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What to Look for in a Helmet

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I do not ski with a helmet.  My wife wants me to get her one for next season.  I would prefer any tips about what to look for in a helmet.

post #2 of 15



funny you should say that, my wife has been (almost) considering wearing hers now!! 


I should also state that I am not one of the helmet nazi brigade who think they must be worn (although perversely I do ski with one most of the time!!)


My suggestions


(comfortable) fit is the most important thing.  Different fit shapes with different brands and different models.  Try them on


Also do you want full side coverage or soft sided around the ears type. 


I personally like the full coverage (race) type. for example the Briko world cup (personal favorite), marker cheetah, giro sestriere etc.   I must admit I simply do not understand the point of the soft sided kind since if you are wearing it for protection the side of head/ears is equally important and probably much more likely to sustain direct impact than the top of your head.  And those wearing them are usually the staunchest proponents of how important helmets are.......


There, that should generate some irate responses .....


post #3 of 15


Originally Posted by ScotsSkier View Post


and probably much more likely to sustain direct impact than the top of your head.


I used to think that too, until I witnessed* an impact that punched in the top of a (Giro) helmet in a sideways fall.     Her neck whiplashed sideways and presented the top of her head as soon as the shoulder hit.






*From ~5 feet away. I didn't  exactly cause it.

post #4 of 15

I agree. It's all about fit. You have to try them on. My wife has her 3rd or 4th helmet. This one is a Giro Talon. Fits her head shape well {firm, not tight, not loose, fits on her forehead properly}, very light, full coverage, nice graphics. Has a good strap system, and a good goggle retainer. There are two large vents on either side that have screw in removable covers. Nice to open up this time of year, but really warm in the cold. She probably tried on every brand out there. As ScotsSkier has mentioned, different head shapes seem to fit different helmets. From my experience the Marker fits a lot of people. My son picked up a deal with Uvex, only to find that they didn't fit him. Carerra does. We've always had great luck with Briko over the years. Too bad they have essentially non-existant US distribution, as some of their products are outstanding.

post #5 of 15

Make sure the helmet will fit under your "helmet compatible" hood if you like to use a hood at least some of the time.  I do. 


Bern claims to make the lowest profile helmet that meets all of the various helmet testing/quality standards (I forget the exact model name, but you can find it on Bern's web site).  My low profile Bern helmet fits under my goretex shell hood.  My old(er) Scott/Smith helmet didn't.


Note, don't get a Bern hard hat; it's not the same thing as a helmet.  To the best of my understanding, the testing standards are different.  Hard hats are made from a harder (plastic or foam) shell with soft, compressible foam underneath.  Helmets are made from harder foam, can absorb a bigger hit than hard hats, and are intended to be discarded once they have absorbed a solid impact.  Hard hats can absorb multiple impacts, but provide less protection.


Best of luck with your decision.

post #6 of 15

Fit, fit, fit.  Heads come in different shapes.  The three regular head shapes used by hatters are regular oval, long oval, and round oval.  Helmets aren't identified as to what shape head they're made to fit, so you must try them on.  Don't assume that a model of one brand that fits will mean that all models in that brand also fit.  Some shape changing can be done with padding, and some of the rigid styrofoam lining can be "adjusted" with a ball pein hammer, but start with one that fits well in the first place.  Room inside for a thin balaclava is good; too roomy so it slips over you eyes when you ski over washboard isn't good....  Also check the fit while wearing your favorite goggles.


Check the ventilation.  You'll want one that is easy to change from sealed to vented, and that seals tightly on cold days and vents plenty on warm days.


I like the 3/4 helmet with removable ear pads for warm days.  It's also easier on & off.  The full (over ear) coverage might be safer.


The lowest safety standard is the European CEN.  The higher standard is the ASTM.  Even higher, but no longer produced, is the Snell approval.  Is CEN good enough?...any helmet is better than none, but buy the one that fits the best and has the highest standard.

post #7 of 15

One thing to look for is the goggle retention system or lack thereof. Honestly, most helmets fail miserably in this department and it's annoying and idiotic.  This issue was solved years ago.  Even Giro has gone backwards.  I had a Giro years ago and it had a nice molded part in the back and the sides were inset.  They threw that out the window.


Best system I've seen was the Ovo. (Ovo helmets, company seems to have disappeared)  They had an integrated clip/snap on back and tabs on the side that the strap went under.  You could have your goggles on up on the helmet and fall and they wouldn't fall off.  That helmet, Titan I think, was also freakin' strong with carbon fiber plate on top.  It was a bit of a clunker and never fit me quite right - massive goggle gap, but most helmets I've seen are garbage compared to the shell strength of that one.  It's too bad Ovo went out, they had a lot of good ideas, but their 2 sizes fits all I guess didn't work? Not sure.


