Image Credit: @pocsports on instagram
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn PLEIN AIR a commission.
Spring skiing is upon us, and women everywhere are shedding layers and switching goggles in preparation for the warmer days. Too often, a helmet is also a part of this gear downsize, in favor of breezier rides with hair still perfect for aprés.
While it may be fun to have your strands flowing in the wind, it’s important to remember that snow sports are incredibly dangerous regardless of style or ability. The team at PLEIN AIR are in the business of protecting our precious noggins, and urge you to keep that baby on! There are too many horror stories of accidents that could have been minimized or prevented all together if a helmet was involved. To summarize: skiing is hot, head injuries are not.
But being safe doesn’t have to cramp your style. With silhouettes, colorways, and prices to suit every preference, helmets should be a non-negotiable snow accessory. Already checked a helmet off the list? You go girl. See our recommendations for your next gear essentials here, tailored for first time buyers.
Our Top 5 Helmets, by Category:
- Best Overall: Smith Optics Allure MIPS Helmet, $155.
- Founder’s Fav: Smith Optics Mission MIPS Helmet, $140.
- Best Technical Features: Oakley Mod 1 Pro - MIPS Helmet, $155.
- Best Budget Friendly: Wildhorn Outfitters Drift Helmet, $94.
- Best Splurge: POC Levator MIPS Helmet, $550.
*BTW, MIPS® stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, a brain protection patent with over 25 years of research to back it. Long, scientific story short, MIPS helps to reduce rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head, which is the most common form of head injury.*
Best Overall: Smith Allure MIPS Helmet, $155
The biggest reservation I had surrounding constant helmet wearing is that most styles I’ve tried make me feel suffocated. Thankfully, the Allure Helmet by Smith graced my for you page last year. This style is everything you want and need out of headgear: It’s compact, light, and has that ever important MIPS protection. I initially thought I’d miss the dial-sizer feature on my previous helmet, but this style molds to your head with a self-adjusting flex technology– perfect for my square noggin. The fuzzy inside keeps me warm on freezing days, eliminating the need to layer a beanie while the subtle front venting allows for air flow when it's warmer (sans the cycle-style vents for a sleek look.) The chin strap is also so comfortable that I sometimes forget I’ve clipped it. (Fit tip: your helmet should be able to stay on securely, even when the chin strap is undone.)
At $155 for MIPS, it pairs more affordable protection with modern style. I have it in the Matte Black Pearl, but am seriously eyeing the Metallic Sephia Colorway once I’ve banged up my existing purchase enough to warrant a second. And yes, I would repurchase, because it is just that good.
Founder Fav: Smith Mission MIPS Helmet, $140
If you’re looking to break up with rentals, a helmet is a great first purchase to start curating your own gear collection. Compared to boots or skis, helmets are a relatively inexpensive investment with a high pay off–protecting your precious lil’ dome.
Another top contender from Smith is the Mission MIPS, which just so happens to be our founder Madeleine’s all-time favorite helmet. Yet another chic design with hundreds of 5 star reviews, it’s no wonder why she’s rocked it for multiple seasons. Madeleine raves about the option to pop in and secure her most coveted Aleck headphones, which boast GPS and intercom features so her and her friends stay easily connected on the mountain. She especially crushes on the extra venting of this style. “It feels great to open those puppies on a bluebird day and let my brain breathe.” If overheating is the reason you ditch your helmet mid–ride, this option is just right for you. Still worried about your fringe post ski? We’ve got all the bases covered with this guide to combat the dreaded helmet hair.
Most Technical: Oakley Mod 1 Pro - MIPS Helmet, $155
A brand widely known in the ski community for their high performance PRIZM goggles, Oakley also delivers state–of–the–art tech for their helmets. The Mod 1 Pro style is their newest release and delivers on style, form and function. It’s made with a Dura-Matter shell making it (obv) highly durable, and BOA and MIP combined technologies for the most adaptive fit and comfort. It also has some bells and whistles that may not be strictly necessary, but that I for one would seriously appreciate. For example , I despise having to take off my gloves to fasten my helmet, and this style has a Fidlock® magnetic buckle, making it simple to clip on and off. This is yet another Bluetooth-compatible helmet with removable ear pads to keep your dome safe, clean and tuned up while riding. Killer technical specs aside, I am also loving the shape of this helmet. The white version looks eerily similar to this vintage Chanel, but with added protection and the non-designer price tag.
Best Budget friendly: Wildhorn Outfitters Drift Helmet, $94
I think it’s evident by now that MIPS helmets are the gold standard for cranium protection, and our go–to picks. Still, a MIPs almost always bumps up the price to $150 and over: not a number everyone is jazzed about. If the cost is giving you pause, the Drift Helmet from Wildhorn is a great choice. This was my first ever gear purchase after ditching rentals, and it got me through some pretty serious falls unscathed. It’s lightweight, vented and works great with my Oakley Flight Deck Goggles. (No gappage!) A common feature of our favorites, this also has the option for bluetooth headphone inserts. This particular style is even touted as the official helmet for olympic freeskier Ashley Caldwell, so you know it’s good stuff.
A non MIPS helmet can still provide you with great protection, and is definitely better than opting for no helmet at all. Stylish safety should be accessible to everyone! Wildhorn also recently came out with a MIPS style that you can check out here; reviews say it’s a great choice for beginners.
Best Splurge: POC Levator MIPS Helmet, $550
On the opposite end of the budget spectrum; POC’s first ever visor helmet has made waves with its avant-garde, futuristic take on the vintage European style. A more daring choice, this may not be for the faint of heart skier. But I, a solid moderate ride, am somehow absolutely obsessed. With a nearly panoramic view and interchangeable lenses, this helmet takes versatility to the next level. It has all the accouterments you could imagine, like fully adjustable ventilation, a magnetic chin strap and removable ear pads that boast Alcantara lining. With a reputable brand like POC behind this masterpiece, you can guarantee this helmet delivers on quality as well as next–level fashion. At $550, I’m not quite justifying the price of this—yet. But if neoteric design is your schtick, and the budget allows, be sure to snag this helmet. (and please, let me know how you love it.) In case it blows up, you heard it here first.