New To Ski

Is It Better To Rent Or Buy A Ski Helmet? Pros & Cons

by Olivia Humphreys | Updated: October 27th, 2022
wear ski helmet

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Even if you are completely confident in your own ability, it’s possible that someone else can make a mistake and hit you, resulting in serious injury or even worse. So, bearing in mind the safety a helmet offers, is it better to rent or buy a helmet?

If you plan skiing for more than a week in your life, it is probably worth it to go out and buy a helmet. This is because buying a helmet will often be cheaper in the long run and you’ll know it has been looked after.

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To give you an idea, renting a helmet at Vail Mountain will cost between $10 to $12 a day. If you’re joining your friends for a skiing weekend but you don’t see yourself skiing again, then renting is probably best. 

When starting out on the slopes, whether you’re skiing or snowboarding, a helmet is an essential piece of equipment.

If you do decide to rent, one of the guys in the ski shop will measure you for a helmet, so that you don’t need to worry about sizing.  Alternatively, if you decide you want to buy a helmet you can get something reasonable for around $100.

Of course, there is a range of helmet prices between $190-300 but it’s a worthy investment, especially if you plan on making skiing a part of your life.

Key takeaway: There are also a ton of benefits to buying your own helmet, including better fit, warmth, accessory options, and style, not to mention protection.

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ski helmet with snow

Fit

The way a helmet sits on your head is the single most important factor when choosing a helmet. An ill-fitting helmet (because of a thick hat or the wrong size) will not protect you in the event of a collision. 

skier in complete ski clothes

If you are ordering your helmet online, you can measure your head to ensure you get the right size. Take a tape measure and wrap it around the circumference of your head just above your eyebrows. Then convert that circumference into the correct helmet size.

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However, most people prefer to try on different helmets to check the fit. This is because helmets are shaped differently, and you want to make sure that you find the one that is most comfortable for you

Key takeaway: How do you know if your helmet fits? It should be snug on your head, but not too tight.

If it feels like it’s squeezing you, go up a size. You won’t get any extra protection if the helmet is too tight.

Also, when trying on different helmets for size check to see if your helmet is adjustable. Many helmets have a dial at the back, which enables you to make it slightly bigger or slightly smaller. We recommend buying a helmet with a dial.

Okay, so now you have a helmet that feels snug but doesn’t squeeze on your temples, great. Tighten that chin strap up to your neck (again, not so tight that you’re choking) and give your head a firm shake back and forth and side to side.

If it swivels or falls down over your eyes, the helmet you’ve picked is too big, so try a size down. Now that you’ve found a helmet that fits, the final key is finding a pair of goggles to match and which don’t leave you with the dreaded gap.

Warmth and Accessories

white goggle

There’s an old saying that we lose 50% of our body heat through our heads. While that theory isn’t exactly true, keeping your head warm really does make a difference on the hill. 

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This is where helmet accessories come in. Vents and liners are both accessories that allow you to adjust how your helmet retains heat, so you can keep warm on the coldest of days. 

For safety, you might want to consider buying a helmet with MIPS (which stands for multi-directional impact protection) technology. These helmets are a little more expensive, but they’re also much safer than traditional helmets. 

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Helmet accessories have really evolved over recent years, so if you’re serious about winter sports there are numerous gadgets you can add on such as headphones, camera mounts, helmet covers, or attached goggles. 

Style

While to some the style of your helmet might seem irrelevant, for others it’s a very important factor for a lot of riders. It’s a way of making a personal statement on the hill. Also, if you like your helmet, you’re more likely to wear it.

Luckily there are many different styles and colors to choose from, so you’re bound to find something individual. You’ll be wearing it every day you’re on the slopes, after all. 

happy
Photo by Erika Joubert licensed under CC BY 2.0

Skiers and boarders who love the park will often remove their earpads and layer their helmets with a beanie underneath. It’s important to recognize here though, that this isn’t necessarily the safest way to wear a helmet. Usually, in order to fit the beanie underneath, riders will size up. 

On the other side of the coin, racers and jumpers go for hard-eared helmets. They might not be considered stylish, but hard ears offer more protection from impact and are regulated for many snowsports. 

If you need extra warmth, a thinner skull cap works best.

So there you have it. Only you know your future skiing plans. At least you have some good pointers to decide between buying or renting a helmet.

Key takeaway: If you do decide to buy visit a local shop to check out what’s available, fitting, and prices.

Buying a helmet second-hand isn’t advisable. You can’t tell what it might have been through previously and so it may offer less protection. It might be cheaper but if it doesn’t work properly, it’s worthless.

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NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I share everything I wish someone had told me when I was learning to ski. My name is Simon & I've been skiing since 2005. This winter, our family is taking a 3-month camper ski trip across the Alps. If you enjoy our articles, please join the free email club. We'd love to have you.
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