7 Things to Look for in a Ski Helmet
TLDR: Don’t want to read the whole thing? Make sure you measure your head, buy the proper size, and try it on before you ski. The helmet should be snug, comfortable with no gaps anywhere it’s touching your head. Buy snow helmets with proper certifications including EN1077 and ASTM 2040-18.
Growing up in the 90s I rarely saw people wearing snow helmets. Nothing but beanies in those days. Thankfully I survived my childhood intact. Now I’m smart enough to know there’s no downside to wearing a ski helmet. In this article I’ll attempt to outline what to look for when searching for the best ski helmet for your own noggin. Here’s the list:
There are two standards in the US when it comes to snow helmets: EN1077 and ASTM 2040-18. These two standards ensure helmets are built and tested properly. Impact testing, stability of materials, construction, shape and other factors are measured. Make sure any helmet you buy passes these basic requirements.
We hire gear to do a job. When it comes to helmets, I’ve always felt like I want the helmet to disappear until I need it. That means finding one with a good head form, the right size, and with adjustment capabilities. The fit should be snug, with no gaps between your head and helmet. Even though it’s a nuisance when buying online, it’s smart to measure the circumference of your head. Use a cloth measuring tape or piece of string and wrap it around your head about one inch above your brow. Nearly all manufacturers, including us, use CM as the unit of measurement. If your measurement is in between sizes, choose the larger or the two. We recommend helmets with fit adjustments. Usually this is a dial in the back that tightens the cage liner of the ski helmet. For youth ski helmets generally all the same principles apply.
Even though it’s cold outside, we all sweat when we ski! Whether hiking for powder, or recovering from a total yard sale crash your heart rate is going up. Helmet vents offer airflow to cool off the head when things heat up. I recommend a helmet with venting shutters so you can also close them if you do get cold. This gives you the best of both worlds.
4. Goggle Compatibility
Don’t overlook this one! Not all goggles and helmets are a match. The front contour shape and brim of a helmet can create a “goggle gap” on your forehead. Ideally you want the top of your goggles to be flush with the brim of your helmet, leaving little to no skin showing. When you rip down a run and your forehead is exposed, be ready for cold pain! Usually manufacturers design for this in their own lines. Our goggles fit well with our helmet lines. We’ve also done our best to be compatible with other brands as some customers like to mix and match.
5. Helmet Headphone System
The right type of ear flaps allow for compatibility with helmet audio systems. Helmet audio, like our Alta Headphones, are pucks that drop right into the flap. Make sure the one you choose has this pocket in case you want to add music to your ski day.
6. Helmet Profile
Some helmets are big, bulky, and heavier than more modern alternatives. I love it when I don’t even notice a piece of gear until I need it. I’m biased, but the main reason I love the Drift helmet is because it’s so low profile. It’s light (1lb) and won’t turn you into a bobble head. There are many sleek, low-profile helmets on the market. Typically the lower-end market is where you’ll find bulkier designs as those are cheaper to manufacture.
Finally, do you need/want MIPS? MIPS stands for “multi-directional impact protection system”. MIPS is a patented thin plastic liner inside the helmet that allows it to slide naturally during a rotational impact. In other words, if you fall and hit your head on something that “grabs” it, your brain could keep rotating with momentum. MIPS helps allow some of that movement with the sliding action. It’s best to think in terms of probabilities here. How much do you ride? What kind of terrain? How aggressive are you? MIPS is an added cost which can benefit skiers during specific types of falls. I own both MIPS helmets and non-MIPS. Both offer protection from falls assuming high quality manufacturing, correct fit, and proper certifications.
So there you have it. 7 things to consider when purchasing a new ski helmet. As always, skiing and snowboarding are risky activities. Wearing a helmet can reduce but not eliminate risk of injury. Do yourself a favor and choose one that passes basic standards, fits well, and enhances your ski experience.