Goat Test #2: Ski/Snowboard Helmets

by Rocky Thompson

If you think a new helmet is all you need to huck that cliff, you're in for a world of hurt. Most helmets are designed to protect your head from direct blows when you're moving 12mph or slower. So why wear a helmet? Most accident-related impacts are glancing hits, not direct blows. Not to mention, wearing a helmet is always better than cranking your naked dome into something, no matter how fast you're moving. The only way a helmet can be detrimental is if it gives you a false sense of security to take more risks.

We designed these tests to compare each helmet's effectiveness in different scenarios. We packed them with cantaloupes and dropped them from 12 feet up onto concrete. This crude simulation checks the damage from a direct blow to the helmet and our stand-in head. We froze them and stomped on the sides to see what would happen if you slammed them in your trunk after a day on the mountain. We bashed them with a ball-peen hammer while frozen to see if they would break apart or absorb the shot.

We also looked at less destructive aspects like how well they fit with our 10 most-popular goggles. We compared their weight, ventilation, construction, and liners. All tested helmets were a size large, except the Salomon, which was a medium because their sales rep can't follow simple instructions — he dropped the helmet off at the wrong place too (we're just playin' Todd, we love you anyway).

Giro G10 - 4 out of 5 Goats

The Giro G10 is a light, sexy helmet with 4 fixed vents and 10 adjustable vents — more adjustability than any other helmet in the test. Giro's massive venting and neutral style gives both springtime park stompers and old-school carvers what they want.


Weight: 15oz
Multi impact: No
Vents: 14 vents
Vent adjustment: Two front and two back vents are fixed open while the other 10 adjust with a low-profile on-the-fly switch
Headphone rig: TuneUps II, hook up your MP3 player and your cell phone
Removable liner: Yes, removable/washable liner and removable ear pads
Multi-sport: Snow sports only
Construction: In-mold
Melon drop: 4 (out of 5), the shell compressed to take the hit. There was a small crack in the melon that you might need to get stapled shut before making more turns.
Trunk slam: 4, a loud crack and the helmet's plastic front-brim cover popped off. If it was your helmet, you'd be mad at yourself, but if it was your buddy's, you'd just stick the plastic back on before he notices. It still looks okay.
Hammer: 5, the G10 soaked up directed blunt hits and didn't show any damage inside. The foam compressed around the ball-peen hammer to absorb the blow.
Price: $119.95

Pro-Tec Mercenary - 3 out of 5 Goats

Park riders, this helmet's for you. Sure, it's a little heavier and you have to keep track of the vent plugs, but it's the only multi-impact helmet. If you live for grinding urban rails and destroying the park, and you crash a lot, this is the best choice. Pro-Tec's SXP liner takes the hit when you crack your head on a rail or slam your melon into the ground, and you don't even have to replace it. The Mercenary is also the cheapest helmet in the test, so you can finally ditch that hockey helmet you've been using.


Weight: 1lb 5.5oz
Multi impact: Yes
Vents: 7
Vent adjustment: Removable plugs, don't lose 'em
Headphone rig: Pro-tec Audio Force, music only
Removable liner: Yes
Multi-sport: Snow sports only
Construction: Injection-molded ABS shell with Pro-tec's patented SXP liner. SXP, multi-impact helmet technology, gives the Mercenary built-in rebound control
Melon drop: 5, the cantaloupe looked so good, I put it in the break room for everyone to eat. Since this is our only multi-impact helmet, we can drop cantaloupes in it all day, at least until the Wasatch starts getting some real snow; then we'll go ride.
Trunk slam: 2, this thing exploded when slammed. The internal SXP liner crunched into several pieces and it fell out of the shell.
Hammer: 5, the outer shell looked brand new, and there was no damage inside the helmet. You could hit this thing all day without seeing any damage.
Price: $79.95

RED Hi-Fi - 4 out of 5 Goats

The RED Hi-Fi helmet is a super-stiff, durable bucket for your melon. It'll take the abuse and come out looking new. Let the sweaty helmet freeze solid in your trunk for weeks. RED made it lightweight and it has loads of vents, so you won't overheat for spring riding. The biggest downside is that you're supposed to replace it every time you smack your head on a rail or into the icy ground.


Weight: 15.1oz
Multi impact: No
Vents: 8
Vent adjustment: None
Headphone rig: Hi-Fi Audio with one-touch mute button
Removable liner: Yes
Multi-sport: Snow sports only
Construction: In-mold
Melon drop: 3 — Splat! — the RED Hi-Fi took the hit like a champ, but ejected seeds on impact.
Trunk slam: 5, this was like trying to slam a cinder block in your trunk. This thing took the hit and didn't show any signs of damage.
Hammer: 5, this helmet doesn't feel like it has any flex, but the foam on the shell gave to take the impact from the hammer, and it still didn't show any damage on the inside.
Price: $99.95

K2 Blackhawk - 4 out of 5 Goats

Sure, the K2 Blackhawk might be twice as expensive as other helmets in this test, but you get high-end goggles with it too. With an integrated fit there are no gaps and none of the vents are blocked by the helmet, which means you get less fogging. Helmet manufacturers eagerly wait to see if the integrated helmet/goggle will be as successful as integrated skis/bindings or as much of a bomb as rear-entry boots.


