Ski and Snowboard Helmet Buying Guide
Are all ski helmets and snowboard helmets created more-or-less equal? Beyond looking good, let’s take a peek at what features you should keep an eye out for when buying your next winter helmet, so you don’t end up denting that pretty head of yours.
How to Fit a Helmet
Your helmet needs to be comfortable and well-fitting. Here’s the 1-2-3 to get the right-sized helmet. You’ll need to measure the circumference of your head, know your hat size, or know both. If you want to measure your head, wrap a tape measure around from just above your eyebrows from ear-to-ear. No tape measurer? No problem. Use a string and a ruler to measure it. Write down the number and order away. A properly fitting helmet should be comfortably snug and not move side to side when you shake your head.
There are three typical styles of ski/snowboard helmets, hard shell, soft shell, and in-mold. Each of these helmet constructions must meet or exceed the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) safety standards to be sold in the United States. These helmets are generally made for a single impact, so if you notice any cracks, dents, or compression in the material, it is time for a new one.
- Hard Shell - These helmets have a thick ABS plastic outer shell that is glued to a pre-molded EPS foam interior. This design provides the protection you need at a wallet-friendly price point. This design tends to be slightly heavier and has a larger profile.
- Soft Shell – Soft Shell Helmets have a softer foam against your head and a harder density foam against the outer shell. This style of helmet can absorb multiple softer impacts but does not absorb the same amount of impact energy as a hard shell or in-mold style helmet. Soft Shell helmets typically weigh more and have fewer ventilation options.
- In-Mold and Hybrid c helmets are lighter than the previously mentioned styles due to their hard thin outer shell that is molded together with the EPS foam liner. Hybrids utilize a combination of a hard shell and or other helmet materials to provide added protection in key areas while still maintaining a lighter weight and low profile.
- Ventilation– There are two functions of the ventilation in your helmet, temperature regulation, and goggle ventilation. The primary purpose of the ventilation in your helmet is to provide temperature regulation. Less expensive helmets will offer some form of ventilation with little to no control over its function. As you go up in price points, the ventilation systems will provide more control allowing you to open and close ventilation according to your needs. The second function is airflow for your goggles. The better the connection and airflow you have between your helmet and goggles, the less chance they will have of fogging up.
- Interior –You’ll want to look for helmets that have considered not just the protection of your head, but also its comfort. Additional interior linings can help with fit and comfort, and even wick moisture away from the head. Some liners can be easily removed and washed. The earpads may be detachable for warmer days or even provide compatibility for audio devices.
- Fit Systems – At the rear of a helmet, you will often find an adjustable fit system that will allow you to dial in the comfort of your fit perfectly. These systems include removable layers of padding, adjustable straps, and dials, which ratchet the helmet snug to your head.
- MIPS –All helmets are required to meet or exceed the ASTM f2040, which is for non-motorized snow sports and thus are all safe options for protecting your noggin. MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System, is an added safety feature found in many helmets on the market today. To put it simply, MIPS is a thin slip plane attached directly to the helmet between the liner and shell. This slip-plane allows for the helmet to move in the event of an impact reducing the amount of rotational force on your head, brain, and neck.