In a world of endless tacky and lackluster ski helmets, one company has a taken a tasteful approach to perfect the art of head protection.
As I walked the aisles of Outdoor Retailer earlier this year, I kept noticing a common theme:
An abundance of ski helmets that screamed with their vibrant colors and over the top exterior designs.
The ones that could stomach the mirror test, were ultimately so minimalistic that they lacked virtually any functionality; not to mention, they made me question their true level of safety. After a while, I started to wonder how it could be so difficult to design a decent looking and functional helmet?
Then I stopped at Team Wendy’s booth and spotted their M-216 Ski Search and Rescue Helmet. Wow I thought, the perfect ski helmet does exist! To my disbelief, there was one company out there who decided to create an ultra-clean, eye-catching, tactical ski helmet that was loaded with numerous safety and operational features. I just had to own one.
But before I tell you why I think this is the greatest ski helmet of all time, I’d like to first tell you a little more about Team Wendy and why they do what they do, the best.
Team Wendy History:
You might be wondering where the company name “Team Wendy” comes from.
The story begins in 97’ with the daughter of the chairman who skied into a crevasse at Mammoth Mountain. Unfortunately, at the time, ski helmets were only worn by a relatively few number of people. The accident had caused a traumatic brain injury and ultimately lead to the passing of Wendy 90 days later. To remember Wendy, far beyond what a monument or similar could ever do, Team Wendy was created.
Team Wendy Saves Lives:
With a goal to offer the best protection available on the market, while also uncovering the causes and preventative measures of TBI, Team Wendy produced their first ski helmet ever. While it featured proprietary multi-impact foam technology (Zorbium Foam) for protection, it was relatively heavy and didn’t pass the mirror test all too well.
Fast forward to 2004-5, and the army came out with a requirement for ballistic combat helmets. Before the requirement, ballistic helmets were designed for exterior threats like projectiles. On the interior, there was nothing more than just a leather band for primary comfort.
While the iconic steel helmets of the past served a purpose, the Iraq and Afghan wars introduced new challenges: IEDs and similar devices. To address the issue, Team Wendy presented the Zorbium foam in their ski helmets to the Army. By doing so, they had won their business for not just one year, but 12 and counting. Today, a 7 pad set is standard issue and goes into every combat helmet.
Eventually, Team Wendy would go on to develop aftermarket pad systems that were drop-in/plug and play. Later on in 2011-12, Team Wendy had decided to go back to their roots and build full helmet systems. They designed the EXIF carbon, which could accommodate everything from NVG to optics, cameras, lights, beacons, etc.
Best of all, the helmet platform could easily be scaled up or down to meet virtually any mission. From military soldiers to search rescue operators, backcountry ski patrol, and beyond, it delivered exactly what any operator would ever need. For instance, if you are a solider NVG’s are probably your go to, while a backcountry ski patroller would be better suited with thermal optics for locating the heat signature of someone who’s lost. Luckily, the platform allows you to run only what you truly need.
Today, Team Wendy gear can be found in 50 countries; all over the world. From the Australian defense forces (their largest customer) to federal, CIA, DEA, state departments, homeland, border patrol and beyond here in the USA. If a mission can turn into a life or death scenario, you can bet a piece of Team Wendy gear is there to protect it.
– Removable ear covers.
– Interior in-ear communication/audio pockets.
– 8 adjustable crown vents with 3 positions.
– Fidlock magnetic buckle for 1-handed operation.
– Accessory rails for mounting lights, cameras, etc.
– BOA Fit system for precise adjustment with single handed quick release.
– Glass-reinforced polycarbonate shroud for mounting NOD’s, cameras and head lamps.
– Included Princeton TEC Light; your choice of Switch Rail or MPLS.
– Available in black/grey or white/grey with Sizes from small to x-large.
– 14 total vents: 8 crown (adjustable), 2 front (passive open), 4 rear (fixed open).
– Integrated goggle strap retention
– Lightweight EPS impact liner with a removable and washable comfort liner.
– Meets the impact attenuation requirements of both ASTM F-2040 and EN1077 Class B
– ABS polymer hard front shell; reinforced accessory mounting areas while minimizing weight.
Team Wendy M-216 Ski Search and Rescue Helmet Review
Beyond the successful polycarbonate, ballistic and search/rescue helmets, Team Wendy now offers what I’d like to share with you today: Their new M-216 ski helmet. The introduction marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of Wendy Moore.
While this technically is a ski helmet, it’s far from your ordinary ski helmet. I could flat out tell you it is in my opinion, the best one I’ve ever put my hands on, but I really don’t have to… Just look around and compare, eventually, you’ll find nothing else quite like it.
Unlike other helmets on the market, Team Wendy hasn’t taken a quick, tacky approach. They haven’t chosen to go with flashy colors, bizarre vents, a Stormtrooper style, etc. In reality, the M-216 is so well made, Team Wendy doesn’t have to rely on what most other manufacturers stoop down to in order to draw in attention.
