No matter your ability level, picking up a helmet for skiing is a no-brainer. If you’ve been putting off replacing a helmet that’s years old or are new to the sport, recent advancements have made them lighter and even safer, so now is a great time to take the plunge. The high-end models on the list offer advanced fit customization and venting, but those who only get up to the mountains a few times a year will be fine with a cheaper option. From the featured-packed and teched-out to the basic yet effective, below are the top ski helmets for the 2023 season. For more information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks. And to complete your ski kit, we've also written about the best ski goggles and ski gloves and mittens.
- Best Overall Ski Helmet: Smith Vantage MIPS
- Best Budget Ski Helmet: Giro Ledge MIPS
- Best Mix of Comfort & Performance for Resort Use: Smith Level MIPS
- Best Helmet for Backcountry Skiing: Salomon MTN Lab
- Best Helmet for Freestyle and Park Skiers: Giro Emerge MIPS
Best Overall Ski Helmet
Construction: Hybrid in-mold
Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (21 vents)
What we like: The Vantage puts it all together: comfort, performance, safety, and looks.
What we don’t: Pretty expensive.
We’ve tested a lot of ski helmets, and none is more impressive than the Smith Vantage. The quality and attention to detail are clear, with a soft but supportive liner, excellent coverage all around your head, and an easy-to-adjust Boa dial for fit. You simply put on the helmet and forget that it’s there—the Vantage feels that comfortable and light. You also get superior ventilation with a total of 21 vents controlled by two separate sliders for easy customization. All in all, you won’t find a helmet that is so comfortable and universally capable of frontside and backcountry use.
The Vantage also comes with all the safety bells and whistles in the Smith arsenal. Their distinctive honeycomb Aerocore construction is visible through the vent openings and intended to improve energy absorption in a crash. And the popular MIPS liner, designed to protect your brain in an angled impact, is included. These safety features are tough to quantify, but it’s worth noting that the extra tech is integrated very well into the low-profile design. Whether the whole package is worth the steep $270 price tag is up to you. Editor’s note: we’ve found the MIPS model does run a bit small, so those on the high end of the fit range may have to size up... Read in-depth review
See the Smith Vantage MIPS See the Women's Smith Vantage MIPS
Best Budget Ski Helmet
Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (8 vents)
What we like: A tough, MIPS-equipped helmet for just $105.
What we don’t: Lacks the lightweight feel and high-end fit and comfort of pricier designs.
Sticking to a budget doesn’t always mean you have to sacrifice performance, and the Giro Ledge MIPS is case in point. Most importantly, it covers all the bases in terms of protection, with a tough ABS hardshell, close and adjustable fit, and top-of-the-line MIPS technology (to absorb the forces of an angled impact). This is the same safety system used by many more premium (read: pricier) competitors here, so it’s a steal to find it for just $105. You don’t get a lot of other bells and whistles, but there’s enough to make most skiers happy: a goggle retainer hook around back, removable ear pads, and a cool, skate-inspired look. If you’re looking to save without compromising on safety, the Giro Ledge MIPS is hard to beat.
The Smith Holt below ($80) is another popular budget pick and features a similarly simple but functional design. But for us, it’s no contest: The Ledge’s addition of MIPS is well worth the extra $25. A closer alternative is Smith’s Scout MIPS, which goes head-to-head with the Giro for the same price. Choosing between the two helmets is like splitting hairs: Both feature tough hardshells that can take a good knock, eight fixed vents, and availability in a wide range of colors–although neither offers the lightweight build or fit conveniences of higher-end offerings. Notably, the Scout also tacks on an all-season certification, which means it can pull double duty as a skate or bike helmet (the Ledge is only certified for snow sports). Trying the two on will help settle the score, but in the end, both are high-quality budget designs from leading helmet brands.
See the Giro Ledge MIPS Helmet
Best Mix of Comfort and Performance for Resort Use
Construction: Hybrid in-mold
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (20 vents)
What we like: High-quality and very comfortable build.
What we don’t: Not as versatile as the Vantage above.
The Vantage above offers versatile performance for both resort and backcountry use, but those who stay inside the ropes can save with the Level here. Right away, you can tell this is a thoroughly modern helmet: Its sleek looks, generous ventilation, and hybrid shell construction closely resemble the pricier Vantage above. And like the Vantage, it also uses Smith’s Aerocore technology for impact absorption and includes a MIPS liner for solid protection against angled impacts. Throw in a soft and warm interior and a plusher liner than its pricier sibling, and the Level has all the right ingredients for a reasonable $220.
In saving $50 compared with the top-rated Vantage, you do make a few compromises. To start, the Level is a little heavier (by about 1 oz.) and has only a single adjuster for the top vents (the Vantage has two). Further, Smith swapped the Vantage’s premium Boa fit system for an in-house VaporFit design. That said, the level of customization is very similar, and we’ve had no complaints with our VaporFit-equipped helmets. Overall, the lighter and airier Vantage is the better all-rounder, but we see little to complain about with the Level for lift-assisted use. If you’re looking to save even more, Smith’s Mission MIPS costs $140 and features a lighter but less durable in-mold construction... Read in-depth review
See the Smith Level MIPS See the Women's Smith Liberty MIPS
Best Helmet for Backcountry Skiing
Weight: 12.9 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (12 vents)
What we like: Super lightweight; triple-norm certified for skiing, climbing, and biking.
What we don’t: Not super warm, vents can allow moisture inside.
