The best snow sport helmet
Whether you're skiing or snowboarding, a good snow sport helmet is a necessity. The best ones are designed to keep your head protected without limiting your enjoyment on the slopes.
But with hundreds of different models on the market, how do you know which is the right one for you? For our buying guide on snow sport helmets, we've analyzed the latest developments so we can help you choose. Our favorite, the Smith Vantage Snow Helmet, offers the latest in safety technology and comfort, so your focus is on the experience, not your gear.
Considerations when choosing snow sport helmets
A snow sport helmet usually consists of three layers: a hard outer shell, an inner impact layer, and a lining. The outer is usually molded plastic -- either ABS or polycarbonate. ABS is a little heavier, but also cheaper. The other option is carbon fiber. It is very strong and ultralight -- but a lot more expensive. The inner layer is usually EPS, a polystyrene foam that's great at absorbing impact. Other materials are occasionally used, notably Koroyd, which is claimed to deliver equal or better protection, but with increased ventilation. Liners are generally made of synthetic fleece. Their features might include being hypoallergenic, antibacterial, moisture wicking, and washable.
MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) is an additional safety feature designed primarily to reduce rotational injury, which can cause serious brain damage. Essentially, this means that a portion of your helmet slides, dramatically reducing the force transmitted through your head. It's highly effective, but adds considerably to the cost.
When choosing a snow sport helmet, always look for one that meets one of the following safety standards: ASTM F2040 (US), EN 1077 (Europe), or Snell RS-98 (independent). Any one will do, though Snell is considered to be the toughest.)
You need to measure your head carefully to get a good fit -- but a degree of adjustment is often provided. It can be horizontal and/or vertical, the more you get the better. If you're buying a kids' snow sport helmet, use the same principle -- go for the best fit, not something that they will grow into. If it's oversized now, it's simply not safe.
Other important features
Venting is important to keep your head cool -- if you start to sweat, you'll get uncomfortable and probably fog up your goggles. A cheap snow sport helmet might just have a few holes in the shell. The best offer control so you can adjust them for different conditions.
Drop-down visors are fitted to a few snow sport helmets, but it's usually a case of wearing goggles. Often there's a clip on the back of the helmet to secure the goggle strap. Occasionally goggles are included, but mostly you need to buy them separately.
Chin straps should have a little padding for comfort and good adjustability so you can make the helmet nice and snug. Quick-release clasps that you can undo with your gloves on are common. The fastest are magnetic.
Like listening to music while you're stuck on the ski lift or speeding down the mountain? Look for helmets with built-in speakers and Bluetooth technology, so you can connect to your device and rock out.
The cheapest snow sport helmet costs around $30. If it complies with a relevant standard (it should be marked), then safety won't be an issue -- but comfort might. For $50 and up, they tend to be lighter and have more features, with MIPS available on helmets from around $130 and up. Carbon fiber models can top $300.
Q. How do I get the right size snow sports helmet?
A. Measure the widest part of your head -- that's usually about half an inch up from your eyebrows. Keep the tape level. Use that measurement to select from the manufacturer's chart. Check each one individually. Don't assume they are the same. Try it on immediately so you can return it if necessary.
Q. Is a snow sports helmet required by law?
A. In some areas, children may need to wear them, but adults have a choice. Some resorts insist on them, and it might be a provision of your travel insurance if you're on vacation. However, given the potentially life-saving benefits, wearing one is simply common sense.
Snow sport helmets we recommend
Best of the best: Smith's Vantage MIPS Snow Helmet
Our take: Advanced safety and comfort features for hard-core snow fanatics.
What we like: Hybrid ABS/polycarbonate shell with MIPS safety system. Aerocore adds impact protection and helps ventilation. Good airflow control. Accepts Skullcandy audio.
What we dislike: MIPS not available on all colors. Some feel sizing runs a little small.
Best bang for your buck: Lucky Bums' Adult Snow Ski Helmet
Our take: Great value helmet for the snow sport fan on a budget.
What we like: Strong ABS shell meets EN1077 standard. Lining is hypoallergenic and antibacterial. Padded chin strap with quick-release button. Low cost.
What we dislike: Sizing can be tight. Fragile goggles clip.
Choice 3: Giro's Launch Combo Kids' Snow Helmet
Our take: Excellent-quality youth helmet in a wide range of fun and funky colors.
What we like: Quick-and-easy adjustment for a snug fit. Well-vented. Comfortable fleece lining. Matching dual-lens, anti-fog goggles included.
What we dislike: A bit pricey. Clarity of the goggles' lenses varies.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.