Skiers should take particular care in protecting their eyes. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can be up to eight times more powerful on ski slopes than elsewhere because of the reflective properties of snow.
As snow can reflect up to 80 per cent of light compared to normal ground surfaces, it is vital that you choose sunglasses or goggles that are specifically designed for winter sports and absorb at least 95 per cent UV rays.
Sunlight can damage the retina and lens of the eye, increasing the long-term risk of developing conditions such as cataracts and possibly AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration).
People with light coloured eyes are most at risk from sun damage, so if you have blue eyes, take even more care to wear protective glasses.
The College of Optometrists offers the following advice on how best to protect your eyes for skiing:
- Ask your optometrist for advice on the best type of eye protection for you.
- Choose goggles where possible – sunlight can bounce off the snow and sunglasses may not provide sufficient all round protection, especially if visibility is low.
- If you opt for sunglasses buy high protection, specially designed sunglasses and look out for BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013, the relevant British standard, or the CE mark, which shows they meet European safety standards. There are four categories of tint in this sunglass standard, and category 4 (the darkest) would be the best in sunny conditions.
- Choose sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 per cent of UV-A and UV-B rays. These rays are the parts of sunlight that can harm your eyes.
- Choose eyewear that fits comfortably – Make sure that it’s the right size for you, and unlikely to fall off in the event of sudden movements or higher winds.
- Wear a hat covering the rim of your glasses to protect your eyes from the rays shining directly above your head.
- Don’t forget your children – They are more vulnerable to UV because of their larger pupils and clearer crystalline lens. UV exposure is cumulative and may not show its effect for many years.
- People who wear glasses can wear sunglasses too – sunglasses can be made up to any prescription: distance, reading, bifocals or varifocals.