Salomon MTN Lab Ski Touring Helmet Review

Post by blogger | September 21, 2018      

Update: I added info about warm weather liner, and a few other edits. See bottom of post for the liner, it’s nice, minimalist!

Salomon MTN Lab ski touring helmet.

Salomon MTN Lab ski touring helmet.

As many of you know, I’m not particularly impressed with the protection ski helmets offer. The sometimes vaunted manufacturing standards are really quite minimal — they could be stricter, with more attention to the danger of concussion from repeated lower energy impacts (not to mention more protection in general).

Helmets need to *absorb* force, not distribute it.

Helmets need to *absorb* force, not distribute it. While I have no idea where or how Salomon backs up their claim of “Exceeds industry standard shock absorption up to 30%,” at least they got the terminology right. The double standards hang tag is visible in this photo as well.

Distrust of actual protection notwithstanding, I found myself last winter wishing I was wearing a skull shell during our night tours. If for no other reason than as a headlamp mount, but also considering we did have a few skitters on glazed snow. Speaking of which, I had an embarrassing little incident while skinning on an ice glazed 30 degree moderate ski run — a sliding fall could have put me into a tree. I wasn’t moving downhill fast, but could not stop. Terrifying. Consumer type (Category B, see below) ski helmets are not known to significantly protect you from high speed impacts, but a glancing blow to an aspen tree during a low speed slide is exactly what they could help with. So folks, I’ll be experimenting with wearing one more frequently than before, on the up as well as down.

(Note: This is a first look, long term testing has commenced.)

Asking around among my hardcore mountaineering friends, I got good reports on the Salomon MTN Lab helm. Designed specifically for ski touring, this helmet is reasonably ventilated, light at 372 grams. My tester is white. With helmets, heat is often the enemy. That especially true for cardio uphilling and spring ski touring. No sense stoking the furnace with dark color sun absorption. On the other hand, a darker colored helmet might be on the agenda for winter, as a white helmet in avalanche terrain could be a strike against a quick rescue.

Configured for summer without ear flaps, I’ll even try the Salomon for road bike riding (it would clearly be too hot for grinding out mountain bike hill climbs, despite its MTN moniker).

Configured with Black Diamond Icon.

Configured with Black Diamond Icon.

Headlamp compatibility
You can configure the MTN helmet to somewhat hold a headlamp using the rear goggle retainer and two headlamp dedicated clips on the sides. Nonetheless, as with many other helmets I found the MTN’s headlamp retainer configuration to be inadequate. Duct tape will clearly come into play with any sort of serious headlamp use. I’m also considering mounting the Petzl headlamp optional mounting brackets on the helmet, to eliminate the pesky straps. More on that as things progress, as a helmet is useless to me without an excellent lamp attached.

The headlamp retainer clips are a step in the right direction.

The headlamp retainer clips are a step in the right direction. But they still allowed the lamp to ride up on the slick shell if bumped. Perhaps a situation for hook-loop, or better, The Petzl Duo Z2 we’re also testing has available helmet mounts with peel-and-stick.

Goggle retainer also holds battery pack.

Goggle retainer also holds battery pack. As is often the case, we had trouble running both goggles and headlamp at the same time. We’ll cover that more in a our headlamp reviews, on tap.

Headlamp retainer clips are removable, or could be used to permanently screw headlamp straps.

Headlamp retainer clips are removable, or could be used to permanently screw headlamp straps.

The rear goggle retainer clip is also removable.

The rear goggle retainer clip is also removable.

Goggle compatibility
I’d prefer the front brim of the shell was about 4 millimeters higher. Depending on goggle brand and model, during dry runs at home I sometimes didn’t have enough room for the top of my goggles.

For my head shape, the fit is a bit wide left to right while snug front and back. Most of this gets adjusted by the soft headband-liner, but a more sophisticated shaping system could be good. In any case, the typical knob-crank circumference adjustment does most of what I need, changing from bare head fit to slightly larger for balaclava. I chose a shell size that’s snug, a ski cap or ball cap won’t fit inside. That’s by intent. I find helmets to usually be warm enough in of themselves, and if necessary I’ll cover with a compatible hood.

A dial click headband fit is essential in my opinion.

