Best Helmets of 2018 Round-Up

Each year brings new safety and style innovation to the headgear protection world. The 2017/2018 ski season saw a new generation of original, fresh, and creative ways to incorporate safety and sophistication in the ski and snowboard helmet. If you’ve been putting of replacing a helmet for a few years or want to take advantage of some new technology, here is the industry-leading equipment you should consider. Though these models are quite expensive, buyers should understand the helmets are an investment; you can use them for years, and they are an invaluable part of skiing.


Giro Range MIPS–$250

This hybrid in-mold construction weighs just 19 ounces and boasts thirteen adjustable vents. Fit is controlled with a dial system, which brings together a two-piece shell in a durable and semi-flexible design. This flexibility creates unmatched comfort and a low profile. The integrated MIPS—Multi-Directional Impact Protection System—combines an interior foam liner, a low friction liner, and an elastomeric attachment system to reduce rotational forces that may damage the head in case of an accident. With all-day warmth, comfort, and protection, this is one of the best all-around helmets on the market today.


Smith Holt–$70

With a bombshell construction, earpads, 14 vents, a self-adjusting fit system, and a dial-controlled adjustment band, this is the best helmet you can buy for under $100. Built for all-season toughness, this helmet is excellent for both on-piste and backcountry skiing. The dial adjustment system guarantees comfort you might not otherwise experience with a budget helmet, and the sleek design avoids the dreaded “mushroom” shape commonly found in budget designs.


POC Receptor Bug–$135

This hybrid double shell construction helmet boasts eight adjustable vents, just 19.4 ounces of weight, and a tough, impact-resistant material. It offers exceptional durability with the double shell system, making it a perfect choice for backcountry exploration. Though this helmet doesn’t come with a fit adjuster, the POC Receptor Bug is one of the most durable, well-constructed pieces of protective gear on the market. The outer ABS layer covers the entire helmet, offering award-winning safety.


Do Your Research—Concussions Are Dangerous

As with most ski equipment, not all helmets are created equal. Unlike other pieces of your ski ensemble, purchasing a cheap helmet can dramatically impact your safety. Head injury is the main cause of death or serious injury among skiers and snowboarders, and neglecting to safely cover up can have terrible consequences. The public has taken notice, and helmet use has risen dramatically in the past decade.

The popularity of helmets has coincided with them becoming more flatteringly streamlined, lighter, and fashionable. There are hundreds of options to choose from, but there remains a lot of controversy over how well they can actually protect our heads. While research shows that skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets are better protected from head injury, certain helmets—cheap, thin, and light versions–don’t stand up to the most dangerous injuries.

A study conducted by l’Hopital de Sacre-Cour de Montreal in Canada found that, though helmets provide significant protection against head injuries like gashes and bruises, they don’t necessarily prevent concussion and other brain injuries. While its normal for helmets to be able to stop sharp objects from piercing the material, they cannot always absorb a certain amount of impact. They are not necessarily designed to protect against the type of accidents that cause concussions, and current safety standards don’t demand it.

If you’re in the market for a new helmet, be sure to read about your preferred brand’s safety testing. If there is no mention of concussion or brain injury prevention, it likely hasn’t been tested. To that end, don’t opt for style over protection. Though you may be tempted to go with the sleeker, more flattering design, this might not be the most helpful if you accidentally hit your head while tumbling down the mountain.

Popular Helmet Brands

When it comes to most gear, brand corresponds to price—not quality. This, however, is not always true for ski helmets. These helmet brands, though expensive, have been working hard to produce consistently high-quality products for years. With in-house researchers and countless studies to support their design and material choices, you can rest assured that these helmets are likely some of the safest options available.


Smith—Smith was born in 1965, when Dr. Bob Smith, orthodontist and bonified ski bum, developed a pair of sealed thermal goggles. They’ve been perfecting safe and secure ski and snowboard headgear for over fifty years, producing advanced products to both fuel adrenaline and protect against accidents.

Giro—Giro has been making high-quality ski helmets for over thirty years. Founder Jim Gentes started the company with a simple mission: to make a safe and secure helmet that was lift, stylish, and well-ventilated. Since its inception, the company has made hundreds of thousands of protective headgear products.

