Gear trends: Winter helmets for 2014/15

Safety first … or fourth: Fit, style and comfort help spur helmet use.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. 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.

While safety is still first and foremost in the helmet world, companies are focusing on eliminating skiers and snowboarders’ reasons for not wearing them.

“It doesn't matter how ‘safe’ a helmet is if a customer won't wear it because it doesn’t fit correctly and comfortably,” said Graham Sours, helmet category manager at Smith Optics.

In that spirit, helmet manufacturers have been looking for ways to make skiers and snowboarders more likely to wear helmets, whether by improving the ventilation, dialing down the fit, or by making the whole thing lighter as a whole.

Smith Optics’ new Camber (men’s) and Compass (women’s) helmets (MSRPs $130) focus on a proper fit with the company’s DFS Ergonomic Fit System, which uses a dial to adjust the lateral and forward fit of the helmet’s liner.

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Salomon took a step back in time to develop its Quest helmet (MSRP N/A). The Auto Custom Air liner self-inflates to provide a custom fit, like an updated version of Reebok’s pump shoes from the ’80s. The liner hugs the wearer’s head without creating pressure points, while the EPS 4D liner is purported to absorb more shock than any other helmet on the market.

In an effort to directly address two main reasons that skiers say they don’t wear helmets K2 has developed the Route helmet (MSRP $150).

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“We broke down the conventional snow sports helmet and built the Route from the ground up, addressing the excuses of skiers who elect not to wear a helmet,” said K2’s senior product manager, Nigel Steer. “For example, some don’t wear a helmet because they are too warm or uncomfortable. Not with the Route. It is incredibly breathable and so light you can barely tell you’re wearing it.” At 320 grams, it’s the lightest snowsports helmet ever released. Also safety certified for cycling, the Route has a total of 59 air channels to allow for plenty of ventilation.

Mammut’s  Alpine Rider Helmet (MSRP $100) is another double-duty piece, but instead of doubling as a cycling helmet, it’s one of the first helmets to be certified as a climbing helmet as well as a skiing helmet. Lightweight and taking up minimal pack space, the Alpine Rider can be adjusted with one hand and sports ventilation throughout the helmet.

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--Billy Brown

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