The dial click headband fit is essential in my opinion. Easy adjustment for added headwear.

Liner is easily removed for washing or swapping.

Liner is easily removed for washing or swapping. Apparently they’ll begin retailing a summer liner at some point, same thing only without ear flaps. Easy liner changes are another essential for me. Changing out for a dry liner when transitioning from uphill to down is ideal.

Winter liner with ear flaps.

Winter liner with ear flaps. It’s merino wool combined with a highly wicking textile.

This is a hard shell helmet. It is thus a few grams heavier than a full-foam helmet with eggshell skin, but much more durable for events such as being packed in a ski bag, flying to Europe snuggled with a ski binding. It bears repeating that a hard shell offers no more impact protection than a soft shell (possibly even less), it is simply there to guard against intrusion (punji branches and sharp rocks), as well as being a solid means for attaching headlamp mounts, goggle attachments, chin straps and so on.

The combined headband and earflaps peice is easily removable (word is a summer version will be available without flaps). A combination of Merino Wool and super breathable fabrics help manage the deluge.

Average, meaning enough to do something but not enough to let in tons of snow. The vents have no closure system, for wet or extreme cold weather you’d want to tape them shut. This could be done with white duct tape applied to the outside.

This is not a MIPS (rotation damping) helmet. That’s by intent as we’re clearly after something minimal (MIPS adds volume and weight). Likewise, this is not an “EN 1077 Class A” snowsports helmet, but rather a “Class B,” meaning it indeed offers less protection, but is equal in protection to most of the ski helmets you see folks using. Why not a Class A for ski touring? The shell of a class A covers the ears (think an alpine racing helmet), it’s heavier, and has smaller or no vent holes. Compromise. At least Salomon is up front about what standards the MTN Lab conforms to, stated on a clearly worded sticker inside the shell. Mountaineers, note the MTN also conforms to the EN 12492 standard for climbing helmets. That’s excellent in terms of multi-purpose.

Sticker clearly denote certifications.

Sticker clearly denotes certifications.

Overall impressions
A lightweight nicely designed helmet. A few more fitting pad options would be appreciated, e.g., the summer liner without ear flaps. Headlamp and goggle retention are not ignored, but I’d have expected Salomon to do better. Overall, recommended.

Shop for Salomon MTN helmet

More photos:

Another view of liner.

Another view of liner.

Headlamp mounted using the retainers.

Headlamp mounted using the retainers. I found the lamp would still easily slip upward on the helmet forehead, perhaps because the retainers would be better located farther forward. Tape would be the solution. Nothing new about that.

Intrusion protection is specified in the helmet standards.

Intrusion protection is specified in the helmet standards. Getting punjied in the head is a very real occurrence. I once got a pretty good scalp slice from a branch, which a helmet would have entirely prevented. A better type of intrusion protection might be a strong aluminum mesh rather than the composite bars visible in the photo, but that’s a quibble.

Apparently they’re not importing the “summer” MTN helmet liner to North America, but they’re available in Europe. I acquired and checked out. Nice. Pretty much what I’d use for any ski tour, as helmet ear flaps are usually overkill. Photos follow.

Removing the ear flap liner takes seconds.

Removing the ear flap liner takes seconds. Most of the fiddling involves threading the chin strap yokes through their retainer loops on the ski helmet.

Winter liner to left,  minimalist liner to right.

Salomon winter liner to left, minimalist liner to right. At first I thought, what the heck, how can this be comfortable? But they got it right. Feels fine on my noggin.

Warm weather ski touring helmet liner installed.

Warm weather ski touring helmet liner installed.


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40 Responses to “Salomon MTN Lab Ski Touring Helmet Review”

  1. Andy Carey July 2nd, 2018 9:43 am

    How do you think the MTN compares to the BD Tracer helmet you reviewed a few years ago? I’ve been using that one for years now for daytime spring, summer, and other firm-hard snow skiing in the bc. Much different than night skiing 🙂 I find it actually keeps my head cooler than a cap or even a headband that has a cloth head covering (I don’t like scalp sunburns). The Tracer is well ventilated (with mesh in the big holes as you previously pointed out to keep twigs out) and the plastic shell + insulation blocks solar radiation. Evenso, I some times have to use a Halo headband with the Tracer on reallly hot days to keep sweat out of my eyes.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 July 2nd, 2018 9:55 am

