Smith is a leader in the ski helmet market, and their Vantage MIPS is a favorite among serious downhill and alpine touring riders. This lid seemingly has it all: comfort, performance, safety, and good looks to boot. Given its impressive résumé, I was eager to put the helmet to the test in the Pacific Northwest backcountry, where it faced high winds and long, cold days. Following a full season of use, the Vantage lived up to its billing with a thoughtful feature set, cozy feel, and general ease of use. Below we break down the Vantage’s comfort, ventilation, warmth, features, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best ski helmets.
When I put on the Smith Vantage MIPS for the first time, I was immediately impressed by its comfort. The soft but supportive liner fits snugly and comfortably even when tightly adjusted on my head, and I’ve had no pressure points or rubbing since day one. The chin strap contains the same plush padding, which translates to no irritation even when my skin is cold and dry. The strap is also very simple to tighten, loosen, and fasten. That might not sound like high praise, but I’ve had significant issues with other helmets. For example, my Giro Sheer always seems to have a twisted chin strap, leaving the soft guard flipped away from my face and the harsh material against my skin. I look forward to putting on the Vantage whenever I’m transitioning—perhaps the greatest compliment a backcountry helmet can receive.
The Vantage features 21 vents—far more than most other helmets on the market. For example, competitors like the Oakley Mod 5 (eight vents), Smith Variance (18 vents), and Giro Range MIPS (13 vents) fall short compared to the Vantage. Importantly, the openings are generously sized and easy to customize: the Vantage has two separate sliders to easily open and close more than half of the vents. Even with ski gloves on, I found it very simple to adjust both sliders—one controls four vents on the top and front of the helmet, and the other controls eight along the sides and back. All in all, thanks to both the plush lining and exceptional ventilation, the helmet is a standout in its ability to balance comfort and capability for frontside and backcountry use.
Despite the ability to quickly dump heat, I found the helmet was just as warm as far-less-ventilated designs. When closed, no drafts crept through and the Vantage kept my head cozy and warm throughout the season. However, I should note that I do tend to don the hood of my Gore-Tex hardshell whenever it’s particularly blustery, so that may be responsible for blocking some of the wind. And for those that prefer extra insulation, I found there was enough room to squeeze a beanie or hat underneath the helmet if needed, although I haven’t had to resort to that just yet.
In an effort to increase safety, many companies have begun including MIPS in their designs (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). And while some brands have created their own proprietary options—like POC’s SPIN system, for example—none have been so universally adopted as the MIPS liner. In short, the technology is designed to reduce potential damage to the brain in angled impacts through a liner that moves independently from the outer shell. In the case of the Vantage specifically, the only difference is a $30 price increase for the MIPS model and a slight reduction in size (more on this in “Fit and Sizing” below). Otherwise, you'd hardly know the extra layer is there.
Another safety feature integrated into the Vantage MIPS' design is Smith’s distinctive honeycomb Aerocore construction, which is visible through the vent openings. This technology is intended to improve energy absorption in a crash, in addition to increasing airflow and regulating temperature. To achieve this construction, EPS foam (the same foam used in many mountain biking and climbing helmets) is blended with Koroyd, a material made up of tiny tubes heat-welded together and designed to collapse on impact. 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.
Boa Tensioning System
Boa closure systems are the easiest to use on the market. You’ve probably spotted them on other outdoor gear and accessories, from snowshoes to footwear. But for anyone unfamiliar, a Boa is a simple dial—in this case, on the back of the helmet—that tightens and loosens much easier than any strap system we've used. When tightened, the dial locks in place to prevent unwanted adjustment. Smith’s Boa system, in particular, sports a 360-degree design that targets both forward and lateral fit, helping the Vantage conform evenly to your head.
At 17.5 ounces, the women's Smith Vantage MIPS has a fairly average weight within the ski helmet market. Compared to similarly priced, full-featured models like the Oakley Mod 5 (20 ounces), Smith Valence MIPS (19 ounces), and Giro Stellar MIPS (19 ounces), the Vantage undercuts the competition, but not by much. Going ultralight with an option like the Salomon MTN Lab (13.25 ounces) sacrifices features and comfort to appeal to ounce-counting backcountry-goers, but if you split your time between in- and out-of-bounds, the extra weight shouldn’t matter much. As I mentioned above, I was glad to have the cozy liner and easy-to-adjust vents and chin strap, even though they add a little bulk.
