You’re counting the days until the chairlifts start turning, getting your gear tuned up, and even watching out the window for the slightest evidence of snow. Any day now, the ski resorts will open and you’ll be back at it for a full winter of glorious skiing and snowboarding. However, if you’re going to be hitting the slopes at breakneck speeds or riding fast through tree lines, you need to keep your noggin safe.
Even if you’re not planning on going wild on the slopes, it’s critical to have an up-to-date, high-quality helmet. On top of keeping your head warm and holding your goggles in place, it offers what can sometimes be life-saving skull protection while greatly reducing your chance of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) — the leading cause of death among skiers and snowboarders. With that in mind, here are our picks of the helmets currently available.
Sweet Protection’s Trooper MIPS helmet is a badass skull cap made with Thermoplastic Laminated Carbon Fiber (TLC) — a blend of carbon and injection-molded thermoplastic. The hard-yet-flexible material allows the shell to have different properties on different parts of the skull, so the whole dome is optimized for elite performance. The liners use Impact Shields, a shock-absorbing EPS padding system featuring molded inserts of varying thicknesses that offer extra absorption in the front and back of your head where it’s most critical.
As the name suggests, the helmet also features MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System), a rotational technology that’s increasingly becoming an industry standard for snow helmets. The system essentially uses a smooth layer under the shell set on a slip plane that allows the layer to slide with your head upon impact, mimicking your brain’s protective layer of fluids. Two adjustable air vents, removable ear pads, and a customizable OcciGrip tightening system round out this helmet’s features.
Smith Code MIPS ($180)
Smith’s brand-new Code helmet is a sleek, lightweight option that features a patented technology called Aerocore. The new construction blends EPS with Koroyd, a honeycomb-like material made from tiny therma-welded tubes that crumple upon impact, absorbing the kinetic energy and dispersing it via four inside panels. The material — which is currently only found in Smith helmets — works with the Aerocore’s EPS to increase ventilation and boost temperature control. Combine this with its six air vents and you’ll never again strain to see through fogged up goggles as you huff and puff down the hill.
The helmet also has an adjustable Boa 360 in the back to tighten it down for a custom fit. It also features the MIPS slip plane for extra protection and a removable, audio-compatible knit liner you can throw in the wash between sessions. Additionally, you can take off the goggle lock on the back if it’s annoying and the buckle is magnetic, making it a cinch to take on and off. Finally, it’s beanie compatible so you can add an extra layer on exceptionally cold days.
Roxy Angie ($100+)
Roxy’s Angie is a fantastic, high-quality women’s helmet available at an affordable price. It even boasts many of the same features as some of the pricier helmets — ultra-light construction, removable audio-compatible ear pads, Fidlock buckle — without the cost of the higher-tech materials. The helmet’s double micro shell is composed of traditional EPS shock absorber foam that protects your head during high impacts. It is well-ventilated with metal slats in the front and back to optimize airflow and keep your temperature regulated. The best part, however, may be how warm and cozy the helmet feels as it comes outfit with a fuzzy sherpa fleece lining, deluxe sherpa chin pad, and an integrated fit system on the neck gaiter.
Oakley MODs ($140-$240)
Now in the helmet game, Oakley recently launched two head-protecting options — the MOD3 and the MOD5. Each is relatively the same except for the style and shape. The MOD3 features more of a park look while the MOD5 is more of a backcountry, freeride style. The big news about the MODs, however, isn’t the style but their namesake technology, the new Modular Brim System. This is a set of removable brims intended to be game changers for goggle compatibility. With two differently sized interchangeable brims, you can use one with bigger goggles and the other with smaller sets. The result is that no matter what type of goggles you own, you’re able to get a vacuum-tight seal between your helmet and goggles.
The helmet also has an integrated ventilation system that sucks up air from the goggles through the brim to blast away fog and regulate temperature. A MIPs layer offers extra shock absorption and it has tons of extra features — a Boa tightening system, Fidlock magnetic buckle, removable ear pads, removable goggle band, and a cushy, removable liner.
POC Auric Cut BC SPIN ($176)
POC’s Auric Cut BC SPIN (the BC stands for backcountry) is a mega-strong, durable helmet meant to protect your head from hard impacts, particularly when you’re off-piste or venturing out of bounds. It showcases special backcountry features such as a Recco reflector for easier searchability and adjustable front and top vents to keep you cool and fog free while hiking, skinning, or carving deep powder. The helmet is constructed with a solid, anti-penetration ABS shell and a liner made from multi-impact EPP (Expanded PolyPropylene) — a material similar to EPS except it morphs back into form after impact, maintaining its shock-absorbing properties.
The Auric also has a patent-pending SPIN system similar to MIPS that uses internal shearing pads to achieve a comparable effect. Upon impact, SPIN technology engages pads inside the helmet which shear in any direction, mimicking the brain’s protective barrier of cerebrospinal fluid. Like with MIPS, this transfers the force of the impact, allowing the layer to slide relative with your head. Note that this helmet tends to run large, so be mindful when picking a size.
Giro Strata Women’s MIPS ($170+)
The new Strata MIPS ingeniously combines the best of multiple construction elements to create this durable, lightweight women’s helmet. A robust, polycarbonate outer shell is fused with an absorbent foam liner, allowing the helmet to absorb intense impact while also offering stellar ventilation. A system called Stack Ventilation offers further air flow capability by stacking two vents on top of one another — the one in your goggles and one in the center of the helmet. When you wear the helmet with Giro goggles or other similar models, you maintain a clear exhaust channel and reduce fog, even with a brimmed helmet.
The MIPS low-friction liner reduces rotational impact while the company’s In Form 2 Fit system allows you to crank down the perfect fit with an ergonomic dial in the back. Even better is the helmet’s Vertical Tuning technology, a pin-snap system that lets you remove a portion of the inner back and snap it higher or lower like a baseball cap, reducing nose pinch and forehead gap issues. Other details include a Fidlock buckle and an integrated POV camera mount. Men, try the similar Giro Zone MIPS helmet, which is essentially the same thing except with different colors and added XT2 Anti-Odor Padding.
Shred Slam-Cap NoShock ($200)
Shred Slam-Cap NoShock is a superb all-around helmet that’s light as a feather, powerfully sturdy, and stocked with all kinds of cutting-edge features and technology. Built with Shred’s Slytech NoShock, a honeycomb material similar to Koroyd, the helmet is able to disperse forces upon impact. You can control airflow with its three-position vent and its moisture-wicking liner is treated with Aegis Microbe Shield to cut down on odor for those extra hard days.
It boasts RES (Rotational Energy Management System) — Shred’s version of MIPS — which disperses oblique force on impact. However, the RES system uses floating contact points in between the liner and foam that make it extremely light, adding to the helmet’s floaty feel. It features a dial on the back that offers three positions to customize the fore-aft tilt so you can ensure a supreme fit. Add its removable ear pads and audio-compatibility and you’ve got a near-perfect shield for your head.
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