Sep 22, 2012

The Ice Halo (repost)

I last posted this one year ago, but with skating season gearing up, I think it's important to talk again about safety equipment. Special bonus: Ice Halo will give Xanboni readers a 10% discount. Enter "Xanboni blog" in the comments section on the PayPal order form to take advantage of this!

I've been wearing the Ice Halo®, generously loaned me for review by the company, for a week (UPDATE- for a year, and now I have two) . I've been wearing it in all my classes, and did a brief moves practice with it.

I am sold. It's moderately distracting when you first step on the ice, but no more than is a new costume with fussy bits, and I think because the one I've been wearing is fur, that's what I'm seeing. After about 5 minutes you forget it's there. Lots of compliments, because, well, it's very attractive. People would tell me "love your hat" and I would get to say "it's actually a helmet!" Many oohs and aahs. It's a little warm, but I wore it as long as 4 hours at a stretch, and it would just get moderately sweaty; not to the point of distraction or discomfort. This might be different for an extended high-level practice; I would suggest that the company investigate developing a "competitors" version with better moisture wicking.

One of the best things about it is that even if it shifts (which it never did), it's a ring, so it doesn't affect vision no matter what part is forward, unlike a full helmet.

I tested it on as many different types of skaters as I could- "baby" competitors, LTS class and LTS privates, high level multiple rotation jumpers, adults, and coaches.

SF (7-years old, FS3 class) Loved it. Mom loved it. Skated an entire lesson, doing all warmups, moves, jumps and spins. Stayed in place, looked adorable. Class coach thought it was a hat, or possibly is too self-absorbed to actually notice stuff like this. Her private lesson coach was receptive.

SBM (6 years old, Gamma private) Also loved it, and, again, mother also loved it. This is a child who can be fussy and difficult, but she put it on and forgot it was there. It did not shift for the entire lesson. I'm her private coach, so I'm on board. If it comes in turquoise, that's a sale.

Coach Fashionista: gave it 3 seconds, for a 7 year old child in FS2. Not, "let's go around one time and then see", not "hey mom, what's the deal?" Just a completely closed mind. This is going to be the biggest hurdle for this company. I think a coach this closed-minded about it can have a huge effect-even if the parents are adamant about a child wearing head gear (even such innocuous and fashionable head gear as this), the parent is going to lose, because a child will not go against a coach on this. Further, once a coach has made such a fuss about it (the mother described her reaction as "vehement") it's over-that child will never wear safety equipment. I feel bad that the kid lost face over this.

Adult free style class: very resistant, despite the fact that one of them is the mother of a student and was fine with testing it on the child, and that I know this is a group of skaters who really trust me. But they had lots of reasons why it could not even be tested-- sloping forehead, no one else wears it, I don't like fake fur, it's hot, I'll look silly (this after complimenting me on it, so either I actually look silly, or they were just making noise).

SR (very skittish adult, class) Would not even try it, despite the fact that she is clearly terrified of falling. First she complained that it would mess up her hair (the lesson is at 8:30 at night--what, she's going clubbing after this?). Then she decided it would be distracting (mind you she hadn't put it on her head). Unfortunately, the adults were universally the most resistant to it, even though they are the group who would benefit most, as I would venture that far the majority of head injuries I have observed have been adults.

Giordano and Davis (2010 US National Juvenile Ice Dance Champions): After an initial period of distraction, just fine. As I suspected, they felt it was hot, which might be mitigated by using the microfleece. Angel felt she could not do a layback with it on, it didn't feel secure, so this would be a definite issue for a competitive lady. They liked the idea of using these just when bringing new lifts onto the ice.

GJ (5 years old, Delta private, that's her in the picture) 'nuff said. All the 4- and 5-year olds did this. Every. Single. One. Get a skateboard helmet for the really little ones. (NOT a bike helmet--you want a helmet that fits close to the head, with good peripheral visibility and no points, which can force the neck to snap forward.)

Nora (professional skater, my daughter) Like all the high level skaters, she thought it was fine, but couldn't imagine ever wearing it. She ran through spins, jumps and moves and had no problems with anything, including the layback, probably because she was wearing it a little lower on the back of her head. She liked the warmth.

Chelsea (Senior ladies competitor) ditto Nora. All the high skaters who tried it claimed that high level skaters don't need safety equipment, while then proceeding to tell me all the awful injuries they have either witnessed or experienced. Sigh.

Manol (Bulgarian Junior Men's Champion) Like all the boys, he immediately "tested" it, by diving full speed at the ice and banging his head. No apparent effect, but with Manol, a head injury might just look like business as usual.

Stitch (St. Lidwina's kid) liked it, but Coach apparently had an apoplexy over it. He immediately started banging his head against the boards (he's short) "to see if it works."

The Noisyboys really liked it, but were extremely distracted by it, not because it was innately distracting, but because they are very distractable (this could be a general problem with boys and some of the crazier girls; the novelty of it was the main attraction). They also had a predictable boy reaction--punching each other in the head, yes "to see if it works." On the whole, however, their verdict was "yes." They wanted a better fit, but of course I had limited options for them.

Currently, these seem best for recreational skaters, who unfortunately are the least likely to suffer head bangs, at least on a per capita basis. The company would do well do develop lines for rental facilities and ones that specifically address the needs of competitive skaters. For rentals there needs to be a way to overcome the no-hat-sharing problem (because of epidemic head lice in some parts of the continent), especially since these are primarily cloth. Perhaps removable, replaceable (or washable) liners or covers (that's an on-going revenue source too!), and/or a plastic fashion side?

