Winter is quickly approaching and a lot of us are looking at dusting off our ski and snowboard equipment for another season on the slopes. One of the hot topics on the ski hill last year was the issue of helmets and snow sports. The debate whether helmets should be mandatory protective gear was big news following the tragic death of Natasha Richardson (Liam Neeson’s wife). Vail resorts announced in April 2009 that any employee participating in skiing and snowboarding activities in any of its five mountains will be required to wear a helmet starting the 2009/2010 season. Vail also will require helmets for all children age 12 and under who take group lessons through its schools. Since 2002 Resorts of the Canadian Rockies has required children 12 years and under to wear a helmet while participating in ski and snowboard programs. According to the 2008/09 National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) National Demographic Study 48% of US skiers and boarders wore a helmet (up from 25% in 2002/03)

♦ 77% of children aged 9 years or less wore a helmet   ♦ In contrast, only 32% of men aged 18-22 years wore a helmet.   ♦ Helmet usage increases with ability level – 26% of beginners wore a helmet compared to 55% of advanced skiers and riders.

A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that wearing a helmet significantly reduced the risk of a head injury among snowbo
arders and alpine skiers. The study made the point that helmets are designed to help decrease the severity of a head injury and that helmets are most effective in protection of injuries at slower speeds. Good advice from the NSAA is that “if you choose to wear a helmet, it is important to ski and ride as if you are not wearing one. Helmets should not be perceived as a panacea for slope safety.” Additional information about helmets can be found at www.lidsonkids.org or your local ski or snowboard shop.