The great helmet debate

Helmets are becoming the norm on the slopes

Helmets are becoming the norm on the slopes

The debate over whether or not wearing a helmet should be made compulsory has been brewing for a while, and it’s recently been reignited by the news that an insurance company has decided to make helmet use compulsory on their winter sports insurance policy. The move by Essential travel is bound to see other insurance companies follow suit, and may end up taking the question of whether or not to wear a lid, out of our hands. In Canada, certain resorts in eastern Canada have taken things a step further by making it compulsory to wear helmets on their mountain. To be honest, I rarely wear a helmet. It’s not because I feel invincible, as I’ve learned, to my peril, that I’m not. It’s more that I previously hadn’t found one that I felt comfortable in. I found them to be quite cumbersome, and while I knew that I really should wear one, I always found a way to convince myself I’d be ok without it.

Reluctant helmet wearer

Reluctant helmet wearer

Fortunately I have been, but that’s not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of tumbles. I’ve broken several bones and whacked my head on many occasions, so I’ve probably had a lucky escape… so far. There’s nothing worse than the hollow thud of your own head hitting hard packed snow (or is that just mine?!) and every time it happens, I vow that I’ll start wearing a helmet. I’m now starting to feel like a Cat (capital C intended) whose nine lives are rapidly running out. So, this season I’ve decided that I’m going to find a helmet that I feel comfortable in, and then wear it all of the time (well, on the mountain at least!) My mission got underway a couple of months ago, when the new kit started to appear in the shops, and I think I might have found a winner, the Salomon Poision. It feels super comfy, light, and doesn’t make me feel like I want to take it off the minute I put it on! Hell, I’m even comfortable enough in it to post a picture online, which is definite progress!

Bern helmets looks pretty awesome... Just not on me!

Bern helmets looks pretty awesome… Just not on me!

I also love Bern helmets, but just don’t think they‘re the right fit for me, as I have a pretty small (as well as hollow!) head. There are some great helmets out there, which not only feel comfortable, but look great too, so it’s easy to see why they are starting to become the norm, rather than the exception. Personally, I’m all for helmet use and can’t see many arguments against it, other than the comfort/vanity factor, or cost. I’ve used the latter as an excuse too, but seeing as I’ll happily shell out for yet another jacket that I really don’t need, that excuse really doesn’t hold much weight. I probably need the push of it being made compulsory, but then again, I do feel people should be able to make their own choices. It’s a tricky one… What do you think? Do you wear a helmet? How do you feel about the idea of them being made compulsory? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your views… Thanks, Cat

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8 responses to “The great helmet debate

  1. I’ve made a couple posts on my blog about wearing helmets, the most recent from June 2011 when I had to be taken to the hospital after hitting my head. I thought hitting a line of jumps no bigger than 35′ was mellow for me and wasn’t wearing my helmet. I overshot one of them to about 60′, slammed my head and against my will went to ski patrol. They had me on an oxygen mask and after showing signs of unresponsiveness sent me to the hospital for a CAT Scan. My brain was ok, but I felt loopy for a month afterwards. Now I ALWAYS wear a helmet when I’m riding park (occasionally I’ll hit rails without it.) I physically can’t ride half pipe without my helmet because it feels so weird to not have it on in the pipe. I usually don’t wear it when I’m just free riding, but I probably should because I’ve had a minor concussion from hitting my head on a tree while just cruising.

    I think things are definitely moving towards helmets being required at resorts. Helmets are mandatory at 90% of my competitions and everyone in ski school at the mountains must wear helmets now (this wasn’t required when I was learning.) I don’t see anything wrong with requiring helmets- they save lives. People will surely put up a big stink about it, but sometimes people don’t know what’s best for them. I’ve had a couple of friends (who are not beginners at all) get in big accidents where they were told by doctors “you would be dead right now if you didn’t have that helmet on.”

