Reviewed by Chris Marshall, AMGA Assistant Ski and Rock Guide, AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide. Chris spends his winters guiding backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering, and teaching avalanche education courses for Sun Valley Trekking. Chris has 10 years of experience teaching and guiding throughout the west and Alaska.
As an avid backcountry skier and ski guide, safety is paramount, period. Avalanche rescue equipment has seen positive progression toward ease of use, as well as being streamlined for efficient and tolerable storage in a backcountry ski or snowboard pack, so why shouldn’t a ski/board helmet? When balloon packs hit the mass market, initial statistics indicated their effectiveness in decreasing avalanche burials in appropriate (read: alpine or open) terrain. I spend most of my winter guiding backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering for Sun Valley Trekking in Idaho’s central mountains, including the Sawtooth Mountains. We deal with a variety of terrain and vegetation configurations from alpine bowls to steep rocky couloirs, to many beautiful tree chutes. Every day, the contents of my balloon pack include my standard guide kit and avalanche rescue gear.
I choose to ski with a balloon pack to increase the odds that with an avalanche involvement, I’ll be on top of the snow. But, and here is the big caveat, I ski in treed terrain a good deal of the time, and in doing so, I choose to further increase my odds by strapping a ski helmet on my head to combat injuries from tree or rock collision in the event of a crash or slide. In this sort of terrain, a helmet is essential.
As I have been involved in avalanche education and guiding for the past ten years, I have seen a marked increase in the use of ski helmets making their way into the backcountry. My first helmet from ten years ago is bulky and uncomfortable. Enter the Shred Ready Forty 4 helmet. Upon opening the box I immediately noticed the lightweight and tight package that this helmet offers. When I’m adding anything to my 30-pound guide pack, I need it to be lightweight, and found that strapping the Forty 4 onto my pack was hardly noticeable.
The medium size fit perfectly, and was easily adjustable, even with a gloved hand while on my head, thanks to the over-sized dial and ratchet system on the back. The chinstrap latched securely thanks to a magnet, which helped to guide the clasps together. Getting the magnetic clasp undone was as simple as sliding thumb and forefinger past each other; no more snow-clogged classic male/female buckle system. The helmet was comfortable, thanks to an internal removable liner, and soft fabric on the padded ear pads and chin strap.
Shred Ready set out to make the helmet affordable and accessible to the masses- no excuses now if you can’t stomach the cost of some manufactures high-end models. For this reason, while the Forty 4 lacks some bells and whistles, functionality is not compromised. The ear pads are easily removable thanks to their simple slot and lock design. On warm days, the inserts covering the vents, and the internal fabric liner, can be removed to increase airflow into the helmet. Goggles stay secure thanks to a simple strap and button operated goggle retainer at the rear of the helmet. I initially struggled with closing the system with my pair of goggles that lock in the back, but after an easy adjustment and offset of my goggle closure, the goggle retainer snapped into place and the Forty 4 was ready to go.
Since I ski better when I look good, I chose the Electric Blue color option, which worked well with my standard color scheme. The helmet had a nice glossy finish, complemented by clean and simple dual colors on the straps and ear pads. The helmet has a very minor upturn at the brow, giving the appearance of a small visor without introducing material to obscure vision. The low profile design is a winner for anyone looking for a stylish and compact package either on the slopes or in the backcountry.