SNOW SPORTS

Best Ski Helmets: Protecting your Skull on the Slopes

Ski helmet and goggles
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

You’ve clearly come across this post because you’re in the market for a helmet that best suits your needs on the snow. After all, it’s important that you stay safe on the slopes, as skiing can be a dangerous sport. Going down hills at high speeds, making jumps, and avoiding any obstacles in your path are all things skiers face, regardless of their experience level, so it’s best to have a skiing helmet on your side to ensure that you avoid serious injury.

Skier wearing matte ski helmet

To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on what you need to consider: from the protection a helmet offers, to the comfort it provides when you’re tearing down the slopes. We’ve then applied these considerations to 7 of the best ski helmets out there and provided a description and product feature list on each. Let’s get into it shall we.

The Key Factors in Choosing a Ski Helmet

Once considered a necessity solely in the competitive realm, ski helmets have seen their popularity rise significantly in the last couple of decades. According to one study between 1995 and 2010, helmet usage at snow sports resorts increased from 5% to 76%.

This trend has resulted in fewer head injuries, warmer heads, and a great deal less stress for concerned parents as their youngsters take to the slopes. It is certainly an advisable choice to protect yourself while participating in an often risky sport. So, once you’ve decided on actually wearing a helmet, what’s next?

Shell and Liner

Firstly, it’s important to know the two main parts that make up your ski helmet, and that’s the shell and the inner liner. The shell is the outer layer of your helmet that is rigid and serves the purpose of taking any knocks or falls you may encounter while skiing. This is typically made from high-impact plastic, and spreads the impact energy of any fall throughout the helmet so that your head doesn’t suffer.

Neon color helmet

The liner is designed to absorb the impact, and is usually made from EPS foam. This compresses during a serious fall, minimizing any injury or pain to your head. It’s always recommended that you discard your helmet after a serious fall, as the structural integrity of the helmet has already been compromised, and may break apart on your next fall.

Types of Helmets

Secondly, there are 3 main types of helmets available:

  • Injection-Molded: Made from a thin polycarbonate, these are generally lighter, more flexible (better fit) and often have a higher impact resistance. These features will bring a higher price tag though, as their construction involves the bonding of EPS foam to a separate plastic shell. In this way, the helmet is a lot more durable and capable of withstanding more falls.
  • Hardshell: A little heavier and less ‘moldable’ than the injection-molded helmets, these are generally quite a bit cheaper, and resemble a typical skateboard helmet.
  • Specialized: Generally offer more protection than the other options, often covering the ears and face. Not typically used by recreational skiers and snowboarders, but still an option if you’re interested in becoming a professional.

Factors to Look For

Once you’ve chosen the type of helmet that best suits your requirements, it’s time to check out the features. This is where the process can get a little complicated, so we’ve broken it down into 6 key areas that you might want to look at.

These are the 6 key factors to consider:

Fit

The way a helmet fits your head may be the most important attribute of all. Not only is comfort a factor, an ill-fitting helmet is potentially dangerous. Fit plays a factor in warmth and venting, and ensures you are well protected in case of an accident.

Fitted ski helmet

Most people’s heads are in a slight oval shape, as in the length of their head is slightly longer than the width. If yours is circular or a little more oblong, you will need to find a helmet that caters to your unique properties. The helmet should ‘latch’ onto your head when it’s fitted correctly.

It shouldn’t have any give without moving your scalp with it. Adjusting the fit usually stems from a ratchet/wheel on the back of the helmet which may just tighten the sides or all over the head.

An easy way to find the right fit of helmet from the start is to measure your head. Using a measuring tape or some string, position it about an inch above your eyebrows and measure the circumference of your head. Record this number, and then look at the measuring chart of the helmet you’re interested in to find the right size for you.
Another area that ensure the right fit is the chin strap/buckle.

Ski helmets fit

This keeps the helmet on your head, and it should fit snugly against the throat. Too loose, and you run the risk of your helmet flying off when you start to lose your balance.

Warmth

The warmth of a helmet will come down to both the type and thickness of the insulating foam used to line the inside of the shell. The ear covers, protection of the forehead and the cheeks will also play a part in locking in the heat and keeping out the cold. Your choice should take into consideration the climate you intend to ski in, both the minimum and the variance in temperature.

Venting

Most modern helmets will have multiple in-built vents that open and close to allow for temperature regulation. This is important, as you can overheat quite easily while you’re skiing, as your head does generate a lot of heat.

Perhaps the most important element of venting however, comes from the detachment and re-attachment of the ear pieces. This process allows for rapid cooling and can add significant warmth. It may be too much in the case of a truly cold climate though and may be deemed unnecessary.

Style

It would be foolish to suggest that style doesn’t matter. There is no question that the appearance of your helmet will play a part in which model you choose to buy. Generally there are 2 considerations in the design of your helmet- they particular mold/shape and the colour. The shape may resemble something a little more retro or ultra-modern.

