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VLT Meaning in Ski Goggles and How To Choose in 6 Steps

by Grant Draper

If you’re looking for a quality set of goggles for skiing or snowboarding, you’ll have seen VLT mentioned on more than one occasion. 

Below, we’re going to explain the meaning of VLT, and what VLT rating ski goggles should be for the perfect rider. 

6 Steps To Understand VLT and Choose The Correct %

What Does VLT Mean?

VLT means visual light transmission. 

In terms of ski goggles, this relates to the percentage of light that the goggles’ lens lets in. The lower the percentage and therefore, VLT rating, the less light your goggles are going to let in. The higher the rating, the more light the goggles are going to let in.

What VLT ratings are available for ski goggles?

Ski goggle VLT ratings are listed in percentage terms. Typically, you should expect VTL ratings to start at around 5%, those are going to be useful for days skiing and snowboarding where the sun is absolutely glaring.

Ratings will go as high as 100%, although most skiers, even in conditions where it’s overcast or, even dark, are unlikely to be using ski goggles with a VTL rating over 90%.

Which VLT rating do I need?

The big question is, what VLT percentage is best for skiing and snowboarding? This isn’t exactly an easy question to answer, as it’s completely dependent on the weather.

The darker it is the HIGHER the rating you need (i.e. 90% rather than 10%), as this will allow the maximum amount of light in. 

The brighter it is, the LOWER the rating you need (i.e. 10% rather than 90%), as this will let less light in. 

You can find a ton of ski goggles here with a range of VLT ratings.

What VLT is best for all conditions?

A typical ski goggle is likely to have a VTL rating of around 20% (there or thereabouts). That’s a generic VTL rating. But bear in mind there’s no such thing as a rating suitable for all conditions. 

Ride the piste, then jump off piste under tree cover, and it’s likely you’ll need something in the 30-40% range. 

Riding and it’s overcast or dark? You’re going to lean towards a 60-100% lens. One VTL rating won’t work well in all conditions, you’ll need different lenses, with different ratings.

Should I carry spare lenses for different conditions?

Yes. Different lenses are suitable for different conditions. If you plan to ski or snowboard in different conditions, you should take a spare lens to suit. 

For instance, if you’re riding under tree cover off piste, take a 40% (ish) lens. Heading out to the main piste later, with less tree cover and more light? A ski goggle lens with a VTL rating of around 10-20% is going to ensure optimum vision. 

Are Photochromic Ski Goggles an Option?

Photochromic ski goggles are certainly an option. They’ll adapt to light conditions in a matter of seconds. For example, if it suddenly becomes overcast, they’ll start to let a little more light in. If it brightens up they’ll allow less light in and help to reduce glare.

Which ski goggles would you recommend?

Our favourite store sells a ton of ski goggles with a range of VLT ratings to suit all kinds of ski and snowboarding conditions. We like the Smith I​/O MAG XL Goggles.

In Summary

For the beginner skier or snowboarder, or those that might only be planning the VERY occasional trip, photochromic ski goggles that change with light conditions are a great option. 

However, for ski and snowboard junkies, we’d suggest purchasing goggles with a low VTL rating (5-20%) for general conditions. And a second lens suitable for changing conditions (for example, 40% for dim or overcast days, or 80%+ for dark or night skiing. 
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