Best Headphones for Ski Helmets

By Team Carv

September 18, 2020

7 min read

So you want real-time audio coaching? You’re going to need to use a great pair of headphones.

Sounds easy, but like any sensible skier you’re going to need headphones that fit under a helmet, which makes things a bit more tricky. Some helmets press the ears more than others, which can be painful if you have bulkier headphones.

Here’s our guide to help you find the best pair to complement your Carv.

We have a few in-ear and in-helmet options for you to consider but first some ground rules:

Carv works with:

  • Bluetooth headphones
  • AirPods/Apple headphones
  • Wired headphones
  • Helmet headphones

We’ve generally looked for slim fit products and where possible, avoided over-ear, around-ear or around-neck options. We’ve looked for earphones that are waterproof/resistant, don’t carry a battery in a big box at the back where your helmet goes, and also aren’t too one-sided, so you can use them one ear at a time. We've also kept an eye out for ones that use a hook mechanism to keep them in place, but not ones that go around your ear and cause fatigue when combined with a helmet.

The gold-standard ones include pass-through sound; and for safety reasons, we have excluded anything that focuses on noise cancelling. You’ll want to hear the sound of your edges slicing through corduroy, won’t you?

Here we go through 4 options:

Entry-level options:

Anker Soundcore Spirit X

£/$: 30

The Anker Soundcore Spirit X are an amazing choice for wireless headphones. The inline controls sit under or next to your earphone pad, so be wary that this may be a little tricky to negotiate depending on your helmet model. However for around £30/$30 they sound good, are waterproof and low profile. It’s hard to contend with that kind of deal.

Apple EarPods

£/$: 25/free

Every Apple user has a drawer somewhere in the house with a snake nest of these in there. That’s the good news: they are present, they are low profile, and they usually have an inline control. The bad news is that the wire is often short, rubbery and snags on your jacket; and they are not very ergonomic, which can hurt over a few hours. Not great, but not bad.

Samsung Active InEar

£/$: 30/free

Designed for comfort, these are optimised to feel less noticeable in your ear. When we’re skiing we don’t want to think about much else, so that's a big tick in our book.

Three button remote, great sound. They let in some ambient noise, which is quite a good thing on the piste.

Mid-level options:

Bose SoundSport In-Ear

£/$: 110

Weather-resistant, with nice big inline controls that can be used even with gloves on (useful to stop and start) and a good in-ear grip. These are a solid choice for many skiers. The downside is that the controls sit far down on the cable so you might have to faff with your jacket to get to them.

Apple AirPods

£/$: 120

A fantastic choice: no wires to contend with, no inline controls to fish out of your jacket or neckline and a cost that doesn’t break the bank (though doesn’t help it either). AirPods are a great choice because they have a nice low profile that will sit inside your helmet pads without any real issues; and the tap function works without direct contact. Our top pick and a product many of our team use with Carv. Be careful not to lose them when taking off your helmet!

ASPI Level 4 instructor and Carv Ambassador Tom Gellie uses Apple AirPods with Carv

Sennheiser CX Sport Wireless

£/$: 80

Great audio and a slim design make these a strong mid-level choice. Sennheiser goes for a fairly lively sound presentation, which can sound great while out and about amongst lots of ambient sounds. Their main perks are that they combine this with an inline remote, ear hooks, microphone, 6-hour battery life and waterproofing. Be wary of the battery pack sitting on one side of the ear, which might cause a bit of interference with your helmet design.

AfterShokz Air Open-Ear

£/$: 100

Aftershokz have become renowned for producing market-leading bone conduction headphones, which work by transmitting audio via your cheekbones and leaving your ears uncovered. Pretty cool, right? Loved by runners and cyclists, the lightweight Aftershokz Air would also be a great option for ski enthusiasts, delivering high-quality audio whilst allowing you to remain completely aware of your surroundings.

The battery pack and controls sit on one side of the ear, which should be fine with most helmets but could prove fiddly for some.

High-level options:

AirPods Pro

£/$: 220

The gold standard, Rolls Royce of skiing headphones.

Why? The fantastic "transparency mode" that passes through sound from the environment; a very low profile design; no wires; multiple ear fit options; water-resistant; high-quality audio, make/take calls; and 24-hour battery. What’s not to like? They cost you almost as much as new skis. Apple seem to do marketing pretty well, so we’ll leave the heavy lifting to them to convince you.

Libratone Track Air +

£/$: 160

6-hour battery life and a good low-profile option for Android users who want true wireless without a bulky earpiece. They have a similar fit and style to AirPods; and they are waterproof. An app lets you turn off noise cancelling, which is great for skiing (where that feature reduces your feedback from the slope).

In-helmet options:

Outdoor Tech Chips

Wired £/$: 40 | Wireless £/$: 90

The one choice you just can’t miss if you end up searching ski headphones online. Unsurprisingly, the interchangeable-headphone-in-ski-helmet market isn’t awash with competition. These puppies slide into your helmet earpads for almost every major brand: Giro, Bolle, K2, Smith, Bern, Pro-Tec, Anon, and others. Minimise wires, accept average/good sound, and make your life simple. Bluetooth connects to your phone and a 10-hour battery life means they’ll last longer than your legs will on any given day. For most skiers, you’ll get about 3 days of use out of them.

They have been modified by various brands to fit certain styles, so take a look at which one is best for your needs. The Smith and Giro set allow you to receive your calls handsfree, adjust volume up or down, and navigate through your playlists. You could even listen to an audiobook on how technology is changing sport forever, if you like.

Aim for a model after 2017 for more reliable connectivity. Ignore the walkie talkie app: it needs internet and I bet you already have WhatsApp/Skype/Zoom.

Uclear Digital Pulse Helmet Speakers

£/$: 100

For an alternative wired option to the Outdoor Tech, try Uclear Digital Pulse. They use a wired connection, which will inevitably get in the way. Their sound is good and for the price these can be a great option if you don’t like or can’t get Outdoor Tech Chips. You’ll get bountiful wires to get wrapped up in, a bassy sound system but no microphone for calls. If you want to go up a level, check out Uclear’s AMP plus – allowing you to do a 6-way intercom chat for half a mile. Can be hard to get hold of nowadays; check out Tech Chips instead.

Dreamruns Direct Connect Audio Kit

£/$: 20

A budget option with a microphone for on-slope calls. Note the budget element and proceed with extreme caution.

Domio Ripper

£/$: 150

Do you hate wires altogether? Have you heard music from vibro-audio technology before? Somewhat like Aftershokz, Domio are taking a new approach by pulsing your music into your head rather than playing it through the air first. This means you can hear your surroundings and your music, rather than overcoming the noise of the slopes with your old air-based tunes. Stick the widget on your helmet and your helmet becomes the speaker. The Domio Helmet Audio Device is operated using three different buttons and includes a Micro USB port for charging and an LED battery light indicator. The three button interface allows you to control your music by playing, pausing or stopping; change the volume; and also answer or make calls. It’s not invisible, and you might look like you're signaling semaphore if you keep changing tracks on top of your head. The downside is that your vibro-beats can be heard by those nearby, so choose tracks wisely.

Why we haven’t got many wireless earbud options in here:

Truth be told, these newer options are very bulky and rely on you to touch the headphone under your helmet ear flap. The battery required makes a big bulge which will probably cause issues with your helmet. Give them a go but do it from somewhere that allows you to return within 30 days ;)

Written by: Team Carv