Lighter and more streamlined than their predecessors, "in-mold" helmets are quickly taking over the alpine, tele and snowboard markets. Constructed with lightweight foam such as polystyrene, in-mold designs still offer the requisite protection without making you look like Dark Helmet in the movie "Spaceballs." The other upshot of in-mold technology is that it allows designers to sculpt the helmets, remove excess material and form all kinds of funky profiles. More than ever, helmets are being designed with colors and styles that will pop on the shelves and catch consumers' attention.
Leedom's latest in-mold helmet, the Prophet ($139.95), weighs about 14 ounces and has 15 vents, including eight adjustable vents. While manufacturers are still offering plenty of helmets with removable plug-style vents, the folks at Leedom are leaning toward producing helmets with sliding vents. As one Leedom representative told us, consumers can easily lose removable plugs and "retailers don't like parts falling off of the helmet onto the floor." Gotta hate that.
Mixing old and new ideas, Boeri combines traditional hard-shell technology and in-mold construction in its new Tactic helmet ($134.95). This hybrid should appeal to customers who want something less bulky, but aren't ready to switch completely from a hard shell to an in-mold model.
Market leader Pro-Tec introduced its own twist on lightweight helmets at SIA this year. Its B2 Snow and Ace Freeride models are constructed with SXP, a lightweight material in the helmet liner that rebounds after an impact. This technology, first used in car bumpers, has allowed Pro-Tec to launch some of the first lightweight helmets designed for multiple impacts.
A few other helmet design details caught our eye at SIA. K2's new line of helmets, including the Black Hawk One, has an integrated goggle system. Basically, K2's goggles don't have a full strap, but a thin cord that attaches to a small retainer on the side of the helmet. We admit, it's impressively sleek.
But we have to say that when it comes to innovation it's hard to beat Giro's Tuneups II. The company's original Tuneups were audio earpads, allowing you to hear music from a CD or MP3 player in your helmet. With the new version of Tuneups, you can also plug in your cell phone. Say you're snowboarding and listening to tunes when your cell phone rings. Just reach for your "Link" -- a small button control on a wire -- to turn down the music volume and answer the phone call. A built-in microphone allows hands-free talking. We're a bit dubious, of course. Kids on the slopes are distracted enough as it is. Adding the cell-phone could put them on a collision course. Nevertheless, this is a great example of a company knowing its market and meeting their desires with creative product. Reservations aside, we do admit that receiving a phone call in our helmet is pretty darn cool.
We also give Giro props on the style department. Everything military is "in" this year and its Bad Lieutenant helmets -- shaped just like military-issue Kevlar helmets -- are a clever response to the latest camo fad. But the real scary thing is that the Bad Lieutenant helmets are Tuneups II compatible. So don't piss off any snowboarders. Not only do they now have battle gear, but also the communication to launch a coordinated attack and simply take you out!
On the other end of the style color spectrum, we noticed that Ovo's pink V helmet (its first in-mold design) turned quite a few heads. Meanwhile, its Sno-Biatch was worthy of recognition not only for the in-your-face name, but also for its white leather exterior, which struck us as awesomely weird.