    If I’m not mistaken, Tracer is the “thin shell” type helmet so it’s quite a bit different than a hard shell. Correct? I’m remembering the headlamp clips were better, but it had too much venting for winter full conditions. I’m not remembering what happened to my Tracer, I think it got damaged during travel, or one of our guest bloggers ended up with it. In general, I’m pretty surprised that after all these years of helmet design we don’t have better headlamp options, especially when combining headlamp with goggles. The MTN liner is really nice. Lou

  3. Jeff July 2nd, 2018 10:04 am


    I have been ski touring with a enduro mountain bike helmet for the last few years that I have specifically purposed for back-country skiing and have been very impressed. It has enough room for a buff or beanie underneath if i open it up for cold weather, and tight enough to fit securely without other head wear providing great ventilation. I figured that the speeds that I carry on my mountain bike are similar to what I ski in the back-country (Note: I used to race downhill mountain bikes). Yes, people give me looks like I am crazy, but do you see any reasons why this is a bad idea?

  4. Lou Dawson 2 July 2nd, 2018 10:49 am

    Jeff, I’ve always thought using that type of helmet would make sense for multi sport use. I don’t see any downside if the comfort parameters are acceptable for snow season. My recollection is that bike helmets are tested more for “one impact” performance, while ski helmets are tested for multiple. I doubt that means much in terms of the final protection you receive, I read it simply has more to do with when the helmet needs to be retired. In other words, after one hard whack the bike helmet might need to be thrown away, while the ski helmet not. An inspection of the foam inside the helmet would in my opinion easily make it clear if an impact caused damage. But perhaps I’m wrong… Main thing to remember is that like anything, lab testing can’t equal real life. Lou

  5. XXX_er July 2nd, 2018 11:17 am

    i heard something about ski guides up here being required to wear a helmet for reasons of Workers Comp. which does not mean they all will

  6. atfred July 2nd, 2018 11:18 am

    After skiing a peak one spring, I tripped on the trail hiking back to the car and hit my head against a tree – a little cut, but lots of blood.
    So, since then, I’ve bee wearing a helmet in the spring (la sportiva mulaz), not so much for crashes, as for those pesky trees and branches. I think they work great for that.

  7. Steve July 2nd, 2018 2:33 pm

    Another worthy helmet to check out is the K2 Route helmet at 320 grams. I was on a trip in BC a few years back where the guide did a slide for life backwards on firm snow and fractured his neck in both places. Exactly as you described above: he hit a tree which stopped his slide. He attributes using the helmet to saving his life as does the doc in Vancouver, BC. Hard to say at 100% that was the case but I have been known to use a helmet now and again after that incident.

  8. Steve July 2nd, 2018 2:35 pm

    FYI I meant in “two” places, not “both” places.

  9. See July 2nd, 2018 6:32 pm

    Most of the ski and bike helmets I’ve examined are pretty similar in construction— a thin shell over styrofoam with a webbing retention system (and possibly an internal skeleton and/or MIPS). I know some helmets claim to use multi-impact foam, but these are rare, in my experience. Point being, I would replace any helmet, be it ski or bike, after a single serious impact if it’s made out of styrofoam (or any other non-rebounding material e.g. Koroyd?).

  10. See July 2nd, 2018 6:40 pm

    And by “styrofoam” I mean expanded polystyrene foam, like they make coolers out of.

  11. Sam Ley July 2nd, 2018 8:43 pm

    I’ve been skiing with the Lab helmet since it came out in 2015, and it has been great. It was everything I wanted in a lightweight helmet, and has been with me on a lot of ski tours and light mountaineering.

    I did attach dual lock Velcro to it for headlamp mounting.

    I found the sizing accurate, I’m 57cm, right in the middle of the M, and it is snug enough to not flop around, but loose enough that I can slip a thin hood or balaclava under it.

    Well recommended.

