Ski safety, and the wearing of helmets, is a topic that divides opinion. Read on for why there could be more than just safety as a reason to consider wearing a helmet.
Use your head
There has been a recent move by holiday insurer Essential Travel to ensure better ski safety by making it compulsory that skiers wear helmets. Many legal firms such as Pannone Law believe that this is a move that is likely to be replicated by other holiday insurers in the near future. If policy holders do not comply with these terms, then their insurance is then invalid, thus they are left without medical or legal cover in the event of a ski accident.
The move follows the ski safety campaign ‘Use Your Head’ launched after the death of Natasha Richardson.
The insurance group acknowledges that wearing a helmet doesn’t reduce the risk of injury at all levels when skiing, it can however reduce the risk of potentially fatal injuries. Essential Travel, argue that they are rewarding safety conscious skiers with reduced premiums and discounts.
There are arguments for not wearing helmets whilst skiing. Some believe that they make the wearer feel safer, leading to over confidence and encouraging them to ride beyond their usual comfort zone and ability.
Wearing a helmet may also give the feeling that the rider is indestructible, encouraging skiers to go faster and to venture to more dangerous places. In addition to this, there is also the argument that suggests that wearing a helmet means that your audibility and spatial awareness is reduced. This means that skiers will be less aware of other people skiing around them, this would actually increase the risk of collision on the piste. If this is the case, it suggests that there is the potential for more accidents if everyone on the mountain was wearing a helmet. Unlikely.
Some of my friends in Bansko will argue that they are in complete control when skiing, so don’t need to wear a helmet. However, there are plenty of other people on the same slope who won’t be as competent, and whom you are not in control of when skiing. It is not always possible to predict another person’s next move, they cause a collision, you fall and you end up with a head injury.
I have witnessed a number of collisions on Bansko’s slopes, and one occasion the lady, whom I assisted, was dazed and concussed. I am sure she would hardly have had felt a thing if she had worn a helmet.
Ski and snowboard development
The development in the ski equipment we use has helped increase the popularity of the sport. Skiers are much more likely to venture off-piste and go back country. More risk is encountered in such situations and this makes it an even more compelling argument for wearing a helmet to ensure your safety.
The good news is that more of us are beginning to wear helmets. One reason for this may be that they aren’t ugly and unfashionable any more, advances in design and technology means they are much more wearable and available in almost any colour.
The rise in the number of helmet wearers may also be partly due to the tragic high profile death of actress Natasha Richardson. It was widely publicised when she died, that the cause was from a blood clot in her brain after a seemingly minor fall on a beginners’ slope. For these reasons, the case for wearing helmets is gaining momentum. Here in Bansko, I have seen a both an increase in the proportion of skiers and snowboarders opting for the helmet option on the ski packages form. Free rental helmets are available for all children.
The case for wearing a helmet
If you think about it, there is an obvious case for wearing helmets. Dion Taylor from Snow+Rock pointed out that most cyclists wear helmets now, a skier on average will travel much faster than a cyclist so why aren’t all of us wearing them?
Wearing a helmet just makes sense. He has a very valid point, there are few activities today in which people will be freely travelling at speeds upwards of 65 kmh (40mph) without wearing a helmet. Our head is a very vulnerable part of our body which needs protection. Although most skiers are likely to come away from an accident with sprains, broken bones or bruising, you are still very likely to injure your head.
Bear in mind that a head injury is the leading cause of death in winter sports. Evidence suggests that a helmet will protect you in a minor accident however, in more major collisions with a snow cannon, or tree, wearing a helmet is unlikely to reduce your risk of injury. Despite this, probability does suggest that, in some cases, the helmet will be the difference between life and death. You need to consider if this is a risk you are willing to take just to look fashionable on the slopes.
I was originally converted to the merits of wearing a helmet more for the warmth than the safety. Helmets are much warmer than most hats that you can buy, a helmet offers far more wind resistance and warmth.
Wearing a helmet and goggles covers almost all of your face, minimising your skin exposure to the cold. This can prevent frostbite, offers protection from wind burn and will keep the rest of your body much warmer.
Helmets should they be compulsory?
From wikipeda article on ski helmets which provides useful facts on the risks, it is California that is currently the only US state in which helmet use during snow sports is compulsory, and only for participants 18 years and under. The current recommendation by the National Ski Areas Association is for participants to wear a helmet, but to ride as if they’re not.
Vail Resorts, in the United States, now requires helmet wear for their employees, as well as for children under 12 participating in formal classes.
There is talk of making helmets compulsory on the slopes across Europe, many people will argue that you should be able to make your own decisions based on the facts. So, make sure that you educate yourself on the risks so you can freely draw your own conclusions in the debate. If you prefer to buy, rather than rent, a helmet take a look at the listing of outlets in Bansko and other online web sites in the Bansko ski fashion article.
What do you think about helmets? Please let us know by commenting below.
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