How To Choose a Ski Helmet

Ski helmets have come a long way from the eggshells of the past. With helmets now featuring complex ventilation systems, different impact-absorption systems, and lens compatibility designs, there’s a lot to weigh when buying a new helmet. We compiled this in-depth guide to help you determine which type of helmet will work best for you and the type of skiing you do most.

Helmet and Goggle Integration

Helmets and goggles should work as a pair. They need to fit well together in order to provide protection, coverage, and comfort—all without sacrificing warmth or ventilation. Once you find the right combo, you’ll never want to ski without them.

One way many goggles integrate with helmets is via a clip on the rear of the shell. This clip, which is often activated by a spring or button mechanism, fits over the back of your goggle strap, keeping the fit secure. Goggle straps also typically feature silicone details on the inside. This prevents the strap from shifting or sliding on the surface of the helmet.

It is also important that the shape of the goggle frame integrates well with the shape of the helmet. If the brim of your helmet isn’t flush with the top of your goggle frame, cold air can slip through the gap, which can be painfully chilly. One of the best ways to ensure a perfect fit is to buy goggles and helmets made by the same company. Most goggle and helmet companies, like Smith and Giro, take measures to ensure the curve of their goggles and helmet brims are compatible. If you’re buying a helmet and goggles from two separate companies, inspect the goggle frame and helmet brim beforehand to make sure the curve of each matches each other.

Smith helmets and goggles fit seamlessly together to eliminate a “gaper gap.”

What Type of Ski Helmet Is Right for Me?

Helmet design and technology varies from one brand to another, just as it varies from one discipline of skiing to another. Some helmets are designed with backcountry skiing in mind, while others fare well in resorts. When choosing a helmet, it’s important to take impact protection, ventilation, fit, and integration into consideration.

If you’re skiing in a climate that’s more temperate, you should consider a helmet with a dozen vents or more. If you’re skiing steep, technical terrain, in-bounds or out, then a helmet with an advanced impact protection system like MIPS or AMID and ample safety certifications. Fit and integration are also important. Some skiers like to wear beanies or masks under their helmets, especially on frigid days, which makes adjustable fit systems like BOA or 360 very helpful.

Types of Ski Helmets

While many ski helmets look and fit similarly, tangible differences exist between many of them. As discussed in the previous section, ski helmets serve a variety of uses. But they also feature a variety of construction methods and materials.

Injection-Molded Hardshell

Injection-molded hardshell helmets feature an EPS liner that’s been bonded to an impact-resistant plastic shell. This sturdy, durable design offers reliable protection against high-velocity impacts. Favored by competition skiers, the hardshell helmet is a rigid, heavy-duty lid.

In-Mold Hybrid

An in-mold hybrid helmet is a lighter, sleeker take on the ski helmet. Comprised of a shell and shock-absorbing foam liner that have been bonded in a single molding process, these helmets were made with comfort and efficiency in mind. But that’s not to say they aren’t safe to wear because they still meet rigorous safety regulations.


Ski helmets are often fitted with detachable ear pads or ear warmers. However, some skiers—namely racers—require a helmet with a more comprehensive design. Full-ear helmets feature the same plastic shell protection over the ears as the rest of the helmet’s surface. Similar to the design of an open-faced motorcycle helmet, these helmets provide an added level of protection, which is often necessary for the demands of ski racing.

Helmet Certifications

For decades, independent testing organizations have been set up to test the efficacy and reliability of safety equipment. These organizations are widely beneficial to consumers, as they designate levels of safety and applications to helmets, pads, and other safety equipment. Since helmets play the vital role of protecting our brains, it’s very important to ensure the helmet you’re buying meets the safety standards of an independent testing organization.


The American Society for Testing and Materials is an international standards organization that publishes standards on a wide variety of materials, products, and systems. They have conducted helmet standards testing for almost 50 years, and their methods have encouraged the advancement of helmet technology over the last several decades. ASTM-approved ski and snowboard helmets will have an F 2040 marking on them, meaning the helmet met ASTM’s requirements for dynamic strength testing, positional stability, and temperature resistance.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission is an independent standards testing agency within the United States government. Their methods involve strength testing, impact attenuation, strap integrity, temperature resistance, vision interference, and positional stability.


The CE marking indicates that a product meets the health and safety requirements of products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA). While the European Union has a slightly different perspective on helmet technology than the US does, the CE marking is still a reliable certification for helmets to have. Ski helmets that meet the CE requirements will have an EN 1077:2007 Class A or Class B marking on them. The difference between Class A and B protection is that Class A helmets are required to protect the ears and side of the head, and they must withstand an impact from a drop height of 75 cm. Class B helmets do not have to protect ears or the side of the head (though many of them do), and have to withstand an impact from a drop height of 37.5 cm. Class A helmets generally provide more comprehensive protection, while Class B helmets typically feature better ventilation and make it easier to hear.

Impact Protection

A comparison of the strain in the brain from an angled impact when a dummy was wearing a helmet with and without MIPS. Image courtesy of Smith.

In recent years, the rise of integrated impact protection systems has allowed engineers to reimagine the construction of the helmet. Impact protection systems like MIPS and AMID work to reduce force from angled impacts as well as impacts that happen in quick succession.

These systems work by using multi-density foam or inserts between the shell and lining to absorb or redirect impact forces that would have otherwise transferred to the brain. With MIPS, for example, the head is allowed to move 10-15 mm relative to the helmet in all directions, effectively reducing the shock that would be transferred directly to the head if the helmet’s fit was fixed and rigid.

Ventilation Systems

Helmets often have adjustable vents that let you control the airflow into the helmet. Image courtesy of Smith.

Ventilation is a key aspect of any ski helmet. Even on cold days, it’s important for a helmet to be breathable to keep the skier’s head from accumulating excess sweat.

Helmets made by companies like CP integrate their helmet and goggle systems to ensure ample ventilation. Using their signature Controllable Air System, CP made a helmet that keeps the head warm and protected, but also well-ventilated. And with their integrated goggle system, these helmets also provide a clear, fog-free view of the trail ahead.

Other helmet manufacturers take a simpler approach to ventilation. Many of the helmets released by brands like Smith and Giro feature fixed ventilation systems. These helmets have non-adjustable vents, which let a particular amount of air to flow through the helmet regardless of conditions. These helmets are simple and reliable, but they lack the adjustability that some skiers prefer. Depending on conditions, temperature, and the type of terrain being skied, some skiers prefer to control the amount of air circulating through the helmet.

Fit & Sizing

Having an adjustable fit increases the versatility of a helmet. This feature is especially useful for young people whose heads are still growing, and those who sometimes like to wear a layer like a mask or beanie under their helmet. Some skiers also prefer to wear their goggle strap inside their helmet rather than outside, which also makes adjustable fit systems beneficial.

The adjustable dial on this Atomic helmet ensures a precise fit. Image courtesy of Atomic.

By using technology like BOA, helmet manufacturers can make size-adjustable helmets without sacrificing comfort or security. Aside from offering versatility and compatibility with head warming accessories, the adjustable helmets also ensure a highly precise fit. By letting skiers dial-adjust the size, these helmets ensure a snug fit, even for heads that are between traditional sizes.