Outdoor Horizon is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

Should I Ski With A Helmet?

Skiing without a helmet is a choice many beginners and advanced skiers alike decide to make. However, whether or not you should ski with a helmet is a fundamental question you should ask before you get out on the slopes.

You should ski with a helmet. Head injuries account for the majority of deaths in snow sports. Helmets decrease the risk and severity of head injuries when compared to non-helmeted riders. Other benefits include added warmth and convenient access to your goggles, but safety is the key reason.

Wearing a helmet on the slopes offers some obvious safety advantages. However, there are some additional and often overlooked benefits of wearing a helmet while skiing. Below, we’ll take a look at these in more detail.  

Helmet Safety Data

It’s hard to ignore the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries in extreme sports. With heightened awareness of traumatic brain injuries has come an increased concern for staying safe. We’ve never been more aware of concussion symptoms and the lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries. In fact, three quarters of all snow sports injuries are mild concussions

Most Skiers Wear Helmets

Current reporting shows that 83% of Americans now wear helmets while skiing. This is a massive change in behavior from 20 years ago when only 25% wore helmets. Even more impressive, this change has happened without the need for government mandates. 

It’s largely been an organic process that’s come from within the ski industry. Head injuries account for 60% of deaths in snow sports. These tend to come from collisions with other skiers, rocks, and other hazards. While helmets are most beneficial for children under 10, they’re effective at any age. Several studies point to a reduction in head injuries by 21-45% for all snow sports.

Hazards To Guard Against

Skiing down a mountain brings no shortage of ways to injure your head. The most serious injuries come from high-speed collisions with other riders, trees, rocks, or other structures. The potential for harm, though, is always present. Variable snow conditions could throw you off balance and cause a fall onto hard-pack. 

A trip in the lift line could send you to the ground for potential cuts and bruises. A run through the glades might find an errant tree branch that strikes you in the head. If you’re new to skiing, falling is a certainty. Even the best riders fall on any given day on the mountain, especially as they explore more advanced terrain. 

Falls can happen at any point in the day but are most frequent at the end of the day when riders are more tired. Lighting conditions at this time of day can also make hazards difficult to see. Finally, don’t discount the dangers of walking across the icy parking lot to the first chairlift.

These are only a few of the potential hazards your helmet can protect you from. But it’s not just your safety that matters. When you’re injured at a resort or in the backcountry, other people have to come rescue you. If you’ve chosen not to wear a helmet, and you get badly injured, you’ve now put their well-being at risk too. 

Are There Any Good Reasons Not To Wear A Helmet?

Those against helmet use have several claims. They propose that helmets decrease your ability to hear and see your surroundings. They claim that helmets cause increased strain on your head and neck. They cite that the popularity of helmet use hasn’t led to a decrease in head injuries or deaths on the slopes. While that last point may be true, it’s also the result of some faulty logic. 

Reducing The Severity

Your chances of falling or colliding are the same with or without a helmet. While fall and slip rates remain the same, the increase in helmet use has led to reduced severity of injuries. Ski slopes are more crowded than ever, leading to higher probabilities of collisions. Advancements in equipment have opened more advanced – and potentially dangerous – terrain to more people.

Still others say helmets give a false sense of security and lead to higher-risk activities. No studies to date have found any of these points to be true. As with any safety device, wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee your safety. A helmet combined with responsible behavior, though, stacks the odds massively in favor of your safety.

Other Benefits Of Helmets

Besides protecting you from injury, helmets offer some nice extras as well. Mountain environments are known for their constantly changing weather conditions. Helmets keep your head warm, dry, and protected from the sun and wind. If that’s not beneficial enough, they provide the perfect attachment point for your goggles. No more skull crushing pain from that goggle strap! 

Helmets are perfect for mounting a Go Pro or other camera. This is useful for capturing footage of your day on the mountain. You can also use it to study your technique and make improvements to your form. Finally, most helmets feature ear pockets for adding speakers or earbuds. While you should turn all music off while you’re skiing, it’s a handy feature for the lift to the top.

Wearing A Helmet While Skiing Is Cheap Insurance

The final reason you should wear a helmet while skiing is that it’s essentially a cheap form of insurance against injury. Helmets these days are not only affordable, but lightweight and comfortable to wear too. A trip to the hospital is not only not what you want anyway, but it could also be very expensive.

By wearing your helmet while skiing, you’re minimizing the chance of you seriously injuring your head. For the cost – you can pick a ski helmet up for as little as $20 – it’s more than worth it given what could go wrong if you don’t wear one.

Final Thoughts

By choosing not to wear a ski helmet, you don’t just put your own life at risk. You can also put the lives of rescue personnel at risk when they have to come save you. However, given that helmets are relatively cheap, and the risk of injury is relatively high, it just makes more sense to wear a helmet while skiing.