The Best Ski Helmets of 2023
According to seasoned ski gear testers, these are the most functional and comfortable brain buckets of the year
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This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
Finding the perfect ski helmet is like finding the perfect pair of jeans. Fit is everything. While solid construction and protection features are obviously a no-brainer, most helmets on the market these days check those boxes thanks to rigorous safety and testing standards. The differentiator between all the helmets out there now is a really great, comfortable fit and innovative design. Sizing, weight, venting, padding, and adjustability are all key to finding the perfect helmet for you, something you won’t mind donning day in and day out to keep your most valuable asset protected. Here, we list our favorite ski helmets of the year. They made the cut because they’re bomber, stylish, and above all, as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans.
How We Test Ski Helmets
Ten Tahoe-based testers spent two months trying out helmets in a wide variety of conditions, ranging from storm days at the ski resort to spring tours in the backcountry. Testers were asked to consider fit, features, functionality, and performance of the helmet, then reported their findings via feedback forms.
Our tester pool for this category was made up of men and women residing in North Lake Tahoe, Calif., with a variety of ski backgrounds and years of product-testing experience within the outdoor industry and beyond. Testers included a ski race coach from Palisades Tahoe, a former big-mountain freeskiing competitor, the founder of a ski-clothing company, a designer at a camera and travel bags company, and a map-making geologist who loves to backcountry ski.
Reviews: The Best Ski Helmets of 2023
Anon Oslo WaveCel ($220)
Weight: 450 grams
This helmet has a bomber, don’t-mess-with-me, Kylo Ren look to it—that is, if Kylo Ren cared about powder days and keeping his head safe. It uses WaveCel, a waffle-like 3D matrix within the shell that diverts rotational forces throughout its cells, significantly reducing your chances of brain injury in case of impact. When paired with Anon’s new Perceive goggles and magnetic face mask, it creates a system where the neck gaiter locks into the goggles, via magnets, to keep your face protected from oncoming storms (or blaster attacks). This adjustable, unisex helmet fits a wide array of heads comfortably, though testers with narrower heads enjoyed the best fit. It also has what testers called an intuitive magnetic chin strap that easily buckles into place even with gloves on. Side mesh helps move air over your head for cooling, though minimal venting up top makes this low-profile helmet best for resort skiers who aren’t too hot-headed. “Doesn’t have enough ventilation if you’re moving uphill,” one tester commented.
Giro Tor Spherical ($250)
Weight: 567 grams
Giro’s Tor Spherical helmet feels as light as a ball cap. At 550 grams, it was no problem for testers to attach to their backpacks for backcountry tours. It feels breezy on the descent, thanks to easily adjustable vents and a plush, breathable fleece lining. As far as safety standards, most premium helmets these days come with the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, better known as MIPS, also included in this model. But Giro also added something called Spherical Technology—which it developed alongside MIPS engineers—to sandwich two layers of impact-absorbing foam, like a ball and socket, allowing for 10 millimeters of movement between the outer and inner liners during those critical first few moments of a crash. The result is the safety assurance of MIPS in what testers called one of the most comfortable helmets in the group. The women’s version, the Tenaya Spherical, has all the same features in a women’s fit and styling.
Smith Nexus ($325)
Weight: 550 grams
If you liked Smith’s Quantum helmet—a top seller for years—then you’ll love the new Nexus, a next-gen iteration that blends durability with comfort. The Quantum is a trusty, well-equipped helmet, but it’s also on the heavy side. The Nexus carries over many of the same features—including impact-reducing MIPS for dampening rotational forces to the brain—but in a considerably lighter package. Though it’s among the pricier of the helmets we tested, the Nexus has an undeniably premium feel, like you could waltz to the front of the lift line and nobody would blink. The helmet comes loaded with dual sliding vents and a newly designed goggle-retention clip that locks your optics in place. The BOA dial in the back twists right or left for a customizable fit. Bonus: A silver-ion antimicrobial treatment on the liner is designed to keep bacteria and odor far from your head.
Pret Fury X ($220)
Weight: 421 grams
If you sweat a lot through your head while skiing or tromping around the mountains, then you know that helmets can get, well, funky. All that moisture trapped into insulating foam can be a recipe for bacteria, or just plain stink. New this year, Pret is introducing a silver-ion antimicrobial treatment, called Haleo, that’s embedded into the foam of every helmet to stop bacterial growth before it starts. Our testers didn’t notice this per se, but they also didn’t complain about their helmet smelling nasty after a big bootpack. Testers did note the superior venting on the low-profile Fury X on said bootpacks, though. “The venting is the best I’ve seen,” said one tester. “One simple switch gives you all the venting options you need, without having to find two sliders.” The Fury X (and its women’s-specific counterpart, the Vision X) is outfitted with MIPS for safety, has an easy-to-use magnetic chin strap, and fits a wide range of heads.
Sweet Protection Igniter 2Vi MIPS ($230)
Weight: 650 grams
Sweet Protection calls its new Igniter 2Vi MIPS one of the brand’s lighter-weight helmet models, and for them, that’s true. But, compared to other helmets, this thing is a beast, a powerful hard hat that testers described as “burly” and “heavy-duty.” One tester said it reminded her of a motorcycle helmet. The shock-absorbing liner can be snapped out and washed, in case you sweat profusely, and if you’d rather not ski with ear coverings, those can be popped out too. Though it’s highly breathable with 10 oversized vents, the sliders can feel a little sticky and hard to open with gloves on. Due to its hefty feel, this helmet, with its two-layer MIPS brain-protection technology, is best suited for inbounds shredders who want sturdy protection above all else. Standout feature: The bomber rubber strap on the back means you’ll never break a flimsy plastic goggle holder again.