Oakley—While many know Oakley as a surf company, they began producing ski equipment very early in the company’s life. They specialize in sunglasses and goggles, but they make a mean, protective, and all-around stylish ski helmet.

Sweet Protection—Sweet Protection makes performance helmets, protection gear, and technical clothing for skiing, snowboarding, biking, and whitewater rafting. They specialize in protective gear, spending much of their resources on researching the best, most current technology available. They blend industry-leading innovation with unmatched craftsmanship to create protection strong enough to push people beyond their boundaries.

Salomon—Salomon is a leading name in the ski industry, and it’s no surprise that they make a damn good helmet. Their headgear is separated into discipline categories: touring, freeride, on piste, and racing. This nearly guarantees a helmet perfectly suited to your needs.


Your Responsibility Code

Mountains and ski resorts often have a code of conduct posted near chairlifts and around the lodge. Unfortunately, many people completely disregard these rules when out on the trails, becoming hazards to both themselves and their fellow riders. If you keep to these seven rules, you are sure to have an unforgettable season!

  1. Always stay in control.
  2. Stop in a safe place for you and others.
  3. People downhill have the right of way.
  4. Always look uphill and yield when merging.
  5. Observe signs and warnings.
  6. Keep off closed trails.
  7. Know your personal limits.

Other Ways to Stay Safe on the Slopes

Ski and board safety doesn’t stop with purchasing a helmet. The practice is a recurring and evolving process—one that many skiers, including myself, struggle with. Gear checks should occur throughout the season, and replacing broken or damaged items is essential.

A good way to start the season on the right foot? Visit your local shop. Every year, before my inaugural Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend trip, I visit my ski and board shop to get my skis sharpened and waxed. This is also a felicitous time to ensure your boots and bindings fit properly. By holding myself accountable at the beginning of the season, I start with a clean slate—rather than discovering a dangerous binding situation halfway through March.

Clothing choice is another easy method for staying safe on the slopes. Always dress in layers, and check in with yourself throughout the day. Can you feel your fingers and toes? What about your nose? Consistently keeping track of your body’s response to your surroundings is the best, most efficient way to have a safe ski experience.

The Fun Stuff: How to Personalize Your Helmet

Once you’ve determined the type of helmet that works best for you, consider the ways in which you would like to use your new piece of equipment. Though created for safety, helmets provide the opportunity for added warmth and media. Below is a list of helmet personalization methods:


Liner: Every seasoned skier and boarder knows the drastic temperature changes that may occur throughout the season, month, or day. Finding a helmet with detachable pads and drop liners will allow you to customize the amount of warmth you need.

Vents: Similar to detachable liner, vents allow you to control the helmet’s internal temperature. Adjustable vents allow you to cool down on the go, while removable plugs require stopping to adjust airflow.

Audio: An increasing number of skiers and boarders listen to music while out on the trails. If your helmet has ear pads and additional liner, squeezing headphones into your ears may become difficult. If this is the case, consider purchasing a helmet with built-in speakers. This is also perfect for those who ride in large groups, as you can often connect both cell phones and 2-way radios to your helmet’s speakers.

Camera: Park rats and speed demons are turning to GoPro and other small cameras to capture their stunts. As a result, many helmets now have built-in camera mounts. By freeing your hands from cameras and cell phones, a camera mount will help produce a smooth and seamless video.

Goggles: Protecting your head is necessary, but protecting your eyes is also important. While some riders prefer sunglasses, goggles protect against sun damage, wind, and debris. However, this equipment is rendered useless if not properly secured, and—as a result—finding a goggle-compatible helmet is essential.

Know Your Helmet Lingo

While making the decision to wear a helmet is a huge step, purchasing the equipment is what actually matters. Before stopping by your local ski and board shop, you should be familiar with the parts of the helmet; indicating which components are most important to your riding style will guide your sales assistant to the perfect fit. I wish I understood helmet parts and construction before buying my first helmet—prior knowledge would have led to a more informed purchase. So, for your convenience (and wallet), below are the parts and construction vocabulary essential to finding your dream helmet.


Shell: The shell is the rigid outer layer of the helmet. Usually made of high-impact plastic, this is the part of the helmet that will protect you from sharp objects and the initial impact. The shell’s construction will also spread the shock of impact over a larger area of the helmet.

