(The Gear Loop) - Not so long ago, you’d only use a helmet on the slopes if you were ski racing. But after a few high-profile accidents (Michael Schumacher and Natasha Richardson, to name a few), and as the dangers of concussion have become better known, more and more skiers and snowboarders are choosing to ride in a helmet than ever before.
Indeed, in Italy, ski helmets are now mandatory for under 18s, and across the pond if you want to ski or snowboard in New Jersey or Nova Scotia, you’ll have to don a lid.
Some travel insurance policies are even now insisting that winter sports enthusiasts wear a helmet on the slopes - that means while tobogganing, too.
Although studies don’t conclusively show that they make the snow safer (the theory behind this is that skiers are more likely to take risks if wearing a helmet), they have undoubtedly reduced the risk of serious injury on the slopes.
Like any helmet, if you’ve had one for a while and it has picked up some dings and scratches, it’s probably time to upgrade, as it’s not always easy to tell when the protective shell has been compromised.
With that in mind, here’s our round-up of the best ski and snowboard helmets on the market to keep your noddle safe this season. Oh, and don't forget to keep your peepers safe, too. We're talking goggles, guys.
If you're looking to buy a lid for the little ones, check out our buying guide here.
The best ski helmets for adults
Bollé RYFT Evo MIPS
- Ultra ventilated
- Equipped with MIPS
- BOA fine-tuning fit system
- Boring choice of colours
- Instigates chronic hat hair
This is a sporty looking, high-end all-mountain helmet ideal for anyone who gets a hot head when wearing a ski helmet.
Bollé says it’s the most ventilated snow helmet it has ever designed, with no less than 14 vents and extractor channels below the shell, all of which can be fine-tuned so you can control the exact amount of ventilation.
Goggles won’t steam up, either, thanks to Bollé’s "Flow Tech Brim Venting system" and there’s a "Performance Lycra" lining to wick sweat.
There’s also a micro-adjustment system tool - similar to those found on cycling shoes - to increase stability and comfort on the head, adjustable while wearing gloves.
And to complete the picture, 3D earpads to help your hearing.
Cébé Pow Vision
- There are eight different colour variations
- Removable and washable ear pads and lining
- A good option for anyone who loses their goggles easily
- Visors on ski helmets are like Marmite
- Passive venting only
This helmet protects both head and eyes for a good price (normally visor helmets are much more expensive).
Featuring an ABS shell construction, it weighs in at 600g, with a passive venting system, which isn't bad at all, but you really have to want a ski visor.
The visor, included in the price, is available in a photochromic version that adapts to weather and blocks 100 per cent of UVA and UVB rays and gives a brilliant field of vision.
We don’t use them on the slopes ourselves, but we hear good things from visor converts.
The ear pads and lining are both removable and washable, and more colour choices than are often available - six, each in three sizes from 54cm to 61cm. The helmet also has a fine-tuning fit system for a great fit.
Marker Phoenix 2 MIPS
- Comes with two (removable) liner sets
- Snap buckle on strap can be used with ski gloves
- Ladies helmets only come in small and medium (not large)
- Boring colour options
This helmet’s predecessor, the Phoenix MAP, was an award-winner, so this upgrade with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is sure to bring good things.
The hybrid shell construction features Marker’s own MAP (Multi-impact Adaptive Polymer) technology that stiffens upon impact to absorb energy faster and more effectively.
The “SoGnar” earpads (who really thought that name was a good idea?) can be removed completely or configured according to temperature and head shape, or to fit goggles or sunglasses.
There’s a two-position climate-control system to prevent goggle fogging and a fine-tuning fit system to keep the helmet centred on the head.
Completing the picture is a new and improved goggle clip that can be used when you’re wearing gloves. It's a neat package that packs plenty of high-performance features. It's just a shame it only comes in dull colours.
POC Meninx RS MIPS
- Looks rad
- Inbuilt RECCO Reflector and Medical ID
- Great ventillation control
- Not cheap
- Too racy for some?
Inspired by race helmets, this two-colour lid is available in four different combinations (ok, one is all black).
Along with fantastic style it gives optimum protection and handy technology in the event of an accident. It is made with MIPS and a dual-material liner containing multi-impact EPP giving extra protection in the places where most common incidents occur.
The helmet has an ABS shell, with inbuilt RECCO Reflector to make it easier for you to be detected by rescue services, as well as twICEme NFC Medical ID, a chip that stores medical info and emergency contact details that can be instantly accessed at the scene of an accident.
The detachable ear pads work with a discreet ventilation system, while chin strap buckle is easy to fasten while wearing gloves. It's a top performer in our eyes.
Scott Couloir Mountain Helmet
- Lightweight, low-profile with a headtorch fixation system
- Can be used in summer conditions (for climbing and mountaineering)
- Only comes in two fairly unexciting colours
- Climbers like orange, why no orange?
This one is for adventurers - doing its job equally on the ascent and descent. Fashioned using Casidion technology, it tips the scales at just 359-398g (depending on size), making it one featherweight lid.
It is certified for both skiing and mountaineering - described by Scott as one of the lowest profile dual-norm helmets on the market. Still, it packs a dual padding system for both skiing and mountaineering, along with COOLMAX Moisture Management to ensure it stays cool during summer conditions but can keep your head warm and safe freeriding in the winter.
The venting system is passive, and there’s a headtorch fixing system, which is helpful when you’re starting out early mornings from the hut.
There’s also a neat "Halo Fit System", which is Scott’s version of fine-tuning round the circumference of the head.
What to look for in an adult ski helmet
There are three standards to look out for when buying a ski helmet - indicating that the kit has gone through rigorous and proper safety checks. These should be clearly marked inside the helmet, do not consider buying one that doesn’t comply.
- European Safety Standard EN1077
- American Society of Testing and Materials ASTM F2040
- Snell RS-98 — the toughest safety standard, commonly seen in motorbike helmets
On top of these, an extra safety feature now widely available is MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System), a low-friction layer inside the helmet that reduces rotational forces on the brain after angled impacts.
Getting the right size for your head is crucial - work out what size you need by measuring the circumference of your head at the widest point, just above your eyebrows. Helmets are measured in CM. If it fits correctly, there should be no gaps but also no pressure points. Most helmets offer fine-tuning adjustments to help with this.
This is key for comfort, especially if you tend to get hot on the slopes. Allowing air into the helmet will cool the head. You can always wear a helmet liner for extra warmth, but without ventilation you’ll overheat and goggles will have a tendency to steam up. If you’re planning to go mountaineering or ski touring, the more ventilation the better.
Anything on top of safety standards, fit and ventilation is a nice extra. Some helmets come with detachable ear pads, different linings for warmer or cooler days, integrated music or communication systems and more.