Skiing is an exhilarating winter sport that offers breathtaking mountain views and an adrenaline rush like no other. However, amidst the excitement of carving down the slopes and enjoying the snowy landscapes, it’s easy to overlook the potential risks to your eyes.
If you are planning to go skiing or snowboarding this winter, it is essential that you wear the right protection on your eyes to get the most out of your ski holiday. Seeing well when on the slopes is vital, will improve your technique, confidence and how you ski or board on different snow terrain
EK Eyewear owner and Optometrist, Eavan Kennedy explains how skiing can damage your eyes and provides valuable tips on how to protect your vision while enjoying the slopes.
How can skiing damage your eyes?
The combination of high altitudes, reflective snow, and prolonged exposure to the sun’s intense ultraviolet (UV) rays can pose significant threats to your eye health.
One of the most significant threats comes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can be even more powerful in snowy conditions. Snow has a highly reflective surface, capable of bouncing up to 80% of the UV rays back into the atmosphere.
This means that not only are you exposed to direct UV radiation from the sun, but you’re also at risk of indirect exposure as UV light reflects off the snow and reaches your eyes from multiple angles.
This phenomenon increases the intensity of UV radiation your eyes are exposed to, making protective measures like sunglasses, or goggles crucial.
Another factor, many people are not aware of, is that UV rays can penetrate cloud cover, even when the sun is not visibly shining. This means that on overcast or cloudy days, your eyes are still susceptible to the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Many skiers mistakenly assume that they are safe from UV exposure on cloudy days and neglect to take precautionary measures, like wearing goggles. Therefore, regardless of the weather conditions, it’s vital protect your eyes on the slopes to safeguard your vision for the future.
What problems can UV rays cause?
The potential problems caused by UV rays on your eyes should not be underestimated. Exposure to UV radiation, particularly in a snowy, alpine environment, may lead to a range of immediate and long-term issues:
- Snow Blindness (photokeratitis) – One of the most common short-term consequences, a painful condition that occurs when the cornea becomes sunburned due to too much UV exposure. Symptoms include blurred vision, tearing, and a gritty sensation in the eyes, making it difficult to enjoy your time on the slopes. It’s usually not serious and will heal on its own within a few days.
- Dry Eyes and Ocular Irritation – The dry, windy air may make your eyes feel gritty or sore. This discomfort can persist even when you’re indoors after a day on the mountain.
- Pterygium – a non-cancerous growth on the eye’s surface, has also been associated with UV rays and can affect vision.
- Cataracts – more likely to develop in individuals who have been exposed to excessive UV rays over their lifetime, leading to cloudy and impaired vision.
- Macular Degeneration – has also been linked to UV exposure and can result in permanent central vision loss.
- Eye Cancer – Although rare, life-long exposure to the sun has been linked to the development of eye cancer, such as ocular melanoma.
How To Protect Your Eyes When Skiing
To ensure your eyes stay healthy and comfortable during your skiing adventures, here’s Eavan’s top tips:
- Wear polarised sunglasses or ski goggles – polarized lenses not only block out the majority of UV rays but also reduce glare, enhancing visibility and reducing eye strain. Look for sunglasses that offer full coverage, including wraparound styles, to minimize UV exposure from all angles.
We recommend our stunning polarised Maui Jim sunglasses that give the most technologically advanced eye protection. They offer 100% UV protection and help reduce glare, while producing vivid, true-to-life colours.
- Apply sunscreen that can be used near the eyes and which does not sting. This helps protect the delicate periorbital eyelid skin from UV damage.
- Keep your eyes moist – Consider using lubricating eye drops to prevent dryness and irritation. These drops can help alleviate discomfort caused by dry eyes and ensure your vision remains clear throughout your day on the slopes. Apply throughout the day, when you stop for coffee, lunch of snacks. Drop by the practice and buy them from us before you go.
- Use different coloured lenses for variable weather conditions – Clear or low-light (pink or yellow) lenses are ideal for overcast or snowy days when visibility is limited, while darker tinted lenses are excellent for bright, sunny days. Some sunglasses and goggles even come with interchangeable lenses, allowing you to adapt to changing weather conditions quickly.
- Stay hydrated – Take regular breaks to rest your eyes and hydrate. Staying hydrated not only benefits your overall health but also helps maintain tear production for comfortable vision.
On The Count Down To Your Next Ski Holiday!
As we we said at the start, seeing well when on the slopes is vital, will improve your technique, confidence and how you ski or board on different snow terrain. Apart form this, remember you only get one pair of eyes and you need to protect them during your life by taking the proper precautions.
If you don’t already have the right eye protection for the slopes or want to upgrade your current sunglasses book an appointment before you go to make sure you are properly prepared for your ski holiday.