Should Ski Helmets be Mandatory?

March 19, 2009 Katja Presnal


Giro Ski Helmets, available at Sun & Ski Sports

The recent death of a British actress Natasha Richardson has brought attention to ski related accidents and the debate of whether the ski helmets should be mandatory or not. Natasha Richardson, wife of actor Liam Neeson, fell when she was taking a private ski lesson on a beginner slope at Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec on Monday. She didn’t see a doctor immediately, and felt OK, but started having a severe headache an hour later. She died of brain injury on Wednesday. Natasha Richardson was not wearing a ski helmet when she fell.

This accident has drawn eyes to ski accidents and the topic of making ski helmets mandatory. There are no proofs or enough information to confirm that Natasha Richardson’s death was only ski accident related, and that a ski helmet would have saved her life. However, I think it is a good thing to bring awareness of the importance of using ski or any sports helmet.

I understand that many ski resorts are against making ski helmets mandatory, just from the supervision perspective – whose responsibility it would be to make sure that the skiers are actually using a helmet? It would be a huge burden for ski resorts, some of who are already struggling due the economy, to add supervising ski helmet use to their long list of things to do (and pay for). However – I think there is a great opportunity for some ski resorts to step up and start promoting ski helmet use and safety even more.

FACTS*
– Skiing or snowboarding are not any more dangerous sports than other sports. In fact there are 12 times more swimming related deaths a year, than ski related deaths, when compared to the numbers of people doing these sports.
– An average of under 40 people die of ski related injuries a year.
– Using ski helmets has been increasing in the U.S., now around 43% of skiers and snowboarders use helmets.
– 70% of kids under 9 use a ski helmet, adults around 50%, lowest ski helmet usage is at age group 18-24 years olds at 32%.
– Use of helmet reduces the incidence of any head injury by 30 to 50 percent.


Smith Ski Helmets, available at Sun & Ski Sports

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

The good news is that more and more people are using ski helmets each year, and especially the kids are are using them. However, there is still a lot to do to to educate people about ski safety and the usage of ski helmets. You can do a lot yourself! Show an example, wear one. Use a ski helmet – nothing is better than showing the example by you doing it, especially when you can be a role model to many children at the slopes. Show that others use it too – point out “cool people” who also use helmets for the kids who otherwise might not want to wear one. Get the right helmet. Get a helmet that is comfortable to wear, and you like. When you are buying a ski helmet for your child, get one he/she likes. Helmets can be fashionable too – get cool helmet covers, decorate them with stickers… helmets can be very cool!

SKI RESORTS COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE
As a mother of three, I would much rather pick a ski resort to go with my kids, that supports ski safety and promotes usage of ski helmets. And after speaking with several other “ski moms” – I know I am not the only one. My kids have said to me “why I have to wear a helmet, because the ski teacher isn’t?” or “I wanna be in a ski patrol when I grow up, because they don’t have to wear ski helmets”.

Making ski helmets mandatory for ski resort personal would make a huge difference in the overall attitude towards ski helmets. The ski accidents don’t just happen to beginners, they happen to skiers of all levels. In fact, the deaths happen more often to those who are skilled. Ski resorts could also incentivize ski helmet use of their guests. There are ski resorts in Europe who offer a lift ticket discount for ski helmet users and some ski resorts like Purgatory, in Durango, Colorado, offer free hot chocolate for kids who know “the code” and wear helmets.

I would love to know if there is even one ski resorts, who has made it mandatory for its personal to wear ski helmets, and how if any it has impacted to their bottom line. I believe that there is also a business opportunity for ski resorts who would have the guts to take this step. Goodwill, great PR, added safety on the slopes and even higher sales on ski helmets or trips. I think there are many families who would support the safety aspect and would choose the resort for that reason, not to even mention, if they could get a discount for using ski helmets as well. How about partnering with a known ski helmet company to raise even more awareness of the new “our staff is the safest” slogan?

I understand nobody wants to be the first resort making ski helmets mandatory in the fear of loosing business, but it would be fairly easy task to promote ski helmets and safety just by making the ski resort staff to use helmets, and it wouldn’t be that costly, if partnered with a known ski helmet company and used the fact for promotion of the ski resort and the ski helmets. To me, it sounds like a no-brainer.


Some companies know how to get kids to wear ski helmets – by adding a Sponge Bob or Dora on them! Giro helmet at Amazon

Read more:
Tips How to Get Your Kid To Wear a Ski Helmet
Ski Resorts Should Encourage Safety
Use Your Noodle and Protect Your Noggin
Best Kids Ski Helmets

* Source: National Ski Areas Association

Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live Nordic inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (6)

  1. John Larson

    all Vail employees are required to wear helmets and that include ski instructors and ski patrol. the problem I have with helmets is that it leads to a false sense of security. you still have to ski in control and be able to avoid skiers and obstructions below you. I worked for mt safety and some of the people that wore helmets thought they were on a race course

  2. Mindy Pannell

    Vail Resorts just announced that will enforce a mandatory helmet usage rule for all resort employees. It will be interesting to see how this plays how, impacts helmet usage amongst guests and hopefully reduces head injuries!

  3. I don’t ski, but after this tragedy I went and got a helmet for my bike. When I grew up, no one wore them. I make my son wear one now and so will I. After all, I don’t want him to have to grow up without me.

  4. Honestly? I’m kinda sick of the government getting so involved in our personal lives. We’re over 18, we’re adults. If we choose to take the risk of skiiing without a helmet, that’s our choice. I don’t have a problem with promoting helmets as a safe option or of there being mandatory safety laws for children, but it’s ridiculous that everyone spends so much time telling adults what they can and cannot do. Next everyone will have to start wearing life jackets in the pool…just because you “might” drown.

  5. Super article Katja. The news about Natasha is so heartbreaking. Such a bright future and a beautiful family …… so sad. Thanks for sharing this information with us all.

  6. Thanks for a great article, this hits close to home as my sons just got back from CO, Sunlight mountain where a teen from another church group, that happens to be located near our church where are kids were from is in ICU at Grand Junction with head injuries from a ski accident.

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