Rated for both downhill skiing and climbing use, the Salomon MTN Lab is a backcountry standout. The helmet’s feathery 12.9-ounce weight is the second lightest on our list (behind the Petzl Meteor below), which makes it easy to wear all day or attach to a pack. Ventilation is also a strong point with 12 large cutouts distributed along the top and sides of the lid. And Salomon didn’t skimp on features with the MTN Lab: The helmet integrates well with our Smith I/O Mag goggles, the adjustment dial at the back is easy to use, and the two included merino wool liners (one lightweight and one winter-weight) are soft and cozy.
The MTN Lab was updated for the 2023 season, and the newest version now uses more recycled materials and is triple-norm certified for snowsports, climbing, and biking. For mountain missions that require every tool in the tool box, it’s a solid pick. Where the helmet falls short is for resort use: The minimalist padding isn’t as plush or insulative as most lids, and there’s no way to close the vents on particularly frigid or wet days (wearing a thin beanie underneath or putting our jacket’s hood over the helmet does help). Further, while the in-mold construction helps cut weight, it isn’t as durable as the ABS and hybrid designs here. Within this category, we also love the Movement 3Tech Alpi (12.6 oz.), which is pricier at $239 but offers a more accommodating fit for many.
See the Salomon MTN Lab Helmet
Best Helmet for Freestyle and Park Skiers
Weight: 1 lb. 1.6 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (10 vents)
What we like: Stylish freestyle design and durable build.
What we don’t: Overly simplified fit system.
There’s no rule book that states you need a certain kind of helmet for the park, but freestyle aficionados will benefit from prioritizing certain features over others. First is a hardwearing construction: Durability matters far more than weight when it comes to hitting jibs and sliding rails, so most park rats will want to look for a robust hardshell design. Second is protection: We recommend looking for a helmet with MIPS—if rotational impact protection is essential anywhere, it’s when you’re catching big air off kickers. Last but not least, style matters: Most freestyle riders will want a skate-inspired lid, along with the versatility to wear it with or without ear pads and with the goggle strap underneath or overtop.
There are plenty of freestyle options to consider, but Giro's Emerge MIPS stands out among the competition for its premium feature set at a competitive price point. Instead of MIPS' standard plastic frame, the Emerge boasts MIPS' higher-end Spherical technology, which uses a ball-and-socket-type configuration of premium EPP foam to absorb impacts (quick primer: EPS foam cracks under pressure and should be retired after a big crash; EPP foam disperses the force and is more resilient). We do wish the Emerge had a rear dial for fine-tuning fit, but it's hard to be overly critical at this price point. All told, there's a reason this lid is so popular among park skiers: It's durable, protective, and looks good to boot. For a similarly intentioned helmet with a brimmed design and standard MIPS, check out the Giro Trig MIPS ($150).
See the Giro Emerge MIPS
Best of the Rest
Construction: In-mold w/ABS shell
Weight: 1 lb.
Ventilation: Adjustable (11 vents)
What we like: Solid build and well-integrated safety features.
What we don’t: A bit bulkier and less ventilated than the Smith options above.
Sweden-based POC has built a reputation around toughness and safety, and the Obex is their most well-rounded helmet to date. Mixing an in-mold construction with a tough ABS shell over top, the helmet is competitively light but can still take a knock (and limit cosmetic damage) thanks to the exterior layer of tough plastic. We also think it’s a classy-looking design, and the wide array of color options help it stand out in the market. Rounding out the setup, the Obex has an easy-to-use fit system that secures evenly around the head, adjustable vents, and a new MIPS liner (previous models had the brand’s in-house SPIN system).
What’s not to like about the POC Obex? Despite their best efforts, the helmet still is bulkier and not as streamlined as Smith’s Vantage and Level above. As a result, we found that it feels a little heavier than its 1-pound weight suggests. Further, the interior padding isn’t as plush as the Smith designs, and we prefer more cushioning along the chin strap. Finally, only the top vents are adjustable, which means the helmet can run cold on frigid days. To be fair, these differences still are fairly minor, and the Obex’s combination of a premium safety suite and reasonable $200 price point earn it a spot on our list for 2023.
See the POC Obex MIPS
Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (10 vents)
What we like: Great price for a well-rounded and surprisingly comfortable lid.
What we don’t: Heavy, no MIPS liner available, liner is cheaper than pricier helmets.
Top to bottom in their snow helmet lineup, Smith just gets it. At $80, the Holt is their true budget offering and one of our favorite helmets in its price range. It’s an exercise in smart design, and one of the Holt’s biggest accomplishments is avoiding the bulky and off-putting mushroom look associated with cheap helmets. While not as low-profile or techy as the premium Vantage or Level above, it’s a notable improvement over most of the budget field (Giro’s Ledge MIPS above is similarly sleek).
One thoughtful touch on the entry-level Holt is its adjustment system. You don’t get a dial to tweak the fit, but an elasticized band at the back of the helmet stretches to accommodate your head surprisingly well. Warmth and comfort also are competitive, although the foam, while thick and warm, feels cheaper and muffles sound more than we prefer. On the whole, we’ve found that it’s often worth upgrading to a mid-range or premium ski helmet, and particularly for those who get in a lot of days on the mountain. But as long as you’re willing to compromise a bit in comfort, don’t have a MIPS liner on your must-have list, and aren’t prone to overheating (the fixed ventilation is only mildly effective), the Holt is a real winner.
See the Smith Holt Helmet
Weight: 15.8 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (12 vents)
What we like: Comfortable liner and fun styling.
What we don’t: Non-adjustable vents.
