The Best Snow Helmets of 2023: Tested

Shred in style with the best ski and snowboard helmets this season.

Drew Zieff|Updated December 28, 2022

7 reviews with an average rating of 4.0 out of 5 stars
Person wearing a snow helmet laughing and buried in snow.


Call us hard-headed, but we don’t consider helmets optional. No matter if you’re a skier or boarder, rookie or veteran, crashing is an occupational hazard on the slopes. The best options are also comfortable, stylish, well-ventilated and warm. Long story short: There’s no reason not to wear one.

While buying a helmet is a no-brainer, hunting for the right model can be dizzying. Thankfully, our test team of hard-charging skiers and snowboarders evaluated 20 of the top helmets at REI, narrowing it down to five of the best helmets for every budget and riding style.

Before we dive headfirst into our favorite helmets, a quick note: Our testers are real skiers and snowboarders, not crash test dummies. We ask them to analyze helmet features like comfort, fit, ventilation, goggle compatibility and so on. We do not ask them to risk life and limb by purposefully putting protective tech to the test. As such, when discussing safety features, we rely on third-party data and technical specifications. For more info on our testing process, visit our methodology section below.

Our Top Picks
Check out the results of our field test here or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
Best Overall Snow Helmet
Smith Vantage MIPS Snow Helmet
Best Value Snow Helmet
Giro Ledge Mips Snow Helmet

Test Results

Best Overall Snow Helmet

The best helmets are the ones that you can wear all day long, all season long and Smith's Vantage Mips® is exactly that. It's one of our most popular all-mountain offerings for good reason—the brimmed helmet supplies noteworthy tech, excellent ventilation and comfort bell-to-bell.

The Vantage scores high in the comfort category thanks to several features, among them a hybrid ABS construction with Koroyd inserts (more on the latter below) that keeps weight to a minimum—no bobblehead vibes here. A Wasatch County, Utah, tester appreciated the handy goggle retainer and the “extra-large pad” on the buckle strap, which offers maximum comfort once you're all bundled up to shred. After two back-to-back seasons and adventures big and small in the Vantage, he summed it up: “It’s one of the comfiest helmets I’ve owned.” A padded, antimicrobial liner helps the comfort cause, adding ample cushioning and reducing sweat-induced stink, while plush, audio-compatible earpads keep the ears warm on bitter, blizzard days. 

“Not only do the earpads add welcome warmth on subfreezing storms, but they’re removable, making the Vantage ready for spring use too,” reported our Lake Tahoe area, California, snowboarder. If removing the earpads allows skiers to open the windows, the primo ventilation system lets them crank the AC. Our Utah rider raved about the Vantage's 21-vent AirEvac system, judging it easy to use and extremely effective. “Slide the two tabs forward to stay cool on those spring groomer days,” he said. “Slide the two tabs back for those deep days to help keep the wind and snow out so you can stay warm and ride longer.”

The Vantage sports Mips technology—a thin, plastic, low-friction insert that reduces rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head (our testers always gravitate toward Mips or similar technology when possible). But Mips isn’t the only tech at play in the Vantage. Zonal Koroyd inserts—the rows of welded, strawlike tubes on the top of the helmet—crumple instantly and consistently to help absorb the force of both direct and angled impacts.

Our testers had only two critiques for this all-star helmet. One found the brimmed style a little outdated. Also, a splitboarder reported that while the helmet is lightweight and well-suited for all-day resort use, he judged it “too bulky for the backcountry.”

Bottom Line: For all-mountain skiers and boarders who want noteworthy tech, a brimmed style and adjustable ventilation, the Smith Vantage MIPS Snow Helmet is a solid choice.

Testing Stats

Days Out: 80

Testing locations: Alaska, Utah

Best Testing Story: “I rode the helmet all season, including every powder day up at Brighton,” reported a Wasatch local who took the Vantage on a splitboarding RV trip of a lifetime to Alaska. Their crew slept on the sides of remote Alaskan passes and hiked heavy lines.  

Best Value Snow Helmet

Coming in at just over a hundred bucks, the Mips®-equipped Ledge by Giro is our top pick for value. Thanks to its skate-inspired outline, minimalistic build and understated style, it’s also a great choice for terrain parks too.

