7 Key Factors to Consider When Buying Ski and Snowboarding Helmets
While all snowboard and ski helmets protect your head, understanding how they're made and the latest technologies used to make them - from MIPS to BOA fit systems and magnetic buckles will help you make an informed decision when buying one. Whether it's your first time buying a snow helmet, or you damaged your last one in a crash, there are a couple of important things you need to take into account when shopping. This will ensure you get the best helmet that will fit you properly and offer optimum protection while going down the slopes.
Ski and snowboard helmets can either have an in-mould or ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) construction. ABS constructed helmets feature a durable, tough mouldable ABS plastic outer shell over a shock-absorbing foam core. In-mould constructed helmets, on the other hand, have the shell and foam core fused together, which reduces the overall weight of the helmet and slims it down in size. Further, in-mould construction helmets make it easier to add more venting. Some manufacturers have went as far as making hybrid construction helmets, which combine the features of ABS and in-mould helmets in many different ways for the optimal ratio of weight and strength.
The foam core of the helmet, also known as the liner, is made of shock absorbing materials that reduce the impact should you hit your head. In the past, the core was made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) which is a rigid, light foam that also provides warmth. In the past several years, manufacturers have started experimenting using various different types of foam, and also using it in different densities that perform better based on how hard and how often you hit your head. Besides foam, the core may also incorporate other materials and construction to help spread the force across the helmet, or to better protect you from rotational forces that can lead to brain damage, especially if you hit your heat at an odd angle instead of straight on.
A loose helmet won't protect you properly, or it may not even stay on if you fall, so you should look for adjustable chin and ear straps to ensure a tight fit. A soft fleece or cover over the strap will prevent chin chafe, and some helmets also feature bright buckles so that other people can spot it in case of an emergency. The buckles may clip or slide together, and you should test how easy they are to use when wearing the helmet. Some helmets feature magnetic buckles so that you can put both ends together when wearing gloves, even without looking.
Most helmets feature a dial at the back so that you can customise their fit by loosening or tightening a fit system inside. This may be done all around the head, just around the side, or only vertically to avoid gaps between the helmet and goggles, and for a better fit behind the neck. Most fit systems are plastic, but there are some manufacturers that employ comfortable, tough BOA brand cables, similar to those used in ski and snowboard boots. Helmets with an elastic inner, and without a fit adjuster may also fit you perfectly, but you should always try them to ensure a snug fit before buying.
Multi-Directional Impact Protection (MIPS)
This feature adds extra safety and is present in many modern helmets. They're designed to provide extra protection from brain injury when you hit your head at an odd angle instead of straight on. The outer shell of MIPS helmets allows them to redirect the damaging rotational forces and absorb some of the impact before they reach the brain. Some manufacturers use their own technology to offer the same type of protection, using differently-shaped foam structures, for instance.
All snowboard helmets have one for of venting or another in order to keep your head cool. Some models rely on open vents that take in cool air over the goggles and through channels in the liner, and warm air comes out through the vents located at the back of the helmet. Other models feature adjustable vents that can be opened and closed manually to control the amount of air that comes in. Sometimes, there's a membrane over the vent holes, or a removable part of the lining in order to prevent water and snow from getting in. There can also be vents above the goggles to prevent steaming.
Some ski and snowboard helmets feature a goggle lens attached to them, so you don't have to wear separate sunglasses or snow goggles. The visor can be moved up and down as you see fit. Helmets with visors are becoming more popular, and most manufacturers offer at least one visor model, and they offer a few benefits. For instance, unlike goggles, visors don't have a frame, so they provide a larger field of view. Plus, they can be a great alternative for people wearing prescription glasses. As with snow goggles, most manufacturers offer different visors to cater for a variety of light conditions.