Selecting the right mid-range helmet is an exercise in prioritization. If your must-haves are liner comfort, adjustable fit, and sticking out from a sea of Smith, Oakley, and Giro lids, then the Pret Cynic X2 is a fine choice. Its wool-blend liner gives it one of the more comfortable interiors for under $200, and the easy-to-use fit system is comparable with a Boa design. We’d like to see adjustable ventilation at this price point, but the Cynic’s fixed system with 12 vents and some open/close flaps along the interior do a pretty good job at temperature regulation.
The Cynic's in-mold construction keeps weight in check at under a pound for the medium size, and we appreciate that you get a little extra durability thanks to strategically placed panels of polycarbonate that thicken sections of the shell. Another nice touch is Pret’s use of HALEO antimicrobial foam, which guards against odor buildup. Finally, looks are always subjective, but we like the styling of the Cynic and Pret’s lineup in general (although some may find the large “Pret” along the sides a bit extreme). For a similar design with a bump in ventilation and protection, check out Pret's Fury X.
See the Pret Cynic X2 MIPS See the Women's Pret Lyric X2 MIPS
Construction: Hybrid in-mold
What we like: Creative modular brim design ensures a good google fit.
What we don’t: A little low on ventilation and safety features for the price.
Oakley makes some of our favorite ski goggles, but the company only recently jumped into the helmet game with the MOD series. We wore the high-end MOD5 for an entire winter season and were impressed by the helmet’s seamless goggle integration (via a modular brim), along with its premium comfort and feature set. With a revamp for the 2023 season, the latest MOD5 got a fresh look and tacks on Oakley’s Skull Matrix technology, which merges the MIPS liner and BOA dial into one system for improved fit and comfort. The newest version also features a redesigned brim system—instead of having to use a screwdriver to swap visors, you now get a magnetic attachment system for quick and easy customization.
We have yet to test the retooled MOD5, but it’s safe to assume that quality is high, with premium features like a magnetic chinstrap, removable and washable Polartec Power Grid liner, and adjustable venting. It’s worth noting that the helmet has considerably fewer vents than designs like the Vantage and Level above, but the drop in airflow will likely only be noticeable on particularly mild days or when traveling uphill. And we’re a bit disappointed with the feature set at this price point: Unlike Smith’s high-end helmets, which feature a honeycomb-like material for additional impact protection, the MOD5 has little in the way of extra tech. But the unmatched goggle compatibility is the true selling point of the design, and it’s hard to beat the Oakley aesthetic and brand name.
See the Oakley MOD5 MIPS
Weight: 14.1 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (16 vents)
What we like: One of the lightest MIPS-equipped helmets here.
What we don’t: Expensive and heavier than the MTN Lab above.
Salomon’s MTN Lab above has been a top choice among ski mountaineers and backcountry riders for a number of seasons, but it finally has a formidable competitor in the Giro Grid MIPS. Clocking in at 14.1 ounces, the Grid combines a lightweight and well-ventilated design with MIPS Spherical for top-notch protection. This technology uses ball-and-socket construction to mitigate weight and bulk while still guarding against rotational impacts, resulting in one of the lightest MIPS helmets on this list. And in terms of fit and finish, Giro held little back with the premium Grid, which features a plush removable liner, glove-friendly fit and vent adjustments, and a sleek magnetic snap buckle that we’ve found incredibly easy to use.
In the end, the decision between the Grid and the MTN Lab comes down to a matter of priorities. The Salomon will save you a full $70, and its fixed vents and streamlined liner get the job done for most backcountry enthusiasts. Furthermore, the MTN Lab’s mountaineering rating lends extra assurance for the uphill climb, and the helmet easily accommodates a headlamp (the Grid does not). On the other hand, with the Giro you get the angled impact protection of MIPS, and warmer insulation along with adjustable vents make it a more well-rounded option for resort skiing or especially cold days of touring. For those who bounce between the resort and the backcountry, we think the Grid (and women’s Envi) is truly hard to beat. And if you’re looking for Giro’s premium resort offering, check out the Range MIPS.
See the Giro Grid MIPS See the Women's Giro Envi MIPS
Construction: Hybrid in-mold
Weight: 1 lb. 3.4 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (24 vents)
What we like: Premium levels of protection and comfort.
What we don’t: Very expensive and fairly heavy for backcountry use.
Smith makes a helmet for just about every type and style of skier and snowboarder, and their range-topping Nexus is tailor-made for those tackling ambitious lines. Replacing the Quantum for the 2023 season, this helmet includes the full arsenal of the brand’s safety features: The energy-absorbing Aerocore construction used in portions of the Vantage and Level above is extended to the full shell, you get additional protection along the back and sides of the head with durable ABS plastic, and a MIPS liner is included with all versions. Smith tops off the no-holds-barred build with a highly tunable Boa fit system and magnetic chinstrap, 24 vents with two separate adjusters, and an antimicrobial liner.
All that said, we’re still not sold on the Nexus over a helmet like the Vantage above. In short, the lid is very expensive at $325, and its improvements over other designs are incremental at best. By comparison, the Vantage packs in nearly as many safety features, weighs an ounce and a half less, and comes in $55 cheaper. It also ventilates similarly and is a bit better for backcountry use due to its lighter weight. But if you’re after the full package—including maximum protection and just about every modern feature currently on the market—the Nexus MIPS is the one to get.
See the Smith Nexus MIPS
Weight: 1 lb.
Ventilation: Adjustable (16 vents)
What we like: Great feature set and style; reasonably lightweight.
What we don’t: Pricier than most of the in-mold competition.