One look says it all. The clean design of this helmet has a grown-up, tactical style that’s truly admirable. And while you might think appearance is where this ski helmet really shines, the truth is, that’s just where things begin. Each Team Wendy M-216 helmet comes with a shroud in the front and rails on the side. The helmet itself uses a hybrid construction with an additional outer shell that covers the front/side for a reinforced mounting platform.
Of course, you’ll also find a BOA dial closure system, removable ear covers (which can comfortably house communication equip or drop in Bluetooth speakers), adjustable vents, a retention system with a magnetic buckle, a goggle retention strap and much more. In fact, there are so many things to enjoy when it comes to owning the M-216 it’s hard to notice them all at first glance. But don’t worry, I’ll explain all of the benefits below here in a moment.
Fidlock Magnetic Strap
Meet the Fidlock Magnetic strap, a simple, easy to use closure that lets you secure your helmet in place with just a single hand. Best of all, you can connect the straps while keeping your gloves on.
All you have to do is get the two end parts within a close-ish range and they automatically snap into place. You can have horrible aim, but in reality, the magnet does all the work for you to ensure they connect precisely in place.
Adjustable Crown Vents
Too hot or perhaps too cold?
8 adjustable crown vents can be set to three different positions. Fully open, half open or fully closed. In the past, I’ve had some helmets from other brands which were really annoying to adjust the air vents. Luckily, the M-216 vents slide/adjust easily and snap securely into position. You don’t have to fight the tab in order to get the vents to adjust properly. Nor do you have to be overly careful, because they aren’t super sensitive to the touch. A normal motion is all it takes.
While I’m showing you the top here, I want to point out the smooth surface area. By keeping the top free of any obstructions, you gain the option to place additional equipment such as a beacon at the top of your helmet. Every time I see a ski helmet with vents or a tab in the dead center/front for no reason, I have to wonder… “Why!” Luckily, Team Wendy gave this area some solid consideration before jumping to a design.
Safety and Protection
If you’re wondering what goes into a Team Wendy M-216 helmet to ensure you stay protected (should you have an unwanted impact or collision), here’s a quick glance of the interior.
In terms of impact performance, this helmet is rated to meet: ASTM F2040-11 (Recreation Snow Sports) and BS EN 1077:2007 Class B (Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding).
If you compare this helmet to other brands you are probably going to wonder, who has the safest helmet out there? I can tell you that with full confidence after doing my own homework, I’m going to go with Team Wendy. I noticed other brands tout a thing called MIPS, but once I had a moment to fully understand the reality behind it, it left me less than impressed.
Team Wendy gave me a crystal clear explanation below; it should be enough to satisfy anyone’s curiosity.
As we mentioned, we do not presently offer any products utilizing MIPS as we are investigating the test methodologies used to quantify the performance of such systems. These test methods are not currently standardized and several open questions exist, including the use or lack of a surrogate neck (the MIPS test utilizes a free fall head surrogate with no neck or body), how realistically the head surrogate depicts a human head/helmet interface (including the coefficient of friction between helmet and head), and the injury metrics used to determine the actual effectiveness of the system.
With more than 20 years’ experience, including 12 years in the military space, Team Wendy has always been data-driven. We are presently investing in comprehensive research on traumatic brain injury through partnerships with Brown University, Drexel University, and Sandia National Laboratory. With a $4.75 million grant from the Office of Naval Research, the study aims to produce new insights into how traumatic injuries form in the brain and develop new helmet technologies to help prevent them. Accomplishing this will require a comprehensive, multi-level understanding of how forces are transmitted from a helmet to the skull, from the skull through the brain and ultimately to the individual brain cells and axons that are damaged during TBI. With a better understanding of how traumatic brain injuries occur, the study hopes to lead to the development of new standards for head protection and next-generation helmets.
With that said, at the end of the day if I truly wanted the safest ski helmet money could buy, my choice is to go with the Team Wendy M-216. Given all the research I’ve done, I’d trust my life to their products far more than I ever would with other brands.
Ps. the padded liner is removable and yes, it can be hand washed and air-dried should you ever need to clean it.
Removable Ear Covers With Audio/Communication Pockets
Should you wish to remove the ear covers, they are easily removable. If you choose to keep them in place, you’ll find that both offer nice interior pockets for things like in-ear communication systems or Bluetooth audio, etc.
BOA Closure System
For the absolute perfect fit, the Boa closure system is magic. Just put the helmet on, push/turn the knob and the helmet will clamp onto your head until it’s snug and secure. It truly doesn’t get any easier than this or more comfortable. It’s like owning a helmet that was tailored to fit your head specifically once you get the adjustment spot on.
To release the system, just pull up on the knob and the quick release functionality will allow your helmet to slide off effortlessly.
