An Expert Guide to Smith HelmetsPublished on 11/23/2023 · 11 min readProtect your noggin on the slopes by making sure you're equipped with the right helmet! Ski Expert Elizabeth H. explains all the details about Smith Helmets.
Photo courtesy of Smith
TL;DR: There are many factors to consider when buying a helmet. When selecting a Smith helmet, you need to consider the helmet's purpose, your head size, and desired features. Smith helmets feature unique technologies, such as MIPS, BOA Fit System, and AirEvac ventilation. Investing in a high-quality helmet is key to staying safe on the mountain. Every helmet should be replaced after a head-impacting fall or every three to five years, whichever is sooner!
I’m Elizabeth, a lifelong skier, outdoor enthusiast, and a multi-category Curated Expert. I’ve owned and tested a lot of ski gear over my 23 (and counting) years of outdoor adventures. I’m quite a clumsy person both on and off the slopes, so safety is my biggest priority when I’m skiing. A good helmet is essential for protecting my head, as is always following the Responsibility Code from the National Ski Areas Association.
At Curated, I’ve helped almost 800 customers find their perfect winter sports gear and apparel. I’m passionate about getting everyone into the outdoors with the right products for them. I hope that this guide helps you narrow down what to look for when on the hunt for the perfect new helmet. If you get to the end of this article and have questions, please send me a message!
Smith Optics was founded in 1965 by orthodontist and ski bum Dr. Bob Smith. He started hand building sealed thermal lenses with breathable venting foam in his garage in Sun Valley, Idaho, selling them out of his van on weekend ski trips. He was the first person to make these types of goggles, and he continues to invent to this day, including some of the first goggles with intuitively changeable lenses.
Smith Optics has expanded their product line to include sunglasses, bike and ski accessories, apparel, and helmets, in addition to their goggle line. Skiers and snowboarders trust Smith for their durable materials, innovative technologies, and stylish designs that optimize safety and enhance performance. Whether one is a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, choosing a Smith helmet (and maybe some matching goggles!) ensures protection, comfort, and style.
What to Consider When Buying a Smith Helmet
1. What's the Helmet for?
Because different outdoor activities require different protective gear, understanding the helmet’s unique use is essential. Smith makes helmets specific to several winter sports activities as well as cycling. Each type is designed to optimize safety, comfort, and performance for a specialized use.
2. What's Your Head Size and Shape?
Wearing an ill-fitting helmet is almost as dangerous as not wearing one at all. Accurate measurements will ensure that you buy the correct size to keep your head protected and comfortable. Smith offers helmets in a wide range of sizes and shapes, so you can dial in the perfect fit. There are some helmets made for both round and elongated head shapes as well as ones in kids sizes.
3. What Features Are Important to You?
You may think that all helmets are created equal, but that’s not the case. Some have adjustable ventilation, while others have open vents or even no vents at all. Others have integrated visors, and some include different safety systems, such as multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) or Koroyd. It is up to you to determine which features make sense for your needs.
4. Is the Helmet Compatible With Your Other Gear?
Some helmets are designed to be used in conjunction with other gear. Smith is well known for how their goggles work seamlessly with their winter sports helmets, and many of their models are compatible with audio chips for listening to music or making phone calls on the slopes.
5. How Much Should a Smith Helmet Cost?
Smith makes helmets that fit a wide variety of budget needs. They have entry-level options for under $100 that offer an adequate level of protection and comfort for casual skiers and snowboarders. Their mid-level options are between $150-$200 and have improved ventilation systems and often feature audio compatibility.
Smith also makes high-end helmets that retail for $200 or more, with advanced safety technologies and even better ventilation and insulation. Alpine race helmets certified by the Federation of International Skiing (FIS) are also available in both youth and adult sizes and currently retail for $360.
What Are the Different Types of Smith Helmets?
Smith makes a wide variety of protective winter sports gear, including four specific helmet styles: all-mountain, freestyle, alpine racing, and youth. Let’s dive into more detail about these types of helmets.
All-mountain helmets are designed to handle a range of versatile conditions and terrain with ease, making them a fantastic choice for both in-bounds and off-piste use — from the bunny hill to big backcountry lines. Common features include adjustable ventilation and lightweight designs that are comfortable all day without sacrificing safety.
- Can handle variable terrain from the backcountry to groomed trails
- Adjustable ventilation that adapts to changing weather conditions
- Often compatible with goggles, sunglasses, and audio systems
- Keep in Mind
- Less specialized protection, not ideal for park or race use
- Fully featured options can be quite expensive
Freestyle helmets have the most comprehensive impact-protection coverage. They are ideal for freeskiers and park riders who are prone to falls while practicing and perfecting their tricks. Common features include audio compatibility, everyday classic shapes, and all-day comfort.
- Robust high-impact crash protection
- Appealing to the aesthetics of freestyle culture
- Often audio compatible, so you can move and groove all day long
- Keep in Mind
- Less ventilation than some all-mountain models
- Not designed for speed, less aerodynamic
3. Alpine Racing
Smith's alpine race helmets are built for high-speed skiing and racing. They are made from a durable acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) outer shell and a resilient expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam core. This combination of materials absorbs and distributes the force of an impact during a crash. They are designed with advanced safety features and aerodynamic properties for optimal racing performance.
- Safest for high-speed crashes
- Aerodynamic design
- Premium materials for durability and performance
- Keep in Mind
- Not comfortable for all-day use
- Comparatively expensive because of the highly specialized design
Understanding the importance of keeping the whole family secure on the slopes, Smith carries a line of youth helmets to keep your kiddos safe and comfortable. Common features of their youth helmets include adjustable-fit systems that grow with your child in fun color and design options.