Weight: 1lb 5.2oz
Multi impact: No
Vents: 6
Vent adjustment: Active-channel venting with two large adjustable vents across the front, two fixed open vents on the top, and two big exhaust vents on back
Headphone rig: Baseline Audio Communication System, hooks up to your music and a two-way radio or cell phone.
Removable liner: Yes
Multi-sport: Snow sport only
Construction: TMI construction
Melon drop: 4, the Blackhawk took the hit in stride and didn't even need to call for medics, but his buddies saw a little cantaloupe juice oozing onto the floor, so they made him lie down. Oh the humanity!
Trunk slam: 5, the Blackhawk is strong and resilient. Put as much pressure on it as you can, it won't crack or break.
Hammer: 5, K2's outer shell didn't show any damage, no matter how many times it got hit, even though each hammer blow was deadened instead of shooting back. The inside looked brand new.
Price: $229.95 (includes goggles)

Salomon Essential AF - 3 out of 5 Goats

The Salomon Essential AF marched reliably through the tests. With the softest external shell of any of the helmets tested, it seems to absorb direct blows a little better than the other helmets, and it's still one of the lightest in the test. Salomon's small vents prevent you from getting your ski pole stuck in your head, but they also prevent you from dumping heat when it's warm. How often do you really run into the sharp end of your pole with your head?


Weight: 14.3oz
Multi impact: No
Vents: 10
Vent adjustment: Two front adjustable vents and 6 plugs (don't lose 'em)
Headphone rig: None
Removable liner: Yes
Multi-sport: No
Construction: In-molded
Melon drop: 3, the cantaloupe split up the middle and made a mess all over the studio floor. We all got mad at the helmet, kind of like when your mom kicked you out of the house for bleeding on the sofa.
Trunk slam: 5, the shell and liner held up extremely well. The Essential AF gave some flex but it didn't crack or break; you'll ride another day with this helmet.
Hammer: 5, the soft shell on the Essential AF took the hits, you could almost make out the brand that had been stamped onto the hammer in the helmet's shell. No damage inside.
Price: $98.95

Leedom Prophet - 5 out of 5 Goats

The Leedom Prophet helmet not only passed all of our crack-pot tests with flying colors, it's also the lightest and most ventilated helmet. Leedom also gave the Prophet a relatively cheap sound system. It's debatable how cool the Prophet looks, and its style seems more specific to all-mountain skiers than jibbers or snowboarders.


Weight: 13.8oz
Multi impact: No
Vents: 15
Vent adjustment: 8 adjustable vents on the top of the helmet
Headphone rig: Leedom Soundtrack with mute/volume adjustment on the cord
Removable liner: Yes
Multi-sport: No
Construction: In-molded
Melon drop: 5, the helmet crumpled where it hit the deck, and it soaked up all the impact. Get up and keep riding.
Trunk slam: 5, slam it, jump on it, balance on top of it and spin around in the lodge, Leedom's Prophet has an incredible strength-to-weight ratio, and is unaffected by temperature.
Hammer: 5, the Prophet caved on the outside to deaden the hits, but it didn't show any damage on the inside.
Price: $139.95

Goggle fit
Avoid the gap between your helmet and goggles that makes your forehead cold and immediately identifies you as a tourist worthy of contempt from lifties. We tried on 10 goggles with each helmet, checking to see that the goggles provided a flush fit at the top and sides and that the hinges worked well with the helmets. We identify which goggles need a retro-fitted longer strap to fit over helmets, but if you have a small or medium brain bucket you might be able to get away with just leaving the goggles on your helmet until the strap stretches out. We rated fit 1-5 and identified where the gap or fit problem occurred.

long enough strap Giro Pro-Tec RED K2 Salomon Leedom
Oakley Wisdom No 5 3, hinge 3, sides 5 3, hinges 4, hinges
Oakley A-Frame No 5 5 5 5 5 5
Spy Soldier Yes 4, hinges 4, top sides 5 5 4, top 5
Spy Orbit Yes 4, hinges 4, hinges 4, sides 5 4, top 5
Electric EG% ok on small helmets 5 5 5 5 5 5
Smith Triad Yes 5 5 4, sides 5 4, top sides 5
Smith Prodigy Yes 5 5 5 5 5 5
Dragon Foil Yes 5 4, sides 4, sides 3, top sides 5 4, sides
Anon Halcyon Yes 5 4, top sides 5 4, sides 5 4, top sides
Scott High Voltage Yes 5 5 5 5 5 5
K2 Goggle Custom N/A N/A N/A 5 N/A N/A

Quick comparison chart
Giro Pro-Tec RED K2 Salomon Leedom
weight 15oz 1lb 5.5oz 0.7oz 15.1oz 1lb 5.2oz 14.3oz 13.8oz
vents 14 7 8 6 10 15
on the fly adj. vents 10 0 0 2 2 8
removable liner Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
multi-sport No No No No No No
construction In-mold SXP In-mold TMI In-mold In-mold
multi-impact No Yes No No No No
cantaloupe 4 5 3 4 3 5
trunk closing 4 2 5 5 5 5
hammer 5 5 5 5 5 5
Overall rating 4 3 4 4 3 5
price $119.95 $79.95 $99.95 $229.95 $98.95 $139.95