First Look: Sweet Protection Ascender Helmet to Climb Snow or Rock, Ski Down

Certified for both downhill skiing and mountaineering, the Sweet Protection Ascender is an all-around helmet for those who earn their turns. We tested the Sweet Protection Ascender helmet backcountry skiing in Norway.

Ski mountaineers require protection not only from falling rock and ice but also from falling on rock and ice. Thus, a single helmet that is certified for both vertical rock climbing and downhill skiing makes sense.

The Sweet Protection Ascender, new for 2020, aims to serve the varied needs of the backcountry touring mountaineer. I happen to love this stuff, so I put it to the test.

sweet protection ascender helmet review

High up above Stryn, Norway, I took off my skis and scrambled over rocks the last few feet to the summit. A 3,000-foot face sprawled below, with views down valley into a green fjord. The wind ripped across the summit, a thankful cooling on a hot spring ski tour.

But even though it was corn weather, I climbed the mountain wearing a helmet designed for both skiing and climbing, the Sweet Protection Ascender ($170).

sweet protection ascender helmet review

In short: The Sweet Protection Ascender is a multi-norm helmet certified for both mountaineering and downhill skiing. It puts a premium on ventilation, breathability, and low weight while maintaining high protective standards.

As comfortable as a trucker hat on the head, it should be high on the list for ski mountaineers and touring aficionados. But due to no ear coverage and extreme breathability, this is not a good choice for resort skiing, where cold protection is a significant consideration.

It’s worth noting you can also get the Ascender equipped with MIPS, a protective technology that reduces rotational impact forces, for a bump up in retail price to $200.

sweet protection ascender helmet review

Sweet Protection Ascender Helmet Review

For a lot of ski mountaineers, wearing a helmet on the uphill parts of the day is a no-go. Ski helmets tend to be very warm, causing overheating while skinning up mountains.

But the Sweet Protection Ascender takes a different approach to head protection for skiers. Putting the uphill first, the helmet weighs just 400 g. For those of us in the U.S., that’s less than one pound — super light for a ski helmet.

The helmet has all the features needed by serious mountain athletes. Integrated clips keep your headlamp and goggles secure. It also went further to give the helmet a high profile that leaves ears open to the cool air, with 108 “penetration proof” vent holes and a “superficial temporal artery cooling channel,” or STACC. Combined, these design elements give the helmet an airy, light feel.

Ascender

The helmet is quite comfortable even when you’re working up a sweat on the uphill.

On the downhill, it’s equally light, which I find nice. But in windy or snowy weather, it won’t keep your head and ears warm like a more traditional ski helmet. So if you’re heading out on powder days or in chilly conditions, a buff, balaclava, or hat is a must to keep ears warm.

And while this helmet would work fine as a pure downhill helmet, I wouldn’t put it as a top choice for riding lifts. It doesn’t pack enough insulation for cold days inbounds.

Sweet Protection Ascender: Who It’s For

The Sweet Protection Ascender competes with a few other multi-norm helmets such as the Salomon MTN Lab and Scott Couloir 2.

If your ski season hinges on backcountry days (maybe some rock or ice climbing) and tricky descents in places where rockfall is possible, this helmet should be high on your list. I could see it becoming popular with ski-mo racers thanks to its low weight and great ventilation. And those who ice climb, rock climb, and ski can get an all-in-one helmet with the Ascender.

Ascender

In testing, I wore size M/L. I wear that size in most helmets, and this one seemed about average in fit.

It uses a strap adjustment system that’s a little work to get dialed. But with a few minutes of futzing around, I got the straps right for my head. It stayed comfortable through a couple days of riding without any further adjustment.

I really enjoyed using the Ascender. For those who venture into the backcountry, the helmet is a versatile choice that should never have to leave your head, whether you’re climbing uphill or ripping down.

Sean McCoy
By

Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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