Ski Helmets – Should They Be Made Compulsory to Wear?

The debate surrounding the compulsory wearing of ski helmets has been rekindled following a number of high profile incidents. The two most newsworthy incidents being the death of the British actress Natasha Richardson and the jailing of a German politician for the manslaughter of another skier following a collision.

The consensus of opinion amongst the medical profession and skiing/snowboarding organizations is that wearing ski helmets should not be made compulsory. Both sides argue that there is little or no scientific research to show that a ski helmet will truly reduce the likelihood of death or serious injury following a collision. They also point to the fact that serious head injuries are rare in skiing and snowboarding. However when they do occur they are a significant factor in any death. Medical professionals and ski/snowboarding organizations agree that skiers and snowboarders should be encouraged to wear a ski helmet.

This sentiment is echoed throughout the multitude of ski and snowboarding forums where the issue of compulsory wearing of ski helmets and snowboard helmets is being hotly debated. Many argue that by making ski helmets compulsory skiers and riders will ski or ride with less care and attention as the helmet may give them a false sense of security.

The debate now appears to have moved on following the announcement by Vail Resorts that all employees will have to wear a ski helmet when skiing or riding on the job. This not only includes staff at Vail but also Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Heavenly. Also all children under 12 attending Vail Resorts ski schools will be required to wear a ski or snowboard helmet.

In Europe many of the ski schools are actively encouraging their ski and boarding instructors to wear helmets. Italy has led the way in Europe in terms of introducing a law making it mandatory for children to wear a ski helmet. This has been followed by lower Austria who have introduced a similar law.

In response to the recent tragic incidents on the ski slopes some ski and snowboard equipment rental companies have been started to promote the use of helmets. Many include a free ski or snowboarding helmet in any rental package a client purchases from them. Also some ski tour operators are offering a free ski helmet with holiday bookings in an effort to promote responsible and safe skiing and riding. Ski and snowboard retailers have also noticed a marked increase in the number of ski helmet sales following these high profile incidents.

Many in the skiing and snowboarding community believe that the announcement by Vail Resorts is the thin end of the wedge. They believe that it is inevitable that the wearing of ski and snowboarding helmets will be made compulsory for all. For the time being it seems that common sense will have to prevail when it comes to deciding whether to wear a ski helmet whilst skiing or riding.

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