Best Ski Helmet of 2021
|Price||$260.00 at Backcountry|
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|$165.00 at Backcountry|
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|$219.95 at Backcountry|
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|$219.95 at Backcountry|
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|$249.90 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Comfortable, warm, vents well, style points, compatible with most goggles||Toasty, comfortable, really well-built||Comfortable, warm, well vented, great hearing ability, easy to adjust||Great interior fit, stylish look, warm||Great sound quality, well ventilated, innovative buckle, adjustable|
|Cons||Pricey||Expensive and a little heavy||Runs a bit small, heavier than most||Ear flaps can be noisy||Vents can be noisy, minimal top padding|
|Bottom Line||A top shelf helmet for the die-hard skier||Expensive but worth it||This innovative helmet is full of new safety tech and style||A high-quality helmet at a more moderate price point||You'll never have to worry about overheating or getting brain freeze with this helmet|
|Rating Categories||Smith Vantage MIPS||Smith Quantum MIPS||Scott Symbol 2 Plus D||Giro Zone MIPS||Switcher MIPS|
|Goggle Compatibility (10%)|
|Specs||Smith Vantage MIPS||Smith Quantum MIPS||Scott Symbol 2...||Giro Zone MIPS||Switcher MIPS|
|Measured Weight (in ounces)||17.7 oz||21.0 oz||19.8 oz||17.9 oz||20.8 oz|
|Adjustment System||Boa Fit System||Boa FS360 fit system||RAS 2 system||In Form 2 Fit System, Vertical Tuning||Occigrip turndial|
|# of Vents?||20||22||44||14||26|
|Number of Sizes||3||4||3||3||3|
|Removable Ear Covers?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Certifications||ASTM F 2040, CE EN 1077 Class B||ASTM F 2040, CE EN 1077 Class B||EN1077:2007, Class B, EN12492:2012||CE EN1077||CE EN1077 class B / ASTM2040|
Best Overall Ski and Snowboard Helmet
Smith Vantage MIPS
The Smith Vantage MIPS has remained our favorite overall helmet for years. Its ventilation system, construction, and use of protective technology make it one of the best helmets money can buy. This helmet comes with various great features that help make this helmet so enjoyable with our reviewers. First is the easily adjustable Boa dial system. The Boa tightens the helmet and provides a custom fit for your head's shape, providing a pressure point free and comfortable experience. The versatile ventilation system is another notable feature. You can pick which vents to open and how much air flows through them. If any of those features don't quite suit your fancy, this helmet's tight construction also helps make it an easy choice for any die-hard skier. The Vantage uses MIPS technology to manage rotational impact forces associated with brain injuries. It also employs a generous amount of Koroyd. Koroyd is a welded tube structure designed to absorb impact forces and decrease your chances of serious injury.
The only real downside to the Vantage is its high price. The best doesn't come cheap, but then again, when it comes to head protection, what's more important than that? The Vantage is appropriate for any skier or rider looking for the creme de la creme in helmet protection and features.
Read review: Smith Vantage
Best Bang for Your Buck
Giro Ratio MIPS
The Giro Ratio strikes an impressive balance of value and performance. The Ratio uses a cost-friendly hardshell construction to pair premium features on a reasonably priced helmet. The helmet has ten vents, six of which have adjustable capabilities. This is great for those who like to micro-manage their temperature. The fit is easy to adjust with a dial and harness system found on the back of the helmet. The dial has a large groove, which made it easier to move the dial with gloves on. To top it off, it is outfitted with MIPS to provide additional protection against rotational forces.
The same hardshell construction that reduces the cost is also this helmet's biggest downfall. It is larger and heavier, which makes it more noticeable on your head when riding and, in our opinion, hinders the style of the helmet. The Giro Ratio is a great option for those looking for a new lid for ski vacations that offers a great feature set and protective technology without the sticker shock.
Read review: Giro Ratio
Best Bargain for Resort and Backcountry Use
Smith Mission MIPS
The Smith Mission 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 ones touring goals. The Mission achieves an equitable share of both front and backcountry needs in a helmet. It is a well-balanced model that has 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 only weighs in a few ounces heavier than the lightest helmet in our review but offers more utility to the common ski tour. For the average recreational backcountry skier, the marginal weight increase is a reasonable tradeoff for enhanced impact protection and other amenities provided by this helmet. This unique balance of features and performance led to the Mission being one of the first helmets our testers reached for, whether it be a day riding groomers and touring out of our favorite trailhead.
