The Top 8 Most Recommended Ski HelmetsPublished on 07/13/2023 · 14 min readProtect your noggin on the slopes by ensuring you have a safe and reliable helmet. Stay safe and stylish with these 8 top-rated options!
Photo by Max Topchii
As you’re planning your ski trips, lines, and ski days for next season, it’s crucial to make sure you are well-prepared with the right gear. One commonly overlooked but incredibly important piece of gear is a ski helmet. Helmets protect your most important organ — your brain! And with all the obstacles and risks associated with skiing, it’s important to put a lot of time and research into finding a good helmet.
With all the different options out there, it can be hard to know which helmet is going to be the best one for you. Luckily, you’re in the right place! In this article, I will touch on some of the key features and considerations to keep in mind when looking for a ski helmet. I’ll also list some of the top ski helmets!
Do I Need a Ski Helmet?
First, I know what you’re thinking. “Is it actually important to wear a ski helmet?” “Do I need to spend a lot of money on a top-tier helmet?” “I see people at the ski resort without a helmet all the time.” I often hear these things as a Skiing Expert here on Curated. The answer that I always give is that a ski helmet is absolutely necessary to protect your noggin.
Even though it may seem like helmets are way more expensive than they should be, they are worth the investment. Having personally dealt with both concussions from skiing and other bad injuries such as ACL tears, I can confidently promise you that concussions are much worse to deal with, have longer healing times, and can have more life-altering long-term effects. Some people prefer to ski without a helmet, and while I don’t judge them for that decision, I don’t recommend it.
According to a 2012 study published in the Wilderness & Environmental Medicine journal, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury by 35% among skiers and snowboarders. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) also reported that around 90% of all skiers and snowboarders in the United States wore helmets during the 2021-2022 season, a dramatic increase from just 25% in the 2002-2003 season.
Furthermore, a 2013 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that helmets effectively reduced the rates of head and facial injuries, reinforcing the benefits of helmet use. This data makes it abundantly clear that a ski helmet should be a non-negotiable part of your gear when hitting the slopes.
Helmet Safety Technologies
The names and labels of different types of protection technology can quickly confuse and overwhelm any shopper. That being said, it’s a great problem to have because helmets have never been safer. The newer safety technologies can make a significant difference in your protection compared to 25 years ago when most helmets were just some foam inside of a protective piece of plastic. Let’s take a look at the most common types of safety technology you’ll run into when shopping around for a helmet and briefly explain what each of them means.
Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) technology allows a helmet to rotate slightly upon impact, helping to reduce the rotational forces on the brain that can occur during angled impacts. According to MIPS, helmets equipped with their technology can reduce the rotational force on the brain by up to 39%. This is the most common type of helmet tech you’ll see and is highly regarded as one of the best out there.
Shearing Pad INside (SPIN) Technology was developed by POC, a manufacturer of ski helmets and other ski gear. This technology incorporates silicone pads into the helmet liner that can shear in any direction, helping to reduce the effects of an oblique fall by allowing the helmet to move relative to the head.
This is a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of your helmet. It works like a crumple zone that absorbs the force of an impact before it reaches your head. WaveCel technology is proven to be up to 48 times more effective than traditional foam helmets in protecting your head from injuries caused by certain skiing and cycling accidents.
Used in Smith helmets, Koroyd is a unique structure designed to reduce trauma levels with its crumple-zone cylinders that absorb energy upon impact.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is the standard material used in helmet construction because of its excellent shock-absorbing properties. It's lightweight, durable, and can absorb a lot of impact energy. It’s not as effective at preventing head injuries as the previous technologies, but it’s still a good option if you can’t justify spending more money on a helmet with higher-quality tech.
This technique fuses the helmet's outer shell with its EPS foam layer, resulting in a lighter, more durable helmet.
Some helmets incorporate RECCO technology, which makes the wearer detectable in the event of an avalanche, increasing safety in backcountry terrain. Though it’s not a specific technology for helmets (a lot of boots, jackets, and ski pants have RECCO as well), it’s still a great safety feature to look for if you want a top-tier safety-first helmet.
Features to Look for in Ski Helmets
Safety technology is an important consideration when looking for your next helmet, but it’s not the only consideration. Here are a few other features to keep in mind when picking out a helmet.
- Safety Standards Certification: Check that the helmet meets established safety standards such as those from ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) or CE (Conformité Européene). These certifications guarantee that your helmet has been rigorously tested and deemed safe.
