Safety first, but style always.
Gear of the Year
The one thing that can’t be overemphasized when buying a helmet? Fit. A lid might be loaded with slick features and look cool as hell, but it can’t protect you if it’s sliding all over your head, and you’ll hate it if it’s tight as a vise. Also, make sure it plays nice with your goggles, unless you want to be plagued by gaper gap. For those reasons, we recommend you always try before you buy. And it helps to know where to start. We tested a dozen helmets this season, and the following seven stood out for their breathability, customizability, and style. At the very top of the pile sits the new Diversion. It’s a low-profile shape with a clever 360-degree fit system that allows for microadjustments even with mittens on. The generous venting (23 channels!) let us rock the Diversion from opening day through spring-corn season. Plus, it magically meshed with every pair of goggles we tested. In short: it’s a sleek workhorse that does everything well. 15.1 oz
Best For: Resort skiers who dabble in the backcountry.
The Test: The only helmet you need. We loved ski-area features like the ample earflaps and headphone slots, which have an open membrane on the side to help you hear what’s going on around you (your buddies on the lift, other skiers above you, etc.). We killed the music as soon as we headed past the ropes, where we appreciated the lightweight build and 20 sizable vents. Like the Sweet Protection (opposite), it comes with a MIPS liner for an extra layer of armor during a fall. Testers’ only complaint: the fit dial was a bit small for gloved hands.
The Verdict: The Goldilocks of helmets. Not too heavy, not too light, just right. 1.1 lbs
Salomon MTN Charge
Best For: Those who earn their turns.
The Test: At less than a pound, this helmet was created for the backcountry. Testers strapped it to their packs for skinning up, and some even kept it on during short bootpacks. Salomon cut a few corners to shed weight, ditching closures on the 12 vents and using a thin bungee as a goggle strap in back. The shell is filled with a foam that’s lighter than what’s in most lids. But it’s still certified to the same safety standards. All that adds up to a specialized animal that runs cold at the resort, without the comforts of a true cruiser. Note: a shallow-cut design had it sitting high on some testers’ heads.
The Verdict: A lightweight lid with some decidedly uphill-friendly features. 15.5 oz
Oakley Mod 5
Best For: Weirdly shaped heads.
The Test: The emphasis we put on fit? Well, this is the helmet you need if you have an oddly proportioned noggin. The lightweight, highly adjustable Boa system and large, removable earflaps let testers achieve snug comfort. “You can really ratchet it down without cutting off blood flow,” one noted. We also loved the swappable brim—choose large or small—which made the Mod 5 compatible with everything from giant goggles to small, svelte models. Our only issue was with the vents, which don’t close and tended to let in snow. But they did keep us happy come March.
The Verdict: The most comfortable lid here. Best for those who run hot. 1.3 lbs
Price $200 and up
Sweet Protection Rooster
Best For: Ripping downhill.
The Test: Imagine you’re shot out of a cannon with nothing but a tiny, much-too-firm mat to catch you. Better have the Rooster on your head. This handmade carbon lid (the heaviest one we tested) feels absolutely bomber, and it has more than ample coverage, extending almost to the neck in back. Plus, it’s got a MIPS liner, which is designed to reduce rotational forces on your brain in a crash. There’s no adjustable fit system; several of our testers complained that it hugged just a hair too tight. And there isn’t much venting, making it best for cold resort days.
The Verdict: Your head case for the super-G time trial. But at this price, you better have a sponsor. 1.3 lbs
Giro Zone MIPS
Best For: Upping your steeze.
The Test: We wear helmets to stay safe, but we also want them to complement the rest of our kit. With extended coverage in back, a low-profile design, and understated styling, the Zone delivers on both counts. It drops down almost to the neck, and extra material surrounds the ears to add protection. The MIPS liner comes standard, and it has 12 vents, although seven of them don’t close, making this lid best for warmer bluebird days. Bonus points for the anti-stink liner, built-in POV camera slot up front, and easy goggle integration.
The Verdict: Those who always thought helmets were too ugly to wear are out of excuses. 1.1 lbs
POC Auric Cut
Best For: Park rats.
The Test: Lots of helmets built around EPS foam are one-and-done—crash hard and you have to replace them. That’s not the case with the Auric, which uses an ABS shell plus a multi-impact foam made for people who like the halfpipe or terrain park and wipe out more frequently. POC keeps things extra snug (for better security if you take a banger) with a 360-degree closure system borrowed from its mountain-bike line that tightens from all sides instead of just at the back. Loosen it all the way and the helmet’s plenty roomy enough to wear over a thick beanie and goggles.
The Verdict: Smart safety technology in a slick package. 1.2 lbs