If you’re a skier or snowboarder, you know that next to your board, skis, and boots, the most important piece of equipment on the mountain is a helmet. No matter how skilled you are, you can’t predict when accidents happen, and a helmet is your best form of protection during serious crashes and falls.
“Skiing, regardless of your ability, is a sport with risk,” says Kaylin Richardson, two-time Olympian in Alpine Skiing, 10-year veteran of the US Ski Team, and current pro big mountain skier, whose home mountain is Deer Valley in Park City, UT. “Wearing a helmet mitigates that risk immensely.” Plus, they help keep you warm and, for me, allow for much more confidence while skiing.
With the help of Richardson’s expert input as well as our own testing of a handful of different helmets, we rounded up the latest and greatest based on impact reduction, ventilation, comfort, style, warmth, and functionality. The Smith Nexus tops our list as the best ski helmet overall, with a 24-vent design and dual-shutter system for airflow plus MIPS to reduce the force of impacts, injury-mitigating Koroyd coverage, and an impact-resistant exoskeleton for the ultimate in head protection. If you’re looking for a feature like the best visor or want a helmet that caters to backcountry skiing or another specialty, we have picks for those too.
These are the best ski helmets of the season:
Smith Nexus MIPS
Why We Love It: The 24-vent design and dual-action shutter system is unmatched when it comes to airflow.
What to Consider: The helmet works with most goggles, but it’s best integrated with Smith products.
Nothing makes us feel more prepared to take on the slopes than the incredibly lightweight and anatomically advanced Smith Nexus MIPS. This industry-leading helmet doesn’t skimp on safety, featuring an impact-resistant exoskeleton for increased side-zone protection, Koroyd coverage that absorbs direct and angled hits without weighing you down, and MIPS technology, a top-tier system that mimics the brain’s natural shield by sliding within the helmet upon impact to reduce rotational forces (which is more efficient than standard EPS foam-constructed helmets).
Apart from providing unmatched protection, the Nexus MIPS flies past competition with a sleek look and a host of thoughtful features for boosting comfort. It has a simple dial system for finding the perfect fit, a quick-snap magnetic buckle that makes the chin strap easy to take on and off with gloves on, and removable ear pads. If your head tends to run hotter than most, you’ll love the sweat-wicking liner that will keep you warm while minimizing odor inside the shell. A whopping 24 vents further allow you to tailor warmth levels to every weather scenario. Plus, if you’re a fan of listening to music while you shred, you’ll love that the Nexus is Aleck audio system-compatible. It’s also designed to seamlessly pair with Smith goggles to reduce fog and light leaks. The sleek range of matte colors allow you to have the crème de la crème of safety gear without sacrificing style.
Price at time of publish: $325
Sizes: S-XL | Weight: 19.4 ounces (size: medium) | Number of vents: 24
Best with Visor
Bern Hendrix Winter Helmet
Why We Love It: This helmet comes in eight different colors, though we think the matte black is trés chic.
What to Consider: If you’re not into a visor, the one on this helmet isn’t removable.
The brand and designers kept style in mind when it came to this helmet that launched for the 2022/2023 season. If you’re already a Bern fan, you’ll love the re-engineered brim on this helmet, and if you’re new to the brand, it’s an element you’ll appreciate for both fashion and function. When purchasing this helmet, you have the option of getting it with or without MIPS for a reduced price. The ThinShell construction and dial system are both lightweight, but the cozy side covers and ribbed liner will help keep you warm and dry. Your goggles will also be secure thanks to the rear clip. Can’t-miss metallic colors like rose gold and charcoal add cool touches to your ski apparel, and 14 vents keep things breezy.
Price at time of publish: $100
Sizes: S-L | Weight: Not listed | Number of vents: 14
Best for Skiers and Snowboarders
Anon Oslo Wavecel Helmet
Why We Love It: The low-profile, lightweight design makes it easy to wear.
What to Consider: Some wearers find the sizing tricky, so just be sure to measure your head before you buy. If you’re in between sizes, the company recommends sizing up.
When it comes to snowboard gear, few names are as trusted as Burton. This fleece-lined helmet comes from the brand’s goggle and helmet division and lets you use the Boa dial system to create a secure fit, which is also helpful if you need to make micro-adjustments while you’re out on the slopes since it can be used simply with one hand. While the helmet itself is lightweight and has an understated, low-profile design, it does still provide your skull with 3D cellular protection thanks to the EPS and WaveCel liner. And with 10 vents to adjust, you won’t have to worry about your head getting too sweaty either. Bonus: You don’t even have to take off your gloves to remove the lid, thanks to the magnetic helmet strap buckle. Keep in mind that the Anon Oslo Wavecel protection is designed to work with a snug fit, so you may want to size up if you’re in between sizes.
