Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.
More consumers are showing concern for their noggins, as evidenced by the continued upward trend in helmet sales over recent years. Numbers from the National Ski Areas Association report sales jumped 8 percent between 2013 and 2014, with registers ringing up $97.5 million and $112 million, respectively, each year.
“Helmets became a lot lighter and a lot more functional,” said Kelly Gleason, manager at Paragon Ski & Sport in Telluride, Colo. “They’re just a little more low profile than they used to be. Nobody wants to be a bobble head out there.”
Where style has been the boon for helmet sales in the past, better function will soon take over. At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015, new safety features are the talked-about trend as brands cater to the more dangerous antics — think park riding, tree skiing and big mountain terrain — that consumers are tackling. “The big thing is the consumer awareness in regard to technology features and safety standards. Overall, that’s why you’re wearing a helmet,” said Graham Sours, helmet category manager at Smith Optics. He added that brands are “looking at their helmet products and protection products to see how they hold up against high-speed impacts, low-speed impacts, multi-impacts and oblique impacts.”
The brain-protecting technology known as MIPS is becoming more popular and better known to consumers. The tri-part system includes a foam interior liner, the MIPS low-friction liner and an elastomeric attachment system between them. In an impact, the elastomeric attachment system stretches, allowing the EPS foam liner to rotate independently around the user’s head. Although the system only moves a few millimeters, it aims to reduce the amount of rotational force transferred to the user’s brain in certain impacts.
“The majority of falls, skiing in particular, happen at an angle, so the damage on the brain is from the brain twisting in the skull,” said Topher Plimpton, marketing manager for Scott. “The brain has some kind of safety system, and this layer is mimicking that shifting, so when you do hit, it slows down the rotational force. Testing has proven that it decreases your chance of concussion.”
Scott’s all-conditions Seeker helmet features the MIPS layer, in addition to active venting. Smith Optics, too, partnered with MIPS in its women’s-specific Vantage helmet (MSRP $220), combined with the brand’s Aerocore construction — a series of hollow polymer cores, which allow for greater breathability while claiming to absorb 30 percent more energy than traditional EPS foam — plus a Woolrich liner.
Marker’s solution to the oblique impact problem remains its MAP (Multi-impact Adaptive Polymer) technology, a lightweight nitryl rubber padding material that regains its shape immediately after impact to reduce damage even in a rapid, multi-impact crash. For 2015-16, the protective tech is added to the ABS hardshell of the Kojak OTIS (Orthopedic Technology Inside) (MSRP $79) for lightweight, durable defense.
The Mtn Lab Helmet (MSRP $200) from Salomon caters to the everyrider, with its super light construction, ActiveDry Liner with merino wool and headlamp holders for midnight departures.
As helmets become more mainstream, brands continue to inject style into the safety accessory. New from K2, the men’s Stash (MSRP $129) and women’s Meridian (MSRP $129) are sleek offerings with clean, low-key styling — not that there was any compromise on safety, as evidenced by its dual snow/bike certifications. Although it won’t be on display at the show, check Rossignol’s catalog for the women’s specific, MIPS-packing RH2. Designed to fit a woman’s head and complete with trendy color waves and accents, spokesman Nick Castagnoli, calls the brain bucket “an accessory [women will be] proud to wear as opposed to just being safe.”