Breckenridge, Colo.-based Glade Optics is a classic story of “by the people, for the people.” With the goal of keeping things passionate yet professional, the small company started with eyewear (sunglasses and goggles), but has now dipped into the helmet world with their Boundary MIPS here. For being pretty new to the game, it’s clear they did their homework. The Boundary is lightweight (15.8 oz. for our men’s medium), has soft cushioning that completely isolates you from the fit/adjustment system, and features a Fidlock buckle, MIPS liner, adjustable front vents, and a small visor. What’s more, we found it fits seamlessly with Glade’s goggles (and decently well with offerings from Smith and Dragon, too). Check, check, and check.
Our main gripe with the Boundary is price: At $199, it’s more expensive than similar in-mold designs like the Smith Mission ($140) and Pret Cynic X2 ($160). It’s true the Glade is more feature-rich, uses longer-lasting EPP foam, and has a cushier interior than an alternative like the Mission, but we’re not sure the distinctions are worth $60 (plus, the Smith is available in a much wider range of sizes). In other words, if you’re going to spend $200, it’s worth considering a more durable hybrid in-mold design like the Smith Level ($220), which will do a much better job resisting dings and dents when catching a branch in the trees or dropping the helmet on a hard surface (for instance). But for a lightweight one-helmet option for resort-goers who occasionally dip into the backcountry, the Boundary is a fun newcomer with great style.
See the Glade Optics Boundary MIPS
Weight: 14.6 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (6 vents)
What we like: Lightweight, good looks, and uncharacteristically premium feature set for the price.
What we don’t: Limited durability and minimal ventilation.
On the heels of the MOD5 and MOD3 is Oakley’s latest build: the MOD1. As the name indicates, this is their entry-level model with a simplified look, trimmed-down feature set, and budget-friendly $105 price. But Oakley managed to pack in a number of nice touches that aren't typically found at this price point, including a magnetic buckle and Boa’s proven 360-degree fit adjustment system. Comfort is also good for the mid-range category thanks to a beanie-like lining that has a soft feel and molds nicely to your head, and the in-mold construction keeps weight low at just 14.6 ounces. For casual resort riders and those looking to keep weight and cost low, the MOD1 is a surprisingly well-rounded budget option.
We’re happy to see Oakley expanding their helmet collection, but the MOD1 sits in a bit of an in-between zone. To start, the in-mold construction compromises on durability compared to ABS competitors like the Giro Ledge and Smith Holt above. Those who spend time in the park or exploring the outer reaches of the resort will likely want a tougher design (Oakley does offer the more robust MOD1 Pro MIPS for $155). Further, the six fixed vents provide very little in the way of ventilation, which makes the MOD1 untenable for sidecountry or backcountry use and puts resort riders at risk of overheating on warm spring days. But if the sacrifices in toughness and breathability aren't deal-breakers for you, the MOD1 is about as good as it gets at this price point and one of our favorite designs for recreational and new riders. It's also sold in a MIPS-equipped version for an additional $30.
See the Oakley MOD1 Helmet
Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
What we like: Feature-rich with great ventilation; 360° sound tech truly works.
What we don’t: Somewhat narrow fit; fairly heavy for an in-mold helmet.
With impressive safety tech and generous ventilation, the Scott Symbol 2 Plus D is our favorite helmet from the venerable outdoor brand. Released a few years ago, this second-generation model packs every safety feature Scott currently offers: The “D” in the name represents their shock-absorbing foam placed at the front and back of the lid for direct hits (known as D30 Technology), and a familiar MIPS liner helps with angled impacts. Tack on their unique earpiece inserts that maximize sound transmission and a venting system with dual adjusters (like the Vantage above), and the Scott is one of the most fully featured models on the market.
How does the Symbol 2 Plus D compare to Smith’s popular Vantage MIPS? Both check the right boxes for safety tech with shock-absorbing materials and a slip-plane liner. In addition, the two designs can work for both resort and backcountry use with good ventilation as well as cozy interiors. The Scott saves you $30 but is missing the ABS plastic panel that sits on the top and sides of the Vantage, which is useful for limiting cosmetic damage and in lighter impacts. Combined with its weight advantage, rounder interior shape (the Scott runs a bit narrow), and more proven nature, we give the slight edge to the long-standing Vantage MIPS.
See the Scott Symbol 2 Plus D
Construction: Hybrid carbon fiber shell
Weight: 1 lb. 6.2 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (10 vents)
What we like: A carbon fiber helmet!
What we don’t: Super expensive and fairly heavy.
Right off the bat, it’s readily apparent the Sweet Protection Grimnir 2Vi isn’t your average ski helmet. The shell is made with gleaming carbon fiber—it’s particularly impressive-looking in the “Natural Carbon” color—and the price tag is a whopping $400. That’s $75 more than the next-most-expensive helmet on this list and puts it in rarified air for an all-mountain/freeride design. What the carbon fiber build and unique two-layer MIPS system get you, however, is incredible strength and pro-level performance. For those that hit big mountain lines with a lot of exposure, the Grimnir may be worth a look.
It probably won’t come as a shock that the Grimnir 2Vi’s appeal is very limited. For one, the riders interested in this helmet likely find themselves in hairy situations rather frequently, and they may need to replace it after a crash well before the liner has worn out. Moreover, there isn’t a standardized test to prove that this carbon construction actually is safer than a similarly burly option like Smith’s Nexus above (which happens to cost $75 less). In the end, the Grimnir remains a niche product, but Sweet Protection does make the $230 Igniter II MIPS, which shares a similar shape and fit but trades the carbon fiber for more practical ABS plastic.
See the Sweet Protection Grimnir 2Vi
Weight: 14.1 oz.
Ventilation: Fixed (8 vents)
What we like: Minimalist looks, lightweight, and competitive price.
What we don’t: Non-adjustable vents means you can’t fully seal out the cold.
