The best ski and snowboard helmets are the difference between minor injuries and major consequences. Every year, people die from preventable skiing accidents. Nowadays, it’s tough finding an excuse not to wear one on the slopes.
Featuring new technologies and stylish offerings, there’s a modern helmet out there that’s perfect for you. Wearing one of the helmets in this article is an easy way to gain confidence, reduce stress, and help avoid big injuries.
My Review Process
I’ve been skiing for a quarter of a century. Throughout that time, I’ve seen many, many ski accidents. In each one, the extra protection from a helmet played a critical role in mitigating injuries. I’ve spent years pouring through options to find the absolute best in the business.
Believe it or not, people were opposed to wearing helmets when they first came out. To be fair, old helmets were clunky and ill-formed to handle contemporary skiing injuries. However, times have changed. Modern helmets are safer and better looking than they’ve ever been; there’s really no reason not to wear one.
The Smith Vantage helmet, which comes in both male and female versions, is my pick for best overall ski helmet. This top-of-the-line model comes with MIPS (effective impact technology), has 21 adjustable vents, and an antimicrobial liner, which suppresses the odorous bacterial growth that's created by sweating.
Because of the advanced safety features, the Smith Vantage can be considered an expensive helmet. However, the price is fair for the elite protection it offers. On top of that, you get a warm, well-ventilated multi-season helmet with an accommodating fit that suits many head shapes.
Worn by professionals and amateurs alike, the Pret Lyric X2 is the best women’s ski helmet out there. This safety-loaded helmet has a great fit, comes with MIPS, and offers extra ventilation.
Unlike other helmets, in order to close the vents, you need to remove the helmet liner and flip a liner flap over. It isn’t a particularly long process, but you do have to take off your helmet. However, with a magnetic chin strap, antimicrobial layer, and removable audio-ready ear flaps, the rest of the helmet more than makes up for it.
The Giro Nine is my choice for the best ski helmet for beginners. The helmet has MIPS safety features, fits comfortably, and has decent ventilation. The Giro Nine is also on the warmer side for cold winter days and is compatible with the vast majority of goggles.
The Giron Nine is a solid but basic helmet; you won’t be getting magnetic straps or Bluetooth connectivity. However, for a beginner, this is the perfect helmet to get out onto the slopes while safely protecting your head.
The Anon Merak WaveCel is a high-quality ski helmet with some of the best safety features available. This first-rate helmet has 19 adjustable vents, magnetic helmet straps, and an easy adjustment dial. The Anon Merak WaveCel is, however, one of the pricier helmets on our list.
The price jump for this quality ski helmet is because of Anon's WaveCel technology. According to Anon, the WaveCel tech is a shock-absorbing that absorbs up to 73% more rotational force than a standard helmet lining. The cherries on top are a comfortable fit and audio accessory compatibility.
The Bollé Might is the best ski helmet with a visor. Visor helmets can be used for a variety of reasons, including providing enough room for prescription glasses or sunglasses to be worn underneath. The helmet also comes with an ABS shell & EPS foam liner, a padded chinstrap with a traditional buckle, and removable ear pads.
The visor is locked into this pricier helmet, but it’s a photochromic lens, so it gets darker as the day gets brighter. The vents are also passive, meaning you can’t adjust them manually. But anyone who wears glasses or prefers to wear sunglasses under their goggles should consider this option.
The Salomon MTN Lab is one of my favorite helmets for the skin track. If you want to head into the backcountry, nothing beats the lightweight helmet's design and fantastic venting. The Salomon MTN Lab also has extra tabs to hold a pair of goggle straps or a headlamp in place for those pre-dawn starts.
The downside to lightweight helmets like the Salomon MTN Lab is that they’re not great for resort days. However, if you have a big mountain mission, you’ll love this well-ventilated and well-designed ski helmet. The headlamp attachments on the helmet shell are also a big plus.
The Sweet Protection Switcher is my top pick for temperature control. Armed with 26 adjustable vents, the helmet can help you stay cool on hot days. For frigid temperatures, slap those vents shut, and this high-quality helmet keeps body heat circulating while icing out the cold.
The downside to the Sweet Protection Switcher is its weight (~20 ounces) which makes it less ideal for backcountry days when lightweight helmets are preferable. The Sweet Protection Switcher is also a pricier helmet.