- Adult-level protection in kids’ sizes
- Adjustable-fit systems that allow for growth
- Variety of fun colors and kid-friendly designs
- Keep in Mind
- Children will outgrow helmets more frequently
- Lack some adult features like audio compatibility
Each type of helmet caters to specific needs. Be sure to consider your safety and performance needs in addition to your preferences when choosing your next snowsports helmet.
Features to Look for When Buying a Smith Helmet
Here are some of the proprietary features and technologies Smith offers in their helmets that set them apart:
- MIPS System: The multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) is a protective layer within the helmet designed to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts. It's a valuable feature if you're frequently in situations with risk of angled impact. The impact forces minimized by MIPS are common in snowsports crashes.
- Zonal Koroyd: This honeycomb-like material is the newest lightweight impact-absorbing technology. Placed in critical zones, Koroyd reduces the overall weight of the helmet while increasing energy absorption upon impact.
- BOA Fit System: This adjustable-dial system allows you to fine-tune the fit of your helmet for maximum comfort and safety. It's super easy to use, even with gloves on, making it perfect for on-the-go adjustments. Snug helmets are the safest helmets, and these easy-fit modifications are ideal for adding or removing layers under your helmet.
- AirEvac Ventilation: Smith is known for their helmet and goggle integration systems. The AirEvac system maximizes airflow to help reduce fogging in your goggles. This is an excellent feature on days with variable weather conditions or for those who are prone to sweating.
- Smith X Aleck Audio Systems: Some models of Smith helmets are compatible with Aleck audio systems. These drop-in audio chips are available in both wired and wireless Bluetooth options and let you enjoy your favorite tunes or take calls without taking off your helmet, excellent features for the tech-savvy outdoor enthusiast.
Remember, the best helmet for you depends on your lifestyle and personal preferences. Evaluate what you want in a helmet, and then choose a helmet based on those guidelines. Smith carries options for almost every desire and budget.
How to Choose the Right Smith Helmet
Now that you have more knowledge about things to consider when buying a helmet and what technologies Smith is known for, let’s dive into some real world examples. All three of these examples are based on real Curated customers that I’ve helped who represent three common personas of those who I’ve helped buy a new helmet. I’ve highlighted what they should look for based on their experience, goals, and budget.
Tom: Infrequent Yet Experienced Skier
Needs: Tom is an experienced skier who’s been skiing for over 40 years. He lived in Vermont for many years and skied frequently there, but he’s moved to Tennessee for work and now skis only one or two weeks a year with his kids in Utah. He’s looking for something that will keep him safe and perform well in a variety of weather conditions but won’t break the bank.
Features to look for: Tom should look for a helmet that has an adjustable ventilation system, as well as MIPS and Koroyd for safety. He might be interested in audio compatibility and should consider getting goggles that will integrate with his helmet to prevent fogging on sunny Utah days.
Products to consider:
- Smith Mission MIPS Helmet: The Mission MIPS helmet is a great choice for value-oriented, all-mountain use. It is lightweight, comfortable, and affordable, yet has many useful features, such as adjustable vents, audio-compatible ear flaps, and MIPS technology.
- Smith Level MIPS Helmet: The Level MIPS is a mid- to high-range helmet. Its safety features include MIPS and zonal Koroyd, and its comfort features include one-handed adjustable vents, the AirEvac system, and audio-chip-compatible ear pads.
Jessica: Safety-Focused Mom
Needs: Jessica lives in Minnesota and is the mom of two young boys. She is looking for helmets for her kids as this is their first winter of ski and snowboard lessons. Safety is her biggest priority, but she also would like to find helmets that can grow with her kids and fit for multiple seasons if possible.
Features to look for: Jessica should look for youth-specific helmets with safety features like MIPS. These helmets are designed to fit growing heads and have adjustable fits.
Products to consider:
- Smith Glide Jr. MIPS Helmet · Kids': The Glide offers the widest range of size options in Smith’s youth lineup and is easy to adjust with the intuitive dial. The soft interior padding is comfortable, and the helmet itself is lightweight. The Glide also has MIPS technology and vents.
- Smith Scout Jr. MIPS Helmet · Kids': The Scout is a safe and durable youth helmet. It adapts to many head shapes for a safe fit, and MIPS will protect the child’s head during a fall.
Jake: Boxes and Rails
Needs: Jake is a freestyle snowboarder with a fast and furious style. He has been riding since he was a little kid and spends most of his time doing park laps. Several concussions and ER trips have encouraged Jake to invest in quality helmets. He wants to protect his head the best that he can for the inevitable next crash, but he also wants to be able to use his audio chips.
Features to look for: Jake should look for a freestyle-specific helmet that is designed to handle high-impact crashes. The low-profile design of freestyle helmets offer the performance style that Jake is interested in, and audio-compatible ear pads will keep him rocking out and rocking on.
Products to consider:
- Smith Scout MIPS Helmet: The Scout is a durable freestyle option. Its removable ear pads and all-season certification mean you can take this helmet from the slopes to the skatepark or as a road helmet on your bike and use it year round. Its AirEvac system prevents goggle fogging, and MIPS adds to the noggin protection.
- Smith Code MIPS Helmet: The Code is Smith’s premium freestyle helmet. Packed full of safety features, this is a great choice for crash protection. Zonal Koroyd, MIPS, a one-handed magnetic chin strap, adjustable BOA fit, and audio compatibility round out the full feature set of this helmet.
Find the Best Helmet for You
I hope that this guide has helped you learn more about the many helmet offerings from Smith and determine what needs and priorities you should consider when picking out your next helmet. Still unsure about what helmet is right for you? Chat with me or one of my fellow Winter Sports Experts here on Curated, and we’ll help you find the perfect option to keep you safe on any adventure this winter and beyond!