Giro’s Grid above is their high-end backcountry offering, while the Jackson MIPS here slots in below as a lightweight and more budget-minded option for resort and freeride use. They kept things pretty simple with a clean and minimalist exterior, low-profile in-mold construction, and lightly cushioned ear pads. But the details are really nicely sorted, including a highly adjustable fit system that can be shifted up and down to avoid a gaper gap with your goggles and the option to remove the aforementioned ear pads on warm days (or when touring). And with a weight of just over 14 ounces, the Jackson is light enough that you’re prone to forgetting you’re wearing it throughout the day.
Most fixed-vent designs do a bad job keeping you cool or dumping heat quickly, but the passive system on the Jackson is quite effective at drawing air from the front and out the back—even when standing still or working hard on a sidecountry hike. One limitation of the design, however, is that you can’t seal it closed. As such, in frigid temperatures or if strong, chilly gusts are hitting you hard, the helmet runs cooler than a model with an adjustable venting system (like Giro’s own Grid). In other words, the Jackson isn’t a great match for those that run cold, but for active resort skiers or those looking for an affordable slackcountry/backcountry lid, it’s well worth checking out.
See the Giro Jackson MIPS See the Women's Giro Terra MIPS
Construction: Hybrid in-mold
Weight: 1 lb. 4.5 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (19 vents)
What we like: WaveCel technology incorporated into a high-end build.
What we don’t: There are cozier and more well-padded options available.
First offered in Bontrager’s line of biking helmets, WaveCel technology made the leap into snowsports last season. In short, the cell-like structure aims to provide two main safety benefits: shock absorption in direct impacts and reducing rotational forces in an angled hit (like MIPS). Anon is the first to incorporate the tech and have included in both their mid-range Logan ($240) and high-end Merak ($320) models. The latter design also packs a number of extras that you’d expect for the price, including a hybrid in-mold construction for good durability, magnetic chinstrap, Boa fit system, and an adjustable ventilation design. It’s a little on the heavy end—our medium size tipped the scales at 1 pound 4.5 ounces—but it’s a formidable option for serious downhill and big-mountain riding.
In testing the Merak, however, a few complaints have emerged. The most significant is the padding design, which doesn’t protect you as well from the Boa fit system as we’d like. Cinching the helmet creates light pressure points at the sides of the head (the shape could’ve also been part of the issue, and the Merak seems to favor more of an oval-like head rather than round). Additionally, the minimalist padding meant the helmet ran on the cold side on frigid resort days, and the foam used around the ears muffles more sound than we prefer. Some will find these tradeoffs worth it for the advanced safety tech, but we’d like to see some of the finer details sorted out before moving it up our ranking.
See the Anon Merak WaveCel
Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
Ventilation: Adjustable (14 vents)
What we like: No gaper gap with the integrated goggle; quality Smith design at a good price.
What we don’t: Polarizing looks.
Now for something a little different. Smith’s Survey breaks from the mold with its all-in-one helmet and goggle design. The helmet portion is a fairly standard Smith offering, featuring their lightweight in-mold construction, Koroyd for impact absorption, a nicely padded interior, and adjustable vents. But rotate down the built-in goggle—Smith refers to it as a visor—and you get a really well-integrated setup, complete with the brand’s signature ChromaPop lens. For an all-in price of $260 for the MIPS model ($290 if you opt for a photochromic lens), the Survey adds up to a decent value for a combo kit. And the bonus: a zero-percent chance of a gaper gap between the helmet and goggle.
The main thing holding the Survey back is its looks, which are undeniably futuristic and polarizing. The helmet wouldn’t be out of place in a galaxy far far away, which may be either be a positive or negative for you (we lean a bit towards the latter). In addition, we found the visor portion required a fair amount of downward pressure to fully lock into place, and even then, it didn’t create as snug of a seal around our cheeks as a standard goggle. A final complaint is that the padding in the ears muffles quite a bit of noise, although you can remove the foam to help with that (at the cost of some insulation). Clearly, the Survey won’t be for everyone, but we think the two-in-one solution is a nice addition to the market... Read in-depth review
See the Smith Survey MIPS
Weight: 8.5 oz. (M/L)
Ventilation: Fixed (23 vents)
What we like: Ultralight climbing helmet that’s CE-certified for ski touring.
What we don’t: Drafty and does not meet standards for resort skiing.
The Salomon MTN Lab and Movement 3Tech Alp are two of the lightest ski helmets available, which make them prime suspects for backcountry skiers looking to keep weight low. But for ski mountaineering and long tours, these lids are still on the bulky side. Enter the Petzl Meteor, an 8.5-ounce climbing-turned-ski helmet that’s truly in a class of its own. The Meteor is officially certified for ski touring (EN 12492), offering impact protection on both the top and sides of the head (most climbing helmets only guard against objects falling from above). It’s also fully compatible with goggles—including a rear elastic band built specifically for the task—and features glove-friendly adjustments at the rear.
But before you hit the skin track with the Petzl Meteor, it’s important to recognize its limitations. In particular, this helmet fails to meet standards for an alpine ski helmet, meaning that it doesn’t provide ample protection for inbounds skiing, big lines in the backcountry, and even some skimo races. Second, with 23 fixed vents and no ear pads, it’s decidedly drafty and lacks that cozy, secure feel you get with a standard ski helmet. In the end, the aforementioned MTN Lab and 3Tech Alp are much more well-rounded options, and will be worth the added ounces for many. But if you ski tour in the winter and climb in the summer, the Meteor is a do-all helmet that excels in both worlds. Finally, keep in mind that Petzl’s 6-ounce Sirocco is an even lighter ski touring-certified option, but it has less of a goggle-friendly shape and feature set.
