The Complete Guide to Ski Helmets
Everything you need to know when choosing the perfect ski helmet
Wondering what to look for in a ski helmet?
Take a look around the slopes of any ski resort these days and you’ll quickly notice that 80% of people are wearing a ski helmet.
In fact, the popularity of ski helmets has skyrocketed over the past 20 years becoming not just a piece of safety equipment but a fashion item.
Once upon a time, ski helmets were bulky and pretty damn ugly to wear. Now, there’s a style to suit every skier from lightweight adventurers to laid back youngsters, speedy racers to sleek style.
Some skiers still stubbornly refuse to wear a helmet but many find many hidden benefits once you start wearing one. You may even be considering using a ski helmet for the first time and want to know if it is really worth it?
The benefits of wearing a ski helmet:
- Protection against head injuries
- Warmth and comfort in cold weather
- Ventilation to help maintain body temperature
- Ergonomic fit to ski goggles
- Add style to your ski outfit
- Ability to install audio and hands free phone calls
That’s ski helmets in a nutshell. For more detailed information keep on reading, here’s what I’ll cover:
- Construction of a ski helmet
- Ski helmet size and fit
- Features to consider
- Different style of helmet
- Choice of ventilation systems
- Ski helmets vs snowboard helmets
- Best ski helmet brands
Ski helmet construction
It is important to pay attention to the construction of your ski helmet. To gain the proper safety rating a helmet must be designed to withstand a single large impact. Imagine hitting your head on a solid piece of ice or rock as you fall - you want your helmet to be equipped for this eventuality. I’ve hit my head multiple times skiing over the years and I always thank my helmet for keeping me safe.
Generally, there are two types of helmet constructions to choose from - In-mould and Hardshell.
An in-mould helmet is often a lighter weight option as it uses a thin yet tough polycarbonate (very strong plastic) outer shell over an EPS foam liner. Essentially, it is a polystyrene inner that makes up the shape of the helmet with a tough plastic outer to give it great durability.
Hard shell helmets are similar to In-mould helmets in design with the inside shape made from EPS polystyrene foam. The difference comes on the outer shell. They have a much thicker ABS plastic that is separately moulded and fitted to the inner. The benefit of a hard shell ski helmet is extra durability.
Both styles offer great protection and are available in a variety of price ranges. Simply put in-mould helmets offer more lightweight options while hard shells have more durability.
Newer ski helmets now often have technology called MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) which is added to the construction of the helmet. The technology helps to reduce rotational impacts on the brain from an angled impact. Essentially, the outer and inner layers are slightly separated to allow small rotational movement in the helmet to reduce the force from side-on impacts. Simple yet clever and definitely a bonus when looking at the safety of a ski helmet.
Size and Fit
Like any piece of safety equipment, it is vital to get the correct size and fit otherwise it could be completely useless. No point in wearing a ski helmet if it flies off your head when you fall! I’ve seen hundreds of people with the wrong size - it’s uncomfortable and not safe…
The first step is working out your head size. Grab a soft tape measure and wrap it around the widest part of your head just above your eyebrows and around your temple. Take the centimetre reading as most measurements are now in cms.
You’ll probably find your head size comes in between 52 - 62cms for an adult and 42 - 52 for young children. If you fall between two size brackets for a helmet then go for the biggest size.
Once you put the helmet on it should have a snug fit without any pressure points.
- If you feel any particular pressure points then it is the wrong size or shape. Remember you will spend hours at a time in it so make sure you’re comfortable.
- Shake your head around and ensure the helmet doesn’t wobble around - if it’s shaking around on your head it is too big!
Features to consider
To help get the perfect fit many helmets come with adjustable fit systems. This allows you to make micro-adjustments to your helmet to ensure perfect comfort and safety. The options include:
- BOA - In my opinion, the BOA system is the best adjustable system as it allows you to easily adjust the fit by turning a dial at the back. You simply pop the helmet on and then tighten or loosen as you need. Simple.
- In Form Fit - This is another system allowing you to micro-adjust using a dial, similar to the BOA. The wheel is often a little smaller and more fiddly when wearing gloves.
- Pads - Cheaper helmets may just use padding to adjust the size. You simply add or remove padding to Velcro patches. This is handy although not as accurate as the two options above.
- Air fit - A newer addition to ski helmet fit systems is air fitting. An inflatable headband sits inside the helmet and can be pumped up via a small button. It’s a great way to get a comfortable fit all around your head.
All helmets now have compatibility with ski goggles including handy clips to attach the goggle strap. It is also wise to check that your ski goggles and helmet fit nicely together. You may have problems if you have big over-sized goggles and poor fit with the helmet. Most helmet manufacturers also produce goggles (or work with suppliers) to give you neat goggles and helmet compatibility. It is always worth trying the two pieces of gear on together before you buy!
You can now buy ski helmets with a visor, some look a little like a fighter pilot helmet. They are growing in popularity, particularly in resorts like Courchevel, although are a little more expensive. The benefit is less faff of ski goggles, comfort and better field of vision.
It’s handy to be able to listen to music while you ski or even take phone calls from friends you have taken a wrong turn. If this appeals to you then have a look at options with Bluetooth speakers and microphones built in. Some helmets also allow you to add ‘hands free’ aftermarket solutions too. This feature is an advantage over using normal headphones as you can have music playing while still being able to hear exterior noise, a big bonus for safety.
Opting for a peak on your ski helmet adds a little more style than functionality. It might keep a little snow off the top of your goggles and reduce fogging up on damp days. Overall, it’s more of a fashion choice than anything.
Ski helmets come in three distinct styles, each with their own benefits.
Full shell - A full shell helmet covers the whole head in the hard shell. That means you get the most protection from the top of the neck across your whole skull. Often you’ll see young children and ski racers wear these, those that need maximum coverage.
Half shell - This style is by far the most common and probably what you picture when you think of a ski helmet. They cover the majority of the head but have soft padding around the ears.
Full face - Less common but you might see one every now and then. Ruroc is the specialist company producing this style and it looks a little like a motorbike helmet. The benefit: complete head, face and chin protection, they’re warm too!
When it comes to style you’ll see many different variations taking into account shell shape, type and added features. Most people opt for a half shell, well fitted, helmet in their favourite colour, bigger budgets stretch to an in-built visor, while ski racers look for added protection.
All ski helmets offer some sort of ventilation to help with temperature control. Cheaper options simply have passive static vents which are always open. If you want more control then look for something with adjustable vents that you can open and close. This gives you extra flexibility depending on changing conditions.
Ski vs Snowboard Helmets
There is no difference between ski helmets and snowboard helmets.
Best Ski Helmet Brands
POC - A Swedish company dedicated to saving lives and reducing the dangers of action sports.
Scott - A ski equipment manufacturer making great quality helmets with comfort and style.
Bern - Bern makes stylish innovative helmets appealing to skiers and snowboarders looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
Sweet Protection - They manufacture cutting edge safety gear for outdoor sports, including awesome ski helmets.
Cairn - A budget-friendly option still offering a wide choice of features, safety and lightweight choice.
Giro - These helmets pack a punch (and can take one too) they’re well priced, durable and style in simplicity.
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