Price at time of publish: $220
Sizes: S-XL | Weight: 15.8 ounces | Number of vents: 10
Best for Visibility
Oakley MOD7 Helmet
Why We Love It: The all-in-one design seamlessly integrates the helmet, visor, and goggle experience into one.
What to Consider: Because the technology is new, the price point is high.
It’s impossible not to love the look and functionality of this helmet’s first-of-its kind integrated visor technology. Its cohesive design integrates the helmet, visor, and goggle experience into one. How does it work? The helmet magnetically secures the visor in both riding and stowed positions so the wearer can easily remove and store the visor post-run. Dual lens on the visor help provide the most contrast and best visibility possible. For a comfortable, custom feel, the seal around the goggles can be adjusted. To remove the goggles, simply push the button located on either side of them to release, and store them on top of the helmet in the “landing zone,” where goggles would normally sit above the head. Plus, the helmet features a Boa dial for fit as well as MIPS technology for protection.
Price at time of publish: $442
Sizes: S-L | Weight: 16 ounces | Number of vents: Not listed
Salomon MTN Lab Helmet
Why We Love It: You can also use the helmet for climbing and biking.
What to Consider: The helmet doesn’t feature MIPS or Wavecel technology, and you can’t close the vents.
If you’re a biker or climber and a skier, this helmet can be a major space and money saver. It’s lightweight, but still provides warmth on the mountain thanks to the 100 percent natural Merino lining, which also wicks sweat. The lining is removable and washable, too, so you don’t have to worry about any stink or odors. The MTN Lab comes with a winter and summer liner option for year-round use. We also love that it’s made of recycled materials that minimizes its impact on the environment.
Price at time of publish: $200
Sizes: S-L | Weight: 14.1 ounces | Number of vents: Not listed
Best for Backcountry
Marker Phoenix 2 MIPS Helmet
Why We Love It: It’s a warm helmet with a great ventilation system.
What to Consider: It’s on the steeper end of the price spectrum, and it only comes in two colors.
This hybrid shell helmet (think of combining the comfort inside with a robust hardshell) is marketed for those who like speed and has the protective elements these skiers and riders need with MIPS and the brand’s own MAP protection built-in. “[I use the] Marker Phoenix 2 when I am charging hard in the backcountry or skiing for a film project,” says Richardson. “Each year, the comfort and technology improves.”
The airflow system interlocks the ventilation of the outer shell with the interior molding of the EPS foam core. The brand describes it as “drawing the warm moist air out of the goggles, then sucking it along the air channels, and off the helmet.” The result: less fogging.
Price at time of publish: $300
Sizes: S-L | Weight: 21.6 ounces (size: medium) | Number of vents: Not listed
Retrospec Zephyr Ski & Snowboard Helmet
Why We Love It: This helmet provides ample protection and a stylish color range.
What to Consider: The helmet has EPS foam lining and an ABS shell but no MIPS.
This budget-friendly helmet has an easy-to-use BreezeBar lever on top of the helmet that lets you manipulate the airflow level to your liking. You’ll like the feel of the cozy ear-warmers during chilly first tracks, and then you can simply remove them if you heat up later on in the day. Adjust the helmet for a personalized fit using the ErgoKnob dial, and slip your goggles through the clip on the back to secure them in place. And with colors ranging from a soft rose to matte olive, its style far outpaces the price point.
Price at time of publish: $45
Sizes: S-L | Weight: 20 ounces | Number of vents: 9
Best for Kids
Giro Tor Spherical Helmet
Why We Love It: It’s nice to be able to personalize the airflow to your liking.
What to Consider: The helmet is on the pricier side of the spectrum.
This helmet takes all precautions to protect young noggins. Kid skiers will appreciate that they can easily dial this helmet for a personalized fit, even with gloves on. They can also keep their gloves on to latch and unlatch the chin strap, too, thanks to the easy-to-manipulate Fidlock magnetic buckle closure. Not only does the helmet feature MIPS, it also has Spherical Technology, developed by the brand to essentially utilize two liners to help manage impact forces. Finicky kids can fine-tune the venting system to customize the amount of airflow, and the helmet is compatible with most goggles.
