Table Of Contents

  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Warmth 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech & Features 70% 70%
  • Goggle Compatibility 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Weight: 538.65 grams

Adjustment System: BOA Fit System

Number of Vents: 18

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Google Attachment: Yes

Visor: No

Audio Compatibility: Yes

Price: $108-$210

What We Like: Price to Performance Ratio, Warm, Comfortable

What We Don’t: Lacks Safety Features of Top of the Line Smith Helmets

Overall, we loved the lineup of ski and snowboard helmets from Smith. Like Giro, Smith offers a ton of ski and snowboard helmets, and many of them are priced quite similarly and offer similar features. This is good for the consumer, because it leads to a plethora of choices, but bad because it can lead to paralysis by analysis. It also made it hard for us to decide how to rank the Smith snow helmets in relation to one another. If the Smith Quantum represents the pinnacle of the lineup, and of snow helmets overall in our opinion, then the Vantage slots in just behind it, a few dollars cheaper and a few grams lighter.

Where does that leave the Variance MIPS, the “third tier” ski and snowboard helmet in the Smith lineup? With an MSRP of $210, it represents a solid value behind the Vantage, but with sale prices as low as $108, we think that the Smith Variance offers the best bang for your buck of any ski and snowboard helmet on the market, if you catch it for such a low price.

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Compare to Similar Products

See Our Best Ski & Snowboard Helmet Review 2020 HERE!

Smith Quantum MIPS

  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Warmth 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech & Features 100% 100%
  • Goggle Compatibility 90% 90%
  • Weight 40% 40%

Pros

Class-Leading Safety

Top All-Around Performance

Cons

Heavy

Expensive

Weight: 623.69 grams

Adjustment System: BOA FS360 Fit System

Number of Vents: 22

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Google Attachment: Yes

Visor: No

Audio Compatibility: Yes

Giro Range MIPS

  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Warmth 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech & Features 90% 90%
  • Goggle Compatibility 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Unparalleled Fit Adjustment

Goggle Compatibility

Cons

Expensive

Can Cause Ear Pain for Some Riders

Weight: 538.65 grams

Adjustment System: ConformFit technology

Number of Vents: 12 adjustable

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Goggle Attachment: Yes

Visor: Yes

Audio Compatibility: Yes

Giro Nine MIPS

  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Warmth 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 70% 70%
  • Safety Tech & Features 70% 70%
  • Goggle Compatibility 70% 70%
  • Weight 70% 70%

Pros

Mips Tech

Warm

Light

Comfortable

Great Price to Performance Ratio

Cons

Non-Removable Earpads

Lower Tier In Form Fit System

Weight: 436 grams

Adjustment System: In-Form Fit System

Number of Vents: 14

Removable Ear Covers: No

Google Attachment: Yes

Visor: No

Audio Compatibility: No

Salomon MTN Lab Review

  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Warmth 50% 50%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Safety Tech & Features 80% 80%
  • Goggle Compatibility 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

A True Ski Mountaineering Helmet

Ultralight

Well Ventilated

Cons

Non-Closable Vents

Not for Everyone

Weight: 360 grams

Adjustment System: Custom dial adjustment system

Number of Vents: 20

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Goggle Attachment: Yes

Visor: Yes (brim)

Audio Compatibility: No

POC Auric Cut Backcountry Spin

  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Warmth 90% 90%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech & Features 90% 90%
  • Goggle Compatibility 90% 90%
  • Weight 40% 40%

Pros

Cutting Edge Safety Tech

Warm

Well Ventilated

Cons

Heavy

Look is Not for Everyone

Weight: 585 grams

Adjustment System: 360-degree adjustment

Number of Vents: 10 adjustable

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Google Attachment: Yes

Visor: No

Audio Compatibility: Yes

Smith Variance

  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Warmth 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech & Features 70% 70%
  • Goggle Compatibility 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Price to Performance Ratio

Warm

Comfortable

Cons

Lacks Safety Features of Top of the Line Smith Helmets

Weight: 538.65 grams

Adjustment System: BOA Fit System

Number of Vents: 18

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Google Attachment: Yes

Visor: No

Audio Compatibility: Yes

Smith Vantage MIPS

  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Warmth 90% 90%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech & Features 90% 90%
  • Goggle Compatibility 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Most of the Features of the Quantum at a Lower Price

