How to Choose a Snowboard Helmet

Snowboard Expert Sean Corliss outlines the main factors to consider when choosing a helmet to keep your noggin safe on the slopes and lists his top helmet picks!

Several skiers and snowboarders posing together on a ski run. There are snowy trees in the background.

Helmet crew! Curated Snowboard Expert Sean Corliss and some friends having fun at Crested Butte, CO. Photo courtesy of Sean Corliss

Let me start off by saying that you should always wear a helmet when participating in winter sports that involve low friction or sliding downhill. It doesn't matter if you are a beginner or an expert, safety should always be a top priority when on the slopes. That being said, purchasing a helmet for recreational snowboarding is a more complex task than you might initially think, especially for a beginner. There are a lot of things to consider such as taking measurements, ventilation types, style, and perhaps most importantly, your budget. This article breaks down these factors—and a few others—that go into selecting this crucial piece of gear for winter sport safety.

Buying a helmet isn’t your only option for getting a helmet as retailers also make helmets available for rental. Some who offer rental packages for other winter sport equipment insist that a helmet be included when renting their gear. In scenarios where they do not require a helmet as part of their package, they will often provide one for rental at no additional cost.

So, if you are planning to rent your snowboard, it likely won’t be necessary for you to purchase your own helmet. However, for those riders who own their own gear and do not rent, or would just prefer to have their own helmet, the tips discussed below will tell you everything you need to keep in mind when searching for a helmet to buy.

Size

A skier laying down on a ski run wearing a helmet.

Photo by Glade Optics

1. Measure Your Head

Grab a soft measuring tape and wrap it around your head to get the circumference. For the most accurate measurement, it is recommended that you wrap the measuring tape about one inch above your eyebrows and ears because this is the widest point of your head. If you do not have a measuring tape, you can use a piece of string and wrap it around your head. Afterward, measure and record the length of that piece of string. Most helmets are measured in centimeters (cm) so be sure to use that as your unit of measurement.

Once you have your measurement, look for helmets that fit your head’s size. For example, if the circumference of your head is 57cm, you would look for a helmet that is 56cm or, depending on the helmet brand’s size scale, a medium (55-58cm). It’s important to note that each brand’s sizing scale may vary, so always check to see what range (small, medium, large) is compatible with your measurements.

2. Try It On

After finding a helmet that fits your measurements, the next step is to try the helmet on and see how it feels. Before heading out, consider whether or not you plan to wear layers under your helmet, such as a hat or balaclava, because these items may make the helmet fit feel tighter. If you do plan on wearing a layer underneath your helmet, it would be helpful to bring that layer along with you when trying on the helmet. That way you can see exactly how it will fit when you are fully decked out and ready to hit the mountain.

Lastly, keep in mind the hairstyle you would wear on the slopes. For people with short hair, this might sound silly, but those with longer hair may want to consider this. Putting hair up into a ponytail or a bun may not be very comfortable under your helmet or may alter the fit of the helmet. (Some helmets do have holes designed to accommodate a ponytail.) The important takeaway here is to try and simulate the on-slope experience as best as you can when trying on a helmet.

3. The Shake Test

Still not sure if the helmet fits correctly? Try the Shake Test. While wearing the helmet, shake your head up and down, left to right, and then bring it all the way around town. If the helmet moves on its own or shakes independently from your head, that means it is too big.

Next, use your hand and move the helmet to the left and right and then up and down. The skin of your head should move with the helmet.

4. Adjust the Chin Straps

Next, try buckling the chin strap. The chin strap should buckle directly under your chin and not on your chin. Please keep in mind that buckling the helmet has no effect on the fit of the helmet. All the buckle does is keep the helmet on your head, so it is up to you whether or not you choose to buckle the helmet while trying it on for size. The purpose of buckling the chin strap while trying on the helmet is merely to see how comfortable it is and also to make sure the chin strap is not too short to buckle securely.

Ventilation

A snowboarder holding a snowboard. He is wearing a helmet covered in snow.

Photo by Ben Klewais

Often people forget snowboarding is a very active sport. While it’s super fun, it’s also a workout and will make you hot and sweaty. Before purchasing, check out the ventilation systems on each helmet you try on.

This is also a great time to talk about how your goggles fit with the helmet. Goggles are notorious for fogging up, causing some very obvious vision problems. One way to help avoid this is by trying on your goggles with any potential helmet purchases and looking at the space between the top of your goggles and where the helmet starts on your forehead. The tighter you can make this gap, the better chance you have at avoiding foggy goggles. This is only just one way to help prevent foggy goggles though. Foggy goggles are not necessarily a sign of poor compatibility with your helmet.

1. No Ventilation

Some helmets have virtually no vents which means they can get really hot. Lots of vents take away from aerodynamics and thus, a helmet with very few vents is great for someone interested in racing. If you’re not looking to prioritize speed over comfort, I recommend finding a helmet with ventilation.

