Oakley debuts snow goggles that boast new high-tech Prizm lens

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The world’s best audio studios are equipped with soundboards to fine-tune every wavelength of sound possible. Oakley brought that concept to light—literally—with its new Prizm lens line, which debuts with a completely fresh snow goggle for this winter.

“We’ve been working in research and development for five years to create the ability to fine-tune the wavelength of light coming into your eye,” Hans Arnesen, Oakley goggle product manager, tells Edge. “It is the equivalent of a soundboard-type equalizer.”

Oakley plans to create sport-specific lenses for a variety of environments, with more sports coming in 2015. But the California-based company started things off on snow.


“In every case, Prizm is designed for its specific environment,” Arnesen says. “When wearing Prizm in snow, you see more detail and contrast in a white environment, especially on low-light days.”

Traditional sun lenses optimize for light conditions. For example, high-yellow lenses brighten the outside, but do not provide a great deal of visual contrast. Tuning a lens to a specific sport environment, such as white snow, allows for a “much more diverse application for the lens.”

Oakley offers three varieties of Prizm, each geared to specific lighting conditions. The rose tint allows for low light, but still works on a sunny day. The black iridium blocks a lot of light, making it perfect for a sunny day, but it can still perform if a cloud rolls in. The jade was optimized for somewhere in between.

“We bucketed these three different lens choices and optimized the Prizm lens to work best in these environments,” Arnesen says.

To intensify detail on snow, lenses are engineered to increase the contrast of specific colors where the human eye has peak sensitivity to detail, while blocking light that doesn’t add to that detail.

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​“The result is dramatically enhanced visibility of detail, and contours that are not washed out,” Arnesen says. This strategy also lets in less total light, allowing the Prizm to work well in a wider range of lighting conditions. Since color science—not physical changes in a lens’ light transmission—creates the wider range, snow riders don’t need to wait for the lens to adjust to the changing light conditions while flying downhill and bursting in and out of sunny and shady areas.

To match the newness of Prizm, Oakley will debut its first rimless goggle, the Flight Deck, with the widest peripheral vision of all the goggles in the company’s line. Arnesen says the goggles can give the wearer tunnel vision, so going rimless allows Oakley to maximize downward and peripheral vision, plus create a cool aesthetic.

But the goggle still needed venting and comfort. The Flight Deck uses triple-layer foam for comfort and a fleece liner to wick sweat from the face. A flexible plastic allows the goggle to conform to the face, even in extreme cold.

Snowboarder Shaun White with the new Oakley snow goggles featuring Prizm lenses.

Snowboarder Shaun White with the new Oakley snow goggles featuring Prizm lenses.

Oakley had to rework the venting placement to maximize optic space, but kept the vents on the top, bottom and sides of the goggle between the lens and the foam. Arnesen says it required a delicate balance to pull the lens closer to the face (for a greater view) without compromising the internal air volume needed to keep the lens from fogging.

“The right amount of inner air volume circulates the right amount of air,” Arnesen says. “The right amount of venting can keep cool air circulating and not fog the goggle.”

Oakley could have made the goggle even wider or had it drop lower, but Arnesen wanted to give users the largest field of view possible in a goggle that was still helmet compatible and not so low that it produced discomfort on the cheekbones.

The new Flight Deck, with the ability to switch out lens types, will showcase the snow-ready Prizm. While we’ll see more Prizm optics come 2015, Oakley’s 2014 soundboard has tuned specifically to the environment of snow.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.