Ski Helmets: Should You Rent One? Maybe...

Should I Rent a Ski or Snowboard Helmet?

Deciding whether to rent a ski/snowboard helmet takes a number of factors into account. Some of the arguments for renting a ski/snowobard helmet are sensible and understandable: If you're flying to a ski resort, it may seem more convenient to rent a helmet rather carry it with you. If you're new to skiing or snowboarding and are unsure whether or not you're going to stay with the sport, it may seem more cost effective to rent a helmet. However, we'll say up front that we believe purchasing a new ski or snowboard helmet is a safer bet than renting one. Ski helmets are typically constructed with a very thin, rigid acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or other high-impact plastic exterior shell and a protective inner liner typically made of stiff expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. The thin foam padding that rests between the EPS liner and your head is designed to make the helmet fit comfortably but does not have protective qualities. In a crash or collision, the force of the hit is dissipated across the surface of the helmet, sometimes causing it to crack. The EPS liner acts to protect your skull by absorbing much of the energy of the crash. After a crash, the helmet may look undamaged, but its protective capacity could be compromised. Why are we telling you all this? Because you don't know the history of a rented ski or snowboard helmet. Did a previous wearer take a couple of hard tumbles? Maybe. How hard? Who knows? Your safety isn't worth the risk. (After all, nobody has successfully completed a brain transplant.)
Most helmet manufacturers recommend replacing a ski helmet every three to five years. There are also a number of environmental factors, such as the conditions in which it was used and stored and even skin lotions that can compromise a helmet's protective capacity. Check out the When to Replace Your Ski or Snowboard Helmet" article in our Helmet Learning Center to learn more. You don't know how old a rented ski or snowboard helmet is, how it's been cared for, or who has worn it. (We'll admit there's also an "ick" factor about renting a helmet. We all joke about how gross bowling shoes can be. Imagine wearing a bowling shoe on your head.) If you decide to rent a ski or snowboard helmet, please take a few moments to inspect it closely before handing over your rental fee. Check out our page on How to Inspect Your Helmet to learn what to look for when inspecting your helmet. If you see anything in a rented ski helmet that makes you question its capacity to keep you safe, don't rent it. Give it back to the clerk at the rental desk, tell him or her why you don't want to rent it, and ask for another. Ultimately, you wear a ski/snowboard helmet for protection. Don't wear one that won't protect you effectively. It just isn't worth the risk.