I remember when I thought wearing a ski or snowboard helmet wasn’t cool. As a child, I tried to store my helmet in my bag when I was preparing for ski trips. One freezing day on our local hill – I was probably 13 – my friend and I managed to trick our tour leaders into thinking we had our helmets on. We both, within a few strokes of each other, grabbed an edge and ate shit. My fall was just enough to scare me, but my buddy got a concussion from hitting his head on the ice. After that, I started to realize that slope safety was not something to be laughed at.
Over the years I’ve had sprains, cuts, broken bones and other mountain injuries, but never a scary head injury. Even in warm late season weather, I always wear a ski helmet, and I think you should too.
ABS vs molded ski and snowboard helmets
Ski and snowboard helmets are typically made with an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic shell or a one-piece molded polycarbonate shell. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
ABS helmets are more durable. They’ll withstand being thrown in the truck or dropped, and they can withstand extreme impacts. In contrast, ABS helmets are heavier.
Compared to ABS models, in-mold helmets often disperse the force of softer impacts (standard falls) better, which can reduce the likelihood of a concussion. The compromise? They can show scratches and dents faster than an ABS helmet. High-end helmets often offer a hybrid construction consisting of both a hard ABS layer and a molded layer.
What about MIPS?
MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. Basically, this technology helps protect your head from angled impacts. Hitting your head at an angle can increase your chances of sustaining a concussion because it puts rotational forces on your head. MIPS aims to reduce these forces with a special low-friction layer that glides, absorbing rotational stress.
Because falling while skiing or snowboarding is particularly unpredictable, MIPS technology is an excellent helmet complement for additional protection against head injuries (although it’s not the only technology that matters). Especially in the backcountry, it’s crucial to make sure your helmet has robust impact protection – MIPS is great extra insurance to have when skiing or riding more variable terrain.
Caring for your helmet
While it’s tempting to store your headphones in the garage, it’s best to keep them in a dry closet so they aren’t subject to temperature swings. Large temperature changes cause helmet components to expand and contact, creating wear. If your helmet has a removable liner, remove it and let it dry completely Everytime you are done skiing or riding for the day. If it starts to smell bad or looks dirty, take it out and wash it.
Below, I’ve put together a list of 10 great ski and snowboard helmets based on price, features, fit, and quality. While you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get basic protection, it’s worth investing in a well-made and reliable ski or snowboard helmet. The good news is that when properly cared for, snow helmets can last for years.
Note: Although some of the helmets below are made by companies that specialize in skiing or snowboarding, all will work for either sport. The important thing is that you protect your skull when you are in the mountains.
The best ski and snowboard helmets
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