Our Colorado-based tester was familiar with the Ledge even before putting it to the test for this review. “With Mips, a Boa®-like dial, a secure-but-barely-noticeable fit and the versatility to wear your goggles over or under (even the goggle clip is removeable if you choose not to use it), this helmet is pretty darn hard to beat for the price,” he commented.

Style was a major plus for another tester, who appreciated that the Ledge "doesn’t look like one of those high-performance space helmets.” The clean, simple design has functional advantages too: “It integrates with a wide range of goggles, so no dreaded forehead gap,” he said after testing with goggles, like the Anon M4 and Giro Axis.

Adjustability was a key selling point as well. Our crew liked the option to raise or lower the height of the dial. “This gave the helmet some extra versatility in dialing in your fit,” said one tester. If you like to rock a beanie beneath your helmet or prefer to ride without ear flaps, both liner and ear flaps are easy to remove, allowing you to further tweak your kit. That said, our tester did mention that he prefers a helmet that sits lower on the temples, ears and especially the occipital bones, but confessed he hardly noticed the helmet while riding—"exactly what you want in a helmet.”

One other tester grievance: The minimalistic vents of the Ledge are adequate, but there’s no option to close them, which can be a nuisance on powder days. It’s easy to overlook these demerits, though, based on the Ledge’s attractive price and performance that punches above its pay grade.

Bottom Line: Affordable, stylish and secure, the Giro Ledge Mips Snow Helmet punches above its pay grade for skiers and snowboarders on a budget.

Testing Stats 

Days Out: 50

Testing locations: Colorado, Oregon, Utah

Best Testing Story: “I was wearing this when I blew up on a turn at the Dirksen Derby—those trees come up fast,” commented a rider who regularly competes in events like the Dirksen, an annual banked slalom snowboarding and sit-ski competition at Oregon's Mount Bachelor. “I still looked good, though!”

Best Backcountry Snow Helmet

Gram-counting backcountry skiers and splitboarders demand lightweight, efficient touring equipment, and manufacturers often answer by slashing features to keep weight down. The Giro Grid and Envi, however, offer the best of both worlds: The low weight—14 ounces for a size medium—impressed our testers, while the helmets' full-featured build made them fall in love. 

While there are other options in this weight class, one tester who toured with the Grid for the last two seasons found elements in the Grid that are often lacking in lighter backcountry helmets. “You get the rotational protection of Mips®, full-wrap coverage, comfortable earpads, a quick-and-easy magnetic buckle and stylish design,” he said.

Most Mips-equipped helmets rely on hard plastic liners that can cause discomfort, but Giro utilized Mips-backed “Spherical Technology” for the Envi and Grid. This tech mimics a ball and socket joint: The helmet construction consists of two separate liners of EPS foam, one inner liner and one outer liner. According to Giro, this helps redirect impact forces away from the brain by allowing the outer liner to rotate around the inner liner during a crash.

A cruisy Tahoe-based female snowboarder and splitboarder appreciated the discreet Spherical Tech and moisture-wicking, ultrasoft Polartec® liner. “This is the most comfortable helmet I’ve tested when forgoing a beanie or balaclava,” she said. The earpads were soft and flexible, allowing the Giro backcountry bucket to stash well in helmet-carry systems, she added.

Our splitboarder-tester judged the Grid his go-to for most backcountry tours but acknowledged there are better options for technical ascents after taking the Grid on a weeklong camp and shred trip to Denali National Park. “The venting system is great for riding, but bootpacking with this isn’t ideal.” The Giro Envi and Grid lack the breathability of some of the other helmets we tested. If both breathability and mountaineering are top priorities for you, you may want to take a gander at the Smith Summit Mips

Another gripe that testers noticed as time went on: The lightweight shell isn’t the most durable, and the Grid succumbed to dings and dents during travel more than heavier helmets we tested. While many skiers and snowboarders ignore minor, non-impact-related nicks, helmet manufacturers like Giro err on the side of caution and recommend replacing helmets anytime an outer shell is potentially compromised. We recommend storing in a soft case and packing intentionally to minimize risk.

Bottom Line: A lightweight, full-featured helmet that performed well during resort testing and excelled in backcountry scenarios, the Giro Grid and Envi Mips Spherical Snow Helmets are top-of-the-line helmets for most splitboarders and backcountry skiers.

