Our highly experienced reviewers test and rate ski and snowboard helmets each year to determine the top features offered in helmets and how the different technologies offer the best protection.
Keeping your head protected on the slopes is a must, but not all helmets fit the same or have the features you are looking for. For the Best Ski and Snowboard Helmets of 2018/2019, we tested eight helmets to see which ones have the best technology, which features are a must, and how each helmet felt by the end of a full day on the hill. Here are the top picks from last year and this year to keep you comfortable and, most importantly, safe. All the helmets tested this year were rated highly, but the Uvex P2us from the 2017/2018 test still takes the win for Best in Class, with the Bolle Juliet coming in right behind.
After measuring our testers’ heads and calling in helmets for their size, we realized that it can be quite difficult to size and fit a helmet correctly. With some helmets, neither size fit our testers’ noggins, and some that did fit left them with headaches by the end of the day. With multiple testers and multiple head sizes, we were able to really hone in on which helmets fit true to size and just how differently shaped everyone’s heads are.
Throughout the 2017/2018 ski season, the helmets were used at a variety of Colorado resorts, including Arapahoe Basin Ski and Snowboard Area, Keystone Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Vail Mountain Resort, as well as Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. Conditions included clear, sunny days on groomers, as well as windy, snowy days on powder and in the backcountry.
After the initial sizing of each helmet, we scoped out the extra features like easy-opening vents that keep wind and snow out, and a tight fit that doesn’t leave any gaps in the front or hotspots by last chair. Other important factors included general comfort among the chin strap, ear flaps, and inner lining, as well as how easy it was to use the buckle system and adjust the straps with gloves or mittens on.
As skiers and snowboarders continue to push the boundaries both literally and figuratively, helmet companies have needed to up their game to keep up with potential crashes. Sure, venting, comfort, and even style are nice, but what the helmet really needs to do is protect your head and brain. The helmets in the 2018 test include a variety of technologies, including multi-impact EPP construction to protect against multiple crashes, and MIPS technology; a multi-directional impact protection system to protect heads from rotational impacts.
The Uvex p2us WL was the only helmet tested that every tester rated highly, from the overall fit and comfort to the ease-of-use for tightening and buckling. The helmet fit true to size, worked with a variety of goggles, and is also extremely lightweight. The interior, chinstrap, and ear pads were extremely soft, but did hinder hearing.
The Bolle Juliet stood out the most for its unique colorway and designs compared to other helmets, but didn’t disappoint when it came to overall ease-of-use and weight. The dial-fit system, goggle strap, and adjustable venting system were all extremely easy to use, even with gloves on, and the buckle system was efficient once we learned how to use it correctly and quickly. The fit was secure, comfortable, and lightweight compared to other helmets, though it did not fit true to size as it was too small for one normally small sized tester.
The Smith Quantum came in a very close second to the Bolle. It did fit all testers, unlike the Bolle, but was not as breathable or sleek feeling and looking. Testers rated it as the most warm and comfortable helmet, and easy to use with a classic buckle system. For features, the Smith Quantum has the most protection with a hybrid shell construction featuring Koroyd, and MIPS available on certain colorways.
The Sweet Protection Switcher helmet had the best venting system and top features, like headphone compatibility and a dial-in system for both the fit system and the vent system. However, the helmet was lacking in overall comfort and fit, but does have top protective features like in-mold and hardshell construction, and the option of MIPS.
The Giro Terra is a highly comfortable and lightweight helmet that all testers enjoyed wearing throughout the entire day on the mountain. It has a dial-fit system and is audio compatible, but does not have adjustable vents and uses a classic buckle that can be tricky to undo with gloves or mittens on. Testers loved how lightweight and sleek the Terra felt both while wearing and from an aesthetic viewpoint, including the slight colorful details.
The Roxy Angie lacks vents and does not employ much protective technology. It also didn’t fit all of our testers, but was comfortable for the testers that it did fit. The buckle, dial-fit system, and goggle strap are easy to use with gloves on, and testers loved the lightweight and sleek appearance.
Whether you are a beginner on the mountain or an expert, wearing a helmet has become the norm across the board. Top helmets range from about $150-$200, though they can be more expensive if the helmet has extra features. Many current helmets include an integrated goggle holder to help keep your goggles in place, some sort of fit system dial so that helmets can be tightened, and buckles that can be opened with one hand.
