A typical ski helmet

A ski helmet is a helmet specifically designed and constructed for winter sports. Use was rare until about 2000, but by about 2010 the majority of skiers and snowboarders in the US and Europe wore helmets.[1] Helmets are available in many styles and typically consist of a hard plastic/resin shell with inner padding. Modern ski helmets may include many additional features, such as vents, earmuffs, headphones, goggle mounts, and camera mounts.


In terms of injuries per 1,000 skier or snowboarder days, Switzerland reports around 3.5, Norway 1.5, Vermont, US, 1.9, and Canada 2.5.[1] The death rate in the US is about one per million visits,[2] of which more than half are related to head injuries.[1]

Studies from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Norway and Canada show that the proportion of head injuries is estimated at 15% for ski injuries and 16% for snowboard injuries.[1] 74% of head injuries occur when skiers hit their head on the snow, 10% when they collide with other skiers, and 13% when they collide with fixed objects.[3]


Germany, Austria, and Switzerland report 40%, 63%, 76% helmet wearing rates respectively. Switzerland reports a 95% helmet wearing rate among children. In France, 65% of children wear helmets.[1] In the 2012-2013 ski season, 70 percent of all skiers and snowboarders wore helmets, up 5% from the previous season.[4] Helmets are compulsory for children in Italy and some states of Austria,[5] in the state of New Jersey and for employees at Vail Ski Resort in the US,[6] and for all in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and some other areas, such as terrain parks.[7][8]

Standards and testing

Product certification norms include the European CE standard CEN 1077, issued in 1996, The American Society of Testing and Materials F2040, and the Snell RS-98.[7] CEN 1077 permits an impact speed of about approx 20 km/h, which is far below average skiing speeds.[1] Helmets are tested for effectiveness at about 14 mph (23 km/h), but the typical maximum speed of skiers and snowboarders is approximately twice that speed, with some participants going much faster. At such speeds, impact with a fixed object is likely to be fatal, regardless of helmet use.


A meta-analysis, mostly of case-control studies, showed that skiers and snowboarders with a helmet were significantly less likely than those without a helmet to have a head injury.[9] However, Swiss statistics on rescue services provided to people injured in snow sports show a fairly constant proportion of head injuries, while the observed rate of helmet wearing increased from 16% in 2002-3 to 76% in 2009-10.[1][10]

Helmets have been shown to reduce the incidence of head injuries.[8] Helmets have not been shown to reduce the number of fatalities. According to Dr. Jasper Shealy, "We are up to 40 percent usage but there has been no change in fatalities in a 10-year period."[11][12]

It is not known whether helmet use results in risk compensation,[8] i.e. skiers and snowboarders behaving less cautiously when they feel protected by a helmet, as studies give conflicting results. One study found that helmeted skiers tend to go faster[13] and helmet-wearing has been associated with self-reports of more risky behavior.[14] Other studies find that helmet use is not associated with self-reports of riskier behavior[15][16] and does not increase the risk of other injuries.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Policy briefing: Snow sports helmets". Fédération Internationale des Patrouilles de Ski. European Association for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  2. ^ "Facts About Skiing/Snowboarding Safety" (PDF) (Press release). National Ski Areas Association. October 1, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  3. ^ Greve, Mark W.; Young, David J.; Goss, Andrew L.; Degutis, Linda C. (2009). "Skiing and Snowboarding Head Injuries in 2 Areas of the United States". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 20 (3): 234–8. doi:10.1580/08-WEME-OR-244R1.1. PMID 19737041. S2CID 9996570.
  4. ^ "NSAA HELMET FACT SHEET" (PDF). National Ski Areas Association of America. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Stay Safe on the Slopes". Travel Information Center. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Carrig, Blaise; Garnsey, John (April 13, 2009). "Vail resorts to require helmets for all on-mountain staff when skiing, riding next season". RealVail. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Helmets". Ski Club of Great Britain. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Masson, Maxime; Lamoureux, Julie; de Guise, Elaine (October 2019). "Self-reported risk-taking and sensation-seeking behavior predict helmet wear amongst Canadian ski and snowboard instructors". Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science. 52 (2): 121–130. doi:10.1037/cbs0000153. S2CID 210359660.
  9. ^ Russell, Kelly; Christie, Josh; Hagel, Brent E. (2010). "The effect of helmets on the risk of head and neck injuries among skiers and snowboarders: A meta-analysis". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 182 (4): 333–40. doi:10.1503/cmaj.091080. PMC 2831705. PMID 20123800.
  10. ^ Niemann S, Fahrni S, Hayoz R, Brügger O, Cavegn M. STATUS 2009: Statistics on non-occupational accidents and the level of safety in Switzerland. Bern: bfu-Swiss. Council for Accident Prevention; 209
  11. ^ Fletcher Doyle (4 March 2008). "Use your head on the ski slopes" (PDF). The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2009-03-19.
  12. ^ Johnson, Robert J. (2006). Skiing Trauma and Safety: Sixteenth volume. ASTM International. ISBN 978-0-8031-3400-3.
  13. ^ Shealy, JE; Ettlinger, CF; Johnson, RJ (2005). "How Fast Do Winter Sports Participants Travel on Alpine Slopes?". Journal of ASTM International. 2 (7): 12092. doi:10.1520/JAI12092.
  14. ^ Ružić, Lana; Tudor, Anton (2011). "Risk-taking Behavior in Skiing Among Helmet Wearers and Nonwearers". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 22 (4): 291–6. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2011.09.001. PMID 22137861.
  15. ^ a b Ruedl, G; Pocecco, E; Sommersacher, R; Gatterer, H; Kopp, M; Nachbauer, W; Burtscher, M (2010). "Factors associated with self-reported risk-taking behaviour on ski slopes". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 44 (3): 204–6. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2009.066779. PMID 20231601. S2CID 27944820.
  16. ^ Scott, Michael D; Buller, David B; Andersen, Peter A; Walkosz, Barbara J; Voeks, Jennifer H; Dignan, Mark B; Cutter, Gary R (2007). "Testing the risk compensation hypothesis for safety helmets in alpine skiing and snowboarding". Injury Prevention. 13 (3): 173–7. doi:10.1136/ip.2006.014142. PMC 2598370. PMID 17567972.

Further reading