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Skiing in sunglasses

Skiing or snowboarding in sunglasses is freeing, and with the right pair, possible in any conditions. Photo: Hendrik Morkel//Unsplash


The Inertia

Eye protection is pretty vital when out on the slopes. UV rays, snow-glare, ice chips, and more provide plenty of potential dangers for what’s arguably your most important pair of sensory organs.

When it comes to protecting your eyes while skiing or snowboarding, you’ve got two options, goggles or sunglasses. Goggles are the norm when it comes to playing in the snow, but sunglasses definitely have their benefits as well. It can be nice to have slightly less-restrictive eye protection equipment and the increased airflow (read: anti-fog) is truly liberating, especially if you’re up-hilling it in the backcountry. While they don’t offer the full storm-skiing, powder-bashing protection of goggles (some options on this list get really, really close), ski sunglasses can also be a fun and stylish choice for bluebird days on the resort, the aprés-ski scene, and so much more.

Best Wrap around Sunglasses
Best Wrap around Sunglasses

The Smith Wildcats offer a lightweight, wrap around style with Smith’s signature Chromapop technology. Pictured, pro skier Cody Townsend sports his Matte Black/Red Mirror colorway.
Price: $229
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There are some awesome options that have hit the market in the past couple of years for sunglasses that are specifically designed for skiing and snowboarding (there’s also a lot of crossover with biking sunglasses), with cool features such as side-shields and snow-oriented tints and polarization. We reached out to the most exciting and innovative sunglass-makers in the outdoors industry, got our hands on their highest-performing and most stylish models, and gave them a run for their money to help you stay informed in choosing sunglasses to play in the snow with. Over the past few seasons, we’ve tried a lot of sunglasses and these are our favorites. Scroll to the bottom for info on different types of sunglasses for skiing, a comparison chart, and more.

The Best Sunglasses for Skiing and Snowboarding

Best Wrap Around Style: Smith Wildcat ($209)
Best Modern Glacier Glasses: Sunski Treeline ($89)
Unique Pick: Ombraz Dolomite ($140)
Best for Small Faces: Tifosi Sizzle ($35)
Best Classic Glacier Glasses: Julbo Tahoe ($90)
Most Stylish: Pit Viper 2000’s ($119)

What Features Matter for Ski Sunglasses?

The things I pay attention to when choosing a pair of sunglasses to ski in are coverage, lens technology, and of course, style. Coverage matters a lot, both for protecting your eyes and for blocking the wind during high-speed descents. Lens Technology is also important in what can be blindingly bright conditions out on the snow. Different levels of polarization, or special tints like Smith’s ChromaPop, can provide different benefits for various skiing conditions. Style is a must, because of course it is.

Smith Wildcat

Best Wrap Around Style: Smith Wildcat ($209)

Style: 4
Coverage: 5
Lens Technology: 5
Overall: 4.67/5

The Wildcats are one of Smith’s most popular action-sports sunglasses, suited to snowsports and really anything you set your mind to. If you plan on going fast, these are the way to go. Coverage is great with a wrap around lens style and minimalist frame that does little to obstruct your view. As far as the lens technology, this is where the Wildcats really shine. Smith’s ChromaPop tech is no snake oil – the difference that such a tint makes in terms of visibility on the snow is pretty remarkable. Best of all, it works in both high and low-light conditions. I tried out the Matte White colorway with a ChromaPop Black lens (VLT 10 percent, Smith’s darkest tint) and was impressed with how well it handled shade as well as sun. Style-wise they’re definitely steezy out on the slopes, but I’m not sure if I’d wear them for a walk around town here in San Francisco.

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Sunski Treeline

Best Modern Glacier Glasses: Sunski Treeline ($89)

Style: 5
Coverage: 4.5
Lens Technology: 4
Overall: 4.5/5

Sunski’s Treeline sunglasses perfectly bridge the gap between stylish sunnies and slope-ready shredders. With removable side-shields to protect from sun and snow they score well on coverage, but with the slight reduction in peripheral vision not quite as well as the Wildcats, above. I was very impressed by the lens technology these guys make use of. While the tint doesn’t quite make the colors pop as much as the Wildcats, for half the price they come about as close as you can get. Style-wise they look good and that speaks for itself. The same sunglasses technology also comes in a square frame with the Sunski Coulior for those who prefer that shape of sunglasses. Sunski as a company also has a strong sustainable bent, making these a feel-good purchase.

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sizzle best sunglasses for skiing

Best for Small Faces: Tifosi Sizzle ($35)

Style: 5
Coverage: 3
Lens Technology: 4
Overall: 4/5
The Tifosi Sizzle sunglasses bring aprés-ski style in a slightly-more-protective-than-average style. With a single, durable lens, they provide plenty of coverage, for those with smaller faces. I found them to fit a little small on my face, both in terms of looks, and in the coverage provided, but they fit great and looked good on the female members of my family, who both have narrower faces than me. And their style cannot be denied. The pink mirrored colorway (linked below) is boisterous and fun, and if you’re looking for a more toned-down look, there are plenty of colorways to choose from.

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Ombraz

Unique Pick: Ombraz Dolomite ($140)

Style: 4
Coverage: 4
Lens Technology: 4
Overall: 4/5

The Ombraz truly defy all categories when it comes to sunglasses. Not only do they have a piece of string instead of arms, but they also make a damn good all-around action-sports sunglasses. The string is an interesting concept. It works great for keeping the sunglasses on your face, is exceedingly comfortable, and makes the sunglasses very, very durable. With a helmet on it can be tough to get the sunglasses off your face when you want to, but as far as a pair of uphillers for the backcountry go, these guys are great. The lens technology is similar to the Sunskis, great polarization, but not the incredible ChromaPop of the Wildcats.

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Julbo Tahoe

Classic Glacier Glasses: Julbo Tahoe ($90)

Style: 5
Coverage: 4.5
Lens Technology: 4
Overall: 4.5/5

Julbo is a great company, the same guys that brought you the innovative Aerospace vented goggles. The Tahoes are Julbo’s take on the classic glacier glasses look, with an aviator-esque frame, removable fabric side-shields, and a dark tint for bright-light conditions. At a great price point and from a great manufacturer, these are sure to be a winner on the slopes.

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Pit Viper 2000's

Most Stylish: Pit Viper 2000’s ($119)

Style: 5
Coverage: 4
Lens Technology: 4
Overall: 4.33/5

No review of snowsports sunglasses would be complete without a pair of Pit Vipers. These iconically-styled sunglasses radiate pure ski bum attitude, the kind of shades you don for a game of G.N.A.R. with friends and family. And they’re not just media hype, but well-made sunglasses to boot with a durable polarized lens, and style points up the wazoo.

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Buying Advice

What Are the Different Types of Ski Sunglasses?

Not all ski sunglasses were created equally, there are a few different styles, that have their respective pros and cons.

Wrap around sunglasses are often designed with cycling and mountain biking in mind, but they also make incredible snowsports sunglasses, with full coverage and solid ventilation (but not too much). They don’t tend to be the most stylish, but some (like the Pit Vipers, above) have embraced the dorkiness and have turned it into a style of their own.

Glaciar Glasses bring retro style but also have incredible coverage with their side shields. You won’t have as great of a field of view than with cycling-style glasses, but for high-light environments (glaciers, the tops of mountains, and the like) that can actually be a plus.

Aprés sunglasses bring more of a laid-back, modern-style frame, meaning less coverage, but they make up for it with snow-specific tints, overly durable frames and lenses, and devilish good looks.

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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