Ski helmet styles

Perhaps styled on skateboard or bike variations. The colour is generally the most versatile and variable design feature in a helmet and can often be customized to accommodate your own fashion flair. Whether to match your other ski gear or to stand out on the slopes, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding a suitable product.

Goggle Attachment

The way goggles attach to your helmet may often be considered only as an afterthought, though this is a mistake. The compatibility between googles and helmet is critical to both weather protection and comfort, particularly if they are not of the same brand.

You need to consider how your pair of goggle will sit within the structure of your helmet- the width, the gap between the nose and helmet brim and the attachments are all part of ensuring correct fit. Considering the helmet is usually the more expensive option, it may be wise to ensure you’re happy with this purchase first.

Features/Accessories

After you have considered fit, warmth, venting, style and goggle compatibility, it’s time to look into the additional features. Certain models will have a mount built-in, suitable for your Go Pro or other sports-action camera. Some helmets also include built in audio systems, operating through the ear muffs.

Green ski helmet

If this isn’t the case, most will allow the integration of other audio systems into the helmet design. The additional features can appear endless so to avoid decision fatigue, get the essentials covered first and worry about these extra features afterwards.

Now that you’ve seen what you should be keeping an eye out for when shopping for a ski helmet, here are some of the top rated products on the market for you to consider. These are by no means an exhaustive list, but should give you a good idea of the quality of products you should be looking for.

Ski Helmets Reviewed

Smith Vantage Helmet

Smith Vantage HelmetWeight: 17.5 oz / 500 grams

Sizing: Small 51-55 cm + Medium 55-59 cm + Large 59-63 cm + X-Large 63-67 cm

Special Features: Hybrid SL Shell Construction, NEW Aerocore Technology featuring Koroyd, AirEvac 2 Ventilation, NEW Adjustable Boa FS360 Fit System, Low-Profile Dual Regulator Adjustable Climate Control, 21 Vents, Snapfit SL2 Ear Pads, Nanosilver Performance Lining, Removable Ultra-Light Goggle Lock

There is no doubt the Smith Vantage is a stylish helmet. Combined with state of the art technology and some nifty features, you’re onto a winner. This helmet has some the highest user ratings out there and for good reason.

The AirEvac ventilation system ensures temperature comfort on the warmest days as well as the coldest, so you always feel comfortable while you’re taking on those slopes. The full head fit system provides a tight and comfortable fit on most head shapes while the AirEvac systems once again come into their own in ensuring great goggle fit.

The features are pretty impressive as well: from the headset integrated into the earmuffs to the distortion free lens. With a great design and a stylish finish, you’re looking at a quality purchase for beginners and pros alike.

Check the price on Amazon

Giro Range Snow Helmet

Giro Range Snow HelmetWeight: Unknown

Dimensions: Unknown

Special Features: GoPro compatible camera mount integration, Fidlock magnetic buckle closure, X-Static anti-bacterial padding, compatible with all Giro aftermarket audio systems.

A sleek looking and lightweight design gives the Giro Range Snow Helmet points in the style department. The 2-piece shell design and modern fit system ensures it will sit comfortably on practically any shaped noggin. Versatile fit is something many prospective buyers don’t fully take into account, a definite positive of this model.

Features include a Go Pro mount, magnetic buckle and MIPS technology, a great thing to have on your side when your skiing adventure doesn’t go as planned. Despite a few minor user issues in operating the smaller mechanisms with gloves, this one gets very decent reviews all-round.

Check the price on Amazon

POC Receptor BUG Adjustable 2.0

POC Receptor BUG Adjustable 2.0Weight: Unknown

Dimensions: Unknown

Special Features: size adjustment system, ventilated double shell Anti-Penetration system (VDSAP), detachable ear pads and neck roll.

The POC Receptor BUG Adjustable 2.0 has a reputation for being the best fitting helmet out there, thanks in large part to its patented VDSAP system featuring 2 overlapping shells. That way, you can spend more time skiing and less time adjusting your helmet over and over again. This system also allows for an incredibly effective ventilation option for those extra hot days.

The detachable ear pads and head rolls only contribute to temperature regulation, even making it possible to use this for other summer activities. That means more money in your pocket by having a versatile helmet you can use all year round. Add the stylish, shiny exterior, this is definitely a helmet to consider for your next purchase.

Check the price on Amazon

Smith Optics Unisex Adult Holt Snow Sports Helmet

Smith Optics Holt Snow SportsWeight: 19oz / 550 grams

Dimensions: Small (51-55cm), M (55-59cm), L (59-63cm), XL (63-67cm)

Special Features: bombshell construction, Airflow climate control, 14 vents, all-season use, self-adjusting lifestyle fit system, bombshell ear pads, AirEvac ventilation, Skullcandy audio systems available, removable goggle lock.

