There’s no doubt that ski helmets can be pretty expensive, especially when we’re talking about buying a brand-new, high-quality helmet. But, unfortunately, a ski/snowboard helmet’s high price tag doesn’t mean that it’s indestructible, or that you won’t need to take regular care of it, or that it’s going to last forever.
In fact, as a general rule of thumb, if you use your helmet on a regular basis throughout the winter, you should replace it once every five years.
But this isn’t a rule written in stone since, obviously, some people get significantly more use out of their helmet throughout a single season, while others only hit the slopes on a more occasional basis.
However, if your helmet is ever visibly fractured, or if it’s involved in any type of considerable impact, you shouldn’t use it anymore.
If you’re unsure of how much longer you should keep yours, the first place to look is the manufacturer’s directions. It’s not uncommon for each manufacturer to provide its own recommendations with respect to its own products.
Below, we’ll discuss the life of your ski helmet to help you get a better idea of when you’ll need to replace it.
Ski helmets consist of a hard outer plastic layer, which is meant to absorb the brunt of an impact, as well as a softer, interior shell, where the helmet meets the skier’s head.
Although some manufacturers may have their own patented materials, most snow helmets are made from expanded polypropylene, or EPS, which is used in a wide variety of sporting equipment.
Essentially, this material is the backbone of your helmet.
It’s made from plastic beads that contain spherical air pockets, making them capable of absorbing most of the energy from an impact before the shock reaches the wearer’s head.
However, because ski helmets are made from strong, durable materials, many people don’t feel the need to replace their helmet as long as the helmet appears to maintain its structural integrity, and hasn’t been involved in any type of serious accident.
And while this shouldn’t always be taken as a rule of thumb, there has been research which has found that, as long as a helmet hasn’t received any serious impact, it should continue to perform almost as well as new.
But with that said there are a number of factors that can affect a helmet’s integrity.
While manufacturers set their own expiration dates for helmets, the more common question is what to do after a ski helmet is actually involved in an impact.
So if your helmet has been involved in a considerable impact, the first step to take is to perform a visual inspection, looking for any cracks or dents that could compromise the helmet’s integrity.
Even small damages can expand over time, which is why it’s important to cease using a helmet immediately if any visual damages are found.
However, as they are built to be quite tough, the question about whether it’s still safe to use usually revolves around the severity of the impact. So with that in mind, I’ll quickly break down when to replace your helmet, and when not to worry.
Also read: Ski and snowboard helmet fit guide
When companies develop their ski helmets, for the most part, their main goal is to make a product that’s strong enough to endure a single, severe impact. That’s why all manufacturers will tell you to replace your helmet if it’s been involved in any considerable crash; they can’t guarantee that it will protect you a second time.
So if you’ve crashed, you need to first examine your helmet, both on the inside and outside for any signs of cracks, dents, splits, or tears that could potentially compromise the helmet’s strength. However, what should concern you most are visible cracks.
Even what may appear as mere lines or scratches has the potential to get bigger and bigger over time. In other words, even if you only see a hair-line crack, you should stop using your helmet and replace it as soon as possible.
If you’ve wiped out once or twice, and have hit your helmet on hard-packed snow or ice, but if the impact wasn’t serious enough to hurt you, there probably isn’t much need to suspect any serious damage.
Or if you’ve dropped your helmet on the ground a few times by accident, not much is going to happen in terms of compromising its integrity.
After all, helmets are designed and repeatedly tested, to withstand these types of minor impacts.
However, once again, the important thing is to regularly inspect your helmet for damage.
If you notice scratches that weren’t there before, you don’t immediately assume you need to replace it. But you do need to inspect the depth of the scratches.
If they appear to be mostly on the surface, you really shouldn’t worry. But on the other hand, if you find deep gauges into the plastic surface, it might be time to think about replacing the helmet.
So we all know that ski and snowboard helmets are made from strong, durable, impact-resistant materials, but that doesn’t mean that you can toss your helmet around without worrying about damaging it.
Take the time and care for your helmet; place it on the ground, instead of dropping; store it properly, instead of just tossing it into your trunk; and when transporting it, make sure it’s not going to get crushed or damaged by the rest of your gear.
It’s also important that you keep your helmet protected from direct sunlight as much as possible. Over time, the harsh UV rays from the sun can actually cause the helmet’s EPS layer to degrade, making it more susceptible to other damages.
And lastly, avoid storing your helmet in any way that exposes it to extreme heat or extreme cold for prolonged periods. This, too, can degrade the material, causing you to need to replace your helmet prematurely.
The key is to remember that even small scratches and cracks will eventually lead to the helmet needing to be replaced.
So the better you care for your helmet today, the longer it will last, and the safer it will keep you while you’re out on the slopes.
If you’re planning on cleaning your helmet, it’s important to do so by hand and never put your helmet in a dishwasher or washing machine.
Also, avoid using any type of harsh cleaning products or materials as they can wear down the helmet’s molecular integrity.
For most dirt and grime, you can simply use a soft, wet cloth to gently wipe and clean your helmet.
Snow helmets are designed to protect your head in the event of a serious accident on the slopes.
And the fact is that skiers can easily hit speeds of 15 to 25 mph. So in the event of a collision with either another skier or an obstacle, serious injuries can occur.
That’s why it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to wearing your personal protective equipment out on the ski hills.
So even if you suspect that your helmet’s integrity has been compromised, you probably shouldn’t wear it. Or, if you’re unsure whether or not it’s still safe to wear, consult the manufacturer for directions on expiry dates and how to properly inspect your helmet.