What Is The Safest Ski Helmet? [2020/21 season]

When considering buying a new ski helmet, how many of us have pondered ‘What is the safest ski helmet’? We ask our friends, we search the internet, we read forums and come away more baffled than ever. Some will say that no ski helmet can protect against concussion (so why bother) while citing articles from 2013, others will argue that one particular brand is the bee’s knees of ski helmets without offering a valid argument. However, there are some common denominators to consider and some new technology that can help to make things clearer in your mind when looking for that elusive, safest ski helmet.

Downhill skier
Photo by Willem De Meyer on Unsplash

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The safest ski helmet is the one that fits your head properly and securely, comes with MIPS or SPIN technology, and has an EPP foam lining. There are caveats to this argument though. For instance, if you snowboard downhill at 150 mph straight into a huge tree, you could have all the padding of the Michelin man and still end up in a hospital, if not the morgue. Let’s try to look into this question with a more rational approach rather than argue over which helmet is the safest.

At the end of this article, we make 3 suggestions/recommendations, but you should read the entire article to fully understand how we came to those conclusions.

Ok, so here’s a sneak peak of the recommended ski helmets, but you’ll need to read the article to see why we recommend these helmets.

Helmet Certification Protection Liner Adjustable
Giro Range
CE 1077 MIPS EPP Yes
POC Auric Cut
POC Auric Cut
Backcountry Comms *
POCito Auric
Cut Kids
*  integrated communication headset, including speakers and mic
Prices vary depending on size and color.

Are Ski Helmets Safety Certified?
Is A MIPS Ski Helmet Worth It?
What Is The Best Material For A Ski Helmet? (EPP Vs. EPS)
How Should A Snow Helmet Fit?
A Safe Helmet Needs Ventilation
Do Ski Helmets Expire?
An Ounce Of Common Sense
Ski Helmet Vs Snowboard Helmet
Safest Ski Helmet Summary
+++Links to Safety Standards

Are Ski Helmets Safety Certified?

In Europe, ski helmets are covered by EN-1077 (Helmets for alpine skiers and snowboarders), which was approved by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) on 17 February 2007, for all non-motorized ski and snowboard helmets sold within the European Union.

In Australia, there is no safety standard for ski and snowboard helmets. However, all U12, U14, U16, and FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) competitors are required to wear FIS compliant helmets in FIS and Snow Australia Series races.

The United States also has no mandatory safety standard for ski and snowboard helmets. However, there are voluntary standards such as ASTM F2040 and Snell RS-98. Snell’s RS-98 being the most stringent of all of the above. EN-1077 is also commonly found in the United States.

In Canada, there is CSA Z263.1 which is not mandatory but only voluntary. It was originally issued in 2008 and updated in 2014. As the Canadian Standard is not mandatory, it is not unusual to see ASTM F2040, EN 1077, or Snell RS-98 available in the Canadian market.

Laptop with tick box
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Take-away from the above: The European standard is the only mandatory standard and is also recognized outside of the European Union, all others are voluntary standards. So, if you don’t have to wear a helmet, does that mean you don’t need to wear a helmet? I would argue that any helmet is better than no helmet. I would further argue that if you’re going to wear a helmet, it should have at least one of the safety standards mentioned above, EN-1077, ASTM F2040, Snell RS-98 or CSZ Z263.1

Is A MIPS Ski Helmet Worth It?

If you don’t know what MIPS is all about, you can read our post “What Is MIPS Technology?”, but if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read that: ‘MIPS is a new technology that protects your brain from the impact of a collision when wearing a helmet. MIPS reduces the likelihood of concussion and/or brain damage by using a slip-plane layer inside the helmet which allows the helmet to rotate lessening the sudden stress on the head/brain on impact’. Research conducted by Virginia Tech on bicycle helmets has shown that helmets with MIPS provide more protection than helmets without MIPS.

In addition to MIPS, POC helmets have developed their own system to protect against rotational impacts called SPIN, which stands for Shearing Pad Inside.

However, whether a MIPS or SPIN ski helmet will reduce injury or prevent a concussion is relative to what the helmet wearer impacts with; a tree, a rock, a stationary person, a moving person, a ski lift tower, and also how fast the helmet wearer is traveling at the time of impact. Wikipedia states that EN-1077 is tested with an impact speed of about 20 kph. Yet many skiers and snowboarders are travelling a lot faster than that. There are so many variables to be taken into consideration in the search for the safest ski helmet.

What Is The Best Material For A Ski Helmet? (EPP Vs. EPS)

Polystyrene cup

For many years the standard inner lining of helmets has been EPS (Expanded Polystyrene Foam), which is the white polystyrene that is used for packaging inside boxes for all kinds of merchandise as well as take-away food and drink packaging. EPS has done a good job for a long time but its downside is that it compresses after lengthy use and cannot decompress or spring back to its original shape. The same thing happens with the EPS in a helmet when it is involved in an accident.

The head pushing against the EPS lining compresses the EPS and it cannot spring back into shape again. For this reason EPS is said to be only useful for a single impact situation, after which the helmet should be replaced.

Polypropylene cup

Enter EPP foam (Expanded Polypropylene). EPP is a harder yet pliable plastic which you will be familiar with as plastic bottle tops, stationery folders, packaging, and storage boxes. Though it is harder than EPS it is soft enough and pliable enough to absorb kinetic impacts in an accident, then spring back to its original shape quickly. EPP is a multi-impact foam, meaning that it doesn’t need to be replaced after a single accident. EPP is also 100% recyclable.

