The Best Helmets

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 2017/2018, 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 five to keep you comfortable and, most importantly, safe.

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 2016-2017 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 Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming. 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 rated what extra features we needed, 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 2017 test include a variety of new technology, 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.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Uvex p2us WL
93
Best in Class
2017
Comfort 9
Weight 9
Breathability 8
Ease of Use 9
Features 8

Secure, universal fit (no pressure points)

Fits with various goggle types

Soft ear lining

Easy to adjust chinstrap

Hard to hear

Flimsy venting system

Non-intuitive buckle system

Chinstrap liner doesn’t stay in place

MSRP
$180.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
POC Auric Cut
89
Comfort 9
Weight 7
Breathability 9
Ease of Use 7
Features 7

Full-coverage ear flaps

Secure, universal fit (no hotspots)

Elaborate venting system

No lining on chinstrap

Large, slightly clunky

MSRP
$180.00
BEST DEAL
$99.77
Giro Stellar
87
Comfort 8
Weight 8
Breathability 6
Ease of Use 6
Features 9

Secure, universal fit (no hotspots)

Variety of colors

Audio compatible + camera mount

Not true to size

Difficulty adjusting chin strap

Non-intuitive buckle system

MSRP
$250.00
BEST DEAL
$129.99
evo
Pret Lyric X
86
Comfort 6
Weight 8
Breathability 7
Ease of Use 6
Features 9

Secure, universal fit

Soft, wool liner

Easy to adjust chinstrap

Hard to adjust fit system

Non-adjustable vents

Non-intuitive buckle system

MSRP
$139.95
BEST DEAL
$80.99
evo
Bolle Bolle Millennium
83
Comfort 6
Weight 6
Breathability 8
Ease of Use 7
Features 6

Extremely fuzzy and soft liner

Fits well with a variety of goggles

Easy-to-adjust chin strap

Uncomfortable fit for some wearers/not true to size

Liner often rolls over, irritates head

MSRP
$129.99
BEST DEAL
N/A
Uvex p2us WL

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. 

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POC Auric Cut

The POC Auric Cut had the best ear pads—soft, comfortable, and completely enclosed, but didn’t hinder hearing at all. The helmet also had the most versatile venting system, with three changeable venting points. The fit was secure with no hotspots, but the Auric felt a touch clunky and lacked in style.

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Giro Stellar

The Giro Stellar MIPS had the most unique technology, where the entire outer shell of the helmet conformed to the tester’s head rather than just the inner shell and lining. Though the fit was extremely secure and comfortable compared to other helmets, the helmet did not run true to size and also had a chinstrap that was difficult to adjust on the fly.

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Pret Lyric X

The Pret Lyric X is an extremely lightweight helmet that comes in at a very low price point compared to the other helmets in this test, but it still rates highly when it comes to safety. The helmet uses MIPS technology, as well as Vent Tuning Technology, though the venting isn’t adjustable, unlike the other helmets tested. 

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Bolle Bolle Millennium

The Bolle Millennium is a generally comfortable helmet, though some testers felt it created more pressure points compared to other helmets. The fur liner and ear pads were softer than all of the other helmets, though hearing was hindered slightly. The venting system was adjustable and easy to use.

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Review Results

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Comfort

The Uvex p2us WL and the POC Auric Cut helmet tied this year for the most comfortable helmets. The Uvex p2us WL grabbed the high rating thanks to the fact that it fit all of our tester’s heads comfortably, all day long. The POC Auric Cut also fit most of our testers’ heads and had no hot spots. The least comfortable was the Pret Lyric X, which created gaps on the top of the head for some testers, and the Bolle Millennium, which felt loose on some wearers and tight on others.

Weight

The lightest feeling helmet this year was the Uvex p2us WL helmet, which wasn’t technically the lightest, but did feel the most sleek and maneuverable when scanning the run. The Bolle Millennium felt the most clunky and cumbersome, and sometimes hindered head movement.

Breathability

The POC Auric Cut had the most breathability with two different adjustable vent systems; the top system has six vents and the front system has two vents to prevent goggles from fogging up. The Giro Stellar was the least breathable helmet, even though it has six vents (four adjustable ones on top and two fixed ones in the back).

Ease of Use

The Uvex p2us WL helmet was the easiest to use, thanks to testers’ ability to adjust the chin strap and the BOA fit system with gloves on, and adjust the vents on the go. The buckle took some getting used to, but could be opened with one hand. The Giro Stellar and Pret Lyric X tied for least easy to use. The Giro’s chin strap was really tricky to adjust (even without gloves on) and the Pret helmet had a fit system dial that was smaller than others, and thus difficult to use with gloves on.

Features

Both the Giro Stellar and the Pret Lyric X had top features on their helmets. The Giro Stellar uses MIPS technology for multi-directional impact protection, plus has a goggle holder, is audio compatible, and comes with an integrated POV camera mount. The Pret Lyric X also has a goggle holder and is audio compatible, but incorporates RECCO Rescue System Technology and uses MIPS technology for top protection. The Bolle Millennium is a simpler helmet that does not use any sort of MIPS technology or multi-impact EPP construction.

Review Conclusion 

A helmet just might be the safest gear for your body when you are skiing or snowboarding, but no one is going to wear a helmet that is uncomfortable, hot, or too heavy. The five helmets we chose for the best women’s ski and snowboard helmets for 2017/2018 will keep your head protected and you comfortable. They’ve got vents and goggle holders, top notch technology in case of a crash, and easy-to-use buckles, straps, and audio attachments.

Whatever features you want, the most important factor to consider is fit. With four testers and even more helmets, we realized that getting the right fit is hard. Measure around your head, about one inch above your ears and eyebrows, with a soft tape measure (or a string). The measurement in centimeters will tell you what size you fit into.

If you can try the helmet on in person, do that. 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.

Overall, we wouldn’t mind seeing top protective technology in all helmets, even sleek and lightweight ones.

Test Methods

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 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 is a ski or snowboard helmet?

Whether you are a beginner on the mountain or an expert, wearing a helmet is a must. 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 these companies are reputable companies that test their helmets, 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.

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.

In the US, there is no overarching standard that helmets must follow when it comes to protection, but two commonly used ratings are the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). ASTM ratings use a dynamic strength retention test, an impact test, and a positional stability (roll-off) test; the CEN ratings look at 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. Another 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 intact.

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.

Internal Liners

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 liners are 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.

Ventilation System

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.

Lining

Look for a liner made from a soft, fuzzy material that is moisture-wicking and removeable 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.

Extra Features

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.