John Forrest – Northern Escape Heli Skiing Oct 13th, 2017
It’s amazing, I remember being a ski patrol back in the 80’s and wondering how long it would be before everyone would be wearing ski helmets. This was when some of the first recreational helmets were starting to be used on the ski hill. Now here we are, nearly four decades later and it’s now the norm to ski with a helmet. The only people you see holding out are the old bearded guys with duct-tape covering the rips in their pants and over the leaky gaps in their ski boot toe boxes.
Now-a-days ski helmets are simply accepted as part of the gear required to go skiing. A few years ago, Work Safe BC, the employee insurance plan of BC, invoked a new law (well actually, just reminded us all of the existing law we had been unaware of or ignored) that stipulated that all employees engaged in “sliding” activities would need to wear a helmet. Thus, now you’ll see us heli ski guides wearing helmets as well.
So, what does one look for when deciding on a ski helmet and more specifically, a helmet for heli skiing? I would suggest that there are several features to consider as follows:
Heli Skiing can warm you up pretty fast, and without the bone chilling chairlift ride to cool you down, being able to vent some of that hot air out the top of your ski helmet is critical. Getting too warm is a major cause of your goggles fogging and that’s best to avoid when dodging trees in waist deep powder. Adjustable helmet ventilation is a good choice so you can adjust for a pleasent temperature throughout the day.
Removable Ear Pads
Hearing your heli ski guide’s instructions prior to launching is crucial. Not only do the guides not allow audio/music speakers to be used while heli skiing (yes, they want you to be able to hear them) they will suggest you remove your helmet ear pads as well. Removing the ear pads improves your situational awareness and hearing.
Merino Wool Helmet Liner
Now that you have good helmet ventilation and the ear pads removed, we’d suggest a light helmet liner that will cover your ears. Wearing a very light Merino Wool liner is best for wicking the moisture away and managing the temperature. Merino Wool is also best at controlling that “stinky helmet.” Save the cheesy smell for the nachos at Après Ski.
Helmet Goggle Compatibility
Good Goggles are a must, but that’s another topic. Whichever Helmet/Goggle combination you choose, be sure they fit well together. Ventilation is a key here so be sure the goggles’ vents are not covered by the helmet. “Gaper Gap” is a good way to get a natural ice-cream headache and can be avoided by ensuring the goggles fit well with your choice of helmet.
The leading causes of your goggles getting fogged up are:
1. Goggle vents blocked by helmet – ensure a good fit
2. Getting overheated – remove extra clothing and open ski helmet vents
3. Having your jacket collar zipped tight so that it directs your breathing up towards your goggles – ensure your collar is either open or that you don’t breathe into it.
Ski Helmet Fit
It’s important to ensure your ski helmet fits well. Be sure to try it on before buying. It should fit your melon like a glove and not move around when you shake your head. An internal fine adjustment device is crucial to maintain a snug fit as you adjust the layering under the helmet.
Helmet Compatibility with Hearing Protection
One last consideration, specifically for heli ski guides (but some very avid heli skiers may also appreciate this) is the helmets compatibility with hearing protection for around and in the helicopter.
Now, if you’re a typical guest that heli skis once a year, damage to your hearing due to helicopter noise is not really an issue. It’s a cumulative problem. However, if you spend 100+ days a year around a helicopter all day, that’s a different story. My wife says I have “selective hearing” now, after 30 years of heli skiing.
In this case I prefer a ski helmet that is also compatible with ear defenders as well as the helicopter headsets, so we can speak with the pilot. These are hard to find, but will go a long way toward protecting your hearing in the long run.
About Northern Escape Heli Skiing
NE Heli Skiing is located in Terrace, British Columbia, Canada and has been offering all inclusive Classic, Elite and Private heli skiing packages since 2004.
Your Canadian heli skiing trip with Northern Escape Heli Skiing is something to look forward to, or it may be a yearly pilgrimage. Either way, having the right equipment can really make a difference.
Don’t hesitate to call us toll free at 1-866-619-3184 or email our office with any questions you may have.