The main hesitation our snowboarding reviewer had 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, the lightweight, functional, breathable, and protective nature of this helmet makes it a great option for those who want one helmet for front and backcountry use.
Read Review: Smith Mission MIPS
Best on a Tight Budget
The Giro Ledge performed well at an excellent price. Giro strikes this balance by creating a useful, simple, stylish ski helmet that is functional and affordable. Inspired by the skate/snowboard generation, this helmet has simple, clean lines that achieve a discreet look. The helmet is comfortable and can be adjusted in size for layering on cold days, with removable earpieces for warmer days on the ski hill. Its construction is solid and doesn't feel like Giro sacrificed quality for the price tag. It is also available with MIPS technology for an additional cost.
The Ledge does everything you need a helmet to do. It just lacks some of the bells and whistles of some of the more expensive models. It's basic, and there's nothing wrong with that. For the part-time skier or those just learning, the Ledge is a great way to stay protected without investing your entire paycheck in new gear.
Read review: Giro Ledge
Best for Warmth
Smith Quantum MIPS
Smith has once again produced a top-of-the-line 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.
Read Review: Smith Quantum MIPS
Best for Ski Mountaineering and Ultralight Enthusiasts
Salomon MTN Lab
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 helmet 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 very nice mountaineering-geared features like a headlamp retainer to keep your headlamp from slipping off when your 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 times with objectives of this nature, avalanche hazard is not your primary concern. Likely, it's rock fall or a personal falling hazard. 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. All told, while it does have its drawbacks and it 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.
Read Review: Salomon MTN Lab
Why You Should Trust Us
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 has traveled all over the world in search of snow. Since skiing was the only thing that fueled his fire, he went to school in Vermont for Mountain Recreation Management at Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University). Alex 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 finds himself pushing 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.
We test each helmet through extensive field testing. 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, weight, and overall build quality of each model, too. We took them out time after time and used them ourselves, gave them to friends, and compiled all the feedback into this comprehensive review. Our goal is to help you find the perfect helmet for your needs.
Related: How We Tested Ski Helmets
Analysis and Test Results
We spent hundreds of hours comparatively testing these products to score them across a strategic set of metrics. We evaluated each model on comfort, warmth, ventilation, weight goggle compatibility, and style. For detailed insight, the individual metrics should give you a better idea of how each helmet performs in particular categories. Continue reading to see our findings in each metric.
Related: Buying Advice for Ski Helmets
A helmet is one of the last places you want to cheap out. 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. This is your head we are talking about. 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 a quality helmet for each budget in this product line up. Generally, we found that performance is associated with price; the most expensive models were the highest performing and vice versa. However, great values exist, and a few walk the line and stand out for their performance and price.
Protection is priority number one. Fortunately, most helmets offer MIPS versions of helmets for a marginal price increase. We recommend you indulge in a rotational impact system. It is mainly the features and molding process that drive-up 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 don't need the bells and whistles of the custom togglable vents, then the Giro Ledge will do the job at a no-sweat price. If you're looking for a middle ground between features and price, then the Smith Mission and Giro Ratio offer promising solutions.
Anything that rides on your head needs to be comfortable. An uncomfortable helmet will likely remain stacked in a pile of gear instead of on your head. If it is comfortable, you're much more likely to wear it. The molding, padding, shape, and fit of the 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, and Giro Zone are our highest rated helmets for comfort. All five 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 Mission also has an adjustable wheel that has a little more resistance than the BOA system and still provides plenty of adjustability.
On all the Smith helmets, the ear pads are thick and well-padded, 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 the hill. The Quantum does, however, 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, which was unlike any other helmet tested in this review. Specific to this helmet is the earpads. They are equipped with Scott's "360-degree Pure Sound" tech. This 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 cupped earpads of POC Obex SPIN improved our ability to hear things around us.
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.
The Giro Zone 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 of these systems seem to feel like they really only operate from the back of the helmet, 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 did find that the cupped design added a little bit of wind noise at high speeds, but from a comfort standpoint, they were great.
