Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
You can’t put a price tag on your brain, but helmets aren’t the sexiest piece of ski gear, so no one would blame you for not wanting to shell out big bucks on a glorified brain bucket. But sexy or not, helmets are an essential part of the kit—take it from those of us who have had more concussions than we can count (or remember). So you kind of just have to bite this bullet.
And while you can score great second-hand deals on a lot of ski gear, your helmet shouldn’t be something you buy used off Craigslist or in a second-hand sports shop. Helmets feature sturdy designs that are meant to protect your noggin from the hardest knocks, but after one or two big saves, their structural integrity becomes compromised. A second-hand helmet that may have survived multiple violent tomahawks won’t protect your head as it should.
All that said, you don’t have to fork over $300 for a new helmet. Some well-known brands are now making more budget-friendly helmets that still feature industry-leading impact protection like MIPS for under $160. Here are our tried-and-true favorites.
Related: The Best Goggles Under $100
Sweet Protection Looper MIPS
There’s no question Sweet Protection makes bomber helmets, but most models are hefty in price and weight. The Looper MIPS is friendlier on the wallet and the neck thanks to a lightweight two-piece shell construction. Shaving grams doesn’t mean skimping on safety or comfort, either—the Looper still offers Sweet Pro’s shock-absorbing technology, plenty of venting, and audio-ready removable ear pads.
Find it on sale for $136 at Backcountry.com: Sweet Protection Looper MIPS
The women’s Mirage helmet is streamlined to cut weight without dialing back protection or performance. Its lightweight, in-mold construction includes MIPS protection and strategic placement of Koroyd coverage for additional energy-absorbing and ventilated impact protection. An adjustable dial-fit system allows you to easily control 14 vents with one hand and a plush lining provides added warmth on the coldest of ski days. The Mirage is available with or without MIPS, but we say opt for the MIPS version for added protection.
Find it at REI for $130: Smith Mirage MIPS
Giro Emerge MIPS
Yes, the Emerge MIPS freestyle helmet features leading MIPS Spherical technology to reduce the rotational energy of hard crashes, and yes, it has a removable goggle retainer and earpads so you can wear it like a park rat if that’s your style. But the real highlight of the Emerge is that it incorporates a Polartec Power Grid liner, which increases warmth and comfort, moves moisture away from the skin, and dries quickly.
On sale at evo for $65-$113: Giro Emerge MIPS
SRHED Slam Cap NoShock
Instead of MIPS, the Slam Cap NoShock helmet includes SHRED’s proprietary NoShock and Rotation Energy System (RES), which the brand claims is the lightest and thinnest solution for protecting your head from rotational impacts. To further reduce the weight on your shoulders, the Slam Cap NoShock features a lightweight in-mold design and SHRED’s SlyTech honeycomb foam, which adds protection from multi-directional impacts without adding weight. And like any helmet worth its salt, the Slam Cap includes an adjustable vent system, so you can dump heat when things are heating up.
Find it on Backcountry.com for $160: SHRED Slam Cap NoShock
Pret Fury X
The Fury X showcases two key innovations for Pret. The first: Pret’s proprietary ACT multi-shell construction with a full-wrap lower shell and MIPS C2 Liner, which offers a better fit and weight savings compared to the standard MIPS system. The second: Level C venting, a system that allows the skier to open/close the helmet’s top and front venting with a single lever. What’s the big deal? Level C, combined with the helmet’s integrated goggle vents, means foggy vision becomes a frustration of the past. Also, you won’t blow your lid when building up steam hiking the back bowls.
Find it on sale at evo starting at $150: Pret Fury X
Bliz Head Cover MIPS
Swedish brand Bliz is trusted by the likes of slalom star Anna Swenn-Larsson, and that’s testament enough for us. The Head Cover MIPS delivers protection in a comfortable package with an in-mold construction featuring a PC shell and EPS Core, adjustable fit system, and air vents to keep you cool on high-output days.
Available from Bliz for $160: Bliz Head Cover MIPS
POC Obex SPIN
The lightweight Obex Spin helmet features proprietary POC technology—SPIN pads that sit between the liner and shell of the helmet to protect the brain from rotational, not just linear, hard knocks. Other nice-to-haves: front vents to help prevent goggle fogging, a sliding top vent, and customizable fit at the spin of a dial.
On sale starting at $140 from Backcountry.com: POC Obex SPIN