  12. Owen July 3rd, 2018 8:31 pm

    I’m sure it’s a great helmet, but I’m still not wearing it. I’m still not convinced a helmet is worth the high cost or the added weight.
    I’m old, a child if the 70’s, and, growing up at Snowbird, I would’ve been ridiculed mercilessly in the tram line if I ever wore a helmet. Now, one is laughed at if not helmeted while meadow skipping Silverfork or Grizzley Gulch. What a fubar world we live in!
    BC skiing isn’t cycling where one is on asphalt or rock, and a skidding blow could easily mean death. I get your point on the danger in trees, but I’d argue that that danger is more likely to be getting bent unnaturally around a tree as it is a full-on, head impact. Like an avalanche, tree avoidance is the best medicine. If you can’t ski tight slalom turns (signatures of a 70’s skier), stay out of the trees.
    A helmet is just one more thing to weigh me down, and speed-up the freeze of my bald head.

  13. Mac July 4th, 2018 3:44 am

    Well for my two cents worth, I reckon this is about as good a ski mountaineering helmet as you’re likely to find. I’ve been using one in a fetching yellow and blue colour for two seasons and I don’t have any real complaints. It’s light enough that I don’t mind wearing it, it’s cool enough for spring skiing and shorter climbs while still being warm enough for winter use.
    As I’m in NZ trees aren’t a concern – but numpty snowboarders and on the ski field and falling rock and ice off it are (which makes the mountaineering certification nice).
    Yes, you can find lighter, stronger, better ventilated helmets offering more protection – but just not in the same package. If you’re after a BC / ski mountaineering lid, you could do a lot worse.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 July 4th, 2018 9:31 am

    Hi Owen, I tend to agree. Fact is if you’re doing moderate ski touring, the chances of hitting your heed and needing a helmet are probably about is likely as getting struck by lightening. A bigger concern would be incurring a leg or ankle injury severe enough to make you immobile, thus stranded in the backcountry. Wouldn’t it be ironic if someone broke an ankle and died of hypothermia, while wearing a helmet? Or for that matter, was caught and suffocated in an avalanche, while protected from a head injury? Reality strikes… Lou

  15. Lou Dawson 2 July 4th, 2018 10:47 am

    Not skiing fast near trees is key, by the way… slow down in the forest! I know of some pretty bad stuff involving fast skiers and trees, stuff that a helmet would not have helped with. Lou

  16. Joe July 4th, 2018 11:59 am

    Interesting new study on effectiveness of helmets in preventing serious head injury in, original research. Short, to the point article about the research in Article examines thousands of skier head injuries in 30 resorts over 2012-2014 seasons and concludes ski helmets help with minor head injuries but are useless at preventing major head/brain injury. Worth reading in as this research goes against common wisdom and examined many thousands of injuries in so many locations

  17. Aaron July 4th, 2018 5:33 pm

    What do ski helmets have against visors? Is it a stylistic conceit that skiers want to look prepared to drop into a World Cup downhill course at any moment? Nearly every time I am out on my skis, I wish my helmet had a more substantial visor, both for protection from the sun, and snow during bushwhacking sessions. I think I will follow Jeff’s lead, and look to mountain bike helmets to cover my noggin on both snow & dirt.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 July 4th, 2018 5:42 pm

    Joe, that makes sense. As soon as you do any study on head injuries and concussion, you realize that the physics make it physically impossible for 1 inch of foam, or perhaps even 2 or 3 inches, to protect adequately from high impact. It’s all about acceleration and the distance available, otherwise known as “deceleration.” More, denser foam that works better under high energy tends to not work well in a lower impact (not “soft” enough), that’s a real design challenge. The solution is probably active protection, that’s perhaps years away. Adding to the problem, the industry helmet standards are lax. Lou

  19. Damian July 4th, 2018 5:56 pm

    That appears to be a finding in common with biking, that helmets reduce incidence of mild head injuries and wounds, but not severe and life threatening head injuries. It might make more sense if you look at the mechanism of more serious head injuries: they tend to be more about diffuse brain damage from shearing and rotational trauma, the brain pretty much bouncing around the skull, multiple small bleeding sites, nerves stretched etc. The relatively small amount of force reduction from the limited crumpling of a thin helmet is probably almost negligible, even with technologies like MIPS.

    The waters get even more muddied when you look at the role of the change in behaviour with various protective equipment. This is a real and measurable effect, though it seems to be something people rarely admit that they personally might be vulnerable to.

