Insurers move to ensure better ski safety

Nov 25, 2012 4 Comments by

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.


Helmet practicality

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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Ski Fashion, Skiing & Snowboarding

About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

4 Responses to “Insurers move to ensure better ski safety”

  1. fotis says:

    the cost of recovering from serious head injury that the insuranse has ti cover equals to several hundrents of broken bones….so why pay increased insurance fees for the cover of these accidents and not make helmet compalsory….this may reduse the insurance cost in the long term

  2. Bob Hall says:

    So admittedly it isn’t gonna help if you hit a snow gun, tree, or lift pole. This article sounds more like an insurance companies propaganda than anything else. Biased? Yep. Seriously, comparing the speed of skiing with the speed of cycling? One is on concrete-dodging traffic with exponentially more hazards coming from all angles. Apples and oranges. About the only activity where speeds reach what was it, 40mph? How about riding motorcycles without helmets? My state, Michigan, just became the 31st state to repeal the helmet law. So explain to me the rational for those severity probabilities? Explain how the insurance industry can be good with that? I’m not even against helmets, my daughter (mandatory); my wife does voluntarily. What I am against is ignorance and hypocrisy. Try this… Look at annual ski deaths and remove all deaths from collisions with those objects that the helmet is “unlikely to reduce the risk of injury” from. I’m guessing these isn’t much left, save for the odd celebrity on a bunny hill that was probably genetically prone to that untimely demise whether skiing or wherever. Meanwhile 10’s of thousands are legally navigating crotch-rockets helmet less through rush hour traffic, and the powers that be are “good with it”? Give me a logical explanation for that and I’ll strap one on myself. In the mean time, I’m going skiing. We’re standing on the edge of a slippery slope with the way the insurance industry is intruding on our lives, and the future isn’t pretty.

  3. James says:

    In response to Bob as well as some general points;
    Firstly – I have to say the description of cycling being “on concrete-dodging traffic” sounds exactly like skiing on a busy, icy piste. With the ice hard as concrete and other skiiers perhaps more abundant and even less-predictable than traffic.
    In my opinion, helmets are a no-brainer (and a brain saver). After three, week-long trips to bansko, each time with an average party size of 8-10 people; I have seen 5 people fall and hit thier head (helmet-less) 2 suffering a concussion causing missed time on the slopes. Its also worth pointing out these non-helmet wearers are in the minority and some (perhaps even most) helmet-wearers also fell and hit thier heads – but were fine!
    I agree to a certain extent that it should be down to the individual to take responsibility for themselves, and that the insurance companies should not have to enforce this. But I feel this only because it seems obvious that wearing a helmet is the right thing to do.
    I did not wear a helmet during my first-ever week snowboarding; but purchased a helmet soon as i returned home and wouldn’t dream of heading up the mountain without it again, especially now that i have seen how a sllly little fall can ruin a chunk of you holiday.
    Look at it not as what you have to gain by wearing one, but what what you have to loose if you dont.

  4. Iain says:

    Maybe I should wear a helmet? However fast I ski, and however hard I might fall I will never get injured. There is no danger of dis-locating a shoulder, breaking an arm, a leg, my back or even my neck.

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