I remember when I thought wearing a ski or snowboard helmet wasn’t cool. As a kid, I’d try to tuck away my helmet in my bag when gearing up for ski trips. One icy day on our local hill—I was probably 13—my friend and I successfully fooled our chaperones into thinking we had our helmets. We both, within a couple runs of each other, caught an edge and ate shit. My fall was just enough to scare me, but my buddy got a concussion from hitting his head against the ice. After that, I started to realize that slope safety wasn’t something to scoff at.
Over the years, I’ve had sprains, cuts, fractures, and other injuries while on the mountain, but never a scary head injury. Even in warm late-season weather, I always wear a ski helmet, and I think you should, too.
ABS vs. In-Mold Ski and Snowboard Helmets
Ski and snowboard helmets are typically made with either an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic shell or a one-piece molded polycarbonate shell. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
ABS helmets are more durable. They will hold up to being tossed in the truck or dropped, and they can withstand extreme impacts. On the downside, ABS helmets are heavier.
Compared to ABS models, in-mold helmets often disperse the force of softer impacts (standard falls) better, which can reduce the likelihood of a concussion. The tradeoff? They may show scratches and dings more quickly than an ABS helmet. High-end helmets often offer a hybrid construction made with both a hard ABS layer and an in-mold layer.
What About MIPS?
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Basically, this technology helps protect your head from angled impacts. Hitting your head at an angle can increase your chance of sustaining a concussion because it places rotational forces on your head. MIPS aims to reduce those forces through a special low-friction layer that slides, absorbing the rotational stress.
Because falling while skiing or snowboarding is particularly unpredictable, MIPS technology is a great helmet add-on for additional protection from head injury (though it isn’t the only tech that matters). Especially in the backcountry, ensuring that your helmet has robust impact protection is crucial—MIPS is great additional insurance to have when skiing or riding in more variable terrains.
Caring for Your Helmet
While it’s tempting to store your helmet in the garage, it’s better to keep it in a dry closet so it isn’t subject to temperature swings. Large temperature changes cause the helmet components to expand and contact, creating wear. If your helmet has a removable liner, remove it and let it dry fully every time you’re done skiing or riding for the day. If it starts to smell funky or look dirty, take it out and wash it.
Below, I’ve put together a list of 10 excellent ski and snowboard helmets based on price, features, fit, and quality. While you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get basic protection, it’s worth investing in a well-made, dependable ski or snowboard helmet. The good news is that when properly taken care of, snow helmets can last for years.
Note: While some helmets below are made by ski- or snowboard-specific companies, all of them will work for either sport. The important thing is that you protect your skull while on the mountain.