 125 years and continues to offer up some of the best mountain sunglasses in the industry, especially with the Shield Mountain Sunglasses. The brand is touted for making excellent biking and hiking sunglasses that can handle the elements. These are not polarized lenses, meaning that you want these for low light situations, like hitting the slopes at dusk or for those truly overcast days where a blizzard could whip up at any moment. But they are photocromatic, meaning that the lenses will adjust to the amount of light available (transitions between category 2 and category 4 lens).
There are a number of reasons why the Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses with REACTIV are ideal for low light situations. First, you can remove the fabric side shields, so they look more like traditional sunglasses. The fit is snug but comfortable. The sunglasses are also designed to permit air flow. Also, the frames are designed to subtly curve, wrapping comfortably around the temples without sticking to your hair, so you don’t have to worry about the sunglasses sliding down your nose or bouncing around on your face as you hit moguls.
- Lenses provide 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection
- Shield sunglasses are designed for both mountain biking and downhill skiing/snowboarding
- Amazing field of view
- Side vents and under-the-eye ventilation enable air flow and cuts back on fogging
- Comes with holes in the ear pieces to hook the included strap, so you don’t have to worry about losing your sunglasses
- Features REACTIV photochromic lenses that adjust to the light level, so you can wear them in low light and in the sun
- Some of the construction seems a bit flimsy
- Rubberized section is known to delaminate
Best Bright Light/Blue Bird Sunglasses: Oakley Wind Jacket 2.0 Rectangular Sunglasses – Prizm Snow Black Iridium
You may be wondering why the Wind Jacket 2.0 is making yet another appearance on this list. No, it’s not a mistake. The previous pair of Oakleys featured the Prizm Snow Sapphire lenses. Let us present to you the Wind Jacket 2.0 sunglasses with Prizm Snow Black Iridium lenses. This is a completely different type of lens, one meant for those perfect “blue bird” days that every snowboarder and skier dreams about. These sunglasses are for cloudless days and crisp air.
The Prizm Snow Black Iridium lenses have the following specifications:
- 5.5% light transmission
- Best for bright sun conditions
- Increased contrast between light and dark
- Base lens: Gray tint
If you plan on skiing and snowboarding on days when the sun is shining bright, like in Aspen, Colorado in April, for example, then these are the lenses you need. You will be able to see clearly down the slopes and fresh powder for miles. Where the Snow Sapphire lenses will keep everything its actual color, the Snow Black Iridium lenses will add a rosy tint that enables you to pick up on shadows more easily.
The matte black frames are stylish and use all the materials that Oakley is famous for—Plutonite lenses, patented HDO for razor-sharp clarity and precision, thermoplastic O-Matter frames, and that incredible Three-Point Fit. You never have to worry about your Oakley Wind Jacket 2.0 sunglasses getting banged up. The lenses and frames are designed to be highly impact resistant. The cylindrical shape of the lenses helps defeat glare and blocks out wind, too.
- Uses Oakley’s patented lens technology to enhance color and contrast on those blue bird days
- Design blocks sun glare and wind
- O-Matter frames provide all-day comfort
- Non-slip Unobtainium nose pads provide more grip, even when you’re sweating
- Comes with a removable strap
- Plutonite lenses offer enhanced UV filtering
- Iridium lenses coating provides more glare reduction than Prizm Snow Sapphire
- Meets optical and impact standards for eyewear
- Fantastic peripheral vision
- Not made for low light or even overcast days
- Frames may feel a little flimsy
Best Apres Sunglasses: Julbo Vermont Classic Mountain Sunglasses
If you are looking for something different, then you should check out Julbo’s Classic Mountain sunglasses that are designed to look a little vintage. You will look like an old world explorer straight from Antarctica in these! The appealing design is just one great thing about these sunglasses, though. As mentioned earlier, Julbo is a brand that is known for its quality and design. You can count on these frames to be durable, shock resistant, scratch resistant, and lightweight.
Some example conditions where these mountain sunglasses work exceptionally well include exploring glaciers, mountain climbing, and bright days where there is a lot of snow glare. Although they are non-polarized, you should have no issues dealing with either sunlight or low light.
The Spectron 4 polycarbonate lenses have an amber tint that cuts back light well enough so you can take the slopes with ease. Furthermore, they are coated with an anti-reflective to protect your eyes from straining. The leather centerpiece is removable and the leather side shield won’t dig into your face. You are bound to get a lot of compliments while wearing these, so be prepared!
- A classic mountaineering appearance
- Blocks out up to 95% of light
- Offers 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection
- Unique ear loops offer more stability on the slopes
- Leather attachments can be easily removed, allowing for customization
- Not made for everyday wear (can cut down on peripheral vision)
- Not ideal for wearing alongside a full face helmet
- Does not include a hard case for storage
- Some reviewer complained about the arms digging into their ears or generally not being comfortable
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Ski and Snowboard Sunglasses
As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to go bringing your regular street sunglasses to a mountain. Street sunglasses are usually for summertime wear and are designed to prevent glare from roadways, not snow. Mountain sunglasses are designed for more rugged destinations, and they’re not going to break as easily as a pair made for daily life.