    Sometimes the real world effect of strict use of helmets is the opposite to the intended. Here in NZ we are one of the few countries where it is legislated that you must where a helmet biking on public roads. Seems sensible, no? But more and more evidence indicates that it actually substantially reduces the safety of all road cyclists in NZ, mostly from its substantial reduction in cyclists actually on the roads (this dropped by something like 40% in the year after the law came into existence, and has not returned to previous levels since.) Serious head injuries have again not significantly changed their rate since the legislation came in.

    I think the take away message appears to be, wear a helmet by all means, as a personal choice, but be realistic about the actual protection it offers, and any insistence on others wearing them, either by legislation or rules, is not supported by good quality evidence.

  20. See July 4th, 2018 7:35 pm

    Wearing a cap under your helmet provides a brim without making an already bulky piece of equipment even harder to fit in your pack. And I’m all for softer foam (or multi-density liners). A helmet isn’t going to save you if you take a really hard hit to the head, but they can be very useful for smaller hits that are not uncommon.

  21. See July 4th, 2018 7:45 pm

    And, to be clear, I don’t care what consenting adults choose to put (or not) on their heads.

  22. dmr July 5th, 2018 2:24 am

    Thanks for the thorough review. I have several friends who use this helmet and really like it. I’ll have to try it out.

    As for the comments regarding the effectiveness of wearing a helmet, most of you seem to be focusing only on high-speed impacts and completely ignore the “mountaineering” part of “ski-mountaineering”. When heading into terrain where crampons and an ice axe (or two) are required, a helmet offers genuine protection from falling objects (rock or ice). It also offers protection from smacking against rock, ice, or hard snow on the up or down. The Salomon helmet appears to offer better protection on the down than a helmet like Petzl’s Meteor.

    At the resort I wear a racing helmet, and both in and out of the gates have had some pretty spectacular falls on hard snow and was glad to have a helmet on my head.

    That written, I fully understand that the protection a helmet offers does have its limits, just as I understand that my seatbelt won’t protect me from a head-on collision with a semi, but that doesn’t mean I’m delusional for wearing one all the time.

  23. Lou Dawson 2 July 5th, 2018 7:22 am

    The world of bicycle and football helmets seems to be where the action is. Following link relates testing to a 5-star rating system that gives the consumer much better information than the pass-fail industry helmet standards. Perhaps this sort of thing will be done for snowsports helmets. That would be interesting to watch. They did test one Snowsports rated helmet, it got TWO OUT OF 5 STARS. Their test seems to favor MIPS (I’d like to see it also involve a brutal direct impact that exceeded the industry standard testing). It is suggested elsewhere that the 5-Star ratings be combined with those of Consumer Reports (who do their own excellent testing), and of course beginning with a minimum of the archaic industry standards. The Garneau Raid MIPS model is a good example, has visor and extended rear head coverage. Lou

  24. Sam July 5th, 2018 9:15 am

    “I fully understand that the protection a helmet offers does have its limits, just as I understand that my seatbelt won’t protect me from a head-on collision with a semi, but that doesn’t mean I’m delusional for wearing one all the time.” – dmr

    Thanks for that – I feel sometimes that discussions on helmet effectiveness (in the cycling, snow, and climbing communities I’m involved in) often end up with the conclusion that they aren’t perfect, so you should not wear one (or that wearing one is an affectation or fashion choice only).

    All PPE is designed around a particular hazard set, and shouldn’t be expected to go beyond that. At the same time, if the hazard set it was designed for isn’t applicable to the activity, it should be changed or redesigned. I’m a big fan of the improved testing for cycling helmets that is catching on (slowly).

    The protection against small accidents is not to be dismissed. I work in construction engineering at power plants where hardhats are common and usually compulsory. For everyone comparing foam types and rotational impact devices, just look for a second at a typical $13 construction hardhat – web suspension, rigid frame, that’s it. They do have some effectiveness against big single impacts, but day-to-day, they also protect people from bonking their heads against pipes, cutting their foreheads on the edges of material racks, etc.

    I frequently end up knocking my head against something sharp while crawling around on a job site and think, “that wouldn’t have killed me, or even maimed me, but the cut would have been bad enough that I’d have to go get it treated.” The same minor incident on a ski trip – bonking myself with an ice axe, tripping and hitting a rock while pulling my skins off, etc – would be the end of a good day skiing, an end to a nice tour, and a general bummer all around. That is just as much a benefit as protection against a catastrophic yard sale (which the helmet may have limited utility for).