Cons

Lacks the Ultra-Premium Protection of the Quantum

Weight: 501.8 grams

Adjustment System: BOA FS360 Fit System

Number of Vents: 18

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Goggle Attachment: Yes

Visor: No 

Audio Compatibility: Yes

Oakley Mod5 MIPS

  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Warmth 70% 70%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech & Features 70% 70%
  • Goggle Compatibility 90% 90%
  • Weight 40% 40%

Pros

Modular Brim System

BOARetention System

Comfortable

Cons

Cold Earpads

Average Ventilation

Poor Quality of Goggle Clip

Weight: 601 grams

Adjustment System: BOA 270 fit system

Number of Vents: 11 on MIPS helmet

Removable Ear Covers: Yes

Goggle Attachment: Yes

Visor: Yes 

Audio Compatibility: No

Comfort and Fit

The Smith Variance MIPS continues in the Smith mold of favoring a rounder head, but like the Vantage and Quantum, it incorporates a BOA retention system, which makes it adjustable to a wide range of head shapes, though the fit and feel of the Variance’s BOA retention system was not quite on par with Smith’s more expensive offerings. Meanwhile, the Nanosilver performance liner feels plush against your face and head.

Warmth

The Smith Variance MIPS vents close tight and its earpads do a great job of hugging tightly to your cheeks. Combine these factors with the ability to get a glove-like fit thanks to the BOA retention system, and the Smith Variance MIPS is a ski and snowboard helmet that will keep your head warm while shredding down the mountain on all but the most frigid days. Meanwhile, the BOA system means that you can still get the same great fit if you opt to wear a buff or beanie under your helmet on the most frigid days of the season.

Ventilation

The Smith Variance MIPS features 18 vents. Without the need to force more air through underlying Koroyd, these vents are smaller than those found on the Vantage and Quantum. They are also all operated by a single slider, as opposed to the dual sliders of the Vantage and Quantum, which let you open and close the front and rear vents independently. Overall, this makes for a snow helmet with well above average, if not class-leading, ventilation.

Safety Tech and Additional Features

This is the area where the Smith Variance falls behind Smith’s more expensive offerings. It skips out on the Koroyd liner, which is a huge part of what we love about Smith’s helmets. Of all of the things that we think you should save money on, protecting your brain is not on the list, and we would have preferred to have seen Smith cut other features and keep the Koroyd liner, as they did with some of their more budget-minded mountain bike helmets. Still, there is nothing wrong with the level of safety offered by the Smith Variance, and it is on par with most helmets ski and snowboard helmets on the market.

The Koroyd lining is the bright green honeycomb-like liner, made from hundreds of tiny straws, which can be found in the Smith Quantum and Vantage helmets, among others. And it functions exactly like you might expect a beefed up honeycomb would in the event of a crash. Each straw of the honeycomb is engineered to collapse in a specific way, creating a pattern that best absorbs impact. Smith claims that it absorbs impact a whopping 30 percent better than traditional EPS foam.

Finally, removable earpads are compatible with disk-shaped in earpad audio devices such as the Chips 2.0 by Outdoor Tech.

Goggle Compatibility

A company whose name was made in the world of eyewear is not going to make a ski and snowboard helmet with poor goggle integration, and that shows in the Smith Variance. It vents extremely well and never tries to push your goggles down onto your nose. Meanwhile, smaller framed goggles don’t cause a gap between themselves and the Brim of the Variance, but they don’t seem to seal off as well at the temples as those with larger frames.

Weight

Weight is one of the few areas where the Smith Variance MIPS is not a top, all-around performer. It tips the scales at 538g, putting it on the heavier end of helmets in our review, but around the same weight as the more expensive Giro Range, and lighter than the ultra-premium Smith Quantum.

The Bottom Line

At $210, the Smith Variance represents a solid value at the lower end of Smith’s premium ski and snowboard helmet lineup. However, with sale prices dipping as low as $108, the Smith Variance represents an epic steal if you catch it on a good sale. For our brains, we love the idea of the extra Koroyd and protection offered by the Smith Quantum, but riders who have been riding in more traditional ski and snowboard helmets for years might be perfectly happy to keep doing so, and in that case, the Smith Variance is a tough snow helmet to beat.

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We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!