How Often Do You Need To Replace Your Ski or Snowboard Helmet?Published on 05/29/2023 · 7 min readKeep your noggin safe on the slopes this year by checking out these 13 scenarios that might have you wondering if you should replace your ski helmet!
RIP to all three of these helmets. All photos courtesy of Lauren Dobbins
“This is a story about a girl named Lucky.” I am her, because I somehow have never had a concussion in my 20+ years of skiing. While luck has played a part in my good fortune, I attribute my intact head to the fact that I’ve never skied without a helmet. When I say never, I mean never (thanks Mom and Dad). Although a helmet can’t guarantee that you won’t get hurt, it keeps you significantly safer (and warmer) than hitting the slopes without one.
Being a Ski Expert doesn’t insulate me from needing to replace a helmet. In fact, I’m on my fourth helmet in four seasons (and I will be buying my fifth helmet after next season). I actually have two different helmets for different situations (more on that in a minute). I’ve had two major falls that made me immediately replace my helmet. The first one was skiing down a groomed black run at Breckenridge, easily cruising around 45-50mph. I didn’t see an ice patch, and I fell so hard that I gave myself whiplash and a nice flat spot on my helmet. The second one was snowboarding on a green catwalk at Monarch. I wasn’t paying attention and caught an edge, which whipped me right onto my back. I was going under 10mph, but I immediately burst into tears and ended my day with a massive headache. Moral of the story: it doesn’t matter how good of a skier or rider you are, or what type of terrain you are on, the risk of falling is always there.
If you opened this article because you are wondering if you should replace your helmet, the answer is YES. When in doubt, replace your helmet. Still not sure? Here are 13 unlucky scenarios to describe when you should replace your helmet.
Scenario #1: My helmet has a visible crack and/or dent. Should I replace it?
Yes. No discussion. Replace it now and throw it away.
Scenario #2: I had a major crash where I broke my face and got a concussion, but my helmet has no damage. Should I replace it?
Yes. All helmets are only able to withstand one major crash. Even if you can’t see the damage, the inner foam is compromised. If you broke your face, you broke your helmet.
Scenario #3: I had a minor fall and hit my head, but I have no evidence of injury and my helmet looks fine. Should I replace it?
Most likely yes, but it comes down to the material of your helmet. EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) helmets are able to withstand multiple minor impacts. If your helmet is EPS (Expanded Polystyrene), it is damaged upon first impact (although it will better protect you in a higher-speed impact). So, your helmet is fine if it is EPP, but it needs to be replaced if it is EPS. If you don’t know what type it is, check the model details on the manufacturer's website. If you don’t know your model, replace it.
Scenario #4: My helmet has scratches and/or discoloration. Should I replace it?
Up to you. If you don’t care how it looks, you can keep using it. Scratches are common if you go in the trees, and discoloration is common if you are constantly in bright sun. If it bothers you, then replace it.
Scenario #5: I dropped my helmet when pulling it out of my car. Should I replace it?
Most likely, yes. If you dropped it from only an inch or it landed in a pile of soft snow, then you are fine. If it rolled out of the trunk and landed on concrete, replace it.
Scenario #6: The type of skiing/snowboarding I do is different than when I bought my helmet. Should I replace it?
Potentially. Remember earlier when I said that I have two helmets? I have an EPS helmet for skiing because I’m a good skier who is more likely to crash in a high-speed situation. I have an EPP helmet for snowboarding because I suck and fall a lot while going very slow. With the exception of very specialized racing helmets, all snow helmets are meant for skiing and snowboarding. The reason I have a different helmet for each sport is because of my ability level. If your ability has changed, consider a helmet made from different material. Additionally, a cheaper helmet targeted for beginners will have less safety tech in it. If you are advancing, I highly recommend a helmet with MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact System).
Scenario #7: My helmet moves back and forth on my head, and tightening it and/or adding pads doesn’t keep it in place. Should I replace it?
Yes! Using a helmet that is too big is very dangerous! I will spare you the details, but I heard a true story about someone whose helmet was too big and ended up severing their brainstem in an accident. They died instantly. If your helmet is too big, REPLACE IT!
Scenario #8: My helmet is so tight that I get a headache. Should I replace it?
Yes. Helmets that don’t fit right won’t properly protect you (see example above). Plus, why do you want to ski with a headache?
Scenario #9: My helmet is older than my child and/or dog. Should I replace it?
Unless you just gave birth to a baby or adopted a dog, the answer is yes. Every manufacturer is different, but the general rule of thumb is to replace a helmet if it is over 3-5 years old. Even if you’ve never used the helmet, the materials will degrade over time.
Scenario #10: I bought my buddy’s old helmet, and he says it’s fine. Should I replace it?
If your buddy just bought the helmet this year and it still has the tags on, then you are good to keep it. Otherwise, replace it. Even if you trust your friend, there is no way to guarantee that the helmet doesn’t have any internal damage. Does Jimmy remember dropping his helmet as he stumbled out of the bar after his fourth après ski Bloody Mary? No, he doesn’t. This rule also goes for any helmet bought from Craigslist.
Scenario #11: Someone on the internet (or in the lift line) made fun of my helmet. Should I replace it?
If they made fun of you for wearing a helmet, they are just mean and should be ignored. If someone made fun of you for the way your helmet looks, then you should maybe consider why they are laughing at you. Is it backward? Is it clearly made for children? You don’t want to end up on Jerry of the Day like this guy.
Scenario #12: I use a bicycle helmet. Should I replace it?
I’m going to refer you back to Jerry of the Day. Don’t use a bike helmet (or skate helmet, or equestrian helmet, or whatever non-snow helmet you have). Snow helmets are designed for SNOW (shocking, I know). Snow helmets will be warmer and safer on mountain than other types of helmets.
Scenario #13: I don’t own a helmet. Should I buy one?
If you don’t own a helmet, BUY A HELMET. A helmet is the single most important piece of gear you can own, and I tell this to anyone who asks. Yes, it is 100 times more expensive than a beanie, but what price are you willing to put on your brain? If safety isn’t a good enough reason, how about peer pressure? According to the National Ski Areas Association, 90% of skiers and snowboarders wore helmets last season.
When in doubt, replace your helmet. There is no stupid reason to buy a new helmet. Your safety should always be your top priority. When you buy your new helmet, throw out the old one so you don’t put someone else at risk. You can also do what I’ve done: proudly hang them up for display at your local bar. Need advice on which helmet to buy? You can always chat with me or another Ski Expert here on Curated, and we will find you your perfect match! Check out Curated Experts' top-rated helmets here.