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We bought 15 of the best ski helmets available today and gave them to our snow experts for side-by-side testing. Over the last seven years, we've examined nearly 30 models, always seeking the latest technology in dome protection. We take every model to the resort and into the backcountry to assess their performance across key metrics that you care about, like how warm they are on cold days and how well they ventilate on warm ones. Other factors, like comfort, weight, and goggle compatibility, were tested and scored. As the market explodes with options, we make choosing the right product for your head easy. However you prefer to slide on snow, we have the recommendation to match your budget, needs, and style.
For years, the Smith Vantage MIPS has remained our favorite overall helmet. The feature set of this helmet makes it a repeat fan-favorite for our testers. The easily adjustable Boa dial system eliminates pressure points, providing a comfortable, custom fit regardless of head shape. The versatile ventilation system allows you to pick which vents you want to open, so that you can tailor the amount of airflow. The Vantage uses MIPS technology to better absorb the rotational impact forces commonly associated with brain injuries. It also employs a generous amount of Koroyd, which is a welded tube structure designed to absorb the impact forces and decrease your chances of serious injury from direct hits. These features, plus the helmet's tight, high-quality construction, makes it an easy choice for any die-hard skier.
The only real downside to the Smith Vantage MIPS is its high price. The best-of-the-best doesn't come cheap, but there's value in spending more to get more, especially when it comes to head protection – as they say, you only get one of them! The Vantage MIPS is appropriate for any skier or rider simply looking for the best ski helmet available on the market.
The Giro Ratio MIPS strikes an impressive balance of value and performance. Like other top-price models, the Ratio MIPS includes a premium set of features, but utilizes a cost-friendly hardshell construction to keep the price reasonable. The ventilation system is excellent, with six adjustable vents that allow you to micro-manage the airflow and your temperature. The helmet uses a harness system for an adjustable fit, managed by an oversized dial that is easily adjusted while wearing gloves. Unlike other helmets at this price point, this helmet is outfitted with MIPS technology to protect against rotational impact forces – proving that you don't have to pay top dollar for additional protection.
While beneficial for cost savings, the hardshell construction is also our biggest complaint with this helmet. The increased weight and size is more noticeable while riding, and the overly bulky appearance detracts from its style. But for skiers and riders looking for a high-quality helmet on a budget, the money you save far outweighs these minor drawbacks. The Giro Ratio MIPS is an excellent option for casual skiers looking for a new lid that offers great features, top-notch protective technology, and avoids the sticker shock of many top models in this review.
The Smith Mission MIPS is our recommendation as a budget-friendly helmet for those who frequently split their time between riding chairlifts and the backcountry. Purchasing a helmet for each activity can be a financial burden and unnecessary depending on one's touring goals. The Mission achieves an equitable share of front and backcountry needs in a helmet. It is a well-balanced model with many favorable features of a resort helmet like adjustable vents, a warm liner, MIPS, and Koroyd, all in a lightweight, low profile, backcountry-ready package. It is only a few ounces heavier than the lightest helmet in our review but offers more utility to the standard ski tour. For the average recreational backcountry skier, the marginal weight increase is a reasonable tradeoff for enhanced impact protection and other amenities this helmet provides. This unique balance of features and performance led to the Mission being one of the first helmets our testers reached for, whether you are spending the day riding groomers or touring out of our favorite trailhead.
Our snowboarding reviewer's main hesitation when reaching for this helmet was its styling. Fortunately, this is subjective, and anything can look stylish if you own it. Additionally, removing the earpads was more complicated than other models. When removing the pads, it felt similar to breaking the plastic insert. Because the pads are integrated into the harness system, you need to remove the harness attachment near the temple area of the helmet. Despite these minor quirks, this helmet's lightweight, functional, breathable, and protective nature makes it a choice option for those who want one helmet for front and backcountry use.
Smith has once again produced a top-of-the-line ski helmet with the Smith Quantum MIPS. It has all the features you'd expect from one of the nicest helmets on the market. This model feels luxuriously warm in comparison to other models. A large number of vents keep your head nice and cool on warm days, and the cozy ear covers are removable. Easy size adjustment using the BOA wheel, combined with MIPS technology and Koroyd construction, makes this one of the best fitting and most protective helmets we tested.
