Preferably one with gobs of comfort and safety features
Sweet Protection Switcher MIPS ($249)
After more than a dozen testers placed the Switcher on their noggins, all agreed that it was the most comfortable helmet they’d worn. It accommodated a wide range of head sizes (pressure points were nonexistent) and handled temperature swings with aplomb. We’re talking 50-degree corn-harvesting days at Snowbird and ten-degree bone chillers with 60-mile-per-hour winds on the summit of Oregon’s Mount McLoughlin. Credit the abundance of vents—18 on top and two at the front—all of which can be micro-adjusted using a single knob. “Even with gloves on, this helmet can easily be changed from the warmest on the planet to something a cyclist would wear,” one tester said. The Switcher ticked all the important boxes for a stalwart lid—including MIPS construction, to help reduce rotational forces in the event of a crash—and it nailed the little stuff, too, like a magnetic closure on the strap. But what really pushed it into Gear of the Year territory was the fact that male and female testers alike loved their respective versions. “Definitely not shrinked and pinked,” as one put it.
Scott Symbol 2 Plus D ($220)
Best for the Backcountry
The Symbol 2 had the most venting of any helmet in our test, dumping heat in seconds. All that breathability, coupled with featherweight construction (at 1.2 pounds, it was the lightest we tested), made this the top pick for working hard in the backcountry. Testers didn’t get clammy while skinning up peaks in southern Oregon and Northern California. Sometimes the Symbol 2 vented a little too much; it was drafty on a 15-degree powder day at Big Sky, although nothing some strategic Buff placement and fine-tuning of fit couldn’t solve. Big-eared buyers, beware: the pads may make you claustrophobic.
POC Obex Spin ($200)
Best for the Resort
The Obex Spin earned points for eschewing the bulbous, chunky construction so common in resort models. “This helmet is one of the classiest I’ve tried,” a tester said. “It sits close to my head and is stylish, lightweight, and minimalist.” The vents are easy to adjust with gloves on, and audible clicks let you know exactly where they’re positioned. The side pads are well designed, cupping the ears, not smushing them, and “keeping you warm without leaving you deaf,” said a tester. The only knock on the Obex: the front vents don’t close all the way, which gave testers ice cream headaches in below-freezing temperatures.
Salomon Sight ($180)
The women’s Sight earned its spot with a clever innovation: an inflatable air bladder, rather than a dial or strap system, adjusts the fit of the helmet. Push the button on the back five or six times to firm everything up; a separate release button lets the air out. While this may sound gimmicky, it’s incredibly effective, and testers gave the helmet high marks for comfort. One who had a background in thermodynamic engineering couldn’t wrap her head around how well the bladder kept its shape despite the pressure change that comes with a 7,000-vertical-foot ski descent. Said another: “Beyond the air bladder, it’s sleek and elegant. The Sight breaks the mold of women’s helmets.”