See the Men's Petzl Meteor See the Women's Petzl Meteora
|Smith Vantage MIPS||$270||Hybrid in-mold||1 lb. 2 oz.||Adjustable (21 vents)||Yes|
|Giro Ledge MIPS||$105||ABS||1 lb. 2 oz.||Fixed (8 vent)||Yes|
|Smith Level MIPS||$220||Hybrid in-mold||1 lb. 3 oz.||Adjustable (20 vents)||Yes|
|Salomon MTN Lab||$200||In-mold||12.9 oz.||Fixed (12 vents)||No|
|Giro Emerge MIPS||$160||ABS||1 lb. 1.6 oz.||Fixed (10 vents)||Yes|
|POC Obex MIPS||$200||In-mold w/ABS||1 lb.||Adjustable (11 vents)||Yes|
|Smith Holt||$80||ABS||1 lb. 4 oz.||Fixed (10 vents)||No|
|Pret Cynic X2 MIPS||$160||In-mold||15.8 oz.||Fixed (12 vents)||Yes|
|Oakley MOD5 MIPS||$270||Hybrid in-mold||Unavailable||Adjustable||Yes|
|Giro Grid MIPS||$270||In-mold||14.1 oz.||Adjustable (16 vents)||Yes|
|Smith Nexus MIPS||$325||Hybrid in-mold||1 lb. 3.4 oz.||Adjustable (24 vents)||Yes|
|Glade Optics Boundary MIPS||$199||In-mold||1 lb.||Adjustable (16 vents)||Yes|
|Oakley MOD1||$105||In-mold||14.6 oz.||Fixed (6 vents)||No (available)|
|Scott Symbol 2 Plus D||$240||In-mold||1 lb. 4 oz.||Adjustable||Yes|
|Sweet Protection Grimnir 2Vi||$400||Hybrid carbon shell||1 lb. 6.2 oz.||Adjustable (10 vents)||Yes|
|Giro Jackson MIPS||$190||In-mold||14.1 oz.||Fixed (8 vents)||Yes|
|Anon Merak WaveCel||$320||Hybrid in-mold||1 lb. 4.5 oz.||Adjustable (19 vents)||Yes (WaveCel)|
|Smith Survey MIPS||$260||In-mold||1 lb. 9 oz.||Adjustable (14 vents)||Yes|
|Petzl Meteor||$90||In-mold||8.5 oz.||Fixed (23 vents)||No|
- Helmet Construction Types
- Helmet Safety: MIPS and More
- Helmet Certifications
- Ventilation: Adjustable or Fixed
- Liners: Comfort and Warmth
- Weight and Bulk
- Ski Helmet Features
- Sizing and Fit
- Goggle Compatibility
- Women’s-Specific Helmets
Construction styles for ski helmets can be broken into three general categories: ABS for the best durability, in-mold for the lightest weight, and hybrid in-mold for a nice compromise between the two. Below we break down the pros and cons of each type and who they're best for.
Diving a little deeper, ABS helmets like the Giro Ledge MIPS and Smith Holt are made in the traditional style with a hard plastic shell and a foam liner glued to the inside. The combination is simple but tough—ABS will scratch, but it's far less likely than other materials to show cosmetic damage like dings and dents. It’s also the most affordable helmet construction, and many ABS helmets feature all-season certifications for use while biking, skateboarding, or roller skating. The tank-like design does come at the expense of weight, bulk, and ventilation: Put on an ABS helmet back-to-back with an in-mold or hybrid design, and the ABS model will look and feel more cumbersome. But given their strengths, ABS helmets are a great choice for everyone from beginner skiers and penny pinchers to those who are especially hard on their gear.
In-Mold and Hybrid
In-mold and hybrid in-mold technology is found on many mid-range and high-end helmets. In-mold construction combines a thin shell (often polycarbonate) with an EPS foam liner right from the start, and they’re molded together. What you get is an integrated piece, which cuts weight, adds a premium finish, and lets the helmet work as a single unit to absorb impacts. Ventilation also improves with these designs, although the degree to which it increases will vary by model and price. Some of our favorite in-mold designs are great crossover models for both resort and backcountry use, including the Salomon MTN Lab and Giro Grid MIPS.
Durability is the primary downside to an in-mold helmet, and particularly protection against cosmetic damage like dings and dents. For this reason, hybrid helmets have grown in popularity. Hybrid in-mold designs add a hardshell layer (often along the top) for improved aesthetic durability. Because of the added material, they’re generally a few ounces heavier than standard in-mold designs but are a better choice for riders who really get after it in the park or on big-mountain terrain (or simply for those that want a quality build that should last a long time). However, their price, which is often $200 or more, puts hybrid designs out of reach for many occasional riders. A number of our top picks use this type of construction, including the Smith Vantage and Oakley MOD5.
In an effort to increase safety, many snow helmets offer protective features on top of the standard shell and foam combos mentioned above. Among these technologies, none has been so universally adopted as the MIPS (short for "Multi-directional Impact Protection System") liner. MIPS was designed to reduce damage to the brain in angled impacts (as might occur during a high-speed skiing fall or botched landing) through a liner that moves independently from the outer shell. We’ve taken the time to remove our MIPS liners and it’s impressively simple: A thin plastic layer connects to the helmet with a few small tabs and moves independently, keeping rotational impacts from passing onto the brain (note: MIPS strongly advises against removing the liner—we did so only for educational purposes). MIPS’ more premium Spherical technology (as seen on the Giro Emerge) uses two pieces of EPP foam in a ball-and-socket configuration to accomplish the same impact reduction.
