Your brain is the most important piece of equipment you’ll ever own. Needless to say, it’s worth protecting—especially when hitting the slopes. Consequently, helmets have emerged as an essential piece of equipment. Yet to truly protect your brain, a helmet must fit properly. Once you identify how a helmet should fit, you can dive into a range of styles and features that further meet your needs.
In lieu of universal sizes, each brand tends to offer a sizing chart that can direct you to the appropriate helmet. Typically, these charts require that you measure the circumference of your head just above the eyebrows. And while these charts can provide general guidance, they are no substitute for trying on ski helmets at your local shop. If you're shopping helmets for juniors, read our kids ski helmets selection guide.
Measuring your head is key to getting the right snow helmet size. Manufacturers state the ideal head circumference for each of their sizes. It's simple and only takes a few minutes to do.
Time needed: 5 minutes
Get a soft measuring tape and place one end in the middle of your forehead, just a little above your eyebrows. Tightly measure the entire circumference around your head and note down the measurement for later reference.
Sizing may differ from one brand to another. Manufacturers will state the measurements on their helmets. If you measured 60 cm, you'll most likely need a size large - however, make sure to check the individual brand.
Now, try it on and notice how it feels. It is important that the helmet has a snug fit and doesn't glide around. However, it is equally important that it doesn't apply too much pressure on your head too.
A helmet may fit fine when you're standing still, but to understand how it'll serve you on the slope, you need to first mimic some action. With the helmet on, shake your head around. If the helmet glides around, it is too big and you should try sizing down once. Once you have a helmet that fits tight, doesn't glide around and doesn't pressure your head too much, you're golden! Job done - Simple!
Below you'll find a general reference chart that'll help you understand what size helmet you need.
It is very important to note that the exact size intervals vary depending on the manufacturer. The below table should only be used for a general reference. Always check individual brands and products before purchasing your helmet.
|Adult Helmet Size||Head Size (Cm)||Head Size (Inches)|
|Small||52 - 55.5||20.5 - 21.75|
|Medium||55.5 - 59||21.75 - 23|
|Large||59 - 62.5||23 - 24.5|
|Kids Helmet Size||Head Size (Cm)||Head Size (Inches)|
|Extra Small||48.5 - 52||19 - 20.5|
|Small||52 - 55.5||20.5 - 21.75|
|Medium||55.5 - 59||21.75 - 23|
By trying on a range of helmets, you can better understand the nuanced fit and feel each one provides.
“A good fit should be free of any pressure points. The helmet should remain very secure on the head no matter how much you move, shake, or jolt around,” explains Joel Kramer, Pro-Tec’s marketing and team manager. Giro Snow Product Manager Daniel Boccia adds, “You want to find a good balance between a snug, yet comfortable fit. In terms of positioning, the rider should have the helmet low enough in the front to protect the forehead and not leave a gap, but not too low that the snow goggles push down on the nose.”
A good fit should be free of any pressure points. The helmet should remain very secure on the head no matter how much you move, shake, or jolt around
When trying on helmets, be sure to adjust the straps to fit your head. Despite its name, the chinstrap should rest close to your throat. This strap should fit snugly while still allowing you to comfortably speak or chew food. To refine their fit even further, some helmets offer additional adjustment systems. Thanks to locking mechanisms and dials, these systems allow you to make precise adjustments for additional stability and a truly customized fit. Removable pads also enable you to tailor a helmet’s fit to your head.
Increasingly, brands are designing helmets and goggles to interface with one another.
By treating a helmet and goggles as a system, this approach aims to enhance how they fit and perform. “I always encourage customers to bring in their goggles when helmet shopping,” notes Will Ingram, the co-owner and buyer of AK Boardroom in Anchorage, Alaska. “Some goggles won’t fit properly with certain helmets and it’s better to find that out in the shop rather than being bummed up on the mountain.” If shopping for goggles and helmets simultaneously, look for features like integrated vent systems, which align vents on a helmet and goggles in order to maximize airflow.
I always encourage customers to bring in their goggles when helmet shopping
Once you’ve identified a selection of helmets that offer the proper fit, carefully consider the features you need. “If you run hot, look for adjustable venting,” offers Josh Walker, Bern’s brand manager. In addition to vents that align with those on goggles, many helmets offer ventilation systems that enhance circulation around the entire head. Walker also emphasizes the importance of a helmet that offers versatility. “Make sure you can customize your helmet for spring riding and mid winter shredding,” he explains. Features like removable ear pads and cloth liners ensure a helmet can adapt to a range of temperatures and conditions.
Make sure you can customize your helmet for spring riding and mid-winter shredding
When it comes to the protection they afford, not all helmets are created equal. Most helmets are designed to absorb a single impact. These helmets typically contain EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). This rigid foam compresses permanently after an impact—even a minor one. A number of brands, however, offer helmets designed to withstand multiple impacts. These helmets feature materials like Vinyl Nitrile, which does not deform permanently when subjected to a force.
The research is still emerging as to the strengths and shortcomings of single impact and multiple impact helmets.
Currently, brands and retailers tend to recommend multiple impact helmets for snowboarders who are likely to experience frequent but less traumatic falls, such as riders who spend their time sessioning rails and boxes in a terrain park.
As a testament to the protection they offer, helmets often sport third-party certifications. Verify that these certifications align with how you will use your helmet. “Make sure the helmet is intended for snowsports,” explains Cameron Cook, Burton’s business unit director for its anon. brand. “ASTM F2040, CE 1077, and CPSC are the most common snow certifications and will vary from model to model.” Many multiple impact helmets, however, do not meet the criteria for attaining these standards.
Regardless of the type of helmet you have, it should be destroyed and replaced after any serious fall—even if no damage is visible. In lieu of a major fall, however, helmets should be replaced approximately every three years or at the onslaught of any visible damage. A cracked shell or foam or punctures to the helmet’s shell signify that it needs to be replaced immediately.
Increasingly, helmets aim to do more than protect your brain.
Some models feature integrated mounts for POV cameras or the ability to attach aftermarket mounts. For those who like to ride with music, many helmets offer ear pads with integrated speaker systems or the opportunity to upgrade to them later. As an alternative, some helmets feature ear pads that are designed to hold your own earbuds. And for riders who wish to escape wires, a number of helmets are Bluetooth compatible.
Although finding the right fit is essential in selecting a helmet, brands and retailers emphasize that you shouldn’t overlook the importance of style. As Kramer explains, “Buy a style that you like so you feel comfortable and confident wearing it.”
Walker echoes this sentiment. “Helmets are a very visible thing. They are front and center on your head,” he notes. “You have to be stoked on the helmet you bought so you will actually wear it.” After all, even the best helmet offers no protection when it’s stashed inside a closet.