Helmets are not only comfortable to wear while driving, but they can also prevent head injuries and even save your life, helmets are often categorized by season based on their features. Helmets for skiing and snowboarding are designed for cold weather, keep your head warm and comfortable, work with goggles, and are certified to protect you.
Choosing the right ski helmet is not difficult to do. Here are 8 tips to help you make the right choice:
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1. ABS or in-mould construction
Some helmets have a tough outer shell, usually made from a tough, durable, mouldable plastic called ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene – the same stuff Lego is made of) over a separate shock-absorbing foam core. Others have an in-mould construction, with foam core and shell fused together, cutting weight and slimming down the helmet. It also makes it easier to add more venting. Hybrid construction helmets combine the two builds in various ways, for the optimal ratio of strength and weight.
2. Fit adjuster
Many helmets have a dial at the back so you can customize fit by tightening or loosening a fit system inside. The system may tighten just at the sides or all around the head; some can also be adjusted vertically, for a better fit at the back of the neck, and to avoid a dodgy gap between the helmet and goggles. Fit systems are often plastic, but some brands employ tough, comfortable BOA brand cables, also used in a collection of ski helmets with visors. A helmet with an elastic inner, or even without any kind of a fit adjuster, may fit perfectly – do always try helmets on to check fit before buying.
Inner linings and extra padding between foam core and head help make the helmet more comfortable, and moisture-wicking versions draw sweat away from the head, so being able to remove and wash yours is a bonus. Some have an anti-microbial treatment to help them stay fresh.
Multi-Directional Impact Protection or MIPS is a branded safety extra used in several makes of helmet. It’s designed to give extra protection from brain injury in falls where you take a hit from an angle rather than straight on. In these cases it’s more likely the brain will be damaged by moving around in the skull. The outer shell of a helmet with MIPS can easily move over an additional inner layer, which helps the helmet absorb and redirect damaging rotational forces before they reach the brain. Some helmet manufacturers incorporate their own technology to offer the same kind of protection, using variously shaped foam structures for example.
5. Removable earpads
You can detach the earpads from many helmets – handy when the weather heats up or if you’d like to swap in audio-compatible versions. Some earpads are joined via a protective neck piece, and some have a hollowed out area with the aim of improving hearing, and for inserting your chosen headphones. Race helmets must have ear protection.
All helmets have some form of venting to keep your head cool on the go. Some rely on open vents that draw cool air in over your goggles and through channels in the liner, after which warm air comes out through vents at the back. Others have extra adjustable vents, which can be manually opened and closed to let in more or less air. There’s sometimes a membrane over the vent holes, or a removable part of the lining, to stop snow or water getting in. The vents above goggles also help to reduce steaming up.
Some helmets have a goggle lens attached to them, meaning there’s no need to wear separate goggles or sunglasses. The visor can be pivoted up and down as needed – if you think of a fighter jet pilot’s helmet you’ll get the idea. They are becoming more popular, with most helmet brands offering at least one visor model, and they have a few advantages. Unlike most goggles, the visor doesn’t have a frame, so the field of view can be much larger. They can also be a great alternative for people who wear prescription glasses on the slopes. As with goggles, most brands offer different visors catering for a variety of light conditions, including photochromic lenses that adapt to varying light levels.
The foam core – sometimes referred to as the liner – is the engine of the helmet, made of shock absorbing materials that reduce the effect of the impact should you hit your head when falling over. Traditionally these have been made of EPS – expanded polystyrene, a light rigid foam that also adds warmth. More recently manufacturers have experimented with different types of foam, and also using it in varying densities that perform better according to how hard and even how often you hit your head.
The core may also incorporate other types of material or construction designed to help spread the force laterally across the helmet for example, or better protect from rotational forces that can damage the brain, particularly if you hit your head at an angle rather than straight on.