Article by Anna
Wear Your Helmet, Please
I am a believer in wearing helmets when participating in any activity that involves using gear to move faster than the human body is made to go without the aid of gear. Skiing, biking, skateboarding, you name it. Helmet. Put it on. Yes, I am that person that will go up to an acquaintance “Hi, where is your helmet? Oh, you don’t have one? Well, get one. Please.”
I cannot stress the importance of wearing a helmet when skiing. I am probably still alive with an undamaged brain because I wear mine religiously. I was bombing down some wet snow and hit a puddle on a warm day. I ate shit so bad that the hardshell separated from the inner EPS foam in my helmet. Aside from a sore neck and possible mild concussion, I was fine.
I volunteer with the fire department at my local ski town. We see the worst of the injuries that come through ski patrol. There are people who are alive and well (by some sort of miracle) though sustaining horrific injuries to their face and head because they were wearing a helmet. Think like helmet smashed in half, skull in pieces, need 20+ surgeries to stay alive, there is no way you are going to live horrific crash. No, I am not making this up. I wish I was.
Sorry (not sorry?), not to be graphic, but if you give half a shit about yourself or remotely care about anyone else in this world, or think someone out there cares about you, wear a fucking helmet. Or, if you just want ski patrollers to have a less horrible day if you crash and they have to bring your fucked up ass down the mountain. Seriously, manufactures work pretty hard to make them look “cool” these days. Just do it. Sure, you might get lucky a hundred times and not crash, but is it worth it? Think smashed head with blood everywhere… There is no excuse not to wear a helmet. I’m not kidding.
I know, accidents happen. But, wouldn’t you rather spend the extra $100 to put the odds in your favor? Helmets don’t have to be expensive to work well. You already dropped a grand on skis/boots/bindings. If you have that kind of money, you can find a cheap $50 helmet if if is really going to break the bank. On the note of cheap helmets, please, don't buy used helmets. You don't know what has been done to them. Really, just find a sale and buy yourself your own new helmet.
Ok, so you probably came here to get some help picking a helmet, huh? Not hear horror stories? Ok, here ya go. How to pick the right helmet for you.
Picking Your Helmet
After all that, the most important thing in picking a helmet is get one you will actually wear. Get one that feels good on your head. Get one that you like how it looks. If it pinches your ears funny and you feel like a Q-Tip head in it, you aren't going to wear it.
Most helmets are manufactured one of two ways. Both techniques include an outer shell and some sort of energy absorbing inner foam; both offer great protection.
A hardshell helmet is manufactured by gluing a shell to an expanded foam inner. Back in the day, all helmets were made this way. Hardshell helmets tend to be cheaper. The shell is hard and durable. Accidental bumps won't damage the shell. The trade off is that they weigh more. If you don't care about weight, then this is a great way to go.
Injection molded helmets offer a seamless combination of shell and inner foam. The foam is manufactured directly into the outer shell. The outer layer is incredibly lightweight but lacks some durability. Throwing this helmet in a checked bag for a ski trip might cause some scuffs and indentions on the helmet. These helmets are more expensive but tend to be lighter. If you are looking for a 500 gram helmet for your backcountry ascent, this is the option for you. These helmets often come in a larger variety of shapes and have more vents.
Other Helmet Technology
Have you heard of MIPS? MIPS stand for "Multi Impact Protection System". Essentially this kind of helmet protects from two different types of forces that might fuck up your brain. All helmets protect from a direct force. That's what the foam does. Think of that as getting punched. When you get punched, the foam collapses and absorbs a lot of the energy from the impact. What a MIPS helmet offers that standard helmets don't is protection from shear forces. Think of getting an "indian rug burn" as a kid and your skin getting pulled separate directions. A MIPS helmet has an additional layer that will break under a shear force to absorb that type of force as well. More and more manufactures offer MIPS helmets including POC, Smith, Giro, and Scott.
MIPS is available in both hardshell and injection molded helmets. They typically cost $20-$50 more than their standard counterparts. Personally, I am willing to pay the extra money for the extra protection. I recommend to my friends and family that they also purchase MIPS helmets.
All MIPS helmets will come with the yellow MIPS stamp somewhere on them.
D30 is cool. It is pliable and flexible... until an impact. Under impact, the molecules lock together and become very tough and rigid. I replaced all the padding in my motorcycle jacket with D30 padding. D30 has been incorporated in some prototype helmets. Spyder used it in equipment for the 2006 US Olympic Ski team. It will probably be a while until it becomes mainstream in ski helmets. It is already being used in football and baseball helmets.