Much like its sibling, the Vantage, the Quantum doesn't come cheap, but you're buying the tricked-out Cadillac Escalade of helmets, so the quality and features help justify the price tag. The main differences between the Quantum and the Vantage are that the Quantum is a little heavier, comes with a magnetic buckle system, and doesn't vent quite as well as the Vantage.
The Anon Logan Wavecel is our recommendation for freestyle riders because of its comfort, ventilation, and protection features without losing out on style. The Anon Logan is a relatively lightweight and low-profile model, making it easy to forget about atop your noggin. This model incorporates Wavecel technology to increase its protective merit. Wavecel is a protection technology designed to flex, crumple, and glide to help dissipate force and prevent injuries from rotational impacts commonly experienced in ski accidents. The Logan is also a very well-ventilated helmet. The new school skate-inspired styling is at home whether you are freeriding or in the terrain park. This helmet makes little compromises to ensure it's one you will wear.
Its lack of adjustable vents only holds back this light and comfortable helmet. It was a bit airy when traveling at speed and on very cold days. While it offers impressive ventilation due to the vent structure and Wavecel, we needed a thin beanie on colder days to stay warm. Ultimately, this helmet is excellent for freestyle riders or those who generally don't like wearing a helmet. Its overall comfort and protective features make this helmet a no-brainer.
The Salomon MTN Lab is the most backcountry-specific helmet we tested. It's a bit of a hybrid, part mountaineering helmet, part ski helmet. At 12.7 oz., it's easily the lightest model we tested and is vented to the nth degree. It has a removable, washable inner liner. You also get a summer version of that liner for warmer days. The MTN Lab also sports some handy mountaineering-geared features like a headlamp retainer to keep your headlamp from slipping off when you're boot-packing up a couloir after an alpine start. This helmet is great if the objective of choice has you debating between bringing your climbing helmet or your ski helmet. Often, avalanche hazard is not your primary concern with objectives of this nature. Likely, it's rockfall or falling on potentially firm snow. Another good application of this helmet is for ultralight travelers and people who backcountry ski more than they resort ride.
Of course, the MTN Lab does have its drawbacks. It's certainly not a perfect helmet for all situations. All that ventilation? It's a bit of a one-way street. While most of our other favorite models can open and close their vents, the Salomon does not. That means that when it's cold or stormy, you're likely to be a little chilly. For downhill travel on those chilly days, we'd recommend a skull cap of some sort. After testers tried this helmet, those with round head shapes found the fit much better than those with oval-shaped domes. While it has its drawbacks and is not a quiver-of-one product, the MTN Lab is more suited for serious backcountry skiers than any of the other helmets we tested.
Sam Piper, Wes Berkshire, Alex Bogner, and Isaac Laredo are the experts behind this review. Wes is an avid skier who spends 150+ days a year outside using and testing gear. Sam brings a wealth of emergency services experience and training, having worked for Denali Rescue and as a ski patroller. He holds certifications in Avalanche Level II, swift water rescue, and Wilderness EMT-B. Alex went to school in Vermont for Mountain Recreation Management at Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University). He usually skis about 100 days a season and has managed to ski every month of the year. With a professional background in ski patrol and ski guiding, Alex often pushes his gear to the limit. Isaac reviews all things snowboarding. He has designed his life in pursuit of the perfect turn. Isaac spends 5-6 days a week strapped into his snowboard each winter and early spring, either ski guiding, teaching avalanche courses, or personally freeriding. He is meticulous about his gear and understands its capacity to make or break your experience. All of our experts bring valuable knowledge to the table to provide you with the best possible recommendations.
Our testing of ski helmets is divided across six rating metrics:
Comfort tests (25% of overall score weighting)
Warmth tests (25% weighting)
Ventilation tests (20% weighting)
Weight tests (10% weighting)
Goggle Compatibility tests (10% weighting)
Style tests (10% weighting)
We test each ski helmet through extensive field testing, and over the last seven years, we have gotten to try out almost 30 different models side-by-side. Our testers ski and ride as much as possible and frequently switch helmets, terrain, and conditions to ensure well-rounded information. We evaluate the comfort and warmth of each helmet with different head shapes, goggles, and temperatures. We assess the ventilation and weight through measurements and by feel when skiing and riding. We even poll a wide variety of users to gauge the style of each helmet. To obtain comprehensive data, we took them out time after time to use them ourselves, gave them to friends, and compiled all the feedback into this review. Our goal is to help you find the perfect ski helmet for how you want to enjoy the mountain.
