Bigger doesn’t always mean better. If it did, Walmart would be the best store in the world, and McDonald’s, the best restaurant.
I rest my case.
So once in a while it’s good to take a look at the smaller brands that’re out there. And today, I’m looking at a small, independent goggle company located in Breckenridge, CO.
Glade Goggles was founded in 2016 by ex-Vermonter and former retail consultant, Curt Nichols. The company prides itself on being one of the few grassroots, independent brands in its category. According to Curt — and this surprised me — nine out of the top ten goggle brands are actually owned by one parent corporation, and half of all goggles are sold by just one company (Smith).
Curt saw a huge disconnect between skiers and the brands of goggles they buy. “If you look at any of the major goggle brands on the market today, they’re all selling their products primarily through third party retailers and marketing their products using ‘extreme’ imagery of pro skiers flipping off cliffs, skiing deep powder, and so on — which are experiences the vast majority of skiers never have,” he said. “This layer between the way brands think about skiing and the way skiers actually experience the sport is where we saw opportunity.” His goal was to offer a goggle that’d be good for skiers of all levels for a reasonable price.
At present, Glade sells all its products at its website, direct to customers. A few weeks ago they sent me a pair of their Challenger goggles to demo, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Why?
• Price. It’s not easy to find a decent goggle under $100. Most quality goggles will set you back at least 200 big ones, and the Challenger Goggle goes for between $94-$100. For that price, you get a replaceable lens with an anti-fog and anti-scratch mirror coating; a good quality, silicon-grip strap; 100% UV protection; and an attractive, frameless silhouette.
• Field of vision. The Challenger’s frameless silhouette has a nice benefit: good, solid visibility, all the way around. Its peripheral vision is great. With no frame to block the view, you can see skiers sneaking up beside you.
• Lens availability. The Challenger is offered with six different lenses. (As a rule, bright or bluebird conditions call for lower Visible Light Transmission (VLT) and low light or overcast conditions call for higher VLT.) Granted, I only tried the Burnt Orange, with a VLT (visible light transmission) of 25.4%. We don’t get a lot of sun here in Vermont, but really, it wasn’t a problem. For most days, the Burnt Orange lens was fine. Other available lenses include Polarized Silver (8.4%), Gold (16.6%), Blue (18.4%), Green (24.3%), and Low Light Orange (54%).
• Lens swappability. I’m a klutz when it comes to swapping out lenses, so I initially was a bit daunted by the Challenger lens. With no frame, it just looks hard to handle. Take it from me, it’s not. You simply pull it apart, working your way from one end to the other. There’s a set of pins on the lens that snap easily into the frame. It takes a bit of practice, but really, it’s very simple once you get the hang of it.
• Wearability/Fit. I have a fairly small face and the Challenger only comes in one size; there’s no women’s, or smaller face, option. That said, I needn’t have worried. The goggles, though not small, worked well my face and fit fine with both my Smith and Pret helmets (no gapping, either). I didn’t experience any pinching or pressing, and the double-layer face foam and ultra-flexible TPU frame made the feel quite comfortable. That said, a smaller model would be a good addition to the product line.
So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
Glade has it going on by offering an affordable goggle that looks good, fits well, and provides the kind of performance you’d expect in a premium goggle. It’s a great choice that easily holds its own with the higher priced options out there.
Verdict: Two ski poles up.
Side note: Glade also produces two other goggles: the Photochromatic Adapt Goggle and the Pulsar Magnetic Goggle. I haven’t tried them, but if the quality of the Challenger is any indication, I don’t think you’ll go wrong.