Once uncommon, the snowboard helmet graces the heads of a large majority of snowboarders these days. And for good reason – protecting your head is super important.
In fact just the other day I was having a conversation about how we’d much prefer a broken bone to a concussion.
In any case, if you’re reading this you too have either decided that you’re looking to buy your first helmet – or are replacing your old one. And you’re probably wondering just how to go about picking a snowboard helmet. This guide should have you covered for the things that I think about as being the most important factors to consider.
Note when we use the term snowboard helmet, it could be interchangeable with ski helmet.
How to Pick a Snowboard Helmet
When I decide on a new helmet, these are the things that I look at:
- Goggle compatibility
No-one wants something super heavy on their head all day. It can get uncomfortable quickly. The ideal helmet would be one with perfect protection, without even knowing it’s there. Whilst there is no such thing as ideal and you won’t find that in a helmet, there are certainly varying weights in helmets.
Some are so light that you barely notice them – and certainly when you’re not thinking about them, you won’t notice they’re there.
Typically speaking more expensive helmets tend to be lighter – but this isn’t always the case.
This also has to be weighed up with protection – sometimes too light can mean sacrificing protection.
Most snowboard helmets will comes with vents. If they don’t, they may not actually be a snowboard helmet. I would 100% recommend getting a helmet with vents – it’s crucial on those warmer days to not overheating. Things can get really hot in there!
So, first thing with vents is – make sure it has vents – you’re going to be good 99% of the time there.
The second thing to think about with vents, is whether or not you can adjust them/close them off. A lot of helmets these days have vents that you can slide shut (for those cold or wet days). And you can slide them half way or have them completely open. Since getting this feature, I won’t buy a helmet without it now – it’s just too handy – especially where I ride, you can get the odd rainy day – and being able to close off those vents is gold.
Perhaps the first thing to think about is protection. Safety ratings are governed by American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM), the European Committee for Standardization (CE EN), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). So if you see something like ASTM F2040 and EN 1077A/B. Then you’re likely in a good place.
Snowboard helmets aren’t designed to take multiple serious impacts – so if you do take a good knock to it, then it’s recommended to replace the helmet.
Even if you never take any knocks on the helmet, you should replace your helmet every 3-5 years as the materials will degrade over time.
I like to ride with ODT Chips in my helmet (which just tuck under the ear piece and are wireless. Having music, particularly when riding solo, is really nice to have. I never turn things up too loud for safety reasons – you still want to be able to hear what’s going on around you – and for social reasons – when on the lift, I want to still be able to hear if someone is trying to have a conversation.
Some helmets also come with built in audio capabilities.
Helmets can also come with detachable ear pieces – so you can have them in for warmth on those colder days – and take them out when it gets too warm. If you do like to listen to music while riding then the downside is that you won’t have the speakers in there anymore. But then again, at that point you can go with earphones. On that note – I’ve never found earphones that are really comfortable under the ear pieces, which is where the ODT chips come in.
Once you’ve figured out the helmet that you want, you’ll need to figure out the size you need.
If you’re going to try on in store, then having 2 helmets from different brands in mind is a good way to go, to see which fits the best.
But most helmets these days are highly adjustable, so as long as you follow the sizing guide for that helmet, you should be able to adjust it to a good fit. In which case the last thing, in terms of sizing you need to think about is goggle compatibility.
You don’t want to suffer gaper gap!
This is when there’s a big gap between the top of your goggles and your helmet.
And you also don’t want to be in that situation where your goggles get pushed down by the helmet and presses against your nose too hard.
So, if you’re trying on in store and already have goggles, don’t be shy to take your goggles with you, so you can test them with the helmet. If you’re buying goggles at the same time, make sure to try them on together.
If you’re buying online and unable to try on first, the safest bet is to go with the same brand for goggle and helmet. It’s not fool proof, but it gives you a better chance to get good goggle to helmet fit.
>>More on Picking Snowboard Goggles
First and foremost, snowboard helmets are about safety and protection.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go and just buy any old helmet. That could leave you uncomfortable – or worse – a poor fitting helmet could reduce the protection that it provides.
So whilst protection should be front of mind, there are other factors to consider, like venting, weight, goggle compatibility and what features you want.
Hey Nate, when do you suggest getting a new helmet? I’ve had some falls with my current helmet, but the helmet itself seems to be in good condition with no cracks or anything. Is that fine to keep riding with or should I get a new one anyways?
Everyone has different risk aversion and I don’t want to tell you if you should or shouldn’t. I took a glancing glow off a tree on my helmet a couple of weeks back and personally decided it hadn’t done enough damage to need to replace it – and it’s taken a few other knocks over its life. But for yourself, you’ll have to make that decision. Not sure how hard you’ve hit either. Personally I would replace it if I noticed any cracks or major dents or if I’d had a particularly hard hit with it. But for a few small knocks I don’t personally feel the need to.
Sounds good, thanks!
What are your thoughts on MIPS vs Non MIPS helmets? Worth the price increase for a casual all mountain rider who doesn’t get into the park or any “Hight Stakes” riding?
Thanks for your message.
I really haven’t looked into the MIPS vs Non MIPS that much and not really in a place to make any recommendations either way on that one. I know the theory behind it and probably any technology that makes things safer for your head is a good idea, but it’s really up to you if it’s something is necessary or not. Everyone has different levels of risk aversion. I personally don’t ride with a MIPS helmet currently, but would consider it for my next one. I didn’t used to ride with a helmet at all, when I was younger, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend that.