Snow Goggles

Bright snow
Bright snow
Courtesy Albert.ag

Inuit people used snow goggles to protect themselves from an eye injury called snow blindness. These eyepieces feature narrow horizontal slits that cut down on glare and reduced the amount of light entering the eye. Some users rubbed ashes or soot on the insides to reduce light further. The slit also improved distance vision, focusing light on the retina much the same way a pinhole camera focuses a distant image.

Carvers made goggles out of wood, bone, caribou antler, ivory or baleen. Strips of sinew or leather held the eyepieces in place. Goggles curved to fit snugly against the face, and came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some were decorated.

People wore snow goggles during the late winter or early spring. As days grew longer and the sun climbed higher in the clear sky, the brilliant snow threw off more glare.

Traditionally, Arctic peoples throughout North America, Asia and Europe used snow goggles like these. Today, however, most use modern sunglasses.

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is a painful condition that can result from exposing the eye to too much sunlight. It most commonly occurs in the late winter and early spring, when white snow and ice reflect light in all directions, making it impossible to shade your eyes.

This injury is much like getting sunburn on your eyes. The cornea (outer covering) and / or retina (inner lining) become inflamed. Symptoms can range from bloodshot, teary eyes; to painful, gritty-feeling eyes that swell shut; to temporary blindness or even permanent vision loss. Like a sunburn, symptoms may not set in until several hours after exposure, and can last hours, days or even longer, depending on how severely the eye is damaged.