It used to be that the toughest hurdle to finding the perfect helmet was fit. Gauging from what’s on display at the huge Snow Industries America (SIA) trade show in Denver, tomorrow’s helmets will be getting even more complex as safety awareness in the backcountry (and freeride) country gets respect.
Materials, construction and fine tuning should be enough to make you retire your old brain bucket and pick up one of these shiny, new babies.
You used to look for a good lid with a legit safety rating that didn’t sit on top of your head like a Q-Tip and, if it came in a more interesting color than white, black or graphite all the better.
Then came adjustable straps, pads, built-in headphones, BOA nobs in back for customizable fit, venting, and the fact that everyone was getting into the helmet game, and soon choosing which helmet to buy became as tough as what toppings to put on your pizza.
Now, whether companies use the MIPS Brain Protection System developed by a Swedish company to address multi-directional impacts or create their own proprietary protection designs, helmets for 2015/16 are decidedly safer as well as cooler (literally and figuratively).
POC’s ultra-light Jeremy Jones Pro Model and Formix Backcountry MIPS with an anti-stink liner are proof that all the rad kids are wearing helmets in the backcountry.
In fact helmet use nationwide is at an all-time high as companies find ways to make brain buckets more attractive and smart.
The latest technologies focus on separating the outer shell from the inner lining for airflow and to absorb the acceleration of the force; think bending your knees as you land versus landing with straight legs.
Sweet Protection has taken their whitewater helmets (which are a must for rock bonk avoidance) to the snow.
The Grimnir Helmet with MIPS is made of carbon-fiber reinforced polymer and “impact shields” on the front and back. It’s also the only helmet on the market certified to work even if you’ve mounted a POV camera on it.
The Giro Range not only uses MIPS but a “Conform Fit” system to make a two-piece shell that conforms to your personal head shape for a low-profile, snug fit.
Uvex (pronounced OOO-VEX I just learned) has developed Octo+ for a soft, beanie-like fit no matter what your head shape. It also allows air to circulate more freely.
There’s no excuse anymore not to protect head. Now all we need to do is figure out how to keep our brains safe at the speeds most of us travel.
Currently, beginners are psyched because these buckets are designed for protection at speeds between 12 and 14 mph. Too bad they falter at the speeds advanced skiers and riders normally attack (25-30mph).
Perhaps by next year we’ll see more helmets that address this statistic.
Now that you’ve picked out your helmet, here’s SnoCountry's cub reporter (and Jill's Daughter) Sage Adler with tips on how to dress it up. Click here.
Photos: Helmets are all high-tech for 2016; Top -- Salomon's lightweight backcountry helmet; Left -- Giro Range with it's conform fit system; Botom -- POC helmets are smart as well as tecky (all photos by Bonnie Godfrey)