You must have a really thick skull if you don’t wear a helmet. There’s really no excuse not to. Today’s helmets boast beautiful design, are incredibly comfortable and are built with the greatest brain-protecting technologies known to mankind. But what are you looking for, exactly, in your noggin’ protector? We explore…
Shell Types & Materials
In-mold helmets (below left) are built with a bombproof poly-carbonate outer shell attached to a foam liner in a single molding process. The result is a lightweight, one-piece dome protector. The foam liner absorbs and distributes impacts, while the outer shell protects the foam liner. In-mold helmets shed weight and are more cost effective.
Injection molded or two-piece (above right), hard-shell helmets are made up of impact-resistant ABS plastic bonded to a separate, stiff foam liner. Together, the two pieces work to absorb and distribute shock, holding steady against the scariest crashes. Hybrid helmets utilize combinations of in-mold and injection molded shells for the benefits of both.
Top-shelf helmets generally offer a crank or dial situated on the back of the liner that tightens or loosens the fit around your head. Others may have elastic systems that self-adjust.
MIPS & Similar Technologies
Ski crashes impart a combination of linear and rotational forces on your head. Linear forces happen when your head strikes something while moving in a straight line. Rotational forces occur when the skull impacts at an angle, and are more common than the former when it comes to ski crashes. A Multi-directional Impact Protection System, known as MIPS, is increasingly used in helmets to combat rotational impacts. MIPS is a layer of low-friction material placed between the foam liner and outer shell with an elastic attachment that allows the inner foam liner to move independently around your head, which helps disperse rotational force. Some manufacturers now offer proprietary technologies, such as POC’s SPIN, that work toward a similar end.
Static vs. Adjustable Venting
Adjustable venting involves some sort of mechanism—a slider, lever or switch—that opens and closes vents to regulate temperature. Static vents are built with strategically placed slits that are always open. Many static offerings feature a removable liner that can be used to plug the vents.
A helmet and goggle combination should work together as one cohesive unit to maximize ventilation. The vents on the helmet and goggle should line up and offer continuous airflow to prevent fogged goggles and regulate your temperature.
Single vs. Multi-Impact
A single-impact helmet (below left) is made up of a polycarbonate outer shell molded to a rigid foam liner. Upon impact, the liner fractures and absorbs the force. In multi-impact models (below right), high-density foam inside the shell distributes force and can withstand multiple low momentum crashes without breaking.
Single-impact helmets are accepted as distributing the energy of a large crash the best, but multi-impact helmets are beginning to buck the trend in “unintended testing.” The foam in both model types will crack (leaving your skull… not cracked) as a result of a vicious slam. In that case, it’s time to shop for a new lid.