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There was a time when only racers and children wore helmets on the ski slopes but they are fast becoming the norm.
Amid the debate about whether they should be mandatory, and indeed if they really increase safety, more skiers and snowboarders – about 50 per cent in Europe, according to a survey by insurance company ERV – are swapping their bobble hats for helmets. But while they might be practical, can ski helmets ever be chic?
“When it comes to choosing a ski helmet style is important – I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” says Samantha Halstead, a financial risk analyst from Dorset in southwest England. “Skiing is one of those sports that is coloured with vanity. Embrace it, I say.”
Skiers are increasingly thinking in terms of outfits rather than a random assortment of weatherproof clothes and accessories, and a growing number of high-end ski fashion brands are making helmets that combine safety with style.
Bogner, the label behind the German Olympic team’s outfits at the 2014 Winter games, is a staple at boutiques in glamorous resorts such as Klosters in Switzerland and Aspen, Colorado. It has been producing ski helmets for almost a decade and its most striking models play on the concept of “hard-shell” protection by incorporating soft materials into their design.
Bogner’s Cool Factor unisex helmet (€549) is covered in slate-grey weatherproof wool, while its Rose helmet for women (€599) has a velour outer layer with an intricate floral design. Both helmets combine style with substance and are safety certified (you should avoid uncertified helmets – they should have a CE, ASTM or Snell RS-98 certification). Both models have detachable ear pads and are adjustable to ensure a snug fit.
Whatever look you go for, it is important your helmet is comfortable – never loose, but not so tight that there are pressure points – while ear covers or cheek padding should fit closely and the back of the helmet should fall around the hairline.
“I’ve gone through several helmets over the years and have finally settled on one that is so light and comfortable that I barely notice it,” says Chrigl Luthy, a brewer from Morzine, France. “The choice compared with 10 years ago is amazing: helmet manufacturers are now catering for almost every need and taste.”
Like Bogner, Casco has incorporated alternative materials into its designs to create an eye-catching range of helmets for men. Its lightweight but durable SP-3 Edelholz model (£370) is made with real wood, set against a polished metal Casco emblem and precision-sewn straps. Similarly, Indigo’s Snake Black helmet (€449) has side panels made of fabric that resembles snake skin.
For women, Kask’s Lifestyle fur and Swarovski helmet is embellished with Swarovski crystals and has faux-fur ear flaps. Pull down the anti-fog visor, with its 100 per cent UV protection, and you’re set to go – after paying out £1,075 that is.
Talking of fur, you may have seen pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge’s mother, Carole, sporting a faux-lynx headband around her ski helmet when on holiday with Catherine and Prince William two winters ago. Originally sent as a gift to her daughter and costing a modest £29.99, it was one of a range of faux-fur bands from accessories company Fosy Originals, whose motto is “drab to fab in seconds”.
The bigger, mainstream ski brands have long been refining their helmets, incorporating vibrant colours in their ranges. Scott Sports’ sleek Jewel helmet for women (£95) comes in cherry and purple as well as a classic black-and-white model, while its minimalist unisex Chase MIPS model (£120) – which features a casing designed to slide from side to side, absorbing collision impact – is available in wave blue and red/grey.
Lauren Hill, a yoga instructor from Chamonix in France, says: “The most important thing with a helmet is the technology and that it fits well – but I also like it to be fun and colourful for it to reflect my personality.”