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How to Choose a Snowboard Helmet

by John Cermenaro October 18, 2016

How to Choose a Snowboard Helmet

The most important piece of snowboard protective gear is, without question, a snowboard helmet. Bruised knees and elbows will mend. Broken bones can be reset. However, damage caused by a blow to your unprotected head can, in the worst case, be irreversible. These statements are not meant to scare you! They are meant simply to stress the importance of protecting your head in the unlikely event you do hit it on the ground or on some other hard object. 


What’s Inside Your Snowboard Helmet?

snow-standard-fullface-helmet-exterior-interior-vert-Before you choose a snowboard helmet, it’s helpful to know how it’s constructed. Most snowboard helmets consist of three layers:

  • An exterior shell
  • An interior liner that contains the majority of the cushioning material
  • Some sort of very thin foam padding for comfort and fit

The exterior shell is typically made of very thin, rigid Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or other high-impact plastic. It not only protects you from sharp objects like sticks, branches, or ice, the exterior shell also dissipates the force of an impact by spreading it across a larger area. The protective inner liner is most often made of expanded polystyrene (EPS). One misconception is that EPS is the same as Styrofoam. They are two different materials. Styrofoam is a trademark from Dow Chemical Company for a specific type of extruded polystyrene. EPS is a generic term used to describe the foam products you see in various forms every day--foam cups, insulating materials, and yes, helmets. Although EPS has become the industry standard in helmet liners, other types of foam/plastic are sometimes used as well. The thin foam padding that rests between the EPS liner and your head is designed to make the helmet fit comfortably but does not have protective qualities. Stiff EPS foam is designed to withstand one major impact, thus a snowboard helmet (or bicycle helmet) should be discarded after a major crash even if the helmet appears to be undamaged. For this reason, we strongly advise against buying used snowboard helmets because it isn't always possible to know the helmet’s history.


How Are Snowboard Helmets Made?

There are two primary manufacturing processes for ski helmets: in-mold and injection molding.

In-mold helmets

In-mold helmets are made by fusing the shell and shock-absorbing foam liner in a single molding process. The liner and shell are not glued together but are permanently joined. In-mold helmets are sleeker and lighter than injection-molded helmets.

Injection-molded helmets

Injected-molded helmets have an EPS foam liner bonded to the exterior shell with some sort of high-performance adhesive. These helmets offer more durability against everyday knocks and falls while providing similar impact protection.


The Right Snowboard Helmet Depends on What Type of Snowboarding You'll Be Doing

All-Mountain/Recreational Snowboarding
For most snowboarding, a standard, three-quarter shell snowboard helmet is a good choice.This type of snowboard helmet has a bucket-shaped shell and is designed to protect the
  • top,
  • sides, and
  • back of your head.
Snowboard Racing/Vert/Bordercross Snowboarding
If your snowboard riding gets into high speed or serious vert stuff, you may want to consider a full-face snowboarding helmet. Full-face snowboarding helmets
  • offer more extensive protection
  • include a chin bar that extends across your face
  • protect the top, back, and sides of your head as well as your chin, jaw, cheeks and sides of your face
  • include a visor to shield your eyes from the sun and wayward tree branches


Some Basic Design Features to Consider before Choosing a Snowboard Helmet

  • Venting - Are you one of those people with an internal furnace that’s always on “High?” Are you a freeze baby? You know your own body. Look at the number of vents and venting system on your potential snowboard helmet to find the right match for you.
  • Brim or no brim? A snowboard helmet with a brim isn’t just a style choice, a brim can help shield your eyes from the sun and add a bit more of a barrier to keep snow and ice out off your face.
  • Goggles - Do you already have a pair of snowboard goggles that you love? Do you want a snowboard helmet that is designed to fit seamlessly with a certain make of snowboard goggles?
  • Audio compatibility - Do you want to listen to music on the lift? Some snowboard helmets are audio compatible, meaning that you can purchase (separately) a set of audio drops that plug into your phone or music player.


Should My Snowboard Helmet Meet Any Safety Standards?

Unless otherwise noted in the product description, snowboard helmets sold by SportsProtective meet ASTM snow helmet safety standards (the US-based standard that covers non-motorized recreational snow sports) or CE EN 1077 snow helmet safety standards (the European standard for alpine skiing and snowboarding helmets). Some helmets are certified to both ASTM and CE EN standards. These specifications define performance requirements for helmets used in non-motorized recreational snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and other alpine sports. An even tougher snowboard protective gear/helmet standard is the Snell RS-98 standard. Most snow helmet manufacturers use the ASTM standard, largely because the Snell certification is very expensive and Snell-certified helmets have added bulk and weight that aren't appealing to consumers. You can compare helmet safety standards across all sports and standards here.


Find A Good-Fitting Snowboard Helmet

Snowboard helmets are usually sold with a different exterior shell size to accommodate the size of the wearer’s head, along with sometimes interchangeable fit pads or a rotating dial to further customize the fit and snugness. Every snowboard helmet has a sizing table in its description that shows the head size (usually in centimeters for more accuracy) and corresponding helmet size (Small, Medium, Large, etc.)


How Big Is Your Head?

The first step in determining what size snowboard helmet you need is to measure your head and then check our Helmet Sizing Guide.


How Should a Snowboard Helmet Fit?

The way a helmet rests on your head is critical to how it will perform. How many times have you seen the neighborhood kid riding his bike down the street with his helmet kicked way back on his forehead, so that he looks more like a comic strip character with an orb growing off the back of his head? As you may have suspected, this is NOT the proper way to wear a helmet. Proper helmet fit means proper head coverage. When you try on a helmet, the front of the helmet should sit down onto your forehead until just above your eyebrows. There should be room enough to slip on a pair of goggles or sunglasses, but not much more. The helmet should not fit so tightly that it hurts your head; however, it should be snug enough that it doesn’t flop around if you vigorously shake your head.


