Should you wear a safety helmet when skiing or not? Should it be made law to wear said safety helmet? Or should it only be mandatory for children to wear safety helmets? And what constitutes the top age of a ‘child’ – 12 or 18?
All these questions are lighting up the skiing and snowboarding blogs and the question has reached up as high as the California government. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently had to block a bill making it mandatory for children to wear safety helmets on the slopes, only because that bill was tied to another that would have put unfair pressure on the ski resorts with little guarantee of added safety. However, it is expected that the bill will return to be voted on again, this time solo and will most likely be passed at that point.
There seems to be little evidence that safety helmets are desperately needed, it seems more to be the health and safety brigade slowly closing in on all the potentially risky pastimes and enforcing regulations where it sees a lack of them. Medical evidence seems to be clear in that while deaths have remained steady at around 40 per year, serious head injuries are reduced by about 50% since the wearing of helmets started to become more common.
The arguments against wearing helmets are many, there being an air amongst some skiers of not having needed them in the past and therefore not needing them now, an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality. Many of the anti-helmet groups feel that wearing helmets will actually make a skier more liable to have an accident as their field of vision will be blocked by the sides of the helmet and the straps will restrict the ease of movement vital when moving at speed on the slopes.
Another, interesting idea, and one that is backed up by psychologists is the fact that some people feel invincible and protected once in a helmet and will therefore act in a fool-hardy and dangerous fashion, to the point that they will put themselves at risk of injury. Almost like the old saw which states that the safest vehicle to drive is one with an enormous spike sticking out of the steering wheel towards the driver’s heart – the constant awareness of the danger to his or her person will immediately concentrate the driver’s mind on conducting himself safely to his destination, whereas safety features and roll bars can cause a sense of false security. The counter to that would be the many skiing blog posts where people have tried a skiing safety helmet and been pleasantly surprised at the comfort and warmth afforded, the added protection being a bonus
One argument is the relative expense of the helmets, but this is countered almost immediately by the fact that ski helmets are available to rent at many skiing locations, and these days helmets are included in the equipment rental for children in most places, along with the skis and poles.
Having been skiing helmetless at age 12 I think it is a shame that children already have so much of the joy of childhood cut short, monitored and structured in a way not thought of even as recently as 10 or 15 years ago, there is little to match the joy I felt speeding down the slope once I had mastered the basics. I cannot recall banging my head during that first week of getting to grips with the snow, my bottom ached most days, but my head was untouched! Having said that if I were to take my 3 children skiing they would wear helmets, no question about it, and to show them how sensible it is not to take chances I would certainly wear one myself.
More and more people are taking that view, there seems to be a quiet, unregulated revolution on the piste – helmets are growing in usage. I feel it will soon be law for children under 12 or 13 to wear helmets and this will be backed up by the resorts requesting that all people wear helmets within their boundary – it will not be long before insurers that cover the public liability of the resorts begin to include it as a standard clause along with the easy release boots that have saved countless patrons leg bones and knees and the other safety rules and requirements that will make our snow slopes a safer place to work and play.
In this advice video we will take a detailed look into ski and snowboarding helmets:
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