New materials lighten load, increase performance of wintersports helmets

With all the winter safety chatter at the show about airbags and transceivers, retailers shouldn’t overlook the latest advancements in helmets.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

With all the winter safety chatter at the show about airbags and transceivers, retailers shouldn’t overlook the latest advancements in helmets.

Whether on or off piste, helmets stand at the forefront of safety on the slopes, and they’re worn by just about everyone these days.

At Winter Market, brands are focusing on protection beyond a single bonk on the head — from multiple impacts to rotational injuries. At the same time, helmet designers are finding new materials that not only boost protection, but also improve performance with increased breathability and reduced weights and profiles.

For starters, check out Smith Optics’ new Aerocore technology, which is one of the more innovative improvements to helmets we’ve seen in the past few years. The technology, featured in Smith’s Vantage helmets (MSRP $220), employs a combo of the standard EPS foam with Koroyd. The latter material uses a tubular structure to reduce weight and increase breathability, while maintaining strength. So, instead of a gaping hole for a helmet vent, imagine that space filled with straw-like tubes — providing both structure and ventilation. Another benefit: The Koroyd’s structure claims to reduce energy transmission from impacts by 37 percent compared to EPS foam.

Smith Vantage

Marker USA also updates its padding technology, called Ortema, in its Ampire Otis Helmet (MSRP $159). The lightweight and compact design utilizes a hybrid of in-mold and ABS shell construction plus the padding in four distinct zones to help disperse shock.

Marker Ampire Otis

K2 Skis lessens the load with a lightweight, low-profile hard shell construction in its men’s Thrive Helmet (MSRP $80). The brand focuses on improving fit in its helmet line with a new 360-degree, full-head-wrap fit system that expands and contracts with a web design integrated into the textile liner. Helmet-goggle compatibility remains an important factor, K2 officials said. The brand sells in both categories, as do several of its competitors. Each looks to convince retailers and consumers that its helmets perform best (in terms of comfort and fog reduction) when paired with its own goggles.

K2 Thrive

An increasing number of helmet manufacturers (both winter and summer) are aiming to further safety standards with the Multi-directional Impact Protection System, or, as you’ve likely heard of it on the show floor, MIPS. The third-party technology, which adds a low-friction layer between the outer shell and liner, claims to better absorb the rotational impact energy when a user’s head hits the ground at an angle, in addition to straight-on collisions. You’ll see MIPS in Scott Sports’ Symbol freeskiing helmet (MSRP $185) for men and women, and in its kid cousin the Quiver (MSRP $95) for juniors.

Scott Sports Quiver

–David Clucas