How Should A Snow Helmet Fit?

As mentioned above, the safest ski helmet is the one that fits your head properly and securely. This is the most important prerequisite in your quest for the safest helmet.

You can start by measuring your head to find the right size helmet. Read our post on ‘How To Know Your Helmet Size”. But, that’s just the beginning.

When you have the helmet on your head it should be snug, firm and not wobble around. You may need to adjust the dial at the back of the head to tighten it to fit better. It should be so comfortable that you won’t mind wearing it for extended periods.

The chin strap should be adjusted so that it is tight and firm, but comfortable. When your chin strap is fastened there should be no slack in the strap.

The safest helmet is the one that is nice and snug, and fits properly. Watch these 2 short videos to get the idea about how the helmet should fit your head.

A Safe Helmet Needs Ventilation.

Air vents provide airflow through the helmet adding to your comfort level. Adjustable vents allow you to open/close the vents as the weather conditions dictate. No vents or too few vents can make the helmet too hot making it uncomfortable which can affect your concentration.

As well as being comfortable, good ventilation is also necessary to prevent your goggles from fogging up. After taking all other safety precautions, the last thing you need is your goggles clouding over, dramatically increasing the risk of an accident.

Do Ski Helmets Expire?

As mentioned above, the vast majority of ski and snowboard helmets on the market are single impact helmets, if you have an accident and your helmet takes some impact, it’s time to replace it. Even the most expensive helmet can be weakened in a fall or if it is dropped or thrown. Don’t risk it, replace it. If the helmet straps start to fray, then it’s time to buy a new helmet. Keep in mind that nothing lasts forever.

Wear and tear, the simple act of putting on and taking off helmets, damage the comfort pads and energy absorbing foam liner over time. Helmets with worn-out pads are at least one to two sizes larger than helmets in new condition. A poorly fitted helmet makes it more likely that the helmet will shift too much or even come off the head during a crash impact. For these reasons, Snell recommends replacing helmet after five years of normal use.

The Snell Foundation

Knowing how to take care of your helmet, can maximize the safety and effectiveness of your helmet. During the off-season store your helmet somewhere that isn’t too hot or too cold. Before storing your helmet, wash it with warm water with a mild detergent. Be sure it is completely dry before storage. Never leave your helmet in a hot car or anywhere in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Periodically, check your helmet for cracks, chips or other damage. Be sure to check the condition of the straps and that the straps are firmly attached to the helmet.

Snow field and hills
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

An Ounce Of Common Sense

The last piece of the puzzle required for a safe helmet is not actually part of the helmet, but the wearer of the helmet itself. That is You!

A helmet can protect your head but it cannot make up for your own skiing or snowboarding experience or awareness while out there on the slopes. Only you know your true ability, so only you can make judgment calls as to whether you are capable of taking on a ski run or a tricky tree-lined downhill. Assessing the risk is up to you, your helmet will not protect you from your own poor judgment or stupidity. Be aware of the location of rocks, trees, cliffs, and other skiers (they are just the same as car drivers, you never know which way they’re going to turn).

Don’t forget that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Just because you’ve skied this run a hundred times, doesn’t make it any less dangerous now than it was the first time you tried. Don’t be overconfident, especially if it’s just to impress your friends. It’s not worth the risk.

Ski Helmet Vs Snowboard Helmet

When it comes to which helmet for which activity, the winter activities of skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing all come under the same classification. The approved safety standard for these activities is, as mentioned above, EN-1077, ASTM F2040, Snell RS-98 or CSZ Z263.1 depending on your location. So, a ski helmet and a snowboard helmet are one and the same thing.

Image by Martin Bisplinghoff from Pixabay

Safest Ski Helmet Summary

So to sum up, when looking for the safest ski helmet, you should be looking for the following:

  1. Safety Certification ( EN-1077, ASTM F2040, Snell RS-98 or CSZ Z263.1)
  2. MIPS or SPIN technology to protect against angled impacts.
  3. EPP foam helmet liner.
  4. Adjustable ventilation.
  5. Correctly sized helmet with chin strap tightened.
  6. The helmet is still in good condition.
  7. Common sense – user experience and awareness.

All of the helmets listed below fit the above criteria points 1 through 4. Numbers five, six and seven are your responsibility. Clicking on links in the table below will take you to Amazon where you can check the prices. The list is in no particular order.

Name Certified MIPS / SPIN EPP Adjustable Vents
Giro Range Y Y Y Y
POC Auric Cut Backcountry Y Y Y Y
POC Auric Cut Backcountry 2 Y Y Y Y
POCito Auric Cut Spin Kids Y Y Y Y

Quick Guide to POC Auric Helmet Sizing:
XS-S – 51-54 cm / 20″ – 21.3″
M/LG – 55-58 cm / 21.6″ – 22.8″
XL/XXL – 59-62 cm / 23.2″ – 24.4″

POCito Kids Helmet
XSS As above XS-S
MLG As above M/LG

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your helmet is actually on your head. Don’t forget, heads don’t bounce! Be sure to wear a helmet!

Links to Safety Standards:

European – EN 1077
United States – ASTM F2040
United States – RS-98
Canadian – CSA Z263.1-2014
FIS Rules – FIS

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