Ski helmets are an extra investment on top of all your gear so you want to keep it in good condition as long as possible, whilst making sure it’s protecting you to the best of its capability. Unfortunately, helmets don’t last forever.
Ski manufacturers do recommend replacing your helmet after 5 years of use and right away if it is involved in a substantial crash or sustains visible fracture damage.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the specific recommendations of the top ski helmet manufactures to help you decide when its time to replace your existing helmet with a new one.
If you’re still undecided about wearing a helmet, go read my article: 5 Essential Reasons to Wear a Ski Helmet.
How Long Do Ski Helmets Last For?
Ski helmets last for a number of years before you need to replace them. Each manufacturer has their own recommendations based on the quality and type of helmet that it produces.
Typically you can expect your helmet to last for 2-5 seasons of use before it’s recommended that you purchase a new one. Of course, that’s the case only if your helmet doesn’t sustain damage from a crash or hitting an object at speed.
Even if you never crash in a helmet, the Snell Foundation suggests replacing the lid after about five years.
Ski helmets are commonly made from a hard outer plastic shell and an inner lining material called EPS (expanded polypropylene). This is essentially plastic beads that contain air bubbles—they are packed together tightly and absorb energy on impact.
There’s a debate on wether you really need to replace an old ski helmet so quickly if it is in good nick. Helmets.org looked at a study of bicycle helmets that concluded that old but helmets in good conditions shows no significant difference in performance.
In 2015 MEA Forensic reported on their extensive testing of used (but not crashed) bicycle helmets shows that the foam liners retain their performance over many years. Some of the helmets were as old as 26 years. They crash tested 675 helmets in their lab. Their analysis showed that there was no significant impact performance change with age.
Should You Replace a Ski Helmet After a Crash?
If you’ve been involved in a crash or a fall and landed on your head or hit your helmet on a rock or another object, take a look at your helmet and examine it for deep scratches or fractures.
Look for scratches wide enough to fit a fingernail on the outside shell or inside foam. If any are present then your helmet may need replacing.
If you notice a fracture on your helmet, large cracks or lines on the inside or outside – it’s definitely time to replace it. The helmet can no longer absorb high energy impacts adequately and it will offer much less protection than before.
Ski helmets are designed to withstand more than one very minor hit. However, a ski helmet MUST be replaced if it has been involved in a serious crash, or if it is damaged.
CDC on helmets.
If your helmet only has minor scratches, that’s to be expected and need not be replaced. Helmets are designed for wear and tear but have a lifespan up to 1 significant crash.
Replace a Helmet After Dropping It?
In most cases no. If it was dropped onto snow then it won’t damage it. If it was hard ice or concrete, then it probably scratched it but was not likely to cause major damage.
You should still inspect it thoroughly for any hairline fractures after such a drop to check on its condition.
Dropping it occasionally probably won’t be a problem, but multiple drops could weaken it and cause the helmet to become absolute and in need of changing.
How to Protect Your Helmet.
Take some measures to give you helmet a longer life by NOT dropping it, bashing it against skis in or putting any undue weight on.
Don’t put your ski helmet in the washing machine or submerge completely in water.
You can clean it with a wet cloth, but do not use any harsh chemicals like bleach or detergent as this will degrade the materials.
How to Store Your Helmet.
Helmets can degrade over time if you store them in a place that’s too hot or too cold or in direct sunlight.
It’s natural for the material within the liner to disintegrate and become weaker over many years, but extreme temperatures will increase the rate at which the materials become weakened.
Don’t store the helmet with any objects on top of it. You don’t the shell exposed to any unnecessary pressure.
The future of helmets.
The company behind the US ski team Olympic helmets, POC are developing a new liner material called EPP (expanded polypropylene) – which they believe will be able to sustain multiple impacts and maintain its structure.
If this material bears fruit and becomes commercially viable, expect the next generation of helmets to last longer and be able to handle repeated crashes without the need to be replaced as often.
Using multi-impact EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) as core material creates a helmet that will protect your head over and over again.
POC on their new technology.
The future is looking bright and helmet technology is improving every few years.
Be aware that wearing a helmet is not a magic bullet, and it can only protect you from brain injury or death up to certain tolerance, beyond which the helmet cannot save you.
Wearing a helmet isn’t a free pass for excess speed and dangerous skiing with no consequences.
Helmets are important for every skier at every level. But there’s no point wearing a damaged helmet. Don’t neglect this part of your kit to save money, as the consequences could be more costly.
Take a good look at your helmet before skiing and after any falls – if it’s fine then there’s no need to worry. If you notice a crack, it’s time to replace it with a new one.
Bonus: The 7 Best Ski Helmets For 2019/20
Read my full reviews here.
Bonus: How Snug Should a Ski Helmet Be?
An ill-fitting ski helmet is just as bad as a cracked helmet. If it’s not snug on your head, the helmet can easily fly off during a crash and fail to protect your skull. A good fit is for the helmet to fit snug around the head, but not be uncomfortably tight.
- Tighten the strap to be touching and snug, but not pulling or on your or squeezing your neck.
- Shake your head and observe to see if the helmet wiggles about – it should stay pretty snug as you move.
- The helmet should not push down onto your goggles to hinder your vision.