Features to Look for When Shopping for Ski and Snowboard Sunglasses
So, what are some key features and specifications you should have on your must-have list when shopping around for the best mountain sunglasses? The sunglasses we reviewed are a clue, but here is what is most important:
Obviously, you want sunglasses that are going to do their job of filtering out UV rays. Now, did you know that, for every 1 thousand feet above sea level you are, you are exposed to 5% more UV radiation? Add that to the amount of sunlight getting reflected back at you from every angle because of the snow and ice.
In other words, you need sunglasses that are made for that kind of exposure. Choose sunglasses that have at least a protective rating of at least three, or a guarantee of blocking 99-100% UV exposure. You should also consider sunglasses that block UVA, UVB, and UVC rays for all-around protection.
Keep in mind that polarized lenses do not always guarantee UV protection. They are two different features.
The most important thing to consider when purchasing skiing and snowboarding sunglasses is the tint on the lenses. Every lens color has a different use. It’s not just for fashion! Lighter glasses with rose-tinted lenses are excellent for mid-light and will be best for those days that are a little darker. Yellow lenses are ideal for snowy days. Clear lenses work best for nighttime boarding and skiing, and amber-tinted lenses are meant for those overcast days.
Most reputable eyewear manufacturers will have a warranty against workmanship and material defects. For example, Oakley offers a two year manufacturer’s warranty against defects. However, most warranties will not cover things like scratches. If you decide to swap out the lenses provided by the original product for prescription lenses, it could also void your warranty, so be sure to read the warranty policy.
Fogging is an absolute nightmare on the slopes. Any moisture that leaves your mouth and nose could coat the lenses of your polarized sunglasses, reducing your sight, and could lead to accidents. Look for sunglasses with an anti-fog coating. It’s the best defense against condensation.
However, if the lenses do not have an anti-fog coating, look for models with ventilation. Some ski and snowboarding sunglasses incorporate this into the frame design.
One of the most overlooked features on mountain sunglasses is the amount of coverage provided. Look at the sunglasses. How much coverage do you have on the front and sides? Those larger models with the wraparound look aren’t just stylish, they are functional. That side coverage prevents ricocheted light from getting into the corner of the eye and also keeps out snow and wind. If you like speeding down the mountainside and hate tearing eyes, then that side coverage will soon be your favorite feature.
The best polarized sunglasses for the slopes are going to not only protect your eyes, they’re going to look great and be a joy to wear, too. You want to choose a pair that looks good, is lightweight, and doesn’t dig into your ears or add any pressure. Figure out what you like better: a thinner, sleeker model or more facial coverage. Then, try a few test pairs on before selecting which pair to purchase.
Before making a purchase, it is best to look at the dimensions to double check the fit. Some brands make frames that fit wider or longer faces. Others may include removable pads to help you get the sizing just right, but you can’t count on that.
Yes, you also need to think about the brand and its reputation. Is the brand trusted for its durability? Its style? Do you know if the brand has a stake in winter sports, or are they typically for summer sports? Always choose a trusted brand, but then you know you will get a good warranty, durability, and overall quality. Brands like Oakley and Julbo, for example, are specialists in outdoor apparel and accessories. They have established businesses that have been in business for many years.
Ski Sunglasses FAQ
Still have some questions about mountain sunglasses that we haven’t answered. Check the frequently asked questions below:
Are polarized lenses really that good for skiing and snowboarding?
Yes. Polarized lenses are an excellent option for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors, because the lenses cut down bright light and glare. Sunglasses that are not polarized will have a high amount of glare and may distort colors. Polarized ski and snowboard sunglasses will help you see clearer in bright light, heighten contrast, reduce glaring and reflections, and also reduce eyestrain.
One downside to using polarized lenses is if you want to look at blue light screens while wearing them. Taking pictures might be a bit difficult. Also, polarized sunglasses are not ideal for low light situations.
What is the difference between snowboarding sunglasses and goggles?
The main difference between sunglasses and goggles is the overall design. You will notice that snow goggles have a thick strap that goes around the head and are designed with padding around the lenses that create a seal against the elements. Because of the size and shape, goggles work exceptionally well for keeping out wind, rain, and snow. Novice and experienced skiers and snowboarders alike consider goggles to be a staple.
Sunglasses, on the other hand, are, well, sunglasses. They are much smaller and lighter than goggles. They cover less of your face, but they are easier to take on and off, and are much more comfortable.
What is the best lens color choice for mountain sunglasses?
That depends. Every color has strengths and weaknesses. There is simply no color that is the best. If you plan on skiing and snowboarding in all kinds of conditions, then it is best to get multiple sunglasses or a pair with interchangeable lenses. That way, you can adapt to your environment. Or, find a pair with photochromic lenses (automatically adjust to light levels).
What are the categories for sunglasses and why does it matter?
There are currently five existing categories for sunglasses lenses. This includes Category 0-4, which are also rated by tone (A-E). Category 0 absorbs up to 20% of light and is designed for highly cloudy days or nighttime use while Category 4 is rated for absorbing up to 98% of light and is meant for high-mountain, sea, or exposure to extreme sunlight. The best mountain sunglasses are going to be between Category 2 to 4.