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Ski & Snowboard Helmet Buying Guide

Written by Dugald Morrow   
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
  

Introduction

A helmet is probably the most important piece of safety equipment for any skier or snowboarder. The Australian and the USA national ski areas associations recommend wearing helmets for all snow sports activities – skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing etc. Not only will a helmet reduce the likelihood of head injuries, it will also provide good insulation for colder days. Helmets these days are specifically designed for snow sports and provide better coverage and impact protection than other helmets such as bicycle and skateboard helmets.

This article provides important considerations and advice relating to the purchasing of ski and snowboard helmets.

Fit

Helmets usually come in a small, medium or large size with adjustments to fit different sized heads. To measure your helmet size, wrap a taylor’s measuring tape around your head at a level above your eyebrows. Note that size is not everything since the human head varies in shape also. For this reason, make sure you try on a number of helmets to get the best fit for you. Other considerations relating to fit include compatibility with your goggles and ensuring vision and hearing are not obscured. Also pay close attention to the chin strap retention system as well. The front and rear straps should form a "Y" just below and forward of your ears and there should be no slack in the system.

Standards

There are currently (mid 2008) three standards relating to non-motorized snow sports helmets – Central European Norm (CERN) CE 1077, American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) F2040 and Snell Memorial Foundation Snell RS-98. ASTM F2040 and Snell RS-98 are more rigorous than CE 1077, however, no ski and snowboard helmet makers currently participate in Snell’s certification program. In summary, ensure your helmet is certified to ATSM 2040 if you want a high quality helmet.

Styles

The three main styles of helmets in increasing order of coverage are:

  • ¾ shell;
  • full shell; and
  • full face

¾ helmets are cooler on warmer days, but obviously don’t provide as much protection. Many ¾ models come with removable ear flaps. Full face helmets incorporate a chin bar for jaw and face protection, but most skiers and snowboards find them less comfortable. Full face helmets are generally used in competition and for those who take greater risks.

Features to Look For

The following provides a checklist of features to look for (in no particular order):

  • Standards compliance
  • Shell construction
  • Weight
  • Comfort
  • Ventilation adjustment
  • Compatibility with your goggles
  • Washability of liner

Helmets on Children

It is particularly important for children to wear helmets. Children run a much greater risk of being run into by other skiers and snowboarders for a variety of reasons including:

  • They are less visible.
  • They are more prone to stopping in locations where they are not visible from above.
  • They are more likely not to give way when merging onto a trail.
  • They are less likely to be able to identify and get out of the way of a skier or snowboarder above them who is out of control and likely to run into them.

Notable Helmets

Smith “Hustle”

Smith’s “Hustle” is the latest in their impressive helmet line up. Their construction consists of an almost indestructible ABS shell for the top half and super light-weight polycarbonate shell for the bottom half with an EPS foam liner. The helmet incorporates a highly effective interconnected goggle/helmet ventilation system they call AirEvac™. Additional vents on the helmet provide open, half open and closed positions controlled by a vent slider directly under the ABS shell that reduces helmet volume and results in a sleek design. All Smith helmets incorporate a Helmet Fit System (HFS™) with a simple one-button set and forget control. Smith helmets are covered by a lifetime warranty and crash replacement program.

Team Wendy’s “W”

Proprietry “Zorbium” foam liners are true multi impact helmets qualifying to ASTM F1492 multiple impact standard for skateboarding, as well as to ASTM F 2040 for snow sports.

Pro-Tec

Pro-Tec have exclusively licensed a multiple impact technology called “Surface Activated expanded polypropylene (SXP) into their liners. Their range of helmets offer a variety of features including goggle ventilation, adjustable fit systems, ventilation system based on Bernoulli’s principle (simply stated, air moving over the vents in the helmet encourages ventilation).

Boeri “Tactic”

The Boeri “Tactic” incorporates a feature Boeri call “Head-Loc”, which they describe as a self-adjusting occipital retention system improving fit, comfort and safety.

Summary

There are a great range of high quality helmets available specialised for skiing and snowboarding. Given the safety benefits and value for money, there really is no reason not to equip yourself with a ski/snowboard helmet.

Notes:

EPS is short for expanded polystyrene which is lightweight material offering excellent crush characteristics. Once crushed it recovers some part of its thickness, but does not recover its protection. If you don't discard it after the first hit, you will be in for a nasty surprise if you happen to hit on the same spot for a second hard impact!

Zorbium liners have great multi-impact qualities, however, they are criticised for being hot and heavy.

Buy a Ski / Snowboard Helmet

Start your search for a ski / snowboard helmet using the skicow online shop.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 19 November 2008 )
 

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