Nowadays almost every skier and snowboarder wears a helmet (although there are still some very hard-headed types you can see being stupid on the slopes without one). A helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury during your time on the piste. Especially for skiers and snowboarders who find a lot of off-piste or on rocky or wooded grounds, wearing a ski helmet is crucial. But also on the piste provides a good helmet for essential protection. The price you pay for this safety is a trifle compared to the risks of not wearing a helmet.
There is no helmet that can withstand every impact. Research shows that helmets significantly contribute to the reduction of brain damage and even deaths, but direct impact at higher speeds is too much for any helmet.
Nowadays, there is actually no difference between ski and snowboard helmets. Previously, the design of the snowboard helmets was a bit different from the ski helmets, which were more traditional.
Ski helmets should have a CE, ASTM or a Snell rs-98 certification. All well-known brands meet the most important safety requirements.
The ASTM standards have been established after performing many tests on helmet models, including helmet strength testing and maintenance in simulated hot, cold and wet conditions.
The helmets undergo tests for durability and speed on various helmet sections to imitate potential accidents during skiing. You can also assume that ski helmets with these certifications are good to use, regardless of which material they are made.
Ski helmet manufacturers are constantly innovating in technology and materials, coming up with new models and designs each season. The emphasis is mainly on making lighter, more durable and still fashionable helmets to make good helmets accessible to everybody. In addition, there are manufacturers who develop multi-purpose helmets that can be used for various action sports such as climbing, skiing, skating, biking etc. As long as this does not endanger the protection on the piste this is a good development.
If a helmet is not clearly defined as a ski or snowboard helmet, do not use it as such. Even though a helmet may look the part, do not use it for skiing or snowboarding.
The most important aspect when buying a ski helmet is that it fits well and comfortably on your head. You can easily measure the size your helmet should be, by using a tape measure. Wrap the tape around your head above your ears and read the size.
Finally, always fit a helmet to your head before you buy it. Do not trust online fitting tables because they really might be off. It is crucial that the helmet is comfortable, and conforms well to the shape of your head. Many brands are working on more flexible fit systems, so it’s easier to find a helmet that fits really well and which can be adjusted to your head. Also look for ventilation in the helmet, and whether the helmet also fits well with the goggle you are going to be wearing. Often, the helmet, and the helmet ventilation can also help keep your goggles free of condensation.
The helmet shell is the outside of the helmet, the first thing to hit the ground / snow in a fall. The shell of a helmet is almost always a “rigid” hard plastic layer. The purpose of the shell is to absorb and spread the first energy of the impact over the helmet. Various brands are innovating on these shells for example Giro that tries to get more flex and rebound in the helmet with a softshell so that the shell does not tear or break. Other technologies focus on spreading the impact across the shell.
The liner is the actual inside of the helmet, which makes contact with your head. Most of the time, it is an EPS foam (Expanded Polystyrene), which at impact effectively absorbs the impact by deforming, but remains deformed. With these types of helmets (often in lower price categories), light impacts may mean that you have to do away with the helmet. This is because the EPS foam is permanently deformed and therefore will not be able to absorb a new impact as effectively. There are also more durable, sometimes more expensive variants where the liner does not permanently deform, such as Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) and Vinyl Nitrile (VN). It is very important to ask your retailer what lining with what features are in the helmet that you have in mind.
Various brands work with MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) technology. Because impact often hits the shell obliquely, you get a rotation of head and brain as well, and your brain will not be amused with that, at all. Rotational forces on your brain are extremely dangerous and can lead to long-lasting brain damage. A helmet with MIPS has a thin friction layer between the shell and the liner, so that the shell and liner can rotate in relation to each other in a small, controlled degree. This reduces the impact of this form of oblique impact.
The well-known manufacturer of protective material POC works with a similar but slightly different technology from MIPS, which POC calls SPIN. It also works to mitigate the negative effects of rotational forces.