Besides your skis or snowboard, a helmet is the most important piece of gear. A head-injury sustained while speeding down a mountainside can result in a life-changing (or even life-ending) injury. That said, much of the risk can be mitigated by choosing the right helmet. Every year, helmet technologies improve, maximizing durability, ventilation, and protection, while minimizing weight. Plus, many of today’s styles, finishes, and colors elevate the helmet to the status of fashion accessory.
Though it goes without saying, all outdoor adventures involve some degree of risk. But don’t take unnecessary ones—because you never know what’s lurking beneath the fresh powder. As a rule of thumb, the lifespan of any helmet is roughly five years. That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to discover this year’s best helmets for skiing and snowboarding. Our choice for best all-around helmet in 2021 is the Smith Optics Vantage Mips Helmet, which expertly balances protection, airflow, durability, and style.
The Top Ski & Snowboard Helmets Reviewed
Best Overall Ski Helmet:
Our favourite ski and snowboarding helmet in 2021 is the Smith Optics Vantage Mips Helmet (women’s; men’s). This helmet scores major points for maximizing comfort, airflow, and protection—without sacrificing style.
Their proprietary AirEvac2 technology allows for seamless goggle integration, while the Aerocore construction features Koroyd. The internal XT2 lining is anti-bacterial and the 21 vents with low-profile dual regulator are perfect for climate control.
Best Budget Ski Helmet:
For the price, you won’t find a tougher, more durable helmet than the Raider 3 Helmet by Anon. Integrated ventilation allows for airflow control and helps with goggles, while the injection-molded ABS exterior means long-term reliability. Features a fleece lining, drop-down ear pads and a clever auto-adjust fit system. The ergonomic design doesn’t hurt, either.
- No frills
Best Backcountry Ski Helmet:
Leaving the busy slopes for the beautiful backcountry? The first step is having the right helmet for the job. That’s where the POC Obex Backcountry Spin Helmet comes in.
The Obex Backcountry Spin is compatible with POC AID Communication Ear Pads; this allows you to contact emergency support and rescue. RECCO Rescue Reflectors are placed on the outside of the helmet to assist SAR-Techs in locating you. The helmet is compatible with POC goggles, while the Shearing Pad INside (SPIN) increases durability and comfort.
- Safety features
- Overkill for resort slopes
Best Ski Helmet for Kids:
POC is known for their extraordinary race helmets. Now, with their POCito Skull Helmet for kids, they’ve integrated that same great technology, while improving impact absorption at lower speeds. Reflective stickers ensure optimum visibility on the slopes.
Kids will love the sleek design that comes in an array of cool, fluorescent colours. As an added precaution, the goggle clips features a ‘My Info’ card where parents can include their contact information. Includes a reflective vest and LED lamp.
- Designed for kids
- Extremely safe
- High visibility
- Cool colours
- Not for adults
Best Ski Helmet for Ventilation:
For warmer days on the slopes or sweaty stretches through the backcountry, you need a helmet with excellent breathability. The Oakley MOD3 Helmet is our top-pick for ventilation. The MOD3 features an adjustable ventilation system, a removable brim, and an X-Static liner/ear pads, which fight against odours and bacteria.
Redesigned in 2018, the upgraded aesthetic with matte finish is definitely a plus. If you’re a warm-blooded skier, consider the MOD3 Helmet.
- Removable brim
- Not for cold days
Best All-in-One Ski Helmet:
The Salomon Mirage Helmet is our choice for an all-in-one ski/snowboarding helmet. Not only does its proprietary EPS 4D moulding protect against oblique and vertical shocks to the head, but their Custom Dial Fit system includes a visor. The merino wool lining is hygienic and removable and the faux-fur ear pads are audio system compatible.
- Visor Included
- Audio Compatible
A ton of features at a great price, you can’t go wrong with the Anon Echo Helmet (women’s; men’s). It fits comfortably, thanks to its 360° Boa Fit System, while offering advanced protection with its Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). Features 12 adjustable vents.
What to look for when buying a ski or snowboarding helmet
When choosing the best snowboarding or skiing helmet, keep the following features in mind.
There are two broad categories of helmets. One type is an in-mold helmet, while the other is an injection-mold helmet. In-molds typically weigh less and are less bulky; that’s because the shell and liner are molded in a single process. Injection-molds are heavier, bulkier, but offer more robust protection. This is achieved by molding the liner to a separate shell before combining it with the exterior shell.
Helmet safety depends largely on two components: the shell, which is simply the rigid outer layer, and the inner liner, which is constructed using a type of foam. The shell protects your head against hard/sharp objects, while also distributing the force of an impact over a broader surface area. The inner liner is responsible for cushioning the blow through absorption.
If a helmet sustains a serious blow, consider destroying it and replacing it with a new one. Never ever purchase a used helmet.
Ventilation has come a long way since removable plugs. Today, most helmets offer adjustable vents to control airflow. When researching a particular helmet, take note of how many vents are included and the convenience of its mechanism.
Liners and Warmth
For added warmth, many helmets include a head liner, in addition to ear pads. The best liners and pads are made from odour- and bacteria-resistant fabric, like merino wool. Merino is also good at wicking sweat while maintaining warmth. Opt for removable liners and pads when possible, as this’ll allow you to stay cooler on warmer days.
Helmets are almost always goggle-compatible. Different brands use different mechanisms to attach goggles, and some are easier than others. Do your homework to find what works for you. Note that some models include anti-fog technologies to keep visibility at its sharpest.
A cost-effective way to buy a helmet and goggles in one fell swoop. The Salomon Mirage Helmet is a good example.
Fit and Sizing
A good helmet is snug but not too snug. Shake your head up-and-down then left-and-right to see if there’s any rock. If tightening the strap doesn’t solve this, size down. The helmet should ideally sit right up against your goggles.
This means integrated speakers in your helmet. Connect to your device to listen to music or to a two-way radio to keep communication open.
With the advent of portable, high-resolution cameras, many helmets have begun to incorporate a dedicated mount to keep your camera securely attached.
FAQs for ski/snowboarding helmets
How tight should a ski helmet be?
Not too loose, but not too tight. Put a little less vaguely, your helmet shouldn’t have any shake. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be so snug as to become headache-inducing.
How to measure your head for a ski helmet?
Grab a soft measuring tape and wrap it around the circumference of your head, roughly an inch above your eyebrows. Take the measurement in centimeters (cm), as it’s the most common metric among brands. Now, simply compare it to the sizing guide of a particular helmet.
Are helmets mandatory for skiing?
Unless otherwise indicated by a particular resort, the answer is yes for kids and no for adults. But here’s the caveat: The Canadian Ski Council highly encourages riders of all levels and ages to use a helmet. They believe that helmet use should be a personal choice, but that the choice is, well, rather obvious.
We hope you’re as amped up about helmets as we are. Yes, safety talk can be a downer, but when your helmet looks this good, it’s hard to stay sour. TL;DR: Smith Optics Vantage Mips Helmet is our pick for best ski helmet in 2021.
Next, check out what to wear skiing and snowboarding!