Winter is a fun time – sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and, of course, snowball fights all wait to be conquered when the snow starts falling. But in addition to being cold, snow is also highly reflective. That white winter wonderland can often blaze in brilliant light, reflecting back as much as 80 percent of sunlight. On bright days, this means your eyes are exposed to more sunlight than any day during summer.
You don’t have to be on the slopes to suffer, either – you face the same situation even if you’re out running on the sidewalk.
To avoid painful snow glare symptoms and even damaging snow blindness, you need serious eye protection for all winter activities. Keep these points in mind the next time you venture out to enjoy the colder season!
1. Mirror, Mirror
When wearing sunglasses out in the snow, look for highly reflective versions. These reflective versions help deflect light on the brightest days, adding a valuable difference when it comes to winter light protection. Polarized sunglasses are also a possibility, but polarization is not always the best bet. Polarized lens prevent certain types of light rays from entering sunglasses and can reduce all types of glare. This may seem very handy, but when you cannot see any type of glare, it becomes more difficult to judge between icy patches and snowy patches on the road. Polarization can be great for a winter trek, but stick with mirrored lenses when it comes to running (or driving) on the road.
2. Keep UV Light from Sneaking In
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most damaging part of winter sunlight – and yes, it bounces off the snow and into your corneas as well. Always double-check to make sure that your sunglasses have full UV protection. Most reliable sunglasses – especially those designed for sports or outdoor activities – come with full protection against UV light.
3. No Gaps Allowed
When snow is thick on the ground, that reflecting light can come from every direction at once. This means that even small gaps in sunglasses can lead to eye stress or damage. When looking for eye protection, choose lenses that wrap around your head and leave no gaps for light to get through. The best type of lenses are goggles that fully encase your eyes, but these are not practical for every outing, so make sure they are backed up by wrap-around sunglasses.
4. Those Bright Tints Work for a Reason
Ski goggles and other protective winter wear are brightly tinted for a reason. The frequent blue and orange tints can actually help improve your vision in winter conditions. Yellow tints are ideal for fighting the annoying blue glare of snow on more overcast days – blue tints seek to solve the same problem by adding the same hue to surrounding objects to increase depth perception. Amber and reddish tints are more useful when the sun is peeking out, while the darkest brown and copper tints are useful for very bright days where a large amount of light needs to be blocked, but may be too dark for overcast days.
5. Keep Comfort in Mind, Too
All these high-tech and high-protection lenses tend to be heavier than the average summer sunglasses. Goggles come with tight-fitting eyepieces and straps which may be even more annoying. Always test out eye protection before you buy it, preferably for a long period of time. Unexpected pressure points caused by tight eyewear can bring on headaches and quickly ruin a winter venture.
6. Add a Hat
If you love your current sunglasses and do not want to buy additional protection, at least put on a hat with bill. This protects you from overhead glare from mountain peaks and the sun itself. It may not work as well as goggles or more advanced, curved lenses, but it is better than relying only on your old lenses.
7. Give Your Eyes a Break
Eyes come under a lot of stress at wintertime. Not only can the glare damage them, but constant heating and airflow can also dry eyes out very quickly. Conquer dry eyes during wintertime by using eye drops or making sure that forced air conditioning does not operate constantly when you are at home. This extra comfort will serve your eyes well when it is time to head back outside.
Now get out there and enjoy the brisk conditions!