Safety on the Slopes – A Case for Helmets
When I first got back into skiing in ’09, I used to think that wearing a helmet wasn’t necessary for a slow poke like me. I thought that they were simply reserved for people who tore down the mountain, did tricks or liked skiing through glades. Since I was none of the above, I figured I was perfectly fine pizza pie-ing down the mountain sans helmet.
That was until I took a few falls while skiing last winter. This was in large part due to starting to challenge myself to start trying tougher terrain. You can’t improve without challenging yourself, so as I felt more comfortable I pushed the bar a bit. So I started to casually look into helmets and price them out online. Since I was still a casual skier, I felt like I didn’t want to pay $100 for a helmet, so I kept up the search for a good deal. Unable to find one, I decided perhaps renting a helmet to see which one I liked best might be a good solution.
I rented this little gem one weekend:
It was during that ski trip to Stowe Mountain Resort that one of my friends, who was a very experienced skier, took a bad fall by hitting a patch of ice shortly after getting off the chair lift. She was skiing at what was probably her slowest speed of the day, and with extreme caution because of the crowded trail. I wasn’t there when it happened, but her boyfriend told me that she hit a patch of ice, went flying straight forward and hit her head extremely hard on the packed ice. The fall was so hard that she had a gash in her helmet. She managed to get herself together and ski down the trail, head up the chair lift and visit ski patrol to get tested for a concussion. It wasn’t clear how many tests they ran on her, but they said she was OK to ski for the rest of the day, but she ended up calling it quits early because of a headache and a sore neck. That’s what really sealed the deal on buying a helmet.
This past summer I went to a ski sale on the mission for new boots. After I picked out a pair that fit, I browsed the rest of their gear to see if anything intrigued me. I happened upon a stack of helmets and immediately remembered my friend’s fall. I tried on the first one that seemed to be my size, learned how to properly fit it to my head and added it to my purchases. I ended up scoring the helmet one for $65, a great price to make sure your noggin is safe! I also convinced Foxy that he should invest in one too, so at the Boston Ski expo he found one and picked it up for $60.
Fast forward to the ’11 ski season, and I became increasingly thankful for my investment. I have started to challenge and push myself more and more, and with that comes more risk of falling and injury. Skiing at Bretton Woods on New Years Eve with our helmets for the very first time, a friend asked why we decided to buy helmets. I quickly recounted the story about my friend falling last winter at Stowe. Our friend mentioned that he never fell in a manner where he would hit his head, and didn’t see a use for one. I just shrugged and simply stated, “I just feel like there a lot to lose, but that’s just me”
I feel extremely thankful every time I head out on the slopes that I now have invested a small amount of money in my safety. Skiing is a risky sport, you put yourself in danger and at mercy of the elements, your fellow skiers and equipment every time you head out down the mountain.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when I saw the real value of wearing a helmet in a true life and death situation. Now this wasn’t something that I read about in a magazine, it was a situation that happened to someone that I know. In the interest of privacy, I will not be using anyone’s name or locations, but that isn’t necessary to make this story a true case for helmets.
This person was skiing out west and what I imagine to be one of the first or second runs of the day. Below is a detailed description of what happened by a first responder.
“I think he saw the end of your fall, and your impact with the tree. You might have hit an icy patch and tumbled over a cliff band, you might have triggered a small point avalanche, or that might have been triggered by ski patrol before we all hit that slope. But you did go over a rocky band and hit a tree, you were buried and unconscious when the first two people reached you. My party of four reached you about two turns later. That much we know.”
From there, they were airlifted to a nearby hospital, had surgery and rested. Their helmet was smashed into several pieces, and all told they broke roughly 7-8 bones. They were in pain, but extremely thankful for the people that found them. Their accident was not only a stern reminder of the value of wearing a helmet while skiing, but how lucky we all are to be alive. Several of the first responders are using this accident to help others avoid future life or death accidents.
“I can not tell you how glad I am that you are going to be fine. I’ve become a bit of a helmet ambassador since your accident. One of the guys who responded has worn his helmet every day since and will continue. I kinda believe that things happen for a reason too. I hope there are some darn good reasons since I am sure you’re suffering considerably with your various bone breakages, etc.”
I will never be fast, do tricks or ski glades frequently, but Foxy and I will always wear our helmets. Just as I said to my friend, there is a lot to lose.
If that wasn’t enough to promote wearing a helmet, I’m not sure what is. To find your perfect helmet, visit your local ski shop and find the helmet that fits you best.