On the rear of the M-216 helmet, you’ll find a goggle strap. I have seen other brands try to do this with a variety of different methods, but personally, I like Team Wendy’s approach the best. Just tug the plastic piece downwards, secure it under the metal hook and you’re good to go. Even if your goggles did somehow manage to flip over your helmet for whatever reason, they’re not going anywhere thanks to this strap.
Exfil Rail 2.0 Quick Release Adapter Kit
Add the Exfil Rail 2.0 quick release rail adapter kit to an M-216 helmet and your possibilities start to get endless.
While the helmet does come with your choice of Princeton Tec Lights (Switch Rail of Switch MPLS), I was able to add a much more powerful Coast HP5R on the side thanks to the handy rail system. Is this totally unnecessary for most skiers? Sure, but here’s the deal, if want a 600-foot beam with 185 lumens, the rail on the M-216 helmet makes it possible. If you want to mount a camera there instead you can. Whatever your heart desires; whatever the mission demands, you have options available.
While other ski helmet manufacturers are leaving functionality behind as a forethought, Team Wendy actually gets it. Their rail shows it and it’s rather refreshing to see that kind of innovation.
Ps. if you can’t tell by the photos, you can add a rail on both sides of the helmet. For installation of the rail, removing the side panel, snapping in the rail, and screwing in four screws is all it takes.
Princeton TEC Switch Rail & MPLS Lights
For lighting, Team Wendy already has you covered. Each M-216 helmet comes with either the Princeton TEC Switch Rail or MPLS, it’s your entirely your own choice. While the bendable and flexible arm on the MPLS is excellent for getting that light beam exactly where you want it, I’m sort of a sucker for the simple switch rail that’s more discreet and out of the way.
Regardless of which you choose, both come with dual LEDs, white and red, not to mention, both work exceptionally well in terms of brightness. For such a small system, I’m impressed with the light output.
Glass Reinforced Polycarbonate Shroud – Go Pro NVG
While I don’t have a GoPro, NVG or Thermal optics at the moment, I do plan to pick up the first two here soon. I will come back and update this when I have a chance. A move across the country right now means that my camera gear has been reduced down to just a 4K Sony A6300.
Regardless, I still want to mention that I’m seriously impressed with just how rock-solid the glass-reinforced polycarbonate shroud is. Curious to see how much force this area could take I gave it fairly rough pull and it’s not going anywhere. The locking system with the GoPro NVG mount (an accessory) is rugged built, and there’s a really easy to use button that releases your equipment with a simple push.
With any action sport whether it be skiing or even mountain biking, vibration from a head-mounted camera eventually takes a toll on most helmets. Luckily, I don’t see this being a problem, ever, on the M-216, the construction and build quality is really that top notch.
To go along with the M-216 helmet, the EXF Balaclava is a match made in heaven. To be honest, I was not expecting it to be as soft, comfortable or generously thick as it is in person once you wear it. In reality, the quality surprised me considerably.
The Best Ski Helmet Ever
We’re approaching summer now, and hitting the slopes doesn’t look like it’s going to happen right this moment.
I know most of you reading this will probably prefer to see me skiing against a snowy background or similar with some really cool action shots, but while those photos will be shared later on, here’s something else to consider:
Give Team Wendy’s M-216 a closer look (you’ll find their info below), order/try one on if you can, you will love it! If there is one piece of gear that you’ll want for the next ski season, without question, this is it!
I had a lot of time to spend at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show earlier this year, and well, Team Wendy’s latest helmet takes the cake. They haven’t just made another ski helmet… They’ve made one of the best ski helmets ever.
Ps. the goggles I am wearing are the ZEAL Optics Nomad with the Dark Night frame and Automatic YB lenses. I was hoping I wouldn’t look like a gaper with a giant gap between my goggles and helmet, but The M-216 profile hugs my goggles nicely. Add in the EXF Balaclava and it really doesn’t get any better (or cooler) than these 3 pieces of gear combined. If you want the best of the best, you’ve found it.
Team Wendy Collection
While the M-216 Ski Search and Rescue Helmet does come with a really nice standard carrying sleeve, Team Wendy also offers a Mystery Ranch brand transit pack. If you’ve seen my Marshall Pack review, then you’ll know why I think Mystery Ranch makes some top notch gear. You can also pick up a Princeton Tec EOS II MPLS headlamp for the M-216 as well for an added boost of light. If black isn’t your color, the helmet also comes with a white option as well.
Aside from the M-216, Team Wendy also offers their NIJ Level IIIA EXFIL Ballistic helmet, and their SL version which boasts a 15% weight reduction. There’s also an EXFIL LTP bump helmet, a super lightweight EXFIL Carbon, the SAR Tactical and the SAR Backcountry. Among the accessories for those lines, I really like the counterweight kit in particular. It helps compensate for the weight of night vision and other front-mounted devices
No matter the mission or protection requirements, chances are Team Wendy has you covered.
Stock images credit: Richard King Photography.