Helmets. The once “nerdy” and “uncool” thing to wear on your head, has made a massive rise in popularity over the years. Take a look around the next time you’re in the mountains, and you’ll find that a vast majority of skiers and snowboarders are actually donning a proper ski helmet. Most people have now come to terms with the fact that wearing a helmet isn’t so bad, in fact, it’s actually pretty cool!

Helmets have come a long way over the years, not only with style, but with functionality as well! Helmets now-a-days come with much more insulation, padding and ventilation, resulting in a nicer and more comfortable experience. Each year helmets get smaller, lighter, more comfortable along with a wider range of styles to choose from. With all of this information coming to light, we now need to start looking at what kind of helmet you should purchase based on your needs!

Let’s first cover the differences between a ski helmet and a bike helmet. Sure they both go on your head and protect it from falls, but the environment in which they do so is drastically different. The average bike helmet is not designed to withstand impacts from the same angles and ski and snowboard helmets. If we look at the back of a ski helmet, we will see that it comes all the way down to the top of the neck. The helmets are created this way due to the increased probability of a backwards fall, as opposed to a bicycle helmet, where the risk of falling backwards off your bike is significantly lower. Not only are there safety concerns with using a bike helmet on the slopes, there are comfort issues as well. Less padding and insulation will have you feeling cold and wanting to put a toque underneath! Doing so, however, also reduces the effectiveness of your helmet, as they are designed to be worn directly on your head. If you’re going to be wearing a helmet (which you really should), you may as well do it right!

Now that we have determined that we need a proper ski or snowboard helmet, let us discuss the fit. You should be able to feel the helmet sitting directly on top of your head, not on the fronts or sides of your head. A nice snug fit will aid in comfort as it will not be shifting while you are enjoying the slopes. Try grabbing both sides of your helmet and sliding the front of the helmet up and down. The skin of your forehead should be moving with the helmet. Now, with the helmet on your head, you should be able to tilt your head down and give your head a gentle shake without having the helmet fall off. If your helmet is too tight or if your feel any pressure points, it may not be the right style for you, as you want to feel comfortable in it all day while you ride!

Having a great fitting helmet is a good start to getting what you need. Now we can start looking into styles and features! Some people like really lightweight option like the Salomon MTN Lab, or would like a multi-impact helmet with a soft shell like the Giro Combyn. Maybe you need a FIS approved helmet for ski racing; whatever it is you’re looking for, your local ski shop should have something for you! Now if you want one of the safest helmets that you can get, we should be looking for a helmet that is outfitted with MIPS technology.

Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) is a new technology that is being introduced to al kinds of helmets. This system aids in reducing the rotational forces from impacts, and allows the helmet to rotate independently around your head, which in turn, redirects impact energy away from your head, which reduces the likelihood of a concussion and/or other brain injuries.

So far we have covered the need for a proper ski helmet, the fit, styles and features, we need to look at when to replace a helmet. Most helmets have a lifespan, believe it or not. You may not notice it happening, but a majority of helmets begin to break down within 3-5 years, and should be replaced in that time frame. The foam will not be up to it’s original safety standards and will not withstand the same impacts it is supposed to. A helmet is also in need of being replaced after a major impact, or if you notice any cracking of the helmet. In most helmets, the foam inside is actually made to break and crack to absorb the impact, and will no longer work as it should if you continue using it after a good wipeout. A good habit to get into is to routinely check your helmet every day before and after riding so no damage goes unnoticed!

Regardless of your wants/needs, a proper ski helmet should be always worn when out and enjoying the slopes, whether it be in town or in the mountains. You may be a skilled and confident rider, but you are never alone out there. Other riders may not be as skilled as you, or even intoxicated and unable to control themselves and begin to pose a threat to you or other riders. You never know who else is on the mountain and you could be on the receiving end of a nasty collision where a helmet could have potentially saved your life. Or maybe you still think that helmets just aren’t “cool”; I’d say that getting to go home to see your friends and family at the end of the day seems a lot cooler to me.

Stay safe out there everyone! Ride with care, and always wear a helmet!