The other difficult hurdle is the coaches. ALL of the older and most of the competitive coaches were not fans, ranging from skeptical to scoffing to actively hostile. The Russians all hated it, and I caught at least one making fun of me. For something like this to catch on, I think the clubs and federations (SkateCanada and USFS) would have to make it required equipment, starting at the lower levels. Nearly every youth sport that you can think of requires safety equipment, in particular head protection, but somehow in figure skating it's anathema (not "pretty " I guess).

So here's the tl;dr (too long, didn't read)--it's a great product. I think it should be required equipment, especially for adult beginners. Buy it.

I have not received any remuneration or promises from Ice Halo. They provided me with samples, one of which I kept for my own use, and they sent me a surprise pink fur one, because they found out I like pink (wonder what the first clue was).


  1. I had one that disappeared, and now that there's 10% off I think I'll get another for the dreaded 'learning back threes' falling backwards phenomenom.

    I wouldn't wear one for normal skating now, but when I started I found it very reassuring.

    I agree, they're hot. Even in microfleece. But you don't have to wear it every minute, so you can mitigate that by wearing it only when you think there's head danger.

  2. In two words - it works!

    I fell backwards earlier this year resulting in mild concussion. Was ordered by the spouse to "wear something or stop" as he doesn't want to lose me or my cognition. Bought the ice halo and wear it always.

    Had my blades sharpened, flew across the ice and face planted into the hockey glass. Bruised nose, chin and knees but no headache or whiplash! Ice halo protected my skull and brain, wrist guards cared for the hands and wrists. Guess who is getting Se Ku protective gear soon? Only have two criticisms - Yes they are hot but it just means I take my scarf off earlier and don't need a jacket on the ice. Secondly, the Ice Halo website is terrible.

    My 12 year old daughter is about to start skating and has accepted that an Ice Halo is part of the bargain. The local rink stipulates head protection for all beginner skaters and provides helmets. Somewhat easier to accept here as in Australia we've had mandatory bike helmet laws for over 20 years.

    I'll use your discount code for Miss 12 and order a pretty one for her.

    1. Haha-- I agree. That Ice Halo site needs a serious upgrade.

  3. I am an adult skater. I love the Ice Halo. I have the Jersey knit fabric. It can be warm, yes, but I don't find it distracting at all. For those out there who think they don't need head protection, you may very well find out the hard way one of these days. I recently fell backwards after three years of not doing so, and was grateful for the Ice Halo. It was literally the first time I took it for a test drive, so to speak, and the first words out of my mouth--even before I got up--were, "It works!". I think it is important to set an example of responsibility; all it will take is one high-level skater at a rink to wear one and I can bet every little kid will follow suit. I do notice several adults at my rink wearing one, but only one child who does--and only because her mother decided that two concussions were too many. If you think it's silly, getting a concussion or other head injury is even sillier if you choose not to take precautions.
    THe Ice Halo could be improved if it had a removable, washable, moisture-wicking cover. Nonetheless, I continue to wear mine religiously and consider it as much a part of skating get-up as gloves would be, and don't feel properly outfitted for a skate unless I have it on. If you can wear hip and tailbone and knee protection the size of sofa cushions, you can certainly wear brain protection that looks no more out of the ordinary than a hat!g

    1. This is something that always puzzles me-- the girls have no problem with the sofa cushions on their hips, but are afraid the head protection makes them look silly or wimpy.

    2. Weeeellll - maybe because everyone has had experience of falling and bruising hips & other bits and remembers the pain of recovery. Unfortunately a lot of people seem to need that experience to think about prevention in the future. Not everyone experiences or remembers head injuries as they are quite rare in comparison to other injuries on ice.

      Plus the hip and coccyx protectors signal that you are trying new and difficult things - so clever. My gear will be because I fall often not because I'm up for new tricks. Consequently I chose the least obvious protection available ; )

  4. Just an FYI worth mentioning: it DOES come in a smaller size perfect for 4 and 5 yr olds. After I wrote inquiring about it, they actually began to offer the extra small on the website. If you don't see that option, you can request the even smaller size if buying for a preschooler, and they will send it right out.

  5. I have an Ice Halo (the grey charcoal one). I love it -- it feels a bit warm but that mostly manifests as my eyes feeling cold. I will definitely keep wearing it, as I'm going away to college so there'd be nobody to "keep an eye on me" if I did bump my head.

  6. I am a dancer, former kid singles skater, and I wear it every time I skate. I have never fallen on my head skating but I've had two concussions doing other sports (diving and horses) and at the age of 50 I don't want another one. I skate in a hot mall rink and yes, it's hot (I have microfiber) but another concussion would be far worse. I am working on international dances and have gotten some interesting comments over the past two years that I've worn the halo. The only time I have not worn it is when I tested my Cha Cha Congelado. (If they came in hot pink to match the dress I would have.)

    After a particularly bad head injury by another adult skater, I noticed several other adults, some high-level skaters, wearing them. I am happy that I started a fashion trend but it took a couple of years and a bad accident for that to happen.

    I wish the company would come up with a version with open mesh at the forehead ... I am very unlikely to hit my forehead and most likely to hit the back of my head. My forehead sweats and an open mesh there with no protection would cut down on the "hot" factor and still offer protection where I need it most. Just sayin!

  7. I just ordered one - thank you for mentioning the discount for your blog. I hope I will wear it - worried that I won't, but I got the pretty white fake fur one so at least it will be 'cute'. You've only got one brain!

  8. Is there any hard data available on the impact properties of the Ice Halo? Before trusting my head to any sort of new protective equipment I would want to see the results from an independent lab detailing exactly what tests were performed, how they were performed, and how the material responded.

    The advantage to almost any other protective headgear is that there is an ASTM standard for it and so I can go look up that standard and know that anything ASTM certified will have met the criteria in front of me. In the absence of a standard and certification process I need the hard data to evaluate it myself.

    I'm just not comfortable trusting my head to anecdata and company assurances.

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