- Fit and Size: An poorly-fitting helmet will not only be uncomfortable, but it also reduces the helmet's ability to protect your brain when you take a tumble. I will talk a bit more about fit later on, but choose one that fits snugly yet comfortably on your head and use the adjustment system to secure it properly.
- Ventilation: Adjustable vents can help you regulate temperature and prevent overheating. Look for helmets with good ventilation to ensure comfort during active skiing. If you typically run warm, it’s a good idea to get a helmet with completely removable vent foam instead of just vents that you can slide open.
- Liner: For added warmth and comfort, look for helmets with removable and washable liners. Some even have moisture-wicking properties to keep you dry.
- Ear Pads: Removable ear pads can provide extra warmth in cold weather and be removed during spring skiing.
- Goggle Compatibility: Make sure your helmet is compatible with your ski goggles. Some helmets have a goggle retention clip to keep them in place.
- Chin Strap: The chin strap should be easy to adjust and comfortable.
- Audio System Compatibility: Some helmets come with built-in speakers, while others have pockets in the ear flaps to add your own audio system.
- Weight: Lighter helmets can be more comfortable, but they must still offer adequate protection. The key is to find a balance between comfort and safety.
Okay, with all that in mind, let’s dive into my list of the best ski helmets!
Top Ski Helmets
The Smith Vantage is one of the most popular helmets out there. It’s a great helmet for all types of skiers who are looking for top-of-the-line safety. It has a hybrid shell construction, which blends the lightness of in-mold technology with the durability of injection molding. It also has advanced Aerocore technology, a honeycomb-like structure that provides unmatched ventilation and increased impact resistance.
As the name indicates, it’s also equipped with MIPS technology. It comes in many different colors, making it great for skiers who want to be safe but also value their helmet matching the rest of their ski kit. Though it is a bit on the pricier side, you really can’t go wrong with the Vantage MIPS.
The Obex MIPS helmet stands out for its sleek, lightweight design. POC's signature SPIN technology works alongside MIPS to minimize the effects of rotational forces during a fall. It also has an EPS liner to keep things light while still offering enough protection during a fall.
If you’re feeling frustrated with finding the right size for a helmet, constantly trying on mediums to find they are too small and larges to find out they are too big, POC has a solution for you. The Obex features a size adjustment system which makes it a bit easier to find an exact precise fit for your head. It also has an adjustable vent system for those days when you’re just a bit too warm. If you are a skier who tends to run cold, this might not be the best fit for you because the minimalist design leaves you with less insulation and warmth capabilities than a lot of other helmets.
Robust and reliable, the Giro Ledge FS MIPS is the go-to helmet for freestyle skiers. Its rugged, hard-shell construction can take a beating, while the inclusion of MIPS adds a layer of rotational force protection. An auto Loc 2 Fit System (what the FS in the name of the helmet stands for) provides a secure, adjustable fit for any head. It also features a removable goggle retainer allows for customizable style.
4. Salomon MTN Lab
The MTN Lab helmet provides a lightweight yet secure experience. Its dual certification for both alpine and ski mountaineering highlights its versatility. The advanced EPS 4D technology absorbs and disperses impact shock more effectively than traditional liners, offering superior protection without the added weight that more resort-oriented helmets have.
Though it’s a great option for skiers prioritizing low weight and optimal protection in the backcountry, it skips over a lot of features, such as adjustable fit and extra padding to keep your head warm in order to keep the weight lower. Along with a goggle retainer on the back, it has a clip on either side to accommodate a headlamp for an early morning pre-sunrise backcountry mission.
5. Sweet Protection Switcher MIPS
Offering the latest in safety technology with an adjustable ventilation system, the Switcher MIPS is perfect for skiers demanding both protection and comfort. Its cutting-edge hybrid shell technology, and an extensive set of adjustable vents, allow skiers to maintain optimal temperature even on tiring boot packs or difficult runs.
Coupled with the advanced MIPS system, this helmet provides top-tier protection on the slopes. It's an all-around performer, although the higher price point may be a consideration for some.
The Atomic Backland UL CTD Helmet is the epitome of smart technology, best suited for backcountry skiers who want the best of the best and are always looking for the latest features and gadgets. One of the lightest ski helmets on the market, it's specifically crafted to ease the burden of long ascents and challenging terrains.