Build Quality and Durability
After a season of rigorous testing, I’m happy to report no durability issues with the Vantage. There’s no fraying or loosening of any stitching in the liner, and there are no obvious signs of wear on any other part of the helmet (which is to be expected with a tough ABS plastic upper and in-mold construction). The only part of this helmet I’ve had a problem with is the goggle lock on the back—the elastic and hook system proved a little hard to get used to compared to the snap systems I’m more familiar with. That said, once I was accustomed to it, I grew to like the secure and user-friendly lock.
I typically wear a small in ski helmets, but I found that size was only comfortable in the Vantage when I adjusted the Boa system to the largest possible setting. Given that left no flexibility for a beanie or hat underneath, I decided to go up to a women’s medium, which fit me perfectly. It is large enough to accommodate a hat but can also tighten to fit my head snugly and comfortably thanks to the superb tensioning system. It's worth noting that the women’s version is only offered in sizes small (51-55 centimeter head circumference) and medium (55-59 centimeter), but the men’s Vantage MIPS comes in a large (as well as a small and medium) to complete the range.
Other Versions of the Smith Vantage
For this review, we tested the women’s version of the Smith Vantage MIPS, but the helmet also comes in a men’s version for the same price. The men’s model is identical to the women’s version in every way but color and size. It is available in three sizes: small (51-55 centimeters), medium (55-59 centimeters), and large (59-63 centimeters). Both men’s and women’s Vantage helmets are also offered in non-MIPS versions for $30 cheaper. In addition to the cost savings, we’ve found that the non-MIPS version runs a bit truer to size than the slightly-snug MIPS helmet.
What We Like
- Great build quality, and the liner, ear pads, and chin strap are soft and supportive.
- The Vantage has impressive ventilation with 21 vents, but it’s still plenty warm for cold days at the resort.
- Lightweight enough to provide all-day comfort.
- Boa tensioning system is very easy to use and gives the helmet a snug fit all around.
What We Don’t
- At $260, the Vantage is one of the most expensive ski helmets on the market.
- If you opt for MIPS, we’ve found it runs a bit smaller than the non-MIPS model, so you might have to size up.
- The elastic/hook goggle attachment at the back takes some getting used (but I wound up liking the system).
|Smith Vantage MIPS||$260||Hybrid in-mold||17.5 oz.||Adjustable (21 vents)||Yes|
|Oakley Mod 5 MIPS||$240||Hybrid in-mold||20 oz.||Adjustable (8 vents)||Yes|
|Smith Valence||$180||Hybrid in-mold||19 oz.||Adjustable (18 vents)||No (available)|
|Giro Stellar MIPS||$250||Hybrid in-mold||19 oz.||Adjustable (13 vents)||Yes|
|Salomon MTN Lab||$200||Hybrid in-mold||13.3 oz.||Fixed (12 vents)||No|
The Vantage is a strong all-around performer, and it has been at the top of our ski helmet round-up for multiple seasons. One recent competitor is Oakley’s Mod 5 MIPS, which shares a lot of design features with the Vantage for $20 less. Both helmets sport tough ABS plastic along the top for extra protection, an adjustable ventilation system (the Oakley has eight vents), Boa dial, and optional MIPS technology. That said, the Mod 5 comes in at 2.5 ounces heavier, has less cushioning in the liner, and smaller and fewer vents that don’t dump heat as quickly. For overall superiority in performance, comfort, and venting, we give the nod to the Vantage.
On the outside, the Smith Valence and men's Variance look very similar to the Vantage, but at a more palatable price ($180 for the non-MIPS model and $210 with MIPS). The line offers the same ABS and in-mold construction, easy-to-adjust Boa system, and we've found its interior padding has an even softer feel. However, the Valence runs a lot warmer, has inferior ventilation, lacks the Aerocore construction, and adds over an ounce in weight. For those sticking solely to the resort, we think the Valence is a near-perfect choice. But if you spend some of your time in the side or backcountry, the Smith Vantage is a better all-rounder.
A final premium alternative is the women's Giro Stellar MIPS (and men's Range MIPS), which offers an extremely versatile fit system. Its adjustable two-piece shell can be easily tailored using a dial that expands or closes the shell around your head. Another nice touch is the magnetic chin strap (rather than the Vantage's standard buckle), which makes it easier to take on and off while wearing gloves. But the Smith still wins out on the ventilation front, and we prefer its more cushioned interior. In the end, at the same price point, we give the clear edge to the Vantage for its superior comfort and performance.
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