Get rid of my goggles?
You’ve got to be kidding. Goggles are one of the most important parts of my ski kit. While goggles can be frustrating at times (fog, anyone?), they’re still a necessity.
So when OSBE USA offered me a chance to try “goggle free” skiing with one of their helmets, I was intrigued. Would an “integrated visor” work better than goggles?
Now, in all fairness, wearing an OSBE helmet with an integrated visor is not really “goggle” free. The visor is basically a goggle attached to the helmet with screws, instead of a strap. Still, having a built-in visor gives you one less piece of ski equipment to keep track of and a potentially wider field of sight.
I like those ideas, so I was eager to try an OSBE helmet.
Just a little background, OSBE is a long-time helmet manufacturer based in Italy. The company began by making electronic communication systems for all types of helmets – motorcycle, ski and snowboard and motor racing. They’ve been making helmets since 1996.
Taking the helmet out of the box, I was impressed. It was new. It was shiny. It was black with attractive graphics.
I liked the stars over the visor attachment and since it is the UNITED Snow model, it says “UNITED” around the back.
I like UNITED. It’s a good word and a grand sentiment.
I also like the very round shape of the helmet.
Next, I put the helmet on. This was the part that worried me.
I have a hard time buying helmets, trying them on, trying to determine which one fits “just right.” Since I ordered this one purely by size (instructions on the website explain how to measure your head in centimeters), I was concerned.
I didn’t need to be. It fit perfectly.
In fact, this helmet fits more comfortably and securely than any helmet I’ve owned.
The padding is thick and holds my head securely and comfortably. But what I like best is the padding over my ears. It is snug to my face, but my ears aren’t squished – exactly what one would expect, I now realize, from a company that makes helmet communication systems.
Next, I inspected and tried the integrated visor.
As I wrote above, I like the idea of having one less thing to pack, to worry about and to mess around with.
When I pulled the down, I really liked the rose lens and the wide peripheral vision it gave me, and I noticed that my sight through the lens was very sharp.
The visor on the United Snow helmet slides up the outside of the helmet. A new model, the Majic, has a visor which slides inside.
So while I liked the visor, I didn’t like the approximately 1 cm band of clear light I saw at the bottom of the visor. Clear light, as opposed to rose-tinted light, meant one thing to me: WIND.
Mountain-Tested, But Only Once
So while I liked the helmet – a lot –I worried that the visor wouldn’t provide enough protection from the elements when skiing.
Here’s what I found.
- The visor, as it comes from the factory, does let in wind as I ski. The first time I used the helmet was on a sunny day. It was warm and I didn’t mind a bit of air coming under the visor, although my eyes did tear a little.
- You can customize the fit of the visor to your face with additional foam padding from OSBE. Attaching a simple foam insert to the existing foam along the bottom of the visor doubles it’s width, effectively blocking light and air. This $20 foam insert does customize the fit. But, unless you trim it carefully to fit your, it also is a bit awkward. It limits how far the visor can slide up and bunches just a bit under my eyes when the visor is down. Sliding a finger up and pulling gently on the foam gets rid of this problem.
- The visor does, in fact, offer excellent vision. It has a rose lens, and because the side-to-side lens span is so wide, I believe it has superior peripheral vision compared to my other goggles. It also has UV protection 400, so my eyes are safe.
- The helmet is very comfortable and secure. I trust my head to it. I especially like the buckle on the chinstrap, which has a ratchet and latch closure and is easier to adjust than most helmet buckles.
If you like the look and the idea of the built-in visor, I recommend OSBE USA helmets. They are well-made, with a smart design.
I haven’t had the opportunity to ski on a very cold or snowy day, so I cannot speak to how well the visor foam will work, but it seems like an effective, if slightly awkward solution to blocking wind and cold.
I also don’t have any idea how the lens will perform in low or flat light, or if it will fog up in damp conditions.
Despite what I don’t know yet, I am comfortable recommending this helmet based on the fit and feel alone.
This is because it is easy to detach the visor and use your own goggles. The helmets come with a built in goggle strap on the back. The visor connection points easily unscrew so you can remove it on days when it might not meet your needs.
Also, additional visors in clear, mirror, orange and smoke tints are available and can be easily interchanged for varying conditions.
This flexibility, combined with the excellent fit, comfort and style, make OSBE USA helmets a good option in a higher-end helmet. Until I’ve been able to wear this helmet in more adverse weather, it’s hard to say if I’ll go goggle-free all the time.
But the ability to switch out the visor with goggles and the overall fit and quality of the helmet make up for any potential shortcomings with the visor.
To facilitate this post, I received an OSBE Snow United helmet. As usual, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
A Bit More from BSM:
January 13, 2014: I’ve used the helmet now several more times and I have a bit more feedback.
1. If you remove the visor to use the helmet with your goggles, please note that the two points where the visor screws to the helmet will stick out about 1/4 inch. I don’t think its a big deal, but I wanted to mention it.
2. I never could really get the additional foam piece to work for me. What I did discover is that on cold days, a neoprene face mask fits perfectly under the visor and prevents cold air from bothering my eyes (I wear contacts and my eyes water easily).
I hope this helps!
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