More skiers and snowboarders are wearing helmets than ever before – and for good reason. The most recent statistics from the NSAA (National Ski Areas Association), collected during the 2015-16 season, reported that 80% of all skiers and snowboarders are wearing helmets when they ride. As more information becomes available on the potential for head injury in winter sports, helmets have become a “must-have” part of ski gear. That’s great! But just because there’s a helmet on your head doesn’t mean you are invincible to the possibility of head injury.
It is a very common misconception in skiing and snowboarding that helmets last forever, and that as long as you have one on, you are safe and sound on the slopes. Simply put, that just isn’t true. Just because you are wearing a ski helmet does not mean that you are getting the maximum amount of protection possible. We’ve explained before why it’s important to wear a proper fitting sk helmet, but that’s not the only factor that impacts the effectiveness of your helmet. This poses the question: Even if your helmet is fitting correctly, how do you tell when it needs to be replaced?
Have You Taken a Spill?
Anytime you take a crash, you should be inspecting your helmet. In fact, you should be inspecting your helmet every time you get geared up. You must inspect the inside and outside of the helmet anytime you’ve taken a fall that was hard enough to rattle your cage a little bit. The exterior shell of a helmet must not have any dents or dings in it. The inner, energy-absorbent material must be fully intact as well. Both of these layers work together to displace energy to keep you protected. Regardless of the shell construction a ski or snowboard helmet is made out of, whether Soft Shell, Hard Shell, In Mold or Hybrid, they are ALL single impact helmets. This means that if you have taken a fall that was hard enough to damage your helmet even once, it must be replaced.
Are You Rough with Your Ski Helmet?
If you are like me, you are trying to get out on the mountain as much as possible. This sometimes means spontaneous road trips and day trips to your local resort. This also means not always taking the appropriate care of your gear. My helmet can sometimes (and I’m not proud to admit this) be tossed into car trunks, rooftop carriers or my truck bed while being connected to the outside of my gear bag. Doing this can lead to those noticeable dents, dings or gouges that can occur from getting tossed around. This is the more inconspicuous type of damage, because you cannot track it back to a crash, which is a single event that you most likely remember. Always give your helmet a once over before you place it on your head.
How Long Have You Had Your Ski Helmet?
If you were an early adopter in wearing a helmet and have been using that same helmet or have only replaced it once, you should strongly consider replacing your helmet according to the helmet manufacturer’s recommendations. It is possible for the interior shell of the helmet to start to deteriorate over time. The inner shell can start to break down due to exposure to different temperatures, humidity or even simply old age. Even if you have not taken a crash or do not have any noticeable damage on the inside or outside of your helmet, we recommend that you should replace a helmet every five years.
The Good News: Ski Helmets Have Never Been Better
Helmets have never been more comfortable, well ventilated, lighter and easy to dial in to the perfect fit. Technologies like BOA fit adjustments, Soft Shell, Koroyd and Fidlock make simpler than ever to keep your helmet fitting well and your head safe.
One of the most important features in a ski or snowboard helmet that is often overlooked is the ventilation. Helmets with Adjustable Ventilation do an incredible job of preventing you from overheating and keeping your temperature regulated on the slopes. Helmets like the Smith Vantage MIPS have dual ventilation adjustments for the best find for you to keep a cool head. Lately one of the biggest trends has been to incorporate a Visor into the helmet eliminating the need for goggles. Helmets like the Giro View MIPS are increasing in popularity every season.
Helmet manufactures are also improving the amount of protection you have. Many helmets now are produced with MIPS, which stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. Helmets equipped with MIPS have an inner shell that will rotate inside the helmet to absorb impact during a crash, helping protect you against oblique impacts.
Wearing a well-fitting, taken-care-of and up-to-date helmet is the best action you can take to keep your noggin safe this winter. For more information on all of the protective features available in ski and snowboard helmets today, head over to our Ski Helmet Buying Guide, and take a look at our Ski Helmet Sizing Guide to learn how to find that perfect fitting helmet you need.