Ski & Snowboard Helmet Buying Guide

If you’re going to be out on the slopes for skiing or snowboarding, then you need a good helmet to protect yourself. Fortunately, there are more options available than ever before, and you can easily find one that fits well and looks stylish.

Although there are different types of helmets available, it’s important to note that there is no specific difference between ski helmets and snowboard helmets. Since the two activities are fairly similar, helmets are essentially interchangeable between the two activities.

In this buying guide, you’ll learn about the benefits of a helmet, the different snow helmet options available, helmet features, certifications and how to find the right size. Let’s get started.
 

Benefits of a Helmet

The most obvious benefit of a helmet is that it will provide your head with some degree of protection in case of any impacts. You can get up to high speeds when you’re skiing or snowboarding, and one slip could lead to a hard fall. There’s always the risk of a concussion or other brain injury, and that risk increases as you take on more difficult runs.

A helmet doesn’t guarantee your safety, but it can significantly reduce impacts, and that often makes all the difference. It can also keep your head warmer. And you don’t need to sacrifice style for safety because helmets now have sleek designs that look cool while still doing their job.
 

Types of Ski and Snowboard Helmets

Half Shell

The most popular helmet design for skiing and snowboarding is the half shell. Half shell helmets provide coverage for your entire head, but they have soft ear pads. This will still protect your ears in the event of a fall, while also keeping you comfortable and not blocking your hearing at all. These helmets strike an excellent balance between protection and comfort.

Full Shell

The next step up from the half shell is the full shell. Full shell helmets cover your whole head and have hard protection for your ears, as well. Even though these aren’t as popular as half shell helmets, they are a common choice for racers and anyone who likes high speeds or performing tricks. They also are a good choice for first-time skiers or children. If you fall into any of those categories, you may appreciate the added protection on the side of your head.

Full Face Ski Helmets

True to its name, this type of helmet has protection around your jawline, and with a pair of goggles on, your entire head and face will be covered. These helmets are more common for biking and riding motorcycles, but they can also be used for skiing and snowboarding. Most people will opt for one of the first two helmet types, though.
 

Helmet Constructions

There are also three different types of helmet constructions. One thing to keep in mind about helmets here is that most are single impact helmets. What this means is that they’re intended to protect you from one significant impact, and after that, they need to be replaced. You’ll know your helmet needs to be replaced when an impact causes the foam interior to either crack or collapse.

The first is the in-mold construction. This has a thin outer shell of lightweight polycarbonate that’s molded to a foam liner, and these two layers absorb shock. With this construction, your helmet will be light and won’t rebound much in an impact. Hard impacts will cause it to collapse.

Next is the hard shell ABS construction. True to its name, this has a strong shell made from ABS plastic glued to hard EPS foam. It will be a bit heavier, but it offers substantial protection.

The final type of construction is the soft shell. These typically have two foam layers of different densities. The softer foam will be closest to your head to cushion it, and the harder foam will be against the outer shell to absorb more of the impact. Some soft shell helmets are unique in that they’re intended to take multiple smaller impacts instead of one significant impact.
 

Snow Helmet Safety Certifications

The most important area to look at when buying a helmet is its certification. There are two common safety certifications in the world of snow helmets – CE and ASTM. CE 1077 is the European standard which is the most basic and easiest to get certified in, and ASTM is the safety certification used in the United States. Every helmet lists its safety certification, and some helmets have both certifications. To be certified a helmet needs to meet at least one the standards. To get these certifications, the design requirements are broken down to impact testing, penetration testing, chin strap, and head coverage. You’ll find the type of certification for each helmet listed in the product page specs.

 

Ski and Snowboard Helmet Features

Helmets can have a variety of features to keep you comfortable and safe while you wear them. When buying a ski or snowboard helmet, look through the list of features and specs on the product page to see what works for you.

Most helmets nowadays have adjustable fit options to ensure your helmet fits you perfectly. One of the most popular options is the adjustable wheel or dial, like the 360° Fit system by Boa. You simply turn this, and your helmet will loosen or tighten. This is easy to do anywhere, which means you can get the right fit even while you’re on the slopes.

Another option is an air fit. A helmet with this feature will have a small headband on the inside, and all you need to do is press a button to either increase or decrease the amount of air in that headband. You’ll easily get the fit you want this way, and you don’t need to worry about any annoying pressure points.

Many helmets have removable padding, which is helpful if you sometimes like to ride with a beanie and need some extra space.

Just about every helmet will also have ventilation to let out extra moisture and heat. The venting keeps your head from getting too hot or sweaty. Most helmets have built-in vents that you can’t adjust, but there are certain helmets with adjustable venting. Although these tend to cost more, it can be nice to adjust your venting depending on how you feel and the weather conditions.

When you’re looking at the features, also consider the weight. How much the ski helmet weighs can be a deciding factor in which one to get. The difference in weight might be slight, but you want to be comfortable. Most of the people that don’t wear helmets chose not to because they say they are too heavy.

Other features to consider when buying a helmet:

  • MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) that helps protect against angled impacts
  • Goggle Ventilation Channels
  • Audio systems or audio compatible
  • Camera Mounts, such as Go-Pro compatibility
  • Removable liner – for easy cleaning

 

How to Measure for a Helmet

Once you zero in on the type of helmet you are looking for and the features you want.  You’ll need to find the best fit.

Measuring your head for a helmet is quick and easy, although you may want to have someone there to help you get the most accurate measurement.

The best way to measure your head is to get a measuring tape and use it to measure around your forehead. You should have the tape about an inch above your ears and eyebrows, as that’s where a helmet will sit. Keep in mind that helmet size charts almost always use centimeters, which means you should measure in centimeters or you’ll need to convert the measurement later.

If you don’t have a tape measure on hand, you can improvise with some string. Go around your head using that string, and then use a ruler to see how long the string is.

Compare the circumference of your head to the helmet size charts to see what size you fall under.  A link to the manufacturer’s helmet size chart can be found on each product page where you select a size for your helmet. With most helmet manufacturers, the sizing is as follows:
 

Ski and Snowboard Helmet Sizing Chart

Size Head measurement (cm) Head measurement (inches)
Small 51 – 55 20 1/8 – 21 5/8
Medium 55 – 59 21 5/8 – 23 1/8
Large 59 – 63 23 1/8 – 24 5/8
X-Large 63 – 67 24 5/8 – 26 3/8

 

Tips for Getting the Best Fit

While you can usually figure out your size by measuring your head, it’s still best to try a helmet on to check the fit. If you buy a ski helmet online, be sure to try it on right away to make sure it fits well.

When you try on a helmet, the most important thing to look for is that it’s nice and snug. There shouldn’t be any areas where there’s space between the helmet and your head. Of course, it also shouldn’t be constricting or causing you any pain.

The shake test is a good way to check that a helmet fits properly. When you’ve put the helmet on, shake your head a bit. The helmet should stay on your head without shaking on its own.

If you’re buying a helmet for a child, don’t buy a size up thinking that they’ll grow into it. They need a helmet that fits them correctly for proper protection. What you can do is get a helmet with removable padding, and as they grow, you can take out some of that padding. This allows you to use the same helmet with them a bit longer and save some money.

 

Now that you better understand helmets, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the right one. The final thing to remember is that helmets don’t last forever. You need to replace your helmet if it takes any impacts that damage it, but even if it doesn’t, you should still replace it every three to five years. Helmets can only maintain their structural integrity for so long, and replacing your ski helmet periodically will ensure that you’re getting the best possible protection.

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