Scott Couloir Tour ($180)
Weight: 360 grams
For devoted backcountry skiers and ski mountaineers, Scott has created a lightweight, uphill-ready helmet that’s so sprightly, it’s barely noticeable atop your head. To keep weight and extraneous frills down, the Couloir Tour does away with the extraneous foam padding and fleecy liner you’ll find in more resort-oriented helmets, but it was designed to fit a beanie underneath if you need extra cushion or warmth over your ears. If you’re going for all-day tours where every gram matters, this helmet is a smart choice. It’s ventilated like a convertible. “I literally felt the wind blowing through the helmet,” one tester commented. That’s nice while booting up a couloir, but a little chilly on the way down. It has a dedicated groove for your headlamp, a requirement for pre-dawn starts, and 55 percent of the helmet comes from recycled waste, including the liner, straps, and vent plates. Small-headed skiers may find this helmet too roomy unless you wear a hat underneath.
Glade Boundary ($199)
Weight: 453 grams
“Everything works as it should,” one tester noted about the Glade Boundary helmet. This is to say that this reliable headpiece protects your head and keeps you comfortable without any annoying side effects. The Boundary is a versatile all-around helmet suited for both resort laps and backcountry tours. It’s light enough to strap to your pack for a climb, yet solid enough to feel safe on high-speed groomers. Testers said it has the feel of a much more expensive helmet, noting its value, especially considering it’s outfitted with high-end MIPS safety technology. A whopping 16 vents let heat escape easily through the roof while keeping wind noise to a minimum, while cushioned ear pads and a quick-and-simple magnetic chin buckle offers comfort and convenience. Like most helmets, the Boundary is designed to fit best with its own brand of goggles, but it’s compatible with non-Glade goggles too.
Shred Notion NoShock ($200)
Weight: 495 grams
Ski racers have known about Shred helmets for years. But now the rest of us are discovering what World Cuppers have known for quite some time: These helmets don’t mess around. Shred’s Notion NoShock is designed for backcountry or resort skiers and riders who want protection against crashes without sacrificing comfort. “Though it’s got robust construction, this helmet doesn’t feel bulky or heavy on your head,” remarked one tester. Three different vent placements (on the top, the back, and the sides) make a noticeable difference in head clamminess as temperatures change throughout the day. Antimicrobial treatment on the liner stops odors in their tracks, and a Recco reflector is built in for emergency rescues. Pair it with Shred goggles for the best gap-free fit, but testers noted this helmet has impressive compatibility with other brands of goggles as well.
Marker Confidant ($150)
Weight: 500 grams
We would never recommend buying a helmet because it’s cheap. But if a helmet offers all the high-end protection you need at a price you can afford, well, that’s a win-win.The Marker Confidant has MIPS technology, which usually puts helmets well over the $200 mark, but this one stays on budget. You will lose a few bells and whistles, but do you really need a magnetic chin strap? That old-school buckle has served us fine for years. Most importantly, you’ll still get a safe, comfortable dome piece that fits well and works with a wide range of goggle sizes and shapes. There’s no damper to open and close the vents, and testers griped that it doesn’t have enough ventilation for moderate uphill movement, but if you’re mainly skiing downhill, you’ll be just fine. Pull out the liner and ear pads if they need washing.
POC Levator MIPS ($500)
Weight: 930 grams
Skiers in Europe have been sporting sci-fi-like ski helmets with attached visors for years, and North American riders are slowly starting to catch on to the trend. Engineers at POC took the concept of a visor helmet and reinvented it with the new Levator, giving you the ready-for-battle look of Tom Cruise in Top Gun, but with all the smart, sleek trappings you’d expect from a Swedish safety-goods manufacturer. The MIPS-equipped helmet has impact-protection zones where you’ll need them most, while adjustable vents keep you from overheating. In terms of the visor, an interchangeable, barely there lens offers a generously wide field of vision, and you can easily shift the lens up with one hand when you’re heading into the lodge. Admittedly, this helmet system isn’t for everyone. Some of us prefer our helmet and goggles to be kept separate. But you might be surprised at how nice it is to just grab one thing and go.
Frequently Asked Questions
How snug should ski helmets fit?
Ski helmets should be snug but comfortable. Many helmets have a tool to increase or decrease overall volume, usually located on the back. There should be no pain due to tightness, but there should be less than 2 millimeters of space between your head on the helmet’s padding at a minimum.
What is MIPS?
MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. It is a thin layer of plastic on the inside of a ski helmet that allows the helmet to rotate on impact, reduces rotational forces on the brain in the event of a hard crash? in the event of a hard impact. Many brands, including SHRED. and POC have developed similar proprietary technologies that provide the same protection. SKI recommends this type of protection in ski helmets.
How often should you replace your ski helmet?
After a single hard impact, or after 2-3 years of general wear-and-tear. Wearing a helmet after either of these events can lead to a reduced level of protection.