Review: k2 ‘Route’ – specialised backcountry ski touring helmet
I skied with Glenn Plake once. Well, I mean, I talked with him in the telecabine, on the way up the Auguille du Midi in Chamonix. Glenn Plake was the bad boy of the time, the ski punk with attitude and with the skiing prowess to match it. He was sporting a huge mohawk, a green and rainbow coloured arc that appeared to almost reach the roof of the gondola. But this mohawk wasn’t the tallest thing. It was 1992 and straight skis were in. The taller the better. In Chamonix one could proclaim their manhood with the length of their skis. 207’s, 210’s, 215’s, the longer the better. We even figured out that while standing riding the gondola, if one were to casually bend a knee, then the corresponding drop in ones height would increase the visual length of the ski, therefore signalling to all the other hopefuls in the telecabine, just how badass we were, before we all spewed out into the top station with cramp in the left leg.
But that was then. Straight skis, mohawks, and no helmets. In 1992 no one even thought of wearing a ski helmet. Now I don’t believe it is mandatory to wear a helmet, it really comes down to personal choice. But once you have gotten used to the comforting feeling of wearing one, there is no going back. Having a good ski touring helmet on is kind of like having a missile encasement. It provides an aerodynamic shell and a good solid feeling. A quality helmet should be warm when it is cold, and cool when sweating uphill. And on this note, for ski touring, I feel the K2 Route helmet has got it right. Halelujah. Because I am sick and tired of having to constantly stop to take my helmet off in order to cool down and my de-mist my sunglasses. And so finally we have a good solution.
The k2 Route’s weight is a light 320 gm for ski touring. There are practical clips for a headlamp or goggles, sunglasses feel comfortable underneath the helmet, and overall there is an ergonomic design. I felt I could ski with my chin strap undone without the thing rattling off. There is no slop at all. Light in weight, I understand that the helmet is designed to be multi functional for use with various different sports. It is very robust; enough that it doesn’t get scuffed up rubbing against ski crampons in my touring pack. This helmet is perfectly suited for ski touring in New Zealand conditions. But I would note, it is not so well suited for downhill, ski resort skiing; there are other helmets specifically designed for that.
Cons. Well, in our antipodean gales, at certain angles the airvents tend to whistle. It would be nice if the earpieces had a removable option. A small visor or lip on the front of the helmet would help with shielding from the sun. And the helmet looks like it is all about business, which made me look considerably less friendly…