  25. See July 6th, 2018 8:26 pm

    I actually own this helmet. One thing that stands out about it is the way the eps liner is sculpted. It looks to me like the very uneven topography of the liner (photo #8) might serve to absorb more energy in lower impact scenarios without resorting to softer or multi-density materials. Removing some material makes the part of the liner next to your head deform easier. Could be an improvement.

  26. See July 6th, 2018 8:48 pm

    “(E)xpand your playground with confidence and without compromise,” “significantly reduced energy transmission to the head.” Evangelizing? Hype, at least…

  27. See July 6th, 2018 9:52 pm

    That first one sounds like “go ski the backcountry like you’re at the resort because you’re wearing our foam hat!”

  28. Paul Diegel July 7th, 2018 8:57 am

    I got one of the first Mtn Lab helmets available and have been wearing it most of the time since. I snipped off the ear flaps right away and typically have a light running ball cap and Buff with me, so I have a number of warmth/shade options. I wear it uphill and downhill unless it is just too warm. I’m really happy with it.
    I don’t judge anyone’s opinion about the effectiveness of helmets. Certainly the statistics don’t instill great faith. My rationale is that it has made a number of minor hits, mostly tree branches and one low-speed rock hit, non-events, I can’t believe it’s worse than nothing at all, it’s comfortable and weighs very little, it speeds transitions because I can put my googles up on the front and they don’t fog – in short, I have learned to really like it, I always wear some kind of headwear anyway, and it has at least saved some skin and is highly likely to make a more serious head injury at least a little less bad.

  29. Jim Milstein July 10th, 2018 4:00 pm

    I made a visor for a CAMP Speed 2.0 helmet from sleeping pad foam. It’s glued edgewise onto the helmet with fabric cement and reinforced with a bead of hot glue top and bottom. A little æsthetic work with Sharpies makes it look better.

    The nice thing about a foam visor is that it’s bendy, which makes parking goggles up on the helmet easy.

    For me, helmet and goggles provide valuable face and head protection in the trees. In Colorado lots of the trees are dead due to beetle kill due to warmer winters. That means lots of sharp sticks protruding at skier level. High speed collisions do not concern me unless I’m in an avalanche, in which case I can get hurt no matter what I’m wearing. But maybe I’ll be lucky! So far, so good.

  30. Lou Dawson 2 September 21st, 2018 9:43 am

    Added a few photos of the warm weather liner. Lightweight, minimal, nice.

  31. Drake September 23rd, 2018 6:14 pm

    Where in Europe did you find one of the liners? Any idea if anyone is selling them online?

  32. Mathieu Fagnan September 24th, 2018 10:41 am

    Same question as Drake… can you tell where you find the summer liner ? Regards !

  33. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2018 1:31 pm

    I got the liner from Salomon, took a while. I also cut the ear flaps off a regular liner, which worked fine as well. Not sure of the retail situation, perhaps someone from Salomon could chime in, or are they getting going with that month-long vacation (smile)?

  34. Rob September 25th, 2018 12:13 am

    Yes, wear your helmet on the up and the down — more likely to effectively prevent an injury on the up and also the most space efficient means of carrying it.

  35. Mac September 25th, 2018 5:01 am

    Hi Lou,

    Can you tell me where you sourced your summer liner from? The Salomon retailers in NZ don’t stock them, and I’ve had no joy whats so ever trying to buy one on the internet!


  36. Lou Dawson 2 September 25th, 2018 7:29 am

    Um, Mac, look two comments above yours… Lou

  37. Arnie September 25th, 2018 10:13 am
  38. TimZ October 10th, 2018 8:29 pm

    How much weight does the summer liner drop? Does it keep dual cert with the summer liner?

  39. Grant April 3rd, 2019 10:37 am

    Does anyone have a line on the summer liner? Looking for one either in the US or shipped to US.

  40. Lou Dawson 2 April 3rd, 2019 2:56 pm

    Grant, if you can get another winter liner, cutting the ear flaps off works okay. Lou

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