That Other Little Voice in My Head

Ski Helmet Audio Review

By Skimum Valerie

Why Audio?
While part of the appeal of skiing is disconnecting from the rest of the world, I still need to ski with my phone in my pocket in case one my kids, clients or hubby needs…something. These days having a good audio system is almost an essential part of my skiing gear.  Good audio allows me to listen to tunes, answer/talk on my phone and hear incoming text messages. Depending on the system, you may even be able to control different aspects of your phone with voice commands. Most importantly, it allows me to keep my hands in my gloves (where they should be).

After trying nearly every type of audio toy on the market, here’s what I’ve learned–

Bronze – Ear Buds
OK, this is the worst way to get audio into your helmet.  For one, in my opinion, it is not safe.  The ear buds, while offering great audio fidelity, act essentially as ear plugs – blocking other sounds around you.  You need to be able to hear others skiing/riding around you.  Sure, you can only put one bud in your ear, but who wants to listen to music in mono? The cords also tend to get in the way.  Just say “no” to ear buds.

Silver – Corded In-Helmet Speakers
I next used a Skullcandy audio system.  They make a kit specifically designed for my Smith helmet.  It worked pretty well for me.  It came with a cord with a built-in clip enclosing a microphone and volume knob and function button.  I was able to clip it onto my goggles strap on the side of my helmet to keep it out of the way.  This system was a game changer for me.  While plugged into my phone, I was able start and stop my Snow Patrol playlist, answer calls (except from my mother-in-law, strangely) and adjust volume, all from the simple corded clip/remote.  No more digging through your pockets trying find your phone…or worse yet, fumbling with your phone on the lift – risking a 30 foot drop into a snow bank.

Downside?  The cord.  The cord can get in the way or can snag on clothing, equipment, etc.  Over time they can also wear and develop annoying shorts in one ear…or stop working completely.  Once, I even had my cord torn in half when a tree limb grabbed it while traversing Mt. Baldy.  The Skullcandy drop-in corded system is about $50 retail, but I’ve seen it for as low as $39 at Backcountry.com.

Gold – Bluetooth Audio
Now…imagine all of the benefits of the corded in-helmet systems, with none of the downsides.  Completely wireless! I now have the Skullcandy Bluetooth Audio package.  The Bluetooth unit fits on the outside of your left ear pad and has three buttons, which control all power, volume/mute and device functions.  You can even jump forward to the next song in your playlist with these buttons.  The unit is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery.  It is charged via a standard micro USB cable.

With my Bluetooth audio system, I have turned Snowbird into my second office!  I regularly take business calls while on the mountain (although, occasionally I have to explain why I’m breathing so hard).

Where Can I Buy One?
The Bluetooth does come at a price, about $180 retail.  However, after adding up the cost of multiple ear buds (some very good ones) blown in a season and the factoring in the increased “productivity” and overall enjoyment, I found it worth the price.  Before you take the plunge, be sure to shop around.  I’ve seen prices anywhere from $120-$200 for a new setup.  I’ve, also, had good luck buying them on eBay for me and my family.  Rock on!

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