All of the helmets we tested are from reputable manufacturers, but it should be mentioned that in the US, there is no overarching standard or law when it comes to helmets and their protective ratings. So although a helmet might look and feel tough, it can be difficult to understand just how protective it will be when you need it the most. Two organizations that do test helmets include the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). For the ASTM ratings, a helmet must meet the F2040 safety standard, which uses a dynamic strength retention test, an impact test, and a positional stability (roll-off) test. For the CEN ratings, a helmet must meet the 1077 safety standard, which tests for shock absorption, penetration, and retention systems (chin strap and buckle). All of the helmets included in our ratings meet either or both of the ASTM and CEN safety standards.
The Smith Quantum was rated as the most comfortable helmet of all the ones tested for the 18/19 season. It rates the same as the BIC Uvex P2us, both which rated just ahead of the Bolle Juliet and the Giro Terra. Smith fit all testers as did the Uvex P2us, unlike the Bolle Juliet which was too small for one of the testers, and the Smith provided the most warmth on snowy, cold days.
The six helmets tested this year were split down the middle for listed manufacturer’s weight; the K2, Roxy, and Giro were all around 400 grams where the Bolle, Smith, and Sweet Protection were 500 grams or more. The Best In Class Uvex weights 525 grams, however, even at the higher weight, the Uvex and the Bolle Juliet didn’t feel any heavier than the lightweight K2, Roxy, and Giro helmets. The Bolle did look more rounded, but didn’t feel clunky or top heavy throughout the day.
Both the Bolle Juliet and the Sweet Protection Switcher rated highly for breathability. The Sweet Protection Switcher has a very specific venting system that could be fine tuned with the dial that doubled as the place to secure the goggle loop. The Switcher has more than 20 vents. The Bolle Juliet is also very breathable with a less elaborate venting system (six adjustable vents on top, two vents in the front, and two vents in the back), but mixed with the soft and breathable inner lining, kept all testers heads cooled even on warm days. The Roxy didn’t have any vents on top, and the Giro did have vents, but they were not adjustable. The K2 and the Smith also had plenty of adjustable vents, but both were not as cooling as the other helmets tested.
Ease of Use
All the features on the Uvex P2us rated highly when it came to general ease of use, as did the features on the Bolle Juliet. On the Uvex, the chin strap and BOA fit system were easy to use with and without gloves on, as were the vents. The buckle system is a button-press adjustment, which had a learning curve to it, but could be opened one-handed once testers got the hang of it. On the Bolle Juliet, the dial fit system, venting system, and ratchet buckle could be used with gloves or mittens on, and the chin strap was easy to adjust on the go. The ear pads were also easy to remove and attach back on (unlike the Smith, K2, and Roxy), and the goggle strap was rated as the most secure (unlike the K2 and Giro). The Smith and Roxy helmets had easy-to-use, one-handed magnetic Fidlock buckles, while the K2 and Giro has classic buckles. The Sweet Protection Switcher had a magnetic one-handed buckle system that was tricky to understand at first.
The Smith easily has the most protective features of any of the helmets tested — it uses Koroyd and MIPS technology. The Giro also has MIPS, as does the Sweet Protection in certain colorways. The Roxy helmet uses a double micro shell with EPS shock absorbing foam; the Bolle uses an injected ABS mold, and the K2 uses hybrid construction of both in-mold and hardshell technologies. Beyond the protection factor, the Smith Quantum also has adjustable vents, a dial-fit system, and a secure goggle strap.
To test helmets, we look at comfort, weight, breathability, ease of use, and features. Comfort includes fit, if the helmet has any gaps or hotspots when tightened, and how soft and warm the inner lining and ear flaps are. Weight, along with actual mass, includes how clunky or sleek the helmet feels when on and if any movement is hindered due to its construction. Breathability includes analysis of the vents (location, number, how large) as well as if the lining causes wearers to be too hot and sweaty. For ease of use, helmets were rated on how effortless straps and buckles were to adjust (both with and without gloves on), how well various goggles fit with the helmet to avoid any gaps, and if the helmet scuffed quickly or not. Rating the features of helmets includes analyzing the technology of the impact protective construction and if the helmet has extra aspects such as audio compatibility or integrated camera mounts. What we don’t test is how a helmet reacts during an impact. We leave that to the labs and talk more about that in the section below.