Price at time of publish: $250
Sizes: S-L | Weight: Not listed | Number of vents: Not listed
Best for Warmth
POC Obex MIPS Helmet
Why We Love It: The sliding vent covers make it easy to adjust the amount of ventilation based on the weather and conditions.
What to Consider: Some wearers found the fit to be tight, so you might consider sizing up. The detachable ear pads also come loose sometimes.
If you want to keep your head toasty and protected, look no further. This lid features MIPs and a dual material outer shell to keep your noggin safe, plus an EPS liner that’s lightweight but warm. Use the adjustable ventilation system to monitor the amount of airflow you need based on the weather and what you’re tackling that day.
Wearers love that the helmet is compatible with other goggle brands and has a click on the rear to hold eye protection in place.
Price at time of publish: $200
Sizes: XS/S- XL/XXL | Weight: 17.6 ounces (size large) | Number of vents: Not listed
Tips for Buying a Ski or Snowboard Helmet
When it comes to selecting a helmet, as much as it matters that the helmet looks good and fits your style, comfort is even more important. “The best helmet for you, regardless of technical merits, cool gimmicks, etc., is the helmet that you will wear,” says Richardson. If it’s comfortable, you’ll want to wear it, and wearing a helmet when skiing or snowboarding is a must.
Test your goggles and anything else you plan to wear on your head
Before heading to the summit, test your goggles as well as any other headbands or skull caps you plan to sport with your new lid. This will ensure it works with the rest of your gear. “I don’t recommend wearing a hat under a helmet because it can cause the helmet to fit differently and often not as well, affecting the integrity of the helmet’s technology,” recommends Richardson. “A thin headband or beanie is likely okay — just make sure that the helmet still fits to the bottom of your skull bones in the back of your head and covers the top of your forehead.”
Be sure you have a proper fit
The most important reason to wear a helmet is to protect your head, so it’s crucial that you make sure it fits properly. As mentioned above, coverage should start at the top of your forehead and go down to the back of your skull bones. “A correctly fitted helmet should be snug, but not tight,” says Richardson. “The not-so-scientific test is to wiggle your head — if it stays put, that is a decent fit, if it jiggles at all, you need to tighten it. You may also need to drop down a size or find a different model that fits your head better.” The chin strap should also be snug under your chin, but not so tight that you feel like you’re choking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need to replace your ski helmet, and if so, how often?
Like most gear, helmets don’t last forever, so make sure you keep track of how long you’ve been using your helmet. The frequency at which you need to change your helmet depends on wear and tear and what you’re doing in it. “If you ride hard, getting a new helmet every year may be wise; if you are a more mellow skier, you might only need a new helmet every three or four years,” says Richardson. “I recommend a new helmet at least every five years though.” Construction is getting better and better, but materials can deteriorate even when sitting unused, and protection technology also gets better (and cheaper) each year. One rule of thumb I am adamant about, though, is that if you take a big fall and hit your head, buy a new helmet.”
How much should a person spend on a helmet?
Like most things in life, the more protection, technology, and features that a helmet possesses, the more expensive it will likely be. The best rule of thumb: Invest in the most protection you can afford but remember that any ski helmet is better than no ski helmet. “You can also spend way more from $500 on up, but I think that past $350 the technology becomes negligible,” says Richardson. “On the flipside, if a helmet is being sold for a lot less than $100 I would be wary of the design, and unlike other ski gear I highly recommend never buying a used helmet. Your brain is too precious — make sure the helmet retains all of its original integrity by purchasing new.”
What are MIPS and Wavecel Technology?
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, and Wavecel is a collapsible inner structure that lines the helmet. Both are at the forefront of head injury mitigation and rotational impact protection. “The outer shell construction is also important, carbon fiber being at the forefront of technology for safety and lightness,” says Richardson. “Beyond that, fit is what makes a helmet effective.”
Are ski helmets required at resorts?
While ski helmets aren’t required at most ski resorts and mountains, they’re highly recommended. “Most ski resorts have you sign an indemnity clause when buying a ticket so they’re not liable, whether you’re wearing a helmet or not,” says Richardson. “However, if you aren’t wearing a helmet, you will be in the minority. Helmets are the norm on the slopes. And yes, most rental outfits rent helmets these days and the cost should be nominal compared to the prices of other rental equipment.”
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
A skier herself, Amy Schlinger is a reporter, writer, and editor with over 12 years of experience covering gear, health, fitness, travel, wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. She has run six half marathons, completed two triathlons, biked two century rides, finished two Tough Mudder races, and four Spartan races, including a beast at the Spartan World Championships at Squaw Mountain in North Lake Tahoe.
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