Your old high school football helmet, biking helmet or skateboarding helmet is not designed to provide the protection and comfort you want and need on the slopes. Snow helmets have some important differences, such as ear coverage, moisture-wicking liners and temperature-sensitive materials. All skiers and riders need the extra protection, benefits and warmth that a snow helmet provides.
First of all, any snow helmet you select should meet ASTM F2040 certification standards or the CE EN standards. ASTM F2040 is is the the most common US-based standard for snow helmet certification. CE EN is a European certification for alpine skiing and snowboarding helmets. Some helmets are certified to both standards, although one could meet one standard but not the other.
That said, even though helmets will help reduce the risk of some types of injuries to the head, they are not invincible. As with any safety gear, the protection provided is limited.
Snow Helmet Components & Features to Look For
- Outer Shell: The outer shell of the ski and snowboard helmet is a hard, rigid surface. It’s typically an ABS high-impact plastic that protects the head against injuries from sharp objects, knocks and abrasions. It does this by spreading the impact energy over a larger portion of the helmet in the event of an accident.
Inner Liners: Inner liners are typically made from EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam. The EPS material is designed to absorb impact, compressing in a hard fall. Because the inner lining compresses in an accident your helmet should always be destroyed and replaced after a serious fall.
- Vents: Vents allow cool air into the helmet and expel warm, sweaty air. Helmets will have either removable plugs or adjustable vents. Removable plugs require that take the helmet off to adjust the airflow. Adjustable vents allow you to instantly fine-tune the airflow level by pushing a lever without interrupting your ride.
- Construction: There are two primary procedures for helmet construction that you should be familiar with. They are:
- Injection-molded: These snow helmets use an EPS foam bonded to a separate shell, which is usually made of high-impact ABS plastic. Injection-molded helmets offer great durability against everyday knocks and falls.
- In-mold: These helmets are made by attaching the shell and a shock-absorbing foam in a single molding process. In-mold helmets usually are sleeker and lighter than injection-molded helmets.
Snow Helmet Sizing and Fit
For maximum protection and comfort, your snow helmet should fit comfortably yet snuggly on your head. To find your correct size, measure your head using a tape measure. Position the tape just above the ears and about 1″ above your eyebrows. Keeping the tape level, measure around the largest part of your head. Check the charts will to ascertain the correct size for your snow helmet.
Snow Helmet Fine Tuning
The correct snow helmet will feel snug but not tight. To fine tune the fit here are some specifics to look for and some easy fixes. If your helmet:
rocks back and forth the fit is too loose. The fine tuning: you may need smaller size.
shifts when you shake your head from side-to-side. The fine tuning: try a smaller size, adjust the sizing mechanism or use thicker sizing pads.
moves when you push up the front and/or back edges of the helmet. The fine tuning: tighten the straps.
Additional Snow Helmet Fine Tuning Tips:
- There should not be any gap between the top of your goggles and the snow helmet. Make sure the helmet fits to the top of the goggles yet not so low that it hinders your vision or pushes down the goggles.
- Your snow helmet should sit with its front edge level. Position the front of the helmet low enough to protect your forehead, allowing no more than a 1″ space above the eyebrows.
There should be no gaps between your head and the helmet lining. If there are use sizing pads to fine-tune the fit.
- To reduce the chances the helmet will come off in an accident, insure that the chinstrap fits snug against the throat but loose enough to allow for chewing food without feeling choked. Always be sure to fasten the strap before skiing or boarding.
Conclusion Snow Helmet
Helmets are a valuable safety requirement but they are not invincible. A helmet will reduce the risk of many types of injuries to the head (assuming that it meets certification specifications). However, as with all safety gear the protection is limited. Always ski and board safely, wear a certified helmet and stay within your skill level.