Our testers went to great lengths to ski as much as they could in every weather condition imaginable. They skied in the frigid cold, warm spring-like days, in sideways snowstorms, and even in the pouring rain. Our main testing areas were located in the resorts and backcountry of the Lake Tahoe region as well as Northwest Montana. In order to achieve the most accurate scores, not only did our testers wear each helmet on several outings, but they also gave the helmets to their friends to achieve a strong consensus rating. Each helmet was then judged on a scale of 1-10 in each of our testing categories.
Ski helmets must keep your head comfortable while skiing, sitting on the lift, and even walking around the resort. We rated helmet comfort based on the snugness of fit and general feeling while skiing. We noted if there were any pressure points including on the earmuffs. We gave also made a point to notice how each of the chin straps feel. The more easily a product adjusted to fit our heads (via dials and sliding mechanisms), the better it scored here.
Ski helmets need to perform in a range of temperatures - from frigid Arctic air to warm spring days. Everybody runs at a slightly different temperature, but in general, a warm ski helmet should negate the need to wear a hat underneath. To find out how warm these helmets really were, we skied during freezing days throughout our testing period to see if the helmet can maintain its heat in the coldest temperatures.
A great ski helmet has a well-crafted ventilation system that can easily open and close to remove excess heat. To compare the helmets, we first counted how many vents were on each helmet. Then we used both gloves and mittens to see how easily the vents were to open and close. Finally, we skied a fast run with the vents open, and one with them closed to see how much air passed through the helmet.
When we were considering the weight of each ski helmet, we first noted if the helmet felt heavy while we were skiing. We also considered how heavy they were when carrying them in packs while climbing up for backcountry skiing. In the end, the scale gave the final say. From there, the score for weight was based on those considerations.
Ski helmets don't always fit with every pair of goggles. It is important to make sure the helmet you choose does not create a "gaper gap," or create downward pressure problems on your goggles. The design of the goggle strap fasteners was useful to consider as well. When we were testing these helmets, we tried them on with several pairs of goggles to make sure all types of frame designs can make a tight seal with the helmet. As we skied, we noted if the helmet created any pressure problems, how well they stayed in place, and if we could feel the wind on our forehead due to any gaps.
Style is subjective but does play a role in ski helmet choice and even functionality. While in the lift line and on the skin track, we asked as many skiers as we could about what they thought of the style of each helmet. This created a consensus score and helped to limit personal bias.