Analysis and Test Results
We spent hundreds of hours comparatively testing these products to score them across a strategic set of metrics. For detailed insight, the individual metrics should give you a better idea of how each helmet performs in particular categories and allow you to make the best decision for your preferred activities and budget. Continue reading to see our findings and top performers in each metric.
The past few decades of material science have changed the way helmets are designed to offer more protection than ever before. A proper helmet is an incredibly worthy investment and is not the piece of gear to skimp on. Our advice is to purchase a comfortable and reliable ski helmet that's suited to your riding style, even if you have to spend a few extra dollars. The appropriate helmet always ends up on your head, and the wrong one will be a burden to wear or, even worse, not worn at all. That said, we all come to the table with different budgets, and we have tested a multitude of helmets to be able to a quality ski helmet for a wide range of budgets. Generally, we found that performance is associated with price; the most expensive models were the highest performing and offered the best protective technology. However, great values exist, and a few find this balance standing out for their performance and price.
Protection is priority number one. Fortunately, most helmets offer MIPS versions (or similar technology) of helmets for a marginal price increase. We recommend indulging in a rotational impact system (MIPS is just one example). It is mainly the features and molding process that drive up the price. Our testers' favorite, the Smith Vantage MIPS, comes in at a high price, but due to its category-leading performance, we still find it a solid value for those who have the means or find it on sale. If you're looking for a middle ground between features and price, then the Smith Mission MIPS and Giro Ratio MIPS offer outstanding solutions at half the cost of the top-tier models but perform much better than "half" as good. The former is more versatile, handling resort and backcountry sliding well, while the latter costs less. The Giro Ledge is the least expensive product in this review. However, we generally recommend springing for the MIPS version. It increases the price to almost as much as the Ratio (a better ski helmet all around).
An uncomfortable ski helmet can detract from your day on the mountain, and, eventually, that helmet will find itself in a stack of unused gear. You are more likely to wear a helmet if it is comfortable, especially those who dislike the feel of helmets. For these reasons, comfort is one of the highest weighted metrics at 25%. The molding, padding, shape, and fit of the ski helmet all play a role in overall comfort. Ideally, a comfortable helmet should adjust easily to provide a proper fit and then be forgotten about when you get to the joys of riding.
The Smith Vantage, Smith Quantum, Scott Symbol 2 Plus D, Smith Mission, Pret Cynic X2 MIPS, and Anon Logan Wavecel are our highest-rated helmets for comfort. All these models have a solid, well-built feel to them that leaves you feeling well-protected straight away. The Vantage, Quantum, and Mission share some traits associated with the brand that add to their comfort. The Vantage and Quantum sport the BOA Fit wheel for smooth and effective personalizing of the interior fit. The Anon Logan also uses a BOA adjustable harness system. The fit wheel is located on the helmet's shell, which makes it easier to find and make adjustments when wearing gloves. One of our favorite adjustment systems was on RCS Fit System the Pret Cynic X2 as it uses a very large dial with large contours and an audible click that helped us make adjustments with gloves on.
The earpads are thick and well-padded on all the Smith helmets, like mini pillows for your ears. Some of our testers did feel that the Quantum ear pads were a little too snug and left some residual soreness after a long, full day on skis. However, the Quantum does offer a sweat-wicking, anti-bacterial liner, which will keep your head dry and the smell factor down.
Even when things are great on top of your head, a scratchy chinstrap that doesn't sit well can be a real deal-breaker. The Scott Symbol 2 Plus D was one helmet that featured a unique chinstrap that was extremely comfortable. The chinstrap is flat, soft, and wide, unlike any other helmet tested in this review. Also specific to this helmet are the earpads equipped with Scott's "360-degree Pure Sound" tech. It allows you to have improved hearing capabilities while still keeping your ears warm and toasty. We were initially skeptical but can report it is an improvement over most ear covers that greatly muffle sound and impede hearing.
The Giro Zone MIPS impressed us with its In Form 2 Fit System and cupped ear pads. The In Form System is similar to Smith's BOA Fit in that it's essentially an adjustable wheel at the back of the helmet that will snug up the interior fit to more accurately fit your head. While many systems feel like they only operate from the back, the Zone felt like it was snugging our heads all the way around, kind of a nice feel. As for the ear pads, the Zone has more of a cupped design, meaning that, while still very well padded, your ear had a little better place to fit rather than just being mushed into the padding like most helmets. We found that the cupped design added a little bit of wind noise at high speeds, but they were great from a comfort standpoint.