However, with elite protection from the cold, a ski goggle clasp to prevent goggle slippage, and surplus ventilation ports, the Sweet Protection Switcher performs in all conditions.
If you plan to ski during the coldest months of the year, you’re going to want to stay warm. The Smith Quantum MIPS is one of my favorite helmets and the best ski helmet for frigid days. This helmet does a great job at retaining body heat and comes with a magnetic buckle on the chin strap for easy use and lots of adjustable ventilation.
Like most top-of-the-line offerings, the Smith Quantum is a pricier helmet. Also, given its focus on warmth, the helmet is not ideal for the skin track or warm spring conditions. However, if you crave warmth, safety, and comfort, it’s hard to go wrong with the Smith Quantum.
Audio capabilities are becoming common across the ski industry. The POC Obex offers Bluetooth capability alongside a built-in microphone. This feature-packed helmet also comes with a wide variety of additional benefits, like good ventilation and extra protection via MIPS and SPIN, which is a POC proprietary design to reduce the effects of angular impacts.
The only downside is the two fixed-open vents in the front, which don’t close. The other vents, however, are adjustable and the tightening wheel on the back is easy to use. For its connectivity, comfort, and thoughtful design, the Obex MIPS Communication helmet is here to protect your alpine skiing adventures while playing your favorite ski playlist.
If you're looking for the best ski helmet on a budget, the Bern Team Baker is worth a look. This stylish minimalist helmet has a nice EPS foam layer and removable ear pads and comes at a digestible price.
This minimalist helmet has no advanced features, runs on the small side, and features very little padding. For cold days, it’s worth wearing a beanie underneath it, and for warm days, the lack of vents could be an issue. Yet, for the price, it’s really hard to ignore.
If you just need a simple, good-looking brain bucket, the Bern Team Baker is an excellent budget option.
How To Measure Your Helmet Size
If you can’t go to a store to get fitted for a ski or snowboard helmet, here are some easy steps to figure out your helmet size at home.
First, get a thin tape measure. Measure the circumference of your head, starting just above your ears. Keeping the tape measure level. Wrap the tape measure around your head, about an inch above your eyebrows. Jot down the number.
With your measurement in hand, look up the size ranges of your favorite helmets to get the best fit!
Best Ski Helmet Brands
Like with ski goggles, Smith made a huge splash in the ski helmet department. Due to a steady stream of innovative safety features, comfort, vents, and style, the Smith helmet lineup continues to sit at the top of the pile. Other consistently reliable brands include Giro, POC, and Anon.
While these brands have proven to be able to deliver great products, they often push pricier helmets and aren’t the only brands out there. If you have the time, it’s worth diving into some of the newer offerings from lesser-known brands, which often spur innovation.
Ski Helmet Buying Guide
Before settling on a choice for your next (or first) ski and snowboard helmet, keep the following points in mind.
The price spectrum for a skiing helmet is quite large. Quality ski helmets with shock-absorbing materials and impact-resistant technologies (including multi-directional and rotational impacts) will cost more.
Pricier helmets with extra protection can cost over $300. You’ll likely spend between $120-$250. Minimalist helmets can float under the $100 range, but once you drop below $50, quality takes a nosedive.
Skiing helmets with more safety features tend to weigh a little more, but the weight range for modern helmets is measured in ounces instead of pounds. A good lightweight helmet weighs between 12-14 ounces. The heavier end of the spectrum pushes toward 20 ounces.
The weight shouldn’t be too much of an issue at a resort. For ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing, the extra ounces can matter. Lightweight minimalist helmets are common for backcountry adventures or ski mountaineering.
As long as you have your correct measurements, the process should be smooth. Most ski helmets have foam liners and ear pads for warmth. There’s usually an adjustment dial on the back of the helmet that you can use for the final tweaks. The helmet should be snug enough that it won't move as you turn your head from side to side.
If you’ve tightened the helmet and adjusted the chin strap and the helmet still feels loose, the helmet is too big. Try going down a size or two until the adjustments help the helmet stay snug on your head.
