Ski & Snowboard Helmets

Tuesday, 1 January 2008 | Tags:

Recent studies show helmet use when skiing and snowboarding can prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries. Here are some basics to help you buy the right protector for your melon.

The Basics

  • Helmets have come a long way since they first started being used by the recreational public a few years ago. Manufacturers now know that comfort and style go hand-in-hand with safety.

  • The outer shell of most ski helmets is a very strong and lightweight polycarbonate material. The interior is typically double-density polystyrene for padding. To minimize moisture, the lining is usually made from a wicking fabric.

  • Helmet styles incorporate new shapes and cool graphics:

    • Full shell helmets provide complete coverage and seals out wind and weather. Choose this for a little extra protection, both for safety and weather.

    • Short shell models offer comparable protection, but have a less armoured and constrictive feel. Choose this if you tend to get warm or are skiing in warm climates.

    • Full-face helmets are designed for competition (e.g. speed and slalom events) when there’s higher risk of falling forward or hitting objects straight-on.

    • Open-face helmets are more common and less cumbersome for recreational use.

  • Fit & Sizing Tips:

    • Measure around your head just above eyebrows. The circumference at this point is your size.

    • To properly put on your helmet, hold the side straps, place the front rim just above your eyebrows, and roll the helmet onto your head.

    • Check for gaps on sides and back. It should feel cozy but not too tight on forehead, ears and cheek areas. Wear it for a few minutes to make sure it’s not too tight.

    • With the chin strap properly adjusted and fastened snugly, the helmet should not roll off.

    • Bring your ski goggles along with you just to make sure that they fit with the helmet you pick out.

    • If it doesn’t feel secure or if it’s too tight (even though it’s the right size) try a different shape helmet.

  • If you work up a sweat or ski in warm conditions, look for a helmet with good ventilation. Some have flaps that can be opened or closed to provide airflow. Vents also allow you to hear what’s going on around you better, which may help prevent accidents.

  • Some kid-specific info for parents:

    • Helmet manufacturers are making it easier to find the right fit. Some new models are made with “room to grow”.

    • Kids like being able to decorate their helmets with stickers. Some manufacturers are creating decorate-your-own models with special markers.

    • Look for the same safety standards as you would on adult helmets.

    • Most ski schools require children to wear helmets and often have them available for rent if you don’t have one.

Be Aware

  • There is no national organization or body that oversees helmet testing and helmet safety. Manufacturers undergo voluntary testing and can be certified by CE, ASTM or SNELL. Look for these letters on the label of the helmet.


We took some helmets and some melons to a popular ski area and tested their effectiveness. We tried:

  • Leedom Limit YP (full shell): $179
  • Giro S4 (short shell): $150
  • Carrera Big Air (short shell with removable liner): $130
  • Protec Ace Snow FR: $114

Fit & Comfort Test

We tried on each helmet and wore them on the slopes:

  • The Gyro had the best fit and was the most comfortable of the helmets.

  • The Leedom fit the melons the best.

Fit & Comfort Test

All of the helmets did well in our safety tests.

  • The full shell Leedom treated the melons a little more gently, with less bruising.


Both of us liked the short shell Gyro because it fit us best and felt the most comfortable. However, everyone’s head is different so make sure you try on a variety of styles. For kids and beginners, we recommend a full shell for added safety.


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