Perhaps the most popular and well-known of all these featured reviews, the Smith Optics helmet is a premium choice at an affordable price. The dual regulator ventilation system ensures maximum temperature control, making this an incredibly versatile helmet.

It’s possible to use Smith Optics Unisex Adult Holt Snow Sports Helmet on a bike or at the skate-park when the snow melts and the skis are put away. The same ventilation system eliminates excess fog around the mask, a huge bonus as any skier would know.

What Smith terms “bombshell” construction ensures your head is thoroughly protected from all head knocks, whether light or severe. It’s been rated highly for concussion prevention and for good reason. It is incredibly sturdy.

Check the price on Amazon

Salomon MTN Lab Helmet

Salomon MTN Lab HelmetWeight: 300 grams

Dimensions: Unknown

Special Features: hybrid in-mold shell, EPS 4D impact foam, active ventilation system, custom dial fit adjustment, Alpine/climbing certification standard, merino wool liner.

As lightweight as helmets can go, the Salomon is relatively new on the market and very reasonably priced. An active ventilation system ensures comfortable temperature control weather the elements are heating up or cooling down.

In addition, a merino wool liner in the Salomon MTN Lab Helmet keeps heat in and prevents the not-too-pleasant smells that can accrue after prolonged use. Also great as a standalone for alpine climbers or those climbers who transition onto the skis.

Check the price on Amazon

Bern Watts Thinshell w/ 8 Tracks Audio Snow Helmet

Bern Watts ThinshellWeight:17.0-19.4 oz

Dimensions: N/A

Special Features: The Original Visor shape that set the trend, Crank Fit, Thin Shell

A well-fitting helmet with quality ventilation system. The crank fit system ensures a great fit for most head sizes. The weight may be slightly on the heavy side, though this is generally equated to providing greater protection and warmth for the user.

Being a newer model, the Bern Watts Thinshell doesn’t have a ton of reviews, though don’t let that put you off. Most reviews are positive. The only complaint is that it doesn’t come with the built-in speakers it appears to advertise.

Check the price on Amazon

Smith Variance Helmet

Smith Variance HelmetWeight: 18.5oz / 530 grams

Dimensions: Small (51-55cm), M (55-59cm), L (59-63cm), XL (63-67cm)

Special Features: Hybrid shell construction, Low-profile regulator adjustable climate control, 18 Vents, Adjustable Smith x Boa fit system, Snapfit SL ear pads, Nanosilver performance lining, AirEvac 2 ventilation, Removable ultra-light goggle lock, Skullcandy audio systems available

Great in all temperatures from brutally cold to the warm spring, this is largely thanks to Smith’s innovative climate control system. Smith’s have a great reputation in this regard. If temperature regulation is important to you, this is definitely one of the better makers out there.

The weight and insulation of the Smith Variance Helmet makes it perhaps the best suited to extreme cold on this list. The matte black wins serious style points and the Nanosilver performance lining feels great on your head in addition to protecting it from nasty accidents.

Check the price on Amazon

Choosing the Best Ski Helmet

We have examined 7 of the best ski helmets out there and provided a description & detail based predominantly on other users’ reviews. In other words, real world experience, not company hype. There are 6 key factors when choosing a helmet: fit, warmth, venting, goggle attachment, style & features.

Standing in snow line

By considering each in relation to the above reviews, you are well on your way to making the right decision. After all, the right helmet is not only important to ensure you enjoy a trip to the snow, it may help save your life.

Did we miss any that you’d add to the list? Tell us about them (preferably with a link) in the comments below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Phyllis Perez

    Very interesting information about the head shape. How would you know about your head shape!l? I know my face is round but does that mean my head is round? I’m just wondering out loud. Great information in this article!

  • Tonya Murphy

    I’d probably invest in a specialized helmet. I can’t stand having my ears cold, I’d want extra protection for them. They get cold so easily and then I get headaches. Does not sound like a fun time on the slopes. Also, protection is important! Thanks for this article. It’s nice to see people writing important information about protecting yourself.

  • Mark Foster

    Visually, you can view your head sideways to see if it is well-rounded or a bit oval-shaped. Although you can visit a helmet shop and ask professional help in determining your shape. They usually have helmets for particular shapes so you can try some and see.

  • Mark Foster

    You’re welcome Tonya and glad to be of help. Skiing is a fantastic sport but we all know that it can be extreme and risky. If you get cold easily, make sure you have ample layered clothing and headgear.
    Ski helmets work great because our head can be protected during a fall. These helmets do an excellent job of cushioning the impact, which is important.
    Head injuries can be mitigated by the right kind of ski helmet, so don’t be a miser – invest in a great helmet!

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