The fat bike summit last month provided a mass case study in how neither goggles nor sunglasses work well for aerobic activities in especially snowy conditions. It was close to freezing, snowing hard, and there was only modest wind. Goggles fogged due to exertion, as did sunglasses, but squinting into the face of the blizzard was a poor alternative. Most picked that, though some choose to battle with the fog instead. There had to be a better way.

IMG_7877Apgar Range, today.  Still a bit thin, but great snow.

Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing, and snowbiking all have this problem. Thankfully Julbo makes a solution, the Sniper goggle.

Made for nordic racers and biathletes, the Sniper lens sits in a plastic ridge (the lime green thing) which rotates on joints above the temples.  The lens can be lowered, as above, or raised a little or as much as your clothing or anatomy will allow.  There is a padded brow ridge behind the part which holds the lens, and an adjustable headband holds this in place.  The lens serves as a very protective wraparound pair of sunglasses when lowered, albeit one with plenty of ventilation due to the distance it sits off your face.  Already thus predisposed to not fogging, if you put yourself in a situation where fogging is more likely, like stopping for a snack, just raise the visor and the problem is avoided.  It is possible to fog the lens, like today when I stuffed my nose down into my coat on the summit ridge to hide from the 50 mph wind, but again raising the lens just a bit solves the problem almost instantly.

The Sniper isn’t a substitute for goggles in all conditions; waist deep powder and eyeball searing cold will still demand full protection.  But most of the time these work great, and largely remove the futz factor of cleaning and de-fogging sunglasses.

The Sniper comes with either a photochromatic lens or a set of three interchangable ones.  I choose the later, which comes with a darker grey lens for bright days, a clear lens, and the tinted lens shown above.  I use this one 95% of the time, the modest amount of light filtration and contrast enhancement is ideal for our typical cloudy winter weather.  Construction is good, and the lenses are flexible enough that they should hold up to all but the most egregious face plants.  The first flaw is that while they come with a nice, and very large, storage case no cloth bag is provided for storage in the field.  The other flaw, more serious, is that due to the bulk of the joints I do not think they will work with any helmet, at least not without substantial modification of said helmet.

And naturally, the best part is how cool they look.