The Right Fit
The fit is probably the most important factor in purchasing a helmet. A helmet that doesn't fit properly is likely to be uncomfortable and, more importantly, can compromise your protection. Some helmets are more suited to round head shapes, while others suit oval head shapes. Many helmets come with adjustable internal padding, which is useful in dialing in the fit to your head. Don't be afraid to use them to customize the helmet's fit to your head.
There is nothing worse than being stuck on the top of the mountain shivering. Of course, you should start with a good base layer and add clothing as needed, but keeping your head warm is just as important, and we weigh this metric at 25% of the overall score. Ski helmets are, by and large, warmer than wearing a hat or hood while skiing. With a tight-fitting goggle/helmet combo, it's easy to feel completely protected from the raging blizzard. To evaluate warmth, we wore each helmet in various temperatures without skull caps and performed a series of high heat activities like walking up and downstairs to gauge heat retention.
The most prominent design consideration to negatively affect warmth are fixed vents, i.e., vents that don't close. Whether you wear a beanie under your helmet or not, having cold air flowing through at all times can be pretty chilly. Another factor that plays into warmth is the ear pads. These hug the ears, and whether they can perform without being too tight is key. Tight ear pads can cause significant discomfort after hours on the hill. Lastly, some helmets aren't padded and insulated that well, making them better suited for warmer environments.
The warmest helmet is the Smith Quantum. It has tensioned ear pads, air vents that close, and nice padding for a snug, warm fit. It kept our heads comfortable and warm. The Smith Vantage and Scott Symbol 2 also provide plenty of warmth.
The Shred Totality NoShock provides a toasty on-hill experience at a lower price than the Quantum. It has a soft interior lining that goes around the circumference of your head to provide additional warmth. The earpads are comfortable and yet remain draft-free. The vents are fixed but covered with a metal mesh sheet. In our testing, the mesh seemed to increase the helmet's warmth by limiting air movement compared to fixed-open vent models.
The Pret Cynic X2 is one of the warmest helmets in the review despite its technically fixed vents, bucking the trend. The model employs a liner of blended wool and recycled polyester fleece to add plenty of warmth. Its Level One Ventilation has hidden flaps on the underside of the liner that can be deployed to block the vents and essentially close them. Our testers didn't appreciate that you need to remove the helmet and liner to "close" these vents with liner flaps. In general, open, fixed vents provide less warmth than those that open and close.
Ventilation is the helmet's ability to cool you down and reduce head sweat, and we gave this metric a 20% weighting in the overall score. Ventilation for helmets comes in two flavors— vents and the ability to remove the earpieces. Vents that open and close allow for the most regulation, but having any vents at all will help pull air through the helmet. We skied on warm days and found that not all vents are created equal. Some of the helmets we tested look like they'll vent well, but the vents' configuration didn't work to create airflow. Additionally, many helmets these days have removable earpads that can quickly be stashed in a jacket pocket mid-run. We strongly prefer this ability to customize our temperature regulation on the go.
Removable earpieces increase the ventilation potential of a helmet. Removing the earpieces is enjoyable for warmer days. Still, it is more challenging to accomplish on the mountain than simply opening vents. Every model has removable earpieces except the Giro Zone.
The Salomon MTN Lab is easily the most vented helmet we tested. With huge, subdivided vents running the length of both sides of the helmet, airflow was never an issue. This ample ventilation is very welcome in ski mountaineering and touring situations. The Sweet Protections Ascender MIPS offers substantial ventilation, too. Rather than using big ventilation channels, the Ascender uses a strategic flow channel and a network of 108 small vents to move air out effectively. There is a cover that has a 2mm gap between the vents to block snow and spindrift from entering the helmet.
The Smith Vantage also vents very well, with options to close all or just some vents at a time. Smith Quantum, Smith Mission, and Giro Ratio all have adjustable vents, and they vent well. The Sweet Protection Switcher MIPS and Scott Symbol 2 Plus D also vented very effectively.
The Wavecel construction of the Anon Logan creates increases the overall ventilation of the helmet. The Wavecel insert has a lot of negative space that allows air to move freely throughout the helmet. This model had one of the best ventilation scores despite only having ten vents.
