Climbing Helmets are Not Skiing Helmets

PSA: Your climbing helmet is not a ski helmet!

I’ve seen a lot of my friends wearing their climbing helmets skiing. Climbing helmets are intended for the impacts most likely to be seen while climbing/mountaineering, not while skiing. Climbing helmets value protection on the top of your head from rock or ice falling on you. Skiing you can hit your head from any number of directions. Skiing helmets are also meant to withstand multiple impacts (great for us skiers who like to fall a lot in one ski trip), whereas climbing helmets are only meant to withstand single impacts.
Skiing Helmet Versus Climbing Helmet
Ski Helmet Nitty Gritty
Outer layer designed for high impact to protect against impact, sharp objects, and abrasions. It’s also intended to to spread the force of an impact to a larger surface area of the helmet spreading the blow out and lessening its effects. Many helmets use ABS high-impact plastic. The inner layer of ski helmets are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. The foam absorbs blows. These helmets are multiple use impact helmets, meaning that they can be used after multiple hits to the head. Although it is recommended after a large hit that the helmet be replaced with a new one.

Ski Helmet Certifications to Look For:
  • ASTM F2040 – U.S. certification required for nonmotorized recreational snow sports
  • CE EN1077 – European certification
Climbing Helmet Nitty Gritty
There are both hard shell and shelled foam helmets for climbing. The hard shell is designed a little more like a ski helmet in that the outer plastic layer uses ABS plastic like the ski helmets, but it’s thinner. The foam inside is thinner as well and not necessarily EPS. It’s designed as a single impact use helmet.
Shelled foam helmets have a thick layer of polystyrene or polypropylene foam with a thin polycarbonate shell. This helmet type is designed to deform when impacted, meaning the helmet is a single impact use helmet and must be replaced following a hit to the head. Even without damage it is recommended to replace the helmet if you sustain a significant hit to the head where without a helmet you would have sustained injuries.
One of the largest climbing helmet producers, Petzl, recommends climbing helmets not be used for anything other than climbing, mountaineering or related vertical sports. The helmets are designed for the impacts expected during climbing (impact from above), not for other sports such as skiing (impact from all directions).

Climbing Helmet Certifications to Look For:
  • EN 397 – European certification for industrial helmets
  • EN 12492 – European certification for mountaineering helmets
Conclusions
So please for the love of your brain invest in a legitimate ski helmet for skiing or a multi use helmet intended for both ski and climbing use. Replace any helmet (climbing or skiing) where you’ve taken a fall or blow where you feel that without your helmet you would have been seriously injured. If there’s any damage to any of your helmets replace before you get back after it.

References:
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