10 Tips for Spring Backcountry SkiingToday’s Tip: #4 – Eye Protection
Most people know high altitude sun can damage your eyes as well as your skin. Short term, you can sunburn your eyes and become “snow blind.” Long term, it causes cataracts. As with your skin, protection is the key and sunglasses are the method. But not just any sunglasses work for backcountry skiing. Be sure your glasses are rated to filter 100% of UV and IR rays, and are large enough to adequately cover your eyes and block light coming in from the sides. More, during bright spring days in snow country, you’ll want fairly dark glasses, so evaluate at the store when you’re buying. To test, hold them up at arm length and compare side-by-side, and get the ones that dim the light substantially. (Be aware, however, that just because a pair of sunglasses is “dark” doesn’t mean they absorb enough of the UV and IR, hence the reason to buy name brand, rated sunglasses.)
Always carry spare eye protection. If you’ve got name-brand goggles they’ll work in a pinch if you lose your sunglasses (even storm lenses usually filter UV and IR, and you can add duct tape to create a “slit” google if they seem too bright). For an ultra light weight spare, go to a vision care center and get their small disposable sunglasses (they’ll usually give you a pair for free). These roll up the size of a film canister, weigh nothing, and are plenty dark for high altitude protection. Keep ’em in your emergency kit along with your fire starting items and duct tape stash.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.