Does the Snowboard Helmet Feel Comfortable When You Wear It?

Different manufacturers make their helmet molds differently. For you, the wearer, what’s important is that the helmet fits comfortably all the way around your head. If you think you’ve got the proper size, but the helmet is still a little roomy in a spot or two, don’t worry. You can add included fit pads where necessary to achieve a more secure fit. However, if you’ve selected what you believe is the proper size but feel an uncomfortable pressure anywhere around the circumference of your head, then the helmet is probably too small for you. Try a different size or style of helmet from the same line or try a different manufacturer altogether. To find a snowboard helmet that fits you comfortably, start with SportsProtective’s Helmet Sizing Guide, then use your head measurements to compare all of the different helmet offerings from the helmet manufacturers that appeal to you.

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Why Is There Such a Wide Range in the Price of Snowboard Helmets?

Once you start shopping for a snowboarding helmet, you might be surprised (and even have a bit of sticker shock) when you see the wide range of helmet options and prices out there. It’s only natural to ask: “What’s the difference between an $80 snowboard helmet and a $200 snowboard helmet?” Snowboard helmets in all price ranges offer essentially the same amount of protective capacity when it comes to crashes and collisions. It’s important to note that nearly ALL of our snowboard helmets are safety certified (ASTM F2040 & CE EN 1077) for recreational snow use and offer the same amount of high quality protection. The differences come in extras and features such as

  • Helmet Construction
  • Number of Vents
  • Type of Venting
  • Fit Systems
  • Interior Liner


Find the perfect helmet within your budget: What features can you expect within various price points?

Snowboard Helmets from $150+

Helmets in this price range lead the pack mostly because they’ve taken the standard offerings of most helmets and revamped them by adding more technology for ease of use. In this price range, you'll generally find such features as:

  • Helmet Construction – In-Mold - This manufacturing process involves molding the helmet’s hard outer shell simultaneously with the impact-absorbing EPS middle layer. This injected layer is permanently fused to the outer shell and allows for more venting capabilities and a much lighter overall helmet (important if you snowboard in a multitude of weather conditions or if your core temperature tends to change quickly.) In-Mold construction also results in a more lightweight helmet, prefect for less cumbersome feel.
  • Number of Vents – The Most Venting - Because these higher end helmets are made with In-Mold constriction, they offer a much wider range of vent positioning and placement, since the outer shell and inner mold match up perfectly with each other. More vents = a cooler or warmer head when you need it!
  • Type of Venting – On-the-Go/Thermostat Control - A small switch near the brim or base or top of theses helmets controls the vents and can be flipped completely open when your noggin needs a little more fresh air, or completely closed on those frigid, icy days. Or flip the switch to somewhere in the middle! With on-the-go venting, you can adjust the temp inside your helmet with the flip of a switch, even with gloves on.
  • Fit – Adjustable Fit Systems - Higher end helmets usually offer much more removable padding along the interior for a custom fit AND an adjustable dial at the back of your helmet to further tweak the fit. Adjust your helmet day to day, season to season or if you decided to wear a beanie or your goggle strap underneath your helmet with the simple turn of a dial!
  • Interior Liner – Anti-Odor Comfort Liner - Snowboard helmets at the higher price points also feature tech-savvy, interior liners that combat odor and mildew, yet are completely breathable and sweat wicking. These anti-microbial liners, enhanced with silver or Hydrofoil nylon fibers help regulate heat and odor automatically, so you can keep your mind on that next jump or rail, instead of wondering about helmet funk.

Snowboard Helmets from $100-$150

Helmets in this next price point offer most of the same features as the helmets above! However, the interior liner can be slightly different:

  • Interior Liner – Standard Foam Liner - This soft, removable and washable liner provides great comfort and fit, but does not combat sweat and heat the way more advanced liners, with special fibers woven into the padding, do naturally. We recommend you gently hand wash dirty or stinky liners to lengthen the life of your helmet.

Snowboard Helmets under $100

Helmets in this price range employ either In-Mold or hard shell construction, but generally have a similar number of vents and standard interior liners as well as vent plugs as a means to control the temperature in your helmet:

  • Helmet Construction – In-mold or Hard Shell - Hard shell construction takes an already formed outer shell and then attaches it to the pre-molded, impact absorbing EPS liner. This creates a quality, protective helmet with a bit more weight to it and slightly fewer venting options but a great price point.
  • Type of Venting – Before-You-Go/Vent Plugs or As-You-Ride/Channeled Airflow - Instead of being able to flip a switch on-the-go to adjust the venting and airflow on to your head, you’ll have to take off your helmet to pop out or pop back in the foam vent plugs. Leave them at home, in the ski lodge, or pack a couple in your jacket pocket should you need to make some temperature adjustments while you take a break on the slopes. Some snowboard helmets in this price range have channeled airflow venting, which sucks in cool fresh air and pushes out stale air from your helmet with strategically placed vents as you ride.
  • Fit System – In Form or Fit Kit - Within this price range you have a choice in fit systems. Some offer customizable fit systems for dialed in adjustments. Others have a collection of removable pads in varying thicknesses that you can swap in and out of your helmet.

View the snowboard helmets described in this article

View helmets based on your snowboarding ability - Beginner, Intermediate, Expert/Pro

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John Cermenaro
John Cermenaro


Mechanical engineer, skier (slalom dabbler), mountain biker, sports eyewear expert, musician, appreciates a good hike, strong coffee and a great beer.

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