Beyond the formidable research that has gone into MIPS and comparable technologies, the beauty of the designs are that they have essentially no impact on comfort or the profile of the helmet. As such, you see MIPS being adopted on anything from Smith’s premium $270 Vantage all the way down to the $105 Giro Ledge MIPS. Some helmets we’ve tested do appear to fit slightly smaller as a result, but otherwise the impact is negligible. How often MIPS technology is a safety benefit is difficult to quantify, and we haven’t found any solid evidence-based research, but all indications point to it being a nice extra safety measure to protect your head (how much that’s worth is up to you). For more information on MIPS, we’ve found the technology page of the MIPS website to be a helpful resource.
Koroyd and WaveCel
In addition to MIPS, some helmet manufacturers have begun to replace standard EPS foam with cellular or honeycomb-like materials like WaveCel (found in Anon helmets) and Koroyd (Smith's solution). These materials have the ability to absorb more energy than EPS, all while minimizing bulk and weight and maximizing ventilation. WaveCel in particular is so adept at absorbing angled impacts and reducing rotational forces that current WaveCel-equipped lids forgo a MIPS liner. Koroyd (via Smith’s Aerocore technology) has become ubiquitous in Smith’s designs (seen in the Vantage, Level, Nexus, and Survey above), and Anon now has three helmets that use WaveCel. You’ll spend up for the extra tech, but many riders will appreciate the added assurance and boost in breathability.
EPS vs. EPP Foam
A final safety consideration is the choice between EPS and EPP foam. Most snow helmets feature EPS foam, which is more affordable than EPP foam but also more brittle. When subjected to enough impact, EPS will crack, meaning these helmets will need to be retired after a big fall. On the other hand, EPP foam springs back into shape after impact and can take multiple hits during its lifespan, making it a great choice for park rats and aggressive riders who subject their helmets to a lot of abuse. In addition, it doesn’t require an ABS or polypropylene shell to help distribute the force. We see EPP used a great deal in climbing helmets due to its lightweight construction (i.e., no need for a shell), but it has yet to become widespread in snow helmets. Most notably, it's used in MIPS's Spherical technology, which is featured in the Giro Emerge MIPS.
Tasked with keeping you safe from hard impacts on the hill, the helmets on our list have a non-motorized snow sports safety certification from US-based ASTM International. Despite construction differences referenced above, these helmets all follow a basic design with a shell exterior and impact-absorbing interior, and are appropriate for both skiing and snowboarding (you can find our dedicated list of snowboarding helmets here). If you’re headed to the slopes, it’s important that you use a helmet designed for the job (i.e., don’t use a mountain bike helmet for skiing), and refrain from using it for tasks outside of its intended use (such as snowmobiling). And of course, the onus is still, as it should be, on the user to ride within your limits.
There are a few snow helmets that have multiple certifications for use outside of skiing. Helmets with climbing certification (EN 12492) offer an increase in protection from falling objects (from above) in addition to impact protection at the front, rear, and sides. If you’re a skier who ventures into the backcountry or deep into the mountains, you’ll want to look for a helmet certified for both snow sports and climbing (the Salomon MTN Lab, Movement 3Tech Alpi, and Petzl Meteor are popular options). And good news for uphill athletes: These lids all feature lightweight and breathable designs for great performance on the skin track or boot pack.
Finally, helmets with an all-season certification (EN 1078) will be of particular interest to freestyle-oriented skiers who spend the warmer half of the year riding bikes, skateboarding, or roller skating. These designs, like the Smith Holt and Scout, are often built with a solid ABS shell that can take a beating on the pavement. Like most snow helmets, they also feature removable ear pads, which is essential for summer use. A few in-mold helmets are also triple-norm certified, including the aforementioned MTN Lab and 3Tech Alpi. Because of their fragile construction we don’t recommend these lids for dedicated use around pavement, but for mountain missions that require a mix of biking, skiing, and climbing, they're without rival.
We place a high priority on ventilation. Throughout the course of an average resort day, we open and close our vents on multiple occasions as we hunker down on a windy lift ride or heat up on a sidecountry hike. The technology behind keeping you at a comfortable temperature isn’t as simple as putting a bunch of holes in the helmet—that winter air is rather cold and can lead to dreaded brain freeze when you are trying to let out some steam.
First, look at the number of total vents of the helmet (we’ve provided this information in the specs for each helmet and in the comparison table above). Not all vents are created equal, but this number gives you a good starting point as to how much ventilation the helmet offers. To be sure, there is a correlation between the number of vents and cost of the helmet. One of the best ventilators, the high-end Smith Vantage, has an impressive 21 vents, while a budget model like the Oakley MOD1 only has six small fixed openings.
Then you have both adjustability and design considerations. Many premium and mid-range helmets have adjustable vents that can be opened and closed depending on the preferred amount of air that you want to let through. Adjustability is highly preferred over static vents. And effective designs direct air through intakes at the front and “exhaust” the heat out the top and back. Budget helmets often have fixed openings that cannot be shut, although a well-designed passive system can still do a decent good job regulating your body heat. For long uphill slogs, you may need to ditch the helmet altogether, although we always recommend dealing with the heat if there is a chance for rock fall.
Liner comfort is one of the most noticeable differences when comparing budget models (typically under $100) with mid-range and high-end ski helmets. Pricey options like the Smith Vantage, Oakley MOD, and POC Obex feature padding along the interior that balances softness with support, and if you nail the fit, you’ll hardly notice the helmet throughout the day. Cheaper designs often have squishy foam that packs out over time, feels uncomfortable if you wear it all day, and muffles sounds (for the foam in the ear pads). For these reasons (and more), we recommend spending up if you plan to get out a lot in the winter. Like an uncomfortable pair of ski boots, you’ll notice it if you don’t.