All of the helmets we tested are certified to meet specific protection standards through the American Society for Materials and Testing and/or the European Committee for Standardization. That means they've passed rigorous testing and met specific criteria to ensure that they will keep your noggin as protected as possible as you zoom downhill. There's no truth to the idea that a heavier, bulkier helmet automatically means a safer helmet. The difference in size stems from different construction techniques. We weighed each model and then evaluated the helmet's overall profile by how it felt when skiing and its ability to fit under the hood of a ski jacket. Of course, this can depend on the helmet you choose and the ski jacket you wear. Therefore, we used the same coat for each test. This metric has a 10% influence on each product's overall score.
In-mold helmets are usually lighter and lower profile, while injection-molded models tend to be heavier and bulkier.
The lightest ski helmet we tested is the Salomon MTN Lab, weighing just 12.7 oz on our scale. The Smith Maze and Giro Ledge also land on the lighter end of things. The Smith Mission is another lightweight option at 16.9 oz for a size Large. It's less noticeable than heavier models when riding.
The slimmer, in-mold constructed helmets, such as the Giro ZoneSmith Vantage, and Sweet Protection Ascender, fit better and easier under hoods than injection-molded models like the Oakley MOD 5 MIPS or the Giro Ratio.
Features inevitably add weight to helmets. A few models that we really like, such as the Smith Quantum, are not high scorers in the weight metric. Although some are a little on the heavy side, they come with all the bells and whistles that make helmets super desirable. These few extra ounces are worthwhile for most resort riders as they can improve the helmet's fit and overall user experience.
Your helmet and goggles should work in tandem, creating a tight seal between the two on your forehead. Goggles and helmets should fit seamlessly, meaning there should be no gap between the two, and they also should not be competing for real estate. Your helmet should not be pushing down on your goggles. Leaving a gap provides space for freezing air to blast against your forehead. Alternatively, pressure points and headaches can arise if the helmet presses the goggles. We assessed goggle compatibility by trying each helmet out with different goggles from various brands and evaluating the helmet shape and goggle retention system. This metric has a 10% weighting in the overall scores.
Another aspect of this integration is fog prevention. Goggles fog from warm air from your body interacting with cold air from outside. It creates condensation. Goggles have a ventilation system to flush away the warm air, and some helmets have intake vents to direct airflow to the goggle, which should decrease fogging. Several helmets like the Scott Symbol 2 Plus D, Shred Totality NoShock, Giro Ratio, and more have vents in the front to help promote airflow directly onto the goggles to prevent fogging.
The Smith Vantage, Smith Maze, Giro Zone, Anon Logan, Pret Cynic X2, and Oakley MOD5 seem to fit the widest variety of goggles. They all managed to create a good goggle/helmet seal without compromising the space between the bridge of the nose and the helmet's brim. They all also managed to form a good seal between goggle and helmet at the user's temples.
The Smith Vantage and Sweet Protection Ascender have very secure and durable bungee goggle retainers that are user-friendly and discreet. We like this feature and feel it is a welcome change from the standard, sometimes thin plastic hook found on many helmets.
The modular design of the Oakley MOD5 might appeal to you, especially if you employ a rotation of goggles for your skiing needs or you can't try before you buy. It comes with two brims of different sizes to adjust to fit multiple goggle frame sizes. It takes a screwdriver and a few minutes, so this isn't an on-the-hill kind of exchange, but doing it at home is easy.
Style, like the fit, is crucial to your ski helmet purchase. If you don't like the way it looks, you might not end up wearing it, and that does no good at all! Style is an entirely subjective category—so as long as you like the look of the helmet you choose, that's all that matters. We did go to the effort of asking our ski partners and friends their general opinions on each model, and we give this metric a 10% weight in our scoring system.
As we've mentioned above, in-molded helmets tend to be sleeker in shape, like the Smith Vantage or the Giro Zone. In contrast, the injection-molded models have a bulker, more prominent profile, such as the Giro Ratio or Giro Ledge. Many of these helmets come in various colors, making them easy to pair with your outfit on the slopes, and some are two-tone, which can help match even more.
Choosing a ski helmet can seem like a daunting task. Our intention with this review is to help you quickly and accurately identify the right model or models for your specific needs. Don't get distracted by fancy marketing. Use our assessments and experience to guide you toward the model that helps you ski or ride to your best ability and feel like a pro.
If you're still skiing in your warped and scratched...
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