Testing Stats

Days Out: 55

Testing locations: Alaska, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

Best Testing Story:

“I was on a gnarly exit—basically an icy luge track carved through a dense forest by snowmobiles—in Alaska,” remembers our tester of the Envi. “It was pitch black and we were hustling to get back to the car by midnight. We didn’t get to the car at 2 or 2:30am. I was stoked to have such a lightweight helmet on the way out.” 

Best Uphill Snow Helmet

Backcountry skiers and splitboarders sometimes shred no-fall zones in climbing helmets that aren’t rated for downhill skiing, or they climb couloirs in ski helmets that aren’t certified for rockfall—both sketchy practices. Smith’s triple-certified Summit Mips® is a solution to the problem: It’s lightweight, well-ventilated and certified to standards for alpine snow sports and mountaineering. (All ski and snowboard helmets sold at REI Co-op meet the most common U.S.-based standard for snow helmet certification, known as ASTM F2040, but most are not rated for mountaineering). Learn more in our Buying Advice section.

A hybrid of climbing helmet and ski helmet, designed with input from renowned Smith backcountry skiers Cody Townsend and Hadley Hammer, the Summit Mips is at its best going uphill, according to a skin track slayer in our test crew. “At [14 ounces] for a medium, it’s extremely light, and the easy-to-use Boa® adjustability system nests into the helmet for compact carrying,” he reported. “More importantly, 33 vents supply enough airflow that you won’t hate wearing this helmet on prolonged climbs when rockfall is a concern, or if you’re booting behind a speed demon and chunks of snow are raining down from above.” He appreciated that the helmet was designed with billed hats in mind for sunny sojourns, as well as the headlamp compatibility for dawn patrols and the included beanie liner for gnarlier weather.

For the descent, the Summit taps Zonal Koroyd tech and a Mips liner to help mitigate against rotational forces. It’s an impressive array of armor given the compact package.

That said, it’s a more minimalist helmet than others in our lineup, and it doesn’t wrap as low on the back of the head as other more downhill-oriented helmets we’ve tested. Testers agreed that uphill is where the Summit shines. “It’s by far my favorite helmet for uphill travel—which is 95% of backcountry skiing when you think about it,” reported one Tahoe backcountry regular.

Bottom Line: A helmet certified for both snow sports and mountaineering, the Smith Summit Mips Backcounty Snow Helmet shines on the uphill with plenty of ventilation and other features.

Days Out: 13

Testing locations: California, Nevada

Best Testing Story:

“On a May tour in the Twin Peaks zone near Alpine Meadows, we were late to our objective, and the temperatures were warming fast. Wet slides were a concern. We weren’t dealing with overhead hazards, so I didn’t need to be wearing the helmet, but I was testing ventilation so I wore it anyways on the climb as we raced the warming snowpack to descend safely. I couldn’t believe how light it was over my touring hat, and how well it breathed. My head was damp when I got to the ridge, but if I’d been wearing my old backcountry helmet I would’ve likely spontaneously combusted.”

Best Snow Helmet for Kids

Smith didn’t skimp on the Glide Junior Mips, outfitting the grom-sized ski helmet with much of the same tech as the brand’s acclaimed adult offerings. A durable outer shell and EPS foam interior are molded together for a lightweight build, while a Mips® liner reduces rotational motion to the brain in the event of a pileup. For comfort, warmth and reduced likelihood of chairlift tantrums on frigid days, the helmet is padded with a plush, fleecy insert.

Our testers loved the sleek outline and bright colorway of the helmet we tested. “I liked the style and color—that’s a 10,” commented one pint-sized rider. Adjustability and fit earned similar kudos—the trouble-free dial allowed a brother and sister duo to test the same size. One aspect of the helmet, however, was up for debate: the velvety liner. While this comfort-oriented feature is pro during cold snaps, it can make for sweaty skiing on milder days.

Buying Advice

When shopping for helmets, pay attention to sizing, fit, goggle compatibility, certifications, special features and intended use.


Size and Fit Your Helmet Carefully

If possible, visit your local ski/snowboard shop like REI to try on helmets in person. If you’re purchasing a helmet online, measure the circumference of the largest part of your head by wrapping a measuring tape above your ears and eyebrows, then consult the size charts for the brands you’re considering. Getting your exact measurements is key as manufacturer sizes differ—you might be a medium in one brand but a large in another. You want a comfortable fit that doesn’t have any wiggle room, but you shouldn’t notice any pinching or pressure points, either. Remember: You want to wear this all day long.

