One of the most critical pieces of gear for skiing and snowboarding is a good ski helmet. Helmets were once seen as cumbersome, uncomfortable and unfashionable, and skiers and snowboarders seldom wore them — at their own peril. In recent years, however, the criticisms that once deterred skiers from wearing helmets have become obsolete. Advancements in design and technology, as well as a distinct shift in public perception have cemented the helmet’s place as an essential piece of ski protection.
When selecting a helmet, it’s important to find one that has a proper fit and the features that you want. If your helmet is comfortable, looks good and even enhances your skiing experience, you will be much happier wearing it and will make a habit out of always wearing one. This guide will provide some tips and useful information to consider when selecting a ski helmet!
Fit is a key attribute that can decide whether you are comfortable wearing your helmet all day as well as affect the level of protection that your helmet offers.
- The first step is to figure out what size you need. Take measuring tape and measure (in centimeters) around the crown of your head. Brands offer multiple helmet sizes and often provide a range of head measurements for each size.
- Even if a helmet is the right size for your head, it may not fit comfortably or securely. Place the helmet on your head to see how it feels and fits initially. If the padding is too thick or uncomfortable, you may be able to swap those for thinner pads.
- The helmet should also fall around an inch above your eyebrows and should cover the back of your head sufficiently. If it seems to ride too high on your head, it likely does not fit properly.
- Additionally, the helmet may be adjustable using Velcro, a plastic harness or a wheel, so if it is slightly big or small when you first put it on, make sure that you loosen all adjustments to start as well as the chin strap. Additionally, if you always wear a beanie, bring it with you when you go to try-on helmets.
- Adjust the chinstrap so that you have about two fingers worth of space between the strap and your chin. You should not be able to remove the helmet without unbuckling the chinstrap. Next, tighten the main adjustment on the helmet (if it has one). Make sure you can get a secure fit without maxing out the adjustment in either extreme.
- Gently shake your head forward and backward, and from side-to-side. If the helmet shifts on your head and you cannot correct it with any sort of adjustment, it does not fit your head correctly.
If you already have a pair of goggles, make sure you have them with you when you are trying on new helmets. Goggle compatibility is important, since a gap between the top of your goggles and your helmet is uncomfortable in cold weather and windy conditions. Many companies who manufacture both helmets and goggles, like K2, Smith and Giro, ensure that their products are highly compatible for a perfect fit.
If you cannot achieve an acceptable fit between your goggles and a helmet, you may need to select a different helmet or buy a new pair of goggles. Additionally, some goggles do not come with helmet compatible straps, so your goggles may be uncomfortably tight on your face or not fit around the helmet at all. If your goggle frame and helmet are compatible, but the strap is too short, try wearing the goggle strap under your helmet.
Just wearing a helmet is not enough to keep you properly protected. Make sure that any ski helmet that you buy is properly certified to meet internationally recognized industry standards. Look for a sticker on the helmet or other information conveying that a helmet is certified using CE EN, ASTM or Snell standards. All of the helmets that we sell at Outdoor Gear Exchange and in store meet recognized certification standards.
- Take caution when purchasing a used helmet, as you cannot know if a significant impact has occurred and caused internal structural damage that would compromise the shock absorption and protective properties of the helmet. To be safe, avoid purchasing used helmets.
- Do not wear a helmet for skiing that is not intended for that purpose. Bike helmets, hockey helmets and others are designed for specific types of impacts. Some helmets are made for multiple sports and are great for both biking and skiing— but without expressed dual sport capability a helmet may be insufficient.
- Know when to retire a helmet: If you’ve experienced a significant head impact, especially one in which you suffered a concussion, you may need to retire your helmet. Look for obvious cracks or structural damage to your helmet, but also be aware that some damage may not be visible. Even without an accident, it’s a good idea to replace your helmet every 5 years, due to deterioration of the protective material caused by UV and age.
- As mentioned above, fit is a contributing factor in how much your helmet can protect you. Proper fit and use are necessary for a helmet to do its job.
Once you’ve found a few helmets that fit properly and have the necessary safety certifications and features, you can then start considering aesthetic, design and other non-essential features that allow your helmet to enhance your skiing experience.
- Audio compatibility: Audio compatibility is an important feature if you listen to music when you ski or ride and you want your helmet to facilitate a better listening experience. Many helmets now feature some sort of integrated audio capability via built-in headphones or accessory compatibility. Look for a helmet with zippers or Velcro pockets on the ear flaps to fit helmet specific speakers like the Outdoor Tech Chips or others.
- Brim or Visor: Many helmets are designed with short visor that extends slightly beyond the goggles. This facilitates a better fit between the helmet and your goggles, as well as protects your lenses from branches in the woods or from bumping them on the chairlift bar. Brims also look cool (no matter what your snowboarder friends say).
- Venting: On warm days, venting is necessary to ensure that your head doesn’t overheat. However, on cold, windy days, you’ll wish you didn’t have any holes in the top of your helmet. In order to fins a balance, you need to determine which of those two situations sounds more bearable, or select a helmet with vents that you can open or close depending on the conditions or your personal preference.
- Multisport use: While it’s important to use helmets only for their intended purpose, some helmets are designed for use in multiple sports and therefore tested to withstand the kinds of impacts specific to a two different sports instead of just one. Helmets designed for multiple sports have removable earflaps and goggle holders, as well as lightweight, general purpose shapes.