Gear Review: Giro Omen Rating: Highly Recommended Best ski helmet ever made, and perfect for MSers
Upsides + Best noggin cooling of any snow helmet on the market, ever. + Vent-on-the-fly system allows every vent to open and close with the flick of a finger. + Adjustable sizing (even with gloves on) means a perfect fit with or without that balaclava.
Downsides - With a list price of $199, it ain't cheap. - Add the optional Bluetooth stereo headset and you're in new snowboard territory. - It's a bit heavier and a bit bulkier than other Giro models to accommodate the added ABS safety and the advanced ventilation system.
The Giro Omen snow helmet has arguably the most advanced venting system available for snowboarders and skiers. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE.
Before you delve into this review, let’s cut right to the chase. Without a doubt, the Giro Omen is the best helmet I’ve ever worn. And that’s not faint praise from an inexperienced tester. I wore helmets on the slopes before helmets were cool. I even wore a hockey helmet for a full season because the only snow helmets that existed at the time were cue-ball saunas.
I’ve worn Giro helmets in the past for biking and boarding, and my original Giro 9 snow helmet was for years the benchmark in lightweight design and ample venting. However it wasn't ideal: the Velcro peel-off ear flaps wore too quickly (they’ve since changed that design on all of their helmets) and the removable vent plugs were easily lost (it should be noted that Giro replaces lost plugs at no cost, a nice customer-service touch).
Oh, what a few years of research and refinement can do. Released in late October of '06, the Giro Omen snow helmet easily has reached the pinnacle of ski and snowboard helmet design. And with the most advanced ventilation system on the market, it's ideal for folks like myself with multiple sclerosis.
Fit and finish of the Omen is superb. All 14 vents, 6 in the rear and 8 up front, can be closed fully or half way through two helmet-top switches. This means no more taking off your helmet to remove or replace vent plugs (and no risk of you bumbling with the noggin protector on the lift). This is the single biggest benefit to us MSers. Heat is our enemy--well, one of them at least--and the Omen is our light saber. Anytime you start to overheat, flip the vent switches and chill. The helmet is also engineered (tagged by Giro as “Wind Tunnel” ventilation) to allow maximum passage of air at even slow speeds. Giro’s patented “Wind Tunnel” system circulates in cool air while forcing warm air out. Add on Giro’s “In Form” dial-in sizing feature, allowing the user a perfect fit, and on paper, the helmet looked to be a dream. But what about on the slopes?
With springtime skiing on the docket--and temps into the 50s on the slopes--I had my first opportunity to put the helmet through its paces. Will it vent well enough? Will it handle a good impact? Will it get me out of a potentially death-defying situation in which it will save my life? It scored triple aces, and for better or for worse, the helmet certainly lived up to its name. Allow me to explain.
Omen #1 I’ve never been mauled getting on a chair lift. Ever. Until today. Trying to get on a triple, I was the middle guy, skating up with my snowboard between two others. The problem: there wasn’t enough space for me and my loose foot. The result: epic chairlift attack where I hit my head not once, not twice, but three times. I ended up tripping over a binding, fell, grabbing onto the seat and hitting my head (WHACK). I couldn’t hold on, fell off and went face first, splatting into the snow ramp (WHACK). The liftie finally managed to stop the chair, so it swung violently back over my head missing me. Until I looked up, when it swung forward again, clocking me in the back of the head (WHACK). Impact Test: Two thumbs up.
Omen #2 I rarely fall in the ski lift line. Seriously. But this one time I was so preoccupied with my cool helmet (literally, I was preparing to open the vents to cool off on the lift ride), that I didn’t see the icy patch that I was about to step on. Holy Slip! That hurt worse that that my chairlift debacle. But with the helmet fully vented, I blissfully chilled (while moaning) on the lift ride. The custom-designed vent channels cooled noticeably better than my Giro 9, Vent Test: Two thumbs up.
Omen #3 When you stumble on multiple tracks through the trees that appear to lead into juicy powder stashes, they usually do. Except today, when those tracks led to a cliff band with a 20-foot drop off--too high to jump (even with bad-ass head gear).The ledge I was on was the width of my board and I couldn’t go forward and backward looked equally dangerous. This is when multiple sclerosis can be a serious problem. Heat exacerbates symptoms, and I could tell I was starting to go blind and the legs were starting to get wobbly. Giro to the rescue. I opened the vents on the helmet with one hand while holding onto the rock face with my free hand. Waiting a few minutes to cool off did the trick. I undid one binding and rock climbed/scrambled out of the situation, clawing at trees and rocks, moving slow enough to keep my heat at bay. An hour later another snowboarder got caught in the exact same area and had to be roped out. Save Life Test: Two thumbs up.
Bottom Line If you count the above thumbs, that adds up to a total of six thumbs up. I don’t have six thumbs (although when the MS is bugging me, sometimes I feel like I have ten), but if I did they’d all be pointing the same direction. Any dislikes? The helmet is pricey at $199 and the durable ABS shell is a bit larger and heavier than my old Giro 9. But for me, with a potentially limited future on the slopes, it’s worth every penny (and the extra weight) to maximize the snowboarding time I have. Regardless of whether or not you have MS, if you dream in black diamonds, blue squares, and green circles there is no better helmet then the Giro Omen. Now if you are wondering how this could not be rated a perfect 10, the answer is simple. With Giro's advances in helmet design every year, we have to leave a little wiggle room for improvement! Buy It! High-end ski and snowboard shops carry the Omen or you can order online at www.rei.com. For more details on Giro including a list of dealers that carry Giro helmets, visit www.giro.com.