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How to Choose the Right Lens for Your Winter Activities

By Kirsti Smouse

December 3, 2015

How to Choose the Right Lens for Your Winter Activities

By Kirsti Smouse

December 3, 2015

When winter shows up and brings along its friends ice, snow, and frozen temperatures, you may have just one thought — staying warm.

But don’t let Jack Frost hog all the attention. Your winter activities require more than long johns, woolen mittens, and the scarf your grandma knit last Christmas. Think of your eyes.

The paper-thin skin around your eyes can easily become chapped from icy wind and the blinding glare off brilliant snow can do a number on your vision. Here’s a guide to the lens tints that will do justice to your time in the great outdoors so you’ll be suited up head to toe in the proper gear for all your winter adventures.

Sunny Weather above the Treeline

Whether you’re off trail hiking the Whites or on a summit mission to the top of St. Helens, protecting your eyes is essential above the treeline.

Alpine and snowy environments concentrate reflected light — which means brightness can exceed 10-15 times what your eyes can safely tolerate, putting you at risk of Photokeratitis (snow blindness). Even if you don’t experience something as extreme as temporary blindness, you might wind up with a piercing headache or fatigued eyes from squinting all day. In this environment, it’s best to opt for a dark neutral tint (grey or black) with a light transmission as low as 3% and up to 10%.

UV exposure is always a threat, but it’s especially dangerous on the mountain. The higher in altitude you go, the stronger the dose of UV. Lenses that block 100% UV light are imperative for a day spent up among the clouds.

Our Pick: Stealth Black

Stealth Black

At 8% visible light transmission, Stealth Black lenses will keep your eyes fresh in the brightest conditions. Blocking 100% of UVA, UVB, and harmful blue light up to 400nm, you’ll get all day comfort while touring above the treeline on cloudless days with snow-covered terrain as far as you can see.

Bluebird Days on the Slope

Clear blue sky, bright sun, and fresh snow — it’s hard to touch the perfection of a bluebird day. If you’re gearing up for a day of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, or whatever winter activity has snagged your attention, you’ll want a lens that can handle brilliant light. The reflection of light off snow and ice can be as high as 85-90%, so look for a lens with a light transmission of 12 to 20% — dark enough to keep you comfortable, but not so dark that your visibility won’t go out the window in shadowed patches.

Pick a tint that heightens contrast so that the snow doesn’t blend into one indiscernible whiteout. Rose and amber tints boost contrast, giving you better depth-perception and making it easier to discern bumps, lines, and icy spots on the slopes.

Our Pick: Ice Blue

Ice blue

With an 18% light transmission and warm rose tint, Ice Blue lenses provide the comfort you’ll need for a day under a cloudless sky. The MirrorShield® coating reflects the dazzling light coming off the snow, reducing your need to squint. The mid-range light transmission is dark enough to keep you comfortable but still allow visibility if you end up along the shadowed edges of a run. Ice Blue’s warm rose view tint accentuates contrast, pulling out the nuances in the terrain so you can better see dips and rises ahead of you.

In the Trees and Socked-In Days

Not every day can be blue skies for miles — and that’s a good thing. Cloudy, foggy, and seemingly terrible weather is a sign that the season is going to last a little longer. It could also potentially mean shorter lift lines and vacant trails. If you’re not just a fair weather adventurer, you should look for a lens with a high light transmission (35-99%) that gathers light and heightens contrast.

Yellow and orange tinted lenses are ideal for hazy days, flat light, and shadowy trails. They block the blue light that dominates overcast days, increasing your depth-of-field, brightening your view, and adding dimension to flat landscapes. The brightened view and heightened contrast are incredibly important for skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers who encounter uneven surfaces, ice patches and other hazards on the slopes and trails.

Our Pick: Tracer Yellow

Tracer Yellow lenses

Tracer Yellow lenses provide the contrast and brightened view necessary in tricky flat light and shaded trails. They block out the flat, blue light that makes everything look one-dimensional when it’s foggy and overcast, allowing you to discover the icy bare spots in the corners, rutted out bumps, and dips in runs with your eyes instead of your face.

Now that you know what you need to properly see this winter, head outside and go off some jumps, carve hard lines, and dodge some trees.

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