Many helmets on this list come with a BOA adjustment system, which helps regardless of head shape. Simply turn the adjustment dial on the back of your helmet. Turning the adjustment dial tightens or loosens a small stainless steel wire that runs along the liner of the helmet. The uniform tightening caters to all head shapes.
EPS, MIPS & ABS
EPS stands for Expanded Polystyrene. It’s a crushable foam, shock-absorbing material designed to collapse. It’s widely used in helmets to increase impact protection and reduce head trauma. EPS also helps prevent bacterial growth due to sweat.
MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. It's a thin plastic layer between the outer helmet shell and the inner liner. The plastic allows the helmet to slide or rotate, which reduces rotational forces in an angled impact. Blunting rotational forces in angled impacts translates to top-tier protection.
ABS is short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, which is a mouthful. Simply put, ABS helmets employ a hard outer shell material used by the majority of helmet manufacturers. ABS helmets are impact resistant and can be heated into a liquid form and molded to create unique helmet shapes.
Helmet construction can be broken down into a few categories. They generally consist of a helmet shell and an inner liner. Quality ski helmets come with a removable liner that you can wash. ABS helmets are standard because of their impact protection.
There are in-mold shells, which use a hard, thin plastic shell. Inside the shell is an EPS foam layer meant to absorb impact. In-mold shells are popular bike helmets as well.
Hard shell helmets use a thick ABS plastic layer that’s glued to a hard foam interior shell. Double shell helmets take this one step further by including an in-mold design underneath the tougher ABS plastic layer for extra protection.
Hybrid shells use a combination of a hard shell and in-mold shell features. This is key for safety and comfort.
For bitterly cold days, you want a helmet with closable vents and lots of warm padding. For warmer spring days, you’ll likely sweat, so a surplus of ventilation ports and a lightweight design are nice for breathability.
Helmets with vents come in two forms, fixed-open vents, and adjustable vents. Fixed-open vents aren’t necessarily bad, but you won't be able to manually close them. Closable vents, like those on the Sweet Protection Switcher, are nice when the weather flips and you want to keep your head warm or manage sweat.
Music while skiing can be lots of fun. Bluetooth-linked helmets can also be useful for answering calls or messages. This is helpful when you’re trying to stay in contact with a group on the hill.
For the sake of safety, make sure the volume is low enough to hear other people around you.
All the ski and snowboard helmets in this list are compatible with most ski goggles, but some, like Smith, work best with in-house goggles. In general, you want the gap between your goggles and the bottom of your helmet to be minimal.
Many helmet manufacturers will include a buckle or clip for goggles that can hold your goggle straps in place. This alleviates the irritation of goggle slippage, where the straps slide up or down your helmet shell. Some ski helmets also come with a brim, which makes it harder to pull up your goggles.
The best overall helmet for the vast majority of skiers and riders is the Smith Vantage MIPS. For ladies, the Pret Lyric X2 is the best women’s ski helmet. For frigid days, the extra protection of the Smith Quantum is ideal, and the Sweet Protection Switcher has temperature control locked down. Beginners and no-frills budget shoppers will love the Giro Nine and Bern Team Baker.
For backcountry skiers and ski mountaineers, lightweight helmets like the Salomon MTN Lab are high-quality options with extra ventilation ports. People who wear prescription glasses will love the space created by the Bollé Might Visor helmet. And, of course, those who love their ski playlists will enjoy the Bluetooth-enabled POC Obex.
Skiing is a dangerous sport, and a helmet should be mandatory. With such a wide variety of styles and fits, there’s a comfortable helmet out there for you that can keep you safe.
Start with a budget, make sure safety features are included, like ABS helmets, MIPS, and shock-absorbing materials, and then look at the style. Then, check out additional features like warmth, extra ventilation ports, clasps for google straps, magnetic clip closures for the chin strap, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Differences arise with individual helmet features, venting, style, and audio compatibility. See our buying guide for more information.
The lifespan of a quality ski helmet is about five years if you haven’t been in a serious accident. Helmet manufacturers recommend replacing skiing helmets immediately after a serious accident because many employ shock-absorbing materials that crumple on impact.
A ski helmet should be snug. If it’s too tight, you could give yourself a headache, or the chin strap will rub against your neck. If it’s too loose, it won’t protect your head in the event of an accident.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.