Liner: This is the softer, Styrofoam-looking material found on the inside of the helmet. Designed to absorb most of the impact, this is typically made from expanded polystyrene foam. This component protects your head by compressing, thus lessening the force of impact.

Injection-molded helmets: The most durable helmets around, injection-molded pieces are made of expanded polystyrene foam that has been bonded to a separate shell. These are often more expensive but longer-lasting.

In-mold helmets: In-mold helmets consist of a single molding process wherein the shell is attached to shock-absorbing foam. These helmets are often very sleek and light, and—while the cheaper option—must be replaced frequently.


The Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Wear a Helmet

Helmets protect your head. Duh. Helmets work to absorb and distribute the shock of a hard impact. Imagine: you’re skiing a glade and WHAM, a low-hanging branch catches you off-guard, sending you flying into the woods. Not only will your helmet provide protection from the hard, potentially sharp branch, but it will decrease potential damage if you go head-first into another tree.

They protect against surface injuries. The helmet’s primary responsibility is to protect against surface injuries, such as fractured skulls and lacerations. In fact, increased helmet usage has reduced this type of injury by 50% from 2003. Helmets don’t make riders immune to head trauma, but they often reduce the severity of the injury.

You have no reason not to. If you’re not accustomed to wearing a helmet, think about why you’ve made this decision. Is it because they can get hot? Are you worried you won’t be able to hear your music? Is it purely a vanity thing? As you’ve already figured out, I’m not here to judge. However, the benefits of wearing a helmet far outweigh any counterarguments. What’s more important: that picture of you nailing a misty flip or staying safe if the trick fails?

How My Helmet Saved My Life

If you, like me, spend any consistent time on the slopes, helmet usage is often a factor when distinguishing veteran shredders from newbies. Newer skiers and boarders will likely focus on style and comfort, not safety. You can spot them by their expensive headbands, ear muffs, and hats. Experienced shredders, however, know the importance of safety; large, sleek helmets and reflective goggles are tell-tale signs of a frequent and life-long skier.

I, however, haven’t always been so quick on the uptake. As a teenager and young adult, I was more concerned with “looking the part” than anything else. Not wanting a bulky, fluorescent helmet to detract from my speed and stunts, I opted for a more stylish beanie when heading out with my skis. I began wearing a helmet reluctantly, and only at the insistence of my friends and family. Until the accident, I hadn’t realized the importance of safety.

I remember the day like it was just last week. My sister and I had come to the top of a double-black diamond trail. The drop was steep, but not enough to intimidate us into another route. One hundred feet wide, half a mile long, and made of icy corduroy—we’d seen worse. She went first, dropping down into a low tuck and bombing straight through. It looked like there was enough space and snow at the bottom to make for a smooth landing, but she fell onto her side to facilitate a faster stop, waving up at me to indicate that she was okay. I was up next.

Always the more cautious skier, I began the run with a few quick slalom turns before setting my skies straight. Something happened in the space between these turns and the attempt to point my tips downward—I caught an edge on the ice and, in a split second, lost control. I fell onto my side in an attempt to prevent serious injury. This was the worst decision I could have made; the force of my body hitting the ground only sped up the uncontrollable descent. I closed my eyes and, when I opened them, found myself several feet into the woods at the bottom of the trail.

I looked up to see my sister skating toward me in a panic. My gear was scattered across the side of the mountain. I’d lost both poles, a ski, a glove, and my goggles—a total yard sale. The helmet remained on my head, but felt strange. I took it off to find it cracked almost completely in half, held together by the fibers of my chin strap and adjustable pads. Stunned, we called ski patrol, who then helped me into an ambulance. I was diagnosed with a concussion and allowed to go home that evening.

Though my recovery was quick and relatively painless, that helmet, cracked open and lying in the snow, haunts me. In the years since, I’ve come to appreciate ski safety, as well as the types of helmets and the new technology available to consumers. With recent equipment developments, helmets can be fashionable and have utility beyond providing a hard surface between your head and the rocks below. Ski safety is a lesson I won’t soon forget, and this site explores just a few of the nuances of helmet design and construction.


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