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Now I know how Ralph Nader felt when he wrote his landmark auto industry indictment “Unsafe At Any Speed” in the Sixties. It seems almost antediluvian to have to make this argument: Skiers should wear helmets.
Like seat belts for cars, helmets are vital safety equipment, no matter how well you ski. All other sports in which participants risk head injuries consider helmets de rigueur. Football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, kayaking, snowmobiling, cycling; they’ve all wised up. Why haven’t we?
Personal choice types cite reports that show that most ski fatalities¿including high-profile tree collisions like those suffered by Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono¿wouldn’t have been prevented by helmets. Sure the risk of dying or suffering a catastrophic head injury from skiing is statistically infinitesimal, but what about the dozens of severe head injuries and hundreds more painful concussions that snowsliders suffer? I haven’t fallen off a road bike in 30 years, but I still don a helmet every time I hit the asphalt, even if it’s just a leisurely cruise with my kids.
Now I know ski helmets aren’t considered “cool” in some circles, and for spring skiing they can be downright hot, but they’re getting better and better at regulating temperature. Newer models have vents and removable ear flaps. And in the dead of winter, the warmth and moisture resistance of a head cocoon can’t be beat.
Not cool? Head to Crested Butte’s North Face or any other extreme palace, and more often than not the skiers launching the biggest air are wearing helmets. Check out the new Imax adventure film, “Extreme.” Ski star Gordy Peifer? Wearing a helmet. Snowboard leading man Craig Kelly? He’s got one, too.
But for me, the helmet debate is no longer academic, it’s personal. Hang around the ski industry for 20 years like I have, and you’re bound to have friends¿good and careful skiers¿who wind up dead or seriously debilitated because of head injuries. I’ve got one of each.
When SKI Editor-In-Chief Andy Bigford asked me to write this piece he said, “You should be able to knock this off quickly. Your position is a no-brainer.” Unfortunately my foil across the page¿and anyone who thinks similarly¿runs the risk of becoming a “no brainer” himself.