How To Select The Best Winter Helmet For You
Figuring out what you need in a helmet can be difficult. Each company uses different technology, construction and adds in a variety of features (some necessary, some not). As the wearer, you’ve got to understand your own fit and comfort and what details you’ll need on the mountain, but also make sure you aren’t skimping on a helmet’s overall protection and the technology used.
One company that is making sure misinformation doesn’t confuse consumers is The Dome, which runs the website, HelmetFacts.com. The Dome provides testing and information on materials used so that you get the truth when it comes to protecting your dome. In their own About section, they disclose that they are the in-house test lab for Bell, C-Preme and Giro.
“We wanted to present information on materials, standards, and new technologies without making this a marketing piece for our helmets,” said Thom Parks, senior director of corporate affairs, Bell Sports, Inc. “It is hard to find out information about the various standards and design philosophies of helmet companies. When should I replace my helmet? What are the limits of protection? We hear these questions a lot.”
We have divided the selection process into five important steps. After you’ve read through the steps, move on to the ski and snowboard helmet reviews that compare specific models side-by-side to choose the best product to keep your noggin warm, comfortable and most importantly as safe as possible in case of an accident.
1. Measure Your Head
Using a flexible tape measure (or a piece of string), measure around your head one inch above your ears and eyebrows. The measurement in centimeters will tell you what size helmet should fit. Another sizing factor to consider is the shape of your head, which you can’t really tell until you’ve got the helmet on. If you can try a helmet on in store, do that.
2. Consider Comfort And Fit
It should fit snug around your entire head, with no gaps on top or around where the fit system tightens. You should be able to shake your head and move the helmet in all directions without it falling off or feeling too loose; the helmet and your scalp should all move as one.
Once the fit is correct, consider other aspects that will make the helmet more comfortable, like the weight and shape of the helmet. Some helmets are rounder and heavier, which can hinder movement and feel cumbersome or clunky. Lighter helmets, which will be more expensive, are sleeker looking and support a full range of motion.
“Check the manual for specifics related to a given helmet model and adjust it correctly per the manual,” said Parks. “And we suggest you choose a helmet that provides the most coverage that you are willing to wear.”
Helmets come in full shell, half shell, and full face. Most helmets for recreational skiers and riders are half shell (like a bike helmet or skateboard helmet), with racers wearing a full face helmet (similar to a BMX or a downhill mountain bike helmet). Half-shell helmets have soft and flexible ear pads that are often removeable. A full-shell helmet takes the hard outer shell and foam padding from the top and extends it down over the temples and ears for extra protection. A full-face helmet covers not only the skull, temples, and ears, but also the chin and jaw area, like those by RuRoc, which comes with a detachable, high-impact mask for the bottom part of your race. Full-face helmets will hinder movement and lessen your field of vision.
Ear covers differ drastically from helmet to helmet. They can be made from a soft felt or fur-like material, but after that their quality changes depending on their thickness and shape. Even full coverage ear flaps let wind in, while thicker ones might keep wind out, but inhibit hearing. Ear flaps that have thick coverage around the edge of the ear cover yet hollow on the inside are ideal. Little wind makes its way to your ears, but because there is no fabric directly on your ears, you can still hear clearly.
3. Consider Protective Technology
The outside of helmets are constructed from a lightweight thermoplastic shell, but what really matters is what’s inside. Some liners protect from multi-directional impacts as well as simply multiple impacts, while others use a hybrid construction for a protective helmet that is more cost friendly.
All helmets should be replaced every three to five years, as general breakdown does occur from seasonal use and climate, sweating and other unavoidable factors. EPS helmets, which are considered single-impact helmets, must be replaced after a moderate to major collision or impact. EPP helmets, which are considered multi-impact helmets, should be able to withstand multiple minor impacts, but will need to be replaced after multiple mild to moderate impacts or a single severe impact. If you can see any physical damage to the outer shell or inner foam lining, like cracks, bumps, or dents: replace it. Also check that the straps and buckles are working correctly.
Outer Shell And Construction
Hard-Shell or Injection Molded helmets bond the ABS plastic shell to the inner foam EPS liner for a durable construction against frequent knocks. Hardshell ABS is the most commonly used material for an outer shell of a helmet that is extremely durable. It is a plastic that can withstand impacts against sharp objects. This type of construction is most cost effective.
