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There are two things that affect a skier's vision on the slopes, says the American Optometric Association.  Speed and light.

Speed puts great demands on a skier's ability to judge distances, see out of the corner of the eye and see sharply and clearly at a distance.  Vision that may be adequate in the office, at home and even on the road may not be up to par for the ski slopes.  The end result could be an accident.

With light, it is either feast or famine.  Too little light is the more dangerous for skiers.  Shadows and flat light conditions make it difficult to read the terrain accurately.  Distance vision is reduced, especially for older or slightly nearsighted skiers.  Visual clues used to judge distance are lost.

Too much light is encountered on bright, cloudy days as well as sunny ones.  It can cause external eye irritation from ultraviolet (UV) radiation; squinting, which can lead to tension and fatigue; and a temporary impairment of night vision for several hours or days, depending upon the length of time a person is in bright sunlight and glare without adequate protection.  Exposure to even small amounts of UV radiation over many years may contribute to cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye health problems.

To see well on the slopes, skiers should begin with a thorough eye examination.  If vision skills are not what they ought to be, glasses, contact lenses or vision therapy may be prescribed.  Vision therapy consists of visual tasks repeated under controlled conditions to sharpen vision skills.

On the slopes, skiers need goggles with tinted impact-resistant lenses to protect against glare, ultraviolet radiation, wind, brush and tree limbs.  Optometrists recommend goggles with plastic lenses that are gray, screen out 75 to 90 percent of light and block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation.

For off the slopes or for occasional skiers, prescription or nonprescription sunglasses with these same characteristics are suggested.  Standard tinted lenses; those with a mirror-like coating; polarizing lenses that combat glare; and photochromic or light-sensitive lenses are good choices, depending upon the individual's needs and preferences.

To cope with changing light conditions on the slopes, smart skiers carry several pairs of goggles with different tints or, better yet, goggles with interchangeable plastic lenses.  Some like yellow-tinted lenses for flat lighting conditions.

At dusk, optometrists recommend older skiers return to the ski lodge and that younger skiers slow down and keep their eyes moving constantly to compensate for decreased visual skills due to a lack of adequate light.

By being certain their vision is up to par and by wearing the proper ski goggles or sunglasses, skiers will be safer and get more enjoyment out of their sport.

- Information provided by the American Optometric Association -


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2001Valley Eye Professionals
12229 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, California 91604
Office: (818) 623-8900
Fax:     (818) 623-0978