Dareece Saca, a statuesque former computer programmer with a long blond ponytail, grew up skiing without ever wearing a helmet. She joked to a friend, "I'll never wear a helmet unless it's crystallized like a Judith Leiber bag."
When she started skiing in the Lake Tahoe area with a helmet covered in sparkling crystals attached by hand, people kept stopping her to compliment her, and soon her business Ice Couture was born.
Ice Couture's crystal-covered helmets will be sold in time for next season, with prices ranging from around $200 for simpler designs to up to $2,000 for Swarovski crystal helmets. The bling designs include pink camouflage and a skull and crossbones.
"Skiing is becoming more fashionable," she said. "Everyone has designer goggles. Especially for kids, you want them to want to wear their helmets. If you get attention for wearing a helmet, it's fun for them. It's an accessory."
Besides stepping up safety features, mainstream helmet makers are coming up with high-tech lighter options, snugger fits, unique designs to fit customers' personal style, and a better fit with goggles to encourage riders to wear their helmets instead of leaving them in the car.
Helmets with polycarbonate shells can shave weight and bulk.
Makers have tinkered with ways to offer a better fit. Some include fleeces of various thicknesses to wear underneath. Some POC helmets have a knob to turn to tighten them.
Burton's RED Prime helmets have an air band system, with small inflatable air cushions that ring the head. A push of a small pump on the side of the ear pad pushes air into the cushion to make it snug.
Nutcase Inc. has added Fidlock magnetic snap buckles, so people don't pinch their skin trying to snap on helmet straps. Men tend to go for solid colors, but Nutcase has plenty of flashy patterns and graphics, too, said Nutcase owner Michael Morrow, a former creative director at Nike.
Helmet covers that make the hard shells look more like stuffed animals are also still selling.
Karyn Climans started Tail Wags Helmet Covers after her helmet shattered — but she recovered — from a crash into a tree. A pink princess cover topped with a yellow crown and pink veil is her top seller.