Skiing helmets are back in fashion

Heilbronn, Germany - Today's skiing helmets sport panda patterns or fur covers. Skiers can even hit the slopes with a helmet designed to look like a watermelon, if they dare.

A helmet is an essential part of any skier's equipment. Almost every manufacturer includes them in their catalogue. Most have the same basic structure and manufacturers have learned to distinguish the subtle details of their models. But discerning customers can find differences - one model may have adjustable ear protection while another one may be particularly light.

As a rule, there are two helmet models available. A dual-shell model, which evolved from the world of ski races, consists of two bowls. Newer versions use in-mould technology and instead of an outer shell attached to an inner sound-proofing shell, the two are moulded together, said the Heilbronn-based Safe in the Snow Initiative. In general, the new helmets weigh less.

A good helmet will include a ventilation system. Additionally, users can adjust it fit their head, says the Initiative, which is supported by the German Skiing Association.

The difference between helmets lies in the details. Getting sweaty can mean a skier could freeze. To avoid this, Carrera has equipped its Fun-Sport helmets with an adjustable 12-step ventilation system.

Meanwhile, Bavarian-based Alpina advertises that its Bonfire helmet has an integrated ventilation system between its inner and outer shells. An exterior valve on top of the helmet lets skiers regulate the airflow, even if they're wearing gloves.

A skier's ears can easily become cold in the mountain wind. For this reason, many helmets have adjustable ear protectors - hard ones in racing helmets and soft ones in recreational helmets.

Dainese has come up with hard pads which are still flexible. Meanwhile, Head has developed adjustable ear protectors for its helmets, which are designed not to block out too much sound.

A helmet has to sit securely to protect, but it should also be comfortable. Manufacturers are trying to meet both criteria by reducing the weight of helmets and coming up with new ways to make them fit.

Uvex's Uvision model adjusts to a wearer's head and comes with a soft pad for the skier's forehead. Meanwhile, Rossignol is trying to get around the size problem with an adjustable strap between the neck and side frames, which allows the helmet to be enlarged or pulled tighter.

Many manufacturers advertise lighter weights. Atomic claims to have the lightest dual-shell helmet on the market. Head says its Cloe model is especially light. Meanwhile, R. E. D. draws attention to its streamlined forms, designed to address skiers who say helmets make their heads look big.

Manufacturers are also adding extras to make their helmets stand out. Giro offers goggles that can be attached to the helmet with a magnet.

Carrera has integrated diode lights into its children's models so parents can find their children in the fog. Meanwhile, Uvex has helmets with fur coverings and Nutcase offers models with four-leaf clovers. That way, you're bound to be noticed on the slopes. (dpa)