I was first introduced to the Smith Vantage a year ago at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010. At that time, I was busy testing the ultralight Smith Maze ski helmet, but the Vantage immediately caught my attention. It borrowed from the construction of the Maze, but stepped things up in overall protection, function and versatility.
The hybrid shell construction of the Vantage allows for a much more solid feel while at the same time reducing weight and overall bulk. The result is a lightweight, low-profile helmet that’s loaded to the gills with every imaginable feature.
With the Vantage, you get adjustable ventilation via onboard sliding vent closures. Unlike other helmets, these louvers slide into place at the surface of the helmet as opposed to at the liner. So, if you pogo, your lid won’t collect snow like a cheese grater inside the exposed vent ports. The surface-level ventilation adjustments are split into two zones, called Dual Regulator.
While the helmet fits like a champ and weighs less compared to the leading competition, my favorite feature remains the Dual Regulator because it’s so useful. Just the other day, I used the vents to their full capability on a backcountry ski tour. On the descent, I opened the rear vents but kept the front vents closed. The result was quick evacuation of excess heat without the brain freeze effect. When we got down to the bottom and were bushwhacking our way out of a gully, I opened the front vents for maximum ventilation. Because of the pinpoint ventilation control, I was able to quickly maintain a comfortable temperature without overheating or fogging up my goggles.
New for Fall 2011 (as tested), the Smith Vantage ski helmet will feature the Boa Helmet Fit System. This is an improvement over the previous design in that you can easily adjust the size of the helmet with one-click precision in or out. Compared to the old system, the new Boa adds yet another industry-leading feature to what is arguably the best ski helmet on the market today.
- Dual Regulator ventilation allows you to pinpoint ventilation needs
- Low-profile design
- Lightweight construction that doesn’t skimp on safety
- Zip-in audio can be added or upgraded on-the-fly
- Boa Helmet Fit System is easily dialed
- Superb overall comfort for all-day fun
- Bungee goggle strap design is easy-to-use
- Mini brim does dig into goggle foam if you place your goggles on your forehead when not in use
- When it’s really blowing and cold, some of the permanent vents can let in more cold air than I’d like
- All these bells-and-whistles don’t come cheap ($180, no audio)
My Verdict: Smith Vantage Ski Helmet
With the Smith Vantage, you get industry-leading performance packed into a lightweight, low-profile design. The kicker is the Dual Regulator ventilation system that allows you to adjust the front and rear vents independently. With the Boa adjustment system on tap for Fall 2011 (available now), there’s no stopping the Vantage from global slope domination.