  2. This is one of those subjects which is becoming like religion, politics and global warming – three subjects you should avoid as after dinner topics. You are either for it or against it and nothing you can say will convince the other side to change their minds. We have done quite a few stories about this in the Skier & Snowboarder mag and there still doesn’t seem to be an answer. One side comes out with studies proving the need for head gear and the other side produces evidence disproving it. The nearest analogy is probably cycling. This debate has been going on a lot longer than skiing and still has not been resolved one way or the other mainly because experts say a helmet would not have helped prevent serious injury in the majority of cases. However I do think children should wear them.
    Here is some food for thought, although it would probably be impossible to administer.
    It should be complusory for children U16 and beginners to wear a helmet. For people learning to ski it would be up to their instructor to say when they believe they have reached a point where they believe they are competent enough not to have to wear one (bit like a learner driver).
    You would probably find that as then most people were used to wearing them they would probably choose to keep wearing a helmet but at least they would still have a choice.
    As I said, probably too difficultto implement, but at least it’s a starting point.

  3. I always wear a helmet. On the slopes and on my bike. Ski helmets have come along way in recent years. Light strong and plenty of styles to find one that fits. They double up as great ice buckets for the Jagermeister for that mid morning tipple too

  4. I was only talking to some of my guests last week about insurance company’s and that we could not believe they had not already made this part of there cover, as it is in pre season training I had a fall on a flat blue and smashed me head in to the ground, for the next few days I used me helmet but since then it sits in the boot of the car unless I am teaching under 15’s I know I should ware it and that telling my adult students to use one without one on my head seems a bit wrong. It will be interesting to see how many more insurance company’s follow this. Although did a recent report not state that since the increase in people wearing helmets there had also been an increase in accidents linked to people being more adventurous as they had a helmet on?

  5. I suppose it’s like wearing a seat belt in a car…looks stupid but is necessary if you value your life – and it won’t be your fault but the guy behind you who rear ends you and then you’ll be glad you were wearing a seat belt….so yes, helmets look stupid but are necessary especially when you start getting more adventurous…..

  6. We would agree with the comment by Andy about the increase in accidents linked to people being more adventurous because they were wearing a helmet. Unfortunately many people tend to take the attitude that a helmet will make up for lack of skill so, instead of ski-ing or boarding at a speed and terrain difficulty appropriate to their skill level, they are tempted to go far beyond just pushing the boundaries and thereby make themselves a danger not only to themselves but also to everyone around them.
    Having said this, as responsible professionals, in our teaching and in our book on ski-ing for the fair sex, Finesse not Force, we do advocate the use of helmets, particularly for children /young adults and for off-piste – provided they are the correct size for the user and properly fitted. For adults, the choice of to wear or not to wear should be up to the individual, but to make them compulsory could have the reverse of the desired effect. Helmets are fine, but they are not the panacea of all ills, as many seem to think and, like the cases with seatbelts and airbags in cars, there are many documented cases where they have been a contributory factor in more severe injury than would otherwise have resulted, Unfortunately the promotors only push the up-side of helmet use, never the down-side!

  7. Is this a debate? Really? I am a right-wing-anti-government-republican- nut-case but since we now all pay for the lifetime care of the brain-dead I am perfectly happy having insurance companies, resorts, even local governments tell the hold-outs to freaking put a lid on it! When I started my own kids skiing in the early 1990’s I got my old 1970’s vintage downhill racing helmet out of the garage and put it on so that I could enforce an all-helmet-all-the-time rule with my kids. Now I would never downhill ski without a helmet and am thinking about wearing it while driving! Medical science can now replace every part of the body BUT the brain. The arguments against helmets seem to come from folks who have already had one or two concussions too many.

  8. As a proffessional snowboard instructor and somewhat rebel in my ealrier years I find this interesting that this should even be a question – you simply have a choice, ask Kevin pearce what he thinks, I think you get his opinion. I think you should have the choice, however if you dont want to protect your brain, you may not be using the entire capacity of your brain to make this decision.

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