While we’re talking fit, it’s important to note that what works for a tester might not work for you. Fit preferences range from skier to skier and head shape to head shape. Also, if you own goggles, those goggles might not be compatible with a specific helmet. Between goggles, head shape and personal preferences, we highly recommend trying helmets on in person.


Try Helmets on with Goggles

Treat your goggles as part of the helmet-purchasing puzzle. Bring your goggles with you to the store or try your goggles on with your helmet once your online order arrives. There shouldn’t be a gap between your goggle frame and helmet brim. Also, check for pressure points from the helmet pushing into your goggles—this can occur at the corner of the frames, especially with oversized goggles. A seamless goggle fit doesn’t just look better on the hill—it feels better too, especially when you’re skiing fast in cold conditions.

For more on helmet sizing, check out our guide on How to Choose Ski and Snowboard Helmets


Pay Attention to Certification Standards

All ski and snowboard helmets sold at REI Co-op meet the most common U.S.-based standard for snow helmet certification, known as ASTM F2040. Some also meet CE EN1077 standards, the European equivalent. (These certifications cover nonmotorized recreational snowsports). Helmets like the Smith Summit Mips are also certified to EN 12492 standards for mountaineering. For more on helmet certifications, read How to Choose Ski and Snowboard Helmets.


Focus on Features

In addition to keeping size and fit at the top of mind, it’s smart to consider features when shopping for a helmet. If you tend to overheat, the Smith Vantage is hard to beat thanks to its 21 adjustable vents. If you’re interested in mounting a GoPro, a smooth surface like that of the Giro Ledge will make mount installation easier. If you prefer not to wear a balaclava while riding, warm, comfortable earflaps like those on the Giro Grid and Envi are worth considering.


Backcountry Bound? Shop with Weight, Ventilation and Certifications in Mind

Backcountry travelers have a specific set of needs and should shop accordingly. Do-it-all helmets like the Smith Vantage can handle in-bounds riding and backcountry shredding alike, but they’re on the heavy and bulky side for touring. Lighter helmets, like the Giro Grid, are hardly noticeable in your pack when slogging up thousands of vertical feet in the backcountry. If you’re skinning, bootpacking and scrambling in zones where ice- and rockfall are a concern, be sure to check out a well-ventilated, mountaineering-certified helmet like the Smith Summit Mips.


Remember that Helmets Aren’t a Silver Bullet

Even the best helmets aren’t silver bullets. Ski and ride responsibly and try not to gain a false sense of confidence just because you’re wearing a helmet.


Replace Your Old Helmet

Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations and, when in doubt, replace your old helmet early and often. Smith, for instance, recommends at least every five years and anytime you notice wear and tear, or after a crash. Giro recommends the same and suggests replacing a helmet every three to five years, depending on use. If you ride five days a year, this might seem low, but helmets can degrade over time—Smith recommends keeping an eye out for signs of wear like “cracks, ungluing, deformations, flaking and alterations in color.” Also, if you’re putting in 100-day seasons, you might need to invest in a new helmet more frequently. The brands featured in this guide offer crash replacement programs that may help you score a discount on a replacement helmet if your purchase is deemed eligible.


To find the best ski and snowboard helmets, our product team and ski and snowboard experts parsed through piles of helmets from top-rated brands at REI. Of these helmets, we selected 20 contenders to put to the test. These contenders included both groundbreaking new helmets and proven models our customers have rated highly over the years.

Next, over 15 testers based in California, Utah and Washington, including women and men skiers and snowboarders, put these picks to the test. Testers rode hard at the resort and in the backcountry. Testing occurred at (and near) Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Sugar Bowl Resort, Mount Baker Ski Area, Whitewater Ski Resort, Summit at Snoqualmie, Snowbird, Solitude Mountain Resort, Alta Ski Area, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort, Thompson Pass and Denali National Park and Preserve.

Testers scored helmets based on the following categories: overall performance, fit, features, ventilation, sense of security, style, adjustability, comfort, durability and backcountry utility (if applicable). The scores you see are cumulative averages of these tallies, with the highest possible score being a 100. Then, the testers answered longform questions on review forms. Finally, our test director analyzed this quantitative and qualitative data, tested most top contenders himself and wrote these reviews.

About the Author

Drew Zieff

Drew Zieff is a freelance outdoor writer and content creator who alternates between living in a custom-built van and chasing surf and snow around the world. REI member since 2018.