Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Future of Snowboard Helmets

Over the past few years helmet use in snowboarding has grown massively in the US and the rest of the world are not far behind.
Stats from the NSAA. Interestingly for kids under the age of 9 helmet usage has reached 91% and doesn’t look to be slowing. Makes you wonder whether these new helmet use laws that have been popping up around the US over the last couple of years are really worthwhile. Give it another couple of years and everyone will be wearing one anyway. 
This increase of helmet use has been matched with a growth of the options available and a rapid development of the technologies used. Over this period, for example, integrated headphones have become almost standard option with for snowboard helmets. Today we take a look at what the future might hold as this market continues to develop…

Happening right now right in front of your face…

OK, so it’s a ski helmet and not a snowboard helmet, but bloody hell look at it. This monstrosity of bling will set you back a cool $20,000.
Helmet or car. What to choose? This $20K is really burning a hole in my pocket.
These atrocious designs are brought to you by Willy Bognor the same guy that brought the world the epic Fire, Ice & Dynamite, one of the first films to feature snowboarding form Tom Sims. And from the same company you can get this $850 Bamboo helmet...
which can come with matching skis if your that way inclined.  
We took a look at these things the other week when we delved into the murky world of British snowboarding inventions
Ruroc believe that the future of snowboard helmets is fully integrated goggles. When we get to the concept helmets at the end we’ll see that this is the dream of the majority of product designers, we’re just not so sure that looking like a prize numpty is a dream shared by the snowboarders themselves. 

Having slated British snowboard inventions the other week and yet again in the last sentence, here’s a British company producing something very interesting. They produce a material that is normally soft and flexible but when there is a sudden impact it solidifies protecting the wearer. Here’s a great video demonstration.
Not sure I fancy trying that test out myself. If you want to know more about his non-Newtonian material here’s the science bit.
D3O have been producing this stuff for a while and there have been a couple of collaborations with snowboarding company’s including Ignite and Billabong making beanies that can help you out just in case a rogue reporter brutalizes you with a spade.
However D30 has never really taken off in a big way mainly because it’s never going to be as safe as traditional helmets and it’s never going to pass any official safety tests. It’s currently performing a lot better in body armour where they work with the likes of RED and if possible I’d like to have some of this stuff sewn into the seat of all snowboard pants.

Ribcap have gone down a similar route with their beanies although they have handicapped themselves with a name that sounds like they are selling condoms. They used to use D3O in their hats, but that relationship didn’t work out and they have recently developed their own impact protection material called StructUre. 
Apart from the silly name they are also limited by looking a bit crap.

RED just use EVA padding in their Ordinance beanies, so this is one step further down the protection chain. This probably isn’t the way to go. 
They do manage to cram two trends into one by offering a version with inbuilt headphones.

Alpina have similarly gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac with their beanie helmets for kids, which are just standard helmets with a beanie stretched over the top. 
Great for making you kid look like they have an Elephant Man sized bonce.

And Now The Future…

Here’s a concept from a few years ago that has since gone missing from the interweb, but well save it here for snowboarding posterity. It’s a concept for a foldable snowboard helmet by Hess Design Studios in Germany. 
I guess we’ve lost our chance of looking like we’re starring in AirWolf

This is a concept by Vinaccia Integral Design, a company that normally designs motorcycle helmets. Their Zero5 design has an integrated lens and wire mesh ventilation. 
Looks pretty enough but some of Vinaccia’s other helmet designs are plain scary.
Not the future

Designed Gregory Scott, this concept helmet won the Australian Design Awards student section in 2005. It’s a design using a mix of normal helmet materials with the same sort of material we saw from D3O. On top of the base materials the helmet comes with a variety of skins that can be pulled over to top to allow snowboarders to customize the helmet. For good measure it also comes with built in headphones.

Designed by Geoffrey Cooper who is a self-styled “human-centered designer” (so I guess he has robotic skin), these are some concept sketches he made for a helmet designed around the Spy Optics brand. .
Great for snowboarding elves
FitSkull was a design exercise around the Bern brand created by product designer Allan George. There’s not much to explain what is going on but it is pretty and does feature “shiny paint” technology.

Created by Canedo Studios they’ve also gone for the integrated goggles approach and a very literal samurai look. Lots of spikey bits limiting your peripheral vision make this one really impractical.

Another design exercise from Canedo studios featuring integrated goggles again and a text speak name which is rapidly showing its age. Great ventilation but I suspect if you did have a crash this helmet would act more like a potato mash cutting you head to shreds rather than offering any sort of protection. Of all the concept helmets out there this is definitely the least likely to fulfill its basic function.

Hugo Giralt Echevarria had a go at designing a helmet that could fold up for easy transportation by creating a collapsible segmented helmet. Not sure how this works exactly because the further forward you get the wider the helmet becomes and unless you have a tapered head this helmet will not be a good fit.

Now this idea from a lad call Will Gibbons has some interesting features. Gibbons has built a sectioned helmet over a stretchy base and using the additional compression of the goggle elastic he’s designed a helmet that doesn’t need a chin strap. That idea might not work out in a really big crash but that way that the helmet fits to the head looks to be a good idea and beats the current system of trying to adjust your head to fit the helmet.
Gibbons also tried to keep the helmet as low-profile as possible so that you can conceal it under a beanie. Also it gave us the opportunity to say Gibbons a lot.

The thing we’re most afraid of here is that we actually think that there might actually be an idea here.

So what can we look forward to? Here are a few of the trends we think we’ll see more of in the world of snowboard helmets:
  • Further integration with headphones. This is already well advanced, but we think it will go a bit further. Expect to see a few of headphone/helmet companies collaborating in the next few seasons.
  • Integrated helmet cams. You can’t glimpse at the internet without seeing bundles of inane Go-Pro helmet cam videos. We expect that it won’t be long before it becomes a more standard option in helmets.
  • Integrated goggles. Seems every designer out there wants to integrate their goggles and helmets, but in real life this just isn’t that practical. Despite the fact no one really wants them we expect designers to keep having a try.
  • Combination soft and hard helmets. The soft helmets we featured in this article may not be the complete answer but they do offer some interesting advantages. We expect to see some of those technologies being introduced into hard helmets to provide a better and more comfortable fit with more streamlined profiles.
  • The Threepeat. We’ve featured helmets in the last three articles. This trend will not continue.

You might also like…
If you want more glimpses into the future of snowboarding then take a look at our guides to Snowboardable Architecture and Kick-Ass Snowboard Trucks


  1. Great blog here.It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days.I really appreciate people like you.
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  2. I would buy the gibbons one....low profile is the way to go


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