In-Mold helmets fuse the shell and foam in a single-piece molding process to be permanently attached. These helmets are sleek and lightweight, but are not as resistant to everyday dings and can be more expensive.
EPS: Many helmets use a lightweight EPS foam liner (similar to the Styrofoam used to make a classic white cooler) with a hard plastic shell. EPS liners use hard foam to soften any collisions by cracking or collapsing in to absorb shock. This type of liner is most commonly used in helmets and must be replaced after any large impact.
EPP: Multi-Impact EPP linersare internal liners that are made to continue protecting your noggin even after multiple impacts. The foam is similar to EPS foam, but is able to recover its shape after impact. EPP liners are more expensive than EPS liners.
MIPS: Multidirectional Impact Protection System is a technology where the liner of the helmet slides a little in the helmet to absorb rotational shock and minimize strain to the connective tissue holding the brain in the skull.
SPIN: SPIN stands for Shearing Pad Inside, which is POC’s new patent-pending helmet technology. SPIN uses silicone pads placed in specific places inside the helmet that have the mobility to shear on impact. This movement is designed to help during rotational impacts (like when your head turns some, or gets hit from the front and pushes the helmet back) by buffering your skull to adjust slightly inside the helmet and move somewhat independently of the helmet.
Koroyd: A newer helmet technology, Koroyd uses hundreds of small co-polymer tubes that are thermally fused together, which ends up looking similar to a honeycomb. Once fused together, the Koroyd creates a core for a helmet with a high compressive strength and a high energy absorption rate. Studies on Koroyd claim it protects better than EPS foam as an absorption liner material. Smith and Dynafit have helmets that contain Koroyd.
4. Consider Features And Ease Of Use
Once you’ve found a brand that fits your head shape, start thinking about what features you’d like on your helmet. If you tend to sweat a lot or your goggles fog up often, choose a helmet that has multiple vents and a removable, antimicrobial liner. Or perhaps you listen to music while you ski and ride or are looking for a way to mount your GoPro. Whatever features you choose, they should be easy to use. You should be able to unbuckle, tighten straps, open vents and use the fit system dial all without ever having to expose your hands to the elements.
All of the helmets reviewed have vents, but they differ in placement, number of vents and adjustability. Most venting is on the top of the helmet (an average of four vents on top), with some models placing two vents in the front to lessen goggle fogging and two vents in the back to circulate air flow. Many models also have vents that you can easily open or close with a slide or dial regulator, which helps keep snow and wind out when it’s a blizzard.
Look for a liner made from a soft, fuzzy material that is moisture-wicking and removable for easy washing. Also see if the chin strap has a lining. Sometimes, the chin strap lining can prevent chafing, while on some models the lining tends to move and slip out of place.
Straps, Buckles, And Dials
When on the hill, you don’t want to take your gloves or mittens off every time you need to make a quick adjustment on your helmet. Test out dials for the fit system on the back base of the helmet with gloves on; same with the venting system.
For the buckle, some companies are sticking to the original two-pronged buckle that you have to pinch to undo while others are using a magnetic, one-handed, laterally sliding buckle by Fidlock. Another buckle that is pinch-free is a button-press adjustment, one-handed system by Uvex.
Lastly, see how tricky it is to tighten and adjust the chin and side straps. Although you won’t have to adjust these often, they can help to ensure a precise fit.
Almost all helmets are marketed to be compatible with all brands of goggles, but test this out for yourself to make sure there is no gap between your helmet and your goggles. Other features include ear pads that are audio chip compatible or helmets that have an integrated POV camera mount. Some helmets also include integrated RECCO Rescue System Technology, which is part of a system used by search teams in case of avalanches or other mishaps.
5. Consider Price
Helmets with more features and custom technology will be higher priced, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. Start with setting a price range for yourself, and go from there focusing on fit. It would be wise to invest in a higher priced helmet that fits correctly, rather than a lower priced helmet that has extra features.
Next, consider different components that the helmet has, such as ventilation system, goggle fit or audio compatibility. Read our reviews where we tested every helmet model on a variety of heads in a variety of snowy conditions. Use our selection to help guide your purchase to get the best helmet for your needs.