The helmet houses Atomic's innovative CTD (Climb, Tour, Descend) venting system, which is fully adjustable to match your activity level. This intelligent tech ensures optimal comfort and safety by controlling the airflow, reducing overheating during challenging climbs, and providing warmth during descents. Additionally, the helmet's in-mold shell construction and Holo Core design offer superior impact protection while maintaining an ultra-light feel.
What really makes this helmet stand out among the others is its compatibility with an app called Shocksense. After taking a fall in this helmet, you can log onto the app, and it will analyze five different zones of the helmet to tell you if the helmet is damaged and needs to be replaced or is still fully functional and safe. If you take an especially hard hit to this helmet, the app will sense that and transmit an SOS signal with your GPS coordinates to your pre-set emergency contacts.
The Backland UL CTD is on the pricier side, but it’s certified for biking, skiing, or climbing — making it a great one-stop option for all your helmet-required activities.
The Nexus MIPS is a hybrid helmet that provides safety-focused construction without compromising on style. Equipped with Aerocore technology and MIPS, it ensures excellent ventilation and protection. It features the most advanced fit adjustment system of any Smith helmet out there, with easy-to-adjust dials on either side of the helmet.
Instead of the classic buckle under the chin, the Nexus has a Fidlock magnetic strip which is easy to get on and off with a gloved hand. It also has a small visor, which can help keep snow and moisture off your goggles on stormy days. Though it’s a bit on the heavier side and a tad pricey, this is a great helmet option for skiers looking for the most advanced technology in ski helmets, both in terms of protection and ease of use.
7. Smith Holt
The Holt is a budget-friendly option offering reliable protection and a good bang for your buck. Its simple, rugged design is particularly appealing to beginner skiers or those who want something really straightforward yet functional. The dual-regulator adjustable climate control allows you to modify ventilation as needed, ensuring comfort across various weather conditions. While it doesn’t have all the more advanced features like MIPS, or an adjustable fit, its durable Bombshell construction offers pretty good impact resistance.
An excellent choice for recreational skiers, the Raider 3 combines affordability with functionality. It features a tough ABS exterior and a multi-season certification, making it a versatile pick. You can use it as a ski and snowboard helmet, a bike helmet, or even a skateboard helmet. It's also equipped with passive ventilation to keep you cool during intensive activities. However, the Raider 3 does not include advanced safety technologies such as MIPS, so if you’re looking for the highest level of protection, the Raider 3 isn’t it.
How a Ski Helmet Should Fit
Ensuring a proper fit is important when choosing a ski helmet. A bad-fitting helmet can significantly compromise your safety and comfort on the slopes. Here are a few tips and pointers on how to find the right size in a ski helmet.
- Size: To start, grab a tape measure and measure the circumference of your head about an inch above your eyebrows to determine the appropriate size. Use this measurement to consult the size chart provided by the helmet manufacturer.
- Snug but Comfortable Fit: A good-fitting helmet should sit snugly on your head without causing any pressure points. It should be tight enough that it doesn't wobble or move around freely but not so tight that it's uncomfortable or causes headaches.
- Position: The helmet should sit level on your head, covering your forehead without obstructing your vision. It should not tilt back to expose your forehead or tilt too far forward to block your sight.
- Chin Strap and Buckles: Fasten the chin strap and adjust it until it sits firmly under your chin. You should be able to open your mouth and feel the helmet press down slightly on your head, but it should not feel constricting or uncomfortable.
- Goggle Test: Try on your ski goggles with the helmet to ensure they fit well together without leaving a gap (often called "goggle gap") on your forehead. The helmet brim or edge should meet the top of your goggles. Also, make sure the goggles' strap fits securely on the designated area or clip on your helmet.
- The Shake Test: Once your helmet is on, shake your head side-to-side and front-to-back. The helmet should not move independently of your head or slide around.
- Interior Padding: The padding inside the helmet should provide a uniform contact area with your head. This ensures that pressure is distributed equally across your head for a comfortable fit.
If you notice any discomfort, looseness, or restricted movement during these checks, you should try a different size or a different helmet to ensure you’re getting the most protection possible!
Connect with an Expert to Find the Best Helmet For You
From the style-conscious skier to the backcountry enthusiast, there's a helmet out there tailored to meet your needs and preferences. Hopefully, this guide has helped you narrow down which brain bucket is the best fit for keeping you safe and able to ski for years to come. If you have any questions about different technologies, how to size your helmet, or want to chat about any other types of ski gear — feel free to reach out to me or another Skiing Expert here on Curated for help!