In addition to comfort, your liner can be a great source of insulation. In our experience, a quality design like what’s included with Smith’s Level offers about as much warmth as a midweight winter hat (we’ve been comfortable wearing the Level down into the single digits). Spending up often gets you better insulation, while sticking with a cheap lid can lead to issues with warmth (especially around the ears). Finally, keep in mind for particularly frigid days or if you’re prone to running cold, you can slip on a beanie underneath (just make sure to choose a helmet size that can accommodate the extra thickness).
Within their specific construction type—ABS, in-mold, or hybrid in-mold—most ski helmets weigh approximately the same. For our medium-sized helmets we tested, that’s 14 to 16 ounces for in-mold, 17 to 19 ounces for hybrid, and 20+ for ABS. And between categories, there are noticeable differences in how they feel—in-mold and hybrid helmets are less prone to feeling heavy during a long day on the hill. However, simply putting a helmet on a scale won’t tell you the whole story of how it feels on your head. Good padding and a snug but comfortable fit can easily make up the difference of a couple ounces. It’s one of many reasons we love the Smith Vantage. It’s not the lightest, but you’ll quickly forget its there.
The bulkiness of a helmet plays into this perception of weight. Cheap helmets made with a basic ABS construction are thick and feel cumbersome. The Smith Holt was the worst offender from our list, but it’s still much better than even cheaper helmet options (and it’s no coincidence that no helmets under $80 made the cut). In contrast, our top picks all have a low-profile fit and don’t feel like you’re hauling around a heavy appendage.
Goggle Retainer Clips
Goggle retainers are a simple but appreciated feature. The built-in clip holds goggle straps in place and helps reduce the risk of losing your ski goggles in a crash or otherwise. Designs do vary some—many budget helmets use a simple plastic piece that flips open, while higher-end helmets will have a more secure strap or cord design.
Most helmets are compatible with some sort of audio system. For example: Smith and Giro work well with Outdoor Tech's Chip systems. In both cases, the ear cups have a built-in pocket that can accommodate speakers. “Audio” helmets like POC's Communication line will have integrated speakers and a cable to attach to a phone or music player. If you go this route, plan on spending a little extra to get quality speakers and reliable electronic hardware. Simply put, cheaper options don’t sound as good and are prone to failing. While skiing, it’s always a good idea to keep the volume down or have speakers that are non-noise cancelling for safety. While it may impact sound quality, the safety tradeoff of being able to hear other skiers or someone shouting at you is a net win.
Action Camera Mounts
Bringing a camera along while skiing provides the opportunity to record ski runs, tricks, and just general fun on the mountain. GoPros have become the tool of choice for filming while in motion, and the good news is that most come with adhesive mounts that can be affixed to pretty much any helmet on the market. Some models, such as Giro's Zone, go a step further and come with a GoPro-compatible mount to make it easier to take the camera on and off.
Getting sized for safety gear isn’t a good time for guessing, so if you don’t already know it, measure your head circumference prior to making an online purchase. All you’ll need is a soft-sided measuring tape or string: Wrap it around your head about an inch above your ears and eyebrows to get your number (in centimeters). As long as the manufacturer is close in their listings—the only discrepancies we’ve seen recently are the smaller-fitting MIPS helmets referenced above—this should get you a decent fit.
Being able to try on various helmets can take you from a decent to perfect fit, because, just like the heads we’re stuffing them into, helmets come in different shapes. For example, the Smith Vantage is pretty well known for fitting folks with a rounder head shape best (although it’s pretty close to universally compatible). On the other hand, the Scott Symbol 2 Plus D is more accommodating to a narrower profile. Unfortunately, we haven’t found entire brands of helmets fit a certain way, so we can’t make too many generalizations, but we have called out any issues we’ve had with the fit in our picks above. It’s best to try on before you buy, but you can also make sure the online retailer accepts returns (all the ones we recommend do).
One final note on fit: If you see a helmet with a single size that claims to be one-size-fits-most, we advise steering clear even if your head circumference falls within the listed parameters. Something that adjustable just won’t fit as well in the end.
As with getting that perfect helmet fit, goggle compatibility is something that’s easiest if you can try them on. An ill-fitting helmet and goggle system can either be too tight, which pushes the helmet up and the goggles down your nose, or too open, leaving some of your forehead vulnerable to the cold air. The easiest way to guarantee a good fit is to stick within the same brand—Smith helmets work great with Smith goggles, and the same goes for Giro and POC—but we encourage you not to limit yourself if there’s a goggle or helmet that’s caught your eye.
In testing, we’ve found some helmets are extremely accommodating of a variety of goggle types. The Oakley MOD5's swappable brim makes it the most compatible with a range of brands and sizes. And Giro’s helmets not only work well with all Giro-branded goggles, but we’ve also found that many provide an excellent fit for anything from the large Anon M3 or Dragon X2 to the classic Smith I/O. Smith’s popular Vantage and Level helmets are also reasonably accommodating, fitting big-sellers like the Oakley Airbrake and Flight Deck, but we had issues with tall frames like the Dragon X2.
While a number of ski helmets are unisex and are perfectly fine for either men or women, there is a wide selection of women’s-specific snow helmets. These models are quite similar to men’s versions, but with different colorways for the shell and liner, as well as having a smaller fit. There will often be a name change, but the technology is all the same—and so is the pricing. When applicable, we've included the link to both the men's and women's versions of the helmet.
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