Anatomy: Helmet

New technology makes wearing a ski helmet a no-brainer. Still making excuses? Put a lid on it.
Parts of the whole

New materials and construction processes are raising the speed thresholds at which helmets offer protection while simultaneously streamlining what were once clunky and awkward lids. With a few exceptions, today’s ski helmets are constructed using one of two processes. Injection molding, the traditional method, bonds a relatively heavy shell—ideal for racers whose helmets are constantly hitting gates at high speeds—to a separately molded foam liner. In-mold technology, on the other hand, casts a micro-thin shell and liner in a single step, producing lighter, more streamlined models. These offer similar protection in a fall, but their thinner shells can’t withstand continuous knocks. Enhanced features like adjustable venting systems, custom-fit controls, and built-in audio capabilities mean helmets are no longer the restrictive, uncomfortable and unstylish burdens they were a decade ago. If it’s been a while since you tried one on, it’s time to take another look. Turn the page for a selection of what’s available this season.

Chinstrap The adjustable strap should fit snugly under your chin and keep the helmet from shifting. Make sure it’s easy to adjust while wearing gloves.

Certification Several independent agencies conduct helmet safety tests. Models that pass a rigorous gamut of impact, roll and strap tests are identified with a small sticker on the back of the shell, usually ASTM, CEN or Snell RS. For more information on helmet standards, visit

Shell A polycarbonate topsheet resists surface abrasions (think tree branches and ski poles) and disperses the initial force of impact in a fall or collision.

Liner A compressible material absorbs crash energy and cushions your head during a fall. In a hard fall or collision, the liner material can compress or crack, and the helmet should be replaced.

Vents To promote air circulation, regulate body temperature and control moisture, many in-mold helmet models (see below) have adjustable vents that let the user control the air flow.