The Giro Zone, Giro Ratio, and the Scott Symbol 2 Plus D have a long oval fit, while the Salomon MTN Lab, POC Obex SPIN fit round, oval heads best. The Shred Totality NoShock seems molded to fit an intermediate oval. The Smith Vantage, Smith Quantum, Smith Mission are the best ski helmets at fitting a multitude of different head shapes. Determine your head shape by trying on a variety of models or by having a friend look straight down on your bare head.
Ski helmets are, by and large, warmer than wearing a hat or hood while skiing. If you haven't figured this out yet, it's time to get on board. With a tight-fitting goggle/helmet combo, it's easy to feel completely protected from the raging blizzard. Unless you happen to ski in a place where it doesn't get cold, which would be weird, you're probably going to want your helmet to be warm, at least for early mornings or when the sun goes down. 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 down stairs to gauge heat retention.
We found the biggest 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, there are some helmets that just aren't padded and insulated that well, making them colder.
The warmest helmet we tested is the Smith Quantum. It has tensioned ear pads, vents that close, and is nicely padded 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 Oakley MOD 5 MIPS, while sporting very comfortable, cupped earpieces, sometimes allowed cold air to blow in. The Giro Zone is configured so that most of their vents close, but a few are fixed open, and our testers found them to be a tad drafty. In general, open, fixed vents provide less warmth than those that open and close.
The Shred Totality NoShock provided 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, this seemed to increase the helmet's warmth by limiting air movement compared to fixed-open vent models.
If warmth is a ski helmet's ability to keep your head from getting cold, ventilation is just the opposite—it's the helmet's ability to cool you down and reduce head sweat. 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. We strongly prefer this ability to customize our temperature regulation.
The vents on the Smith Maze, Salomon MTN Lab, and Giro Ledge are fixed open.
Removable earpieces increase the ventilation potential of a helmet. Removing the earpieces is enjoyable for warmer days. Still, it is more difficult 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. The Smith Vantage also vented very well, with options to close all or just some vents at a time. Smith Quantum, Smith Mission, Giro Ratio, POC Obex all have adjustable vents and vented well. The Sweet Protection Switcher MIPS and Scott Symbol 2 Plus D all vented very effectively as well.
All of the helmets we tested are safety rated. That means they've passed rigorous testing and met thorough standards 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 means a safer helmet. In fact, you can argue that the more weight you're carrying on your head, the higher chance you'll have of whiplash neck injuries. In-molded helmets are usually lighter and lower profile, while injection-molded models tend to be heavier and bulkier. 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 not only on the helmet you choose but also the ski jacket you wear. Therefore, we used the same jacket for each test.
Related: Best Ski Jackets for Men of 2020
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.
We found that some of the slimmer helmets, such as the Giro Zone Smith Vantage, POC Obex performed better under a hood than bulkier helmets like the Oakley MOD 5 MIPS or the Giro Ratio.
Features add weight to helmets. A few models that we really like are not high scorers in the metric such as the Smith Quantum. Although some are a little on the heavy side, they come with all the bells and whistles that make helmets super desirable. For some of our testers, and we'd imagine some of our readers, the extra few ounces are worth it.
Your helmet and goggles should work in tandem, creating a tight seal against the helmet. Don't forget to overlook the importance of avoiding the dreaded gaper gap between the top of your goggles and the bottom rim of your helmet. Leaving a gap provides space for freezing air to blast against your forehead, and no surprise, that's the worst. We assessed goggle compatibility by trying each helmet out with different goggles and evaluating the helmet shape and goggle retention system.
The other 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. This 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, 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 brim of the helmet. They all also managed to form a good seal between goggle and helmet at the user's temples.
The Smith Vantage and POC Obex have very secure and durable bungee goggle retainers that are user friendly and discreet. This 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 relatively 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.
As we've mentioned above, in-molded helmets tend to be sleeker in shape, like the Smith Vantage or the Giro Zone, while the injection-molded models have a bulker, larger profile, such as the Giro Ratio or Giro Ledge. Many of these helmets come in an array of colors, making it easy to pair with your outfit on the slopes, and some are two-tone, which can help match more outfits. Helmets with visors can complicate putting goggles up onto the brim of your helmet. However, through our tests, we found that visors were less of an issue, especially if you're mindful of keeping the goggle strap relatively low on the sides of the helmet.
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 and feel like a pro.
— Isaac Laredo, Sam Piper, Wes Berkshire, and Alex Bogner