2. Permanent Ventilation

On the other hand, some helmets have permanent venting holes that provide constant airflow to your scalp. While this is good for venting heat, more airflow and exposure to the chilly temps could result in your head getting cold on the slopes. These permanent openings also allow for snow/moisture to enter the helmet, getting any layers worn under the helmet wet. These types of helmets with permanent ventilation are best for warmer weather days when someone might not be wearing layers underneath their helmet and want maximum airflow to prevent overheating. Spring is a great time for these helmets!

3. Partial Ventilation

Some helmets have adjustable vents which allow the person wearing the helmet to either open or close the vents depending on how hot or cold their head is at any particular time. This type of convenience usually comes at a cost, however, as you’ll notice helmets with adjustable vents are typically priced a little higher.

The best advice for deciding on a ventilation type is just knowing yourself and whether you get cold very easily or warm very easily.

Style

Close up of a skiers helmet and goggles.

Photo by Clay Banks

Helmets are available in all different kinds of style variations. You can use this as an opportunity to express who you are to anyone else watching you shred. If you think it looks good and it fits, then rock it!

A few different styles include helmets that look like skateboard helmets, helmets that look more like bike helmets, and helmets that are more egg-like and aerodynamic (mostly designed for racers). Some helmets have brims to help block the sun, others have clips to help keep your goggles attached, and others come with mounts so you can attach a camera such as a Go-Pro. Helmets come in all different colors and shapes, so try them on in front of a mirror to see what you think looks the best on you, and decide what features you care about.

Some styles, like helmets that resemble skateboard helmets, are more popular among the snowboard and freestyle ski crowd. But even if snowboarding or freestyle skiing isn’t your scene, don’t let that stop you from buying a helmet with this look. Go with what style pleases you the most and checks off the boxes for your needs. Just like buying clothes, it’s important you feel comfortable with your look. Also like clothes, you can also find almost any style at any price point. While some brands are more expensive than others, even big names like Smith, Giro, and Anon offer options in the style you like at a few different price points. As you’ll read below, price is mostly determined by features that come with the helmet.

Just remember that regardless of the style, still make safety your first priority. Style only matters once you have determined that the helmet fits (and works) correctly.

Budget

A snowboarder standing with his snowboard. He is wearing a helmet and there is a snowy mountain in the background.

Photo by Max Kukurudziak

Helmets can range in price anywhere from $35 to $450. Various factors can play into a helmet’s pricing like the brand, its features (adjustable vents, built-in BlueTooth speakers, etc.), and size (kids versus adults). If you are looking for a basic adult helmet, you can expect to pay anything from $100 to $200. Features at this price typically include a goggle attachment, adjustable vents, and removable ear pads.

If you’re looking for a little more help choosing a helmet, you can ask one of Curated’s Experts to assist you. They can recommend some helmet options that fit your unique style and preferences. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites:

1. Smith Mission MIPS Helmet

The Smith Mission MIPS Helmet in white.

The Smith Mission is a great option for that skier or rider who wants it all. One of our most recommended helmets, it comes with adjustable vents, an adjustable fitting system to help customize the fit to whatever layers you may have underneath, and it comes with audio-compatible ear pads if you decide to buy speakers (speakers sold separately). MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) technology also makes this helmet incredibly safe by mimicking the brain’s protective structure and reducing rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head

2. K2 Phase MIPS Helmet

The K2 Phase MIPS Helmet in black.

The K2 Phase is another stylish option for both skiers and snowboarders. Like the Smith Mission, this helmet boasts MIPS safety technology, adjustable vents, and an adjustable sizing system for a more customized fit.

3. Giro Ratio MIPS Helmet

The Giro Ratio MIPS Helmet in blue.

The Giro Ration is similar to the K2 Phase and the Smith Mission but comes at a more affordable price. Features include adjustable ventilation, in-helmet audio compatibility, and MIPS safety technology for added cranium protection. The Giro also comes in a variety of colors!

4. Anon Rodan Helmet

The Anon Rodan Helmet in black.

Stylish and lightweight, the Anon Rodan offers a 360° BOA Fit System for quick and easy custom fitting with just the twist of a dial. Other features include a Fidlock magnetic helmet strap buckle which is easy to use while keeping your gloves on, fixed ventilation, fleece lining, and earpads.

Final Tips and Recommendations

Like picking out almost anything for the first time, buying a ski or snowboard helmet can be overwhelming. There are so many different styles, features and specs to consider not to mention you have to make sure you pick out one that fits and does its job correctly. Hopefully the above steps will make this decision a little easier for you to make, but the best and final tip I will give you is to reach out to a Curated Expert who can help recommend the perfect helmet based on your unique measurements, preferences, style and budget.

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Written By
Hey! My name is Sean. I've been tearing up the slopes since the ripe age of 3 years old. Starting on skis, I transitioned to snowboarding when I was around 15 years old and have never looked back (ok maybe once or twice I hop back on the hotdogs). I love to hit slopes every weekend during the winter...

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