Although they are not compulsory for recreational use on all snowfields around the world, helmets have grown in popularity over the last decade among skiers, snowboarders and other snow sports enthusiasts. A helmet reduces your chance of head injury during a crash on the snow. Not only that, they also help keep your head warm in harsh alpine conditions.
Snow helmets are designed with a range of additional features making them suited specifically to activity in alpine locations:
- Helmets are designed to be very warm so as to protect the rider’s head from the cold. They often come equipped with integrated earmuffs to protect the rider’s ears as well.
- Vents encourage airflow helping the rider’s head to regulate temperature.
- Goggle mounts help keep the rider’s ski goggles from falling off the helmet.
- Built-in headphones allow the rider to listen to their favourite tracks while carving lines in the snow.
- High-end snow helmets sometimes come equipped with a locator chip that can be detected by search and rescue teams in the case of an avalanche.
- With the boom in popularity of personal video recording systems such as GoPros, many helmets come standard equipped with camera mounts so you can show your friends your run later.
Snow helmets are constructed from a number of different materials. The outer shell is usually made from a hard plastic or resin composite material to protect against impact with hard objects. This also allows snow or rain to run off keeping the interior of the helmet and the rider’s head dry.
The interior section of the helmet is usually made from layers of hard polystyrene and foam that absorb the force of impact, help the helmet meld to the shape of the user’s head and keep them warm.
While it is certainly agreed upon by most scientists that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury to a skier or boarder, it is still uncertain as to whether they can reliably prevent injury at very high speeds. Statistics seem to suggest that wearing a helmet will not necessarily prevent injury or death if the rider is travelling faster than the speed at which that helmet is designed to endure.
One thing is for sure, if you are wearing a helmet and you crash on snow at low speeds, (or someone else crashes into you) you are far less likely to sustain a head injury. The benefits of a quality helmet surely outweigh the negatives: your head will stay warm, your goggles will stay on your head and you can feel more confident on the snow.