That brings up the subject of weight.  In my opinion the weight issue is totally overblown.  For example - that Ovo was heavy compared to the featherweights you see today, but it never felt heavy except when you picked it up.  Most helmets now are too obsessed with light weight.  Take my Smith Variant - it's light, with a good venting system,  but in my opinion it's structure is garbage. The shell is very thin, the impact foam isn't impressive, and it has a dumb retention system - ie doesn't work well. Most helmets actually fit in that description.  Better than nothing though.


Most idiotic is Poc for goggle retention. They have no system at all.  It relys on their goggles having sticky rubber strips on the strap.  Totally ridiculous.  They'll give you 10 million reasons why it's good I'll just give you one it's bad - can't hold the googles on.  If you always wear them, no problem.  I go opposite and prefer them off normally if possible.


So, helmet makers - start listening! Bring back the system to keep the freaking goggles on.  Especially on kids helmets, they're always flopping around.  This isn't that hard.

post #8 of 15

Goggle retention


I have found a very effective system that for me works a whole lot better than most of the standard retainers.


Take some self adhesive velcro (use the "hook" side only) and stick some on the back of the helmet (and the sides as well if you really want). Pull googles over helmet and strap sticks nicely to velcro. No need for any velcro on the helmet strap problem solved!.  Of course depending on the shell material of the helmet you might need to be careful with the adhesive type



Incidentally i rode the lift with someone recently who couldn't get his kid's goggles to stay in the right place (they kept slipping down).  Used the velcro on the sides of the helmet - problem solved.

post #9 of 15

Don't buy it online unless you know for sure the model fits you right. I have been trying to find a replacement for my current one for the last couple of years and nothing fits and feels even close.


Then again, I bought this one and only helmet via mail order about 10 years ago (before helmets became a common thing in shops) and it has done me really well over the years -- better than anything else that I have tried on.

post #10 of 15

Another thought: get a helmet with a removable liner.  My helmet starts to stink after several days of skiing, so I like being able to remove the liner and throw it in the wash.


I like the suggestions in this thread of trying on helmets before buying one.  I'd also buy it at the ski shop you tried it on to help support the shop, rather than sizing helmets at a shop and then buying online.

post #11 of 15

1) Fit - obvious. Any minor pressure point in the shop will give you a major headache after a day on the slope. So you'll give up wearing the thing. Beware of shop guys extolling "custom" pads; they can create more space between foam and your head, so more brain slop.  

2) Shell - in mould are lighter and most popular but not real great against penetration; regular ABS or carbon are heavier but stronger. (see 4)

3) Foam - most foam is EPS, your familiar styrofoam. Keeps any compression it suffers, so one serious hit and out. That said, most helmets use EPS and odds are the one that fits you will too. Just don't expect it to last forever. A few (Sweet, W, coupla others) are EPP, which gives a bit and returns to original shape. Can take multiple hits within reason, appears to absorb more shock . More expensive and if the shell doesn't fit your head, no go. Both kinds of foam degrade over time.

4) Barriers - POC and a few others have material between shell and foam to prevent penetration. Good alternative to thick ABS or carbon if you ski woods, chutes/cliffs, or gates. POC also has different kinds of foam depending on region of helmet, better shock absorption. 

post #12 of 15

Be prepared to buy new goggles unless goggles are a deal breaker i.e. she loves the ones she has and doesn't want to change that.  Bring the her goggles and try them on together.  I HATE the way my helmet pushes my goggles down and smashes my nose, but I have two matching pair of goggles with different lenses so I have just persevered while looking for another nice used helmet that works better with my goggles.

post #13 of 15


Originally Posted by crgildart View Post


 I HATE the way my helmet pushes my goggles down and smashes my nose


Yeah, I had to tape some padding inside the top of my Giro G10 helmet to keep it above my goggles.  Not the best solution, but works for now.  I expect most impacts to be on the front/back/sides and don't worry about the tip unless I ski off a cliff, which I'm unlikely to get near.

post #14 of 15

I echo the fit comments.  I like the ones with removable ear flaps because I get hot.  If it's really cold I wear a thin balaclava under my helmet.  And velcro works great for keeping your goggle strap in place.

post #15 of 15

More on the ear flaps. That's a personal preference. I for one cannot stand soft flaps (due to lack of warmth?) but others wouldn't tolerate a full face one. Also to add to what others said about goggles, some soft flap designs make it even harder to fit and retain your goggles.


... Just nother thing you won't know about until you try it out (off or on the slopes).

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