The Safety Site
Monica Palmer, RSRC Safety Administrator
Recreational Safety takes Responsibility & Control
Wearing Helmets While Skiing
This real story of a scrape with disaster was written by our club member, Bruce Schmidt. Thank you, Bruce for sharing the following story with all of us. Please share with your friends and family.
Skiing is a wonderfully fun and invigorating sport, but it also can be dangerous and accidents can happen. Lucky for us, safety equipment has improved greatly since I began skiing many decades ago. Bindings, in particular, are far better than they used to be, resulting in a significant reduction in injuries.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is our heads! Luckily, helmets are now considered part of the basic equipment all skiers should use. However, I do still occasionally see people without helmets on the hill, and I’d like to encourage anyone who does that to reconsider. Let me tell you how I reached this conclusion.
I taught myself to ski without using a helmet, and for the next 40+ years I laughed at the idea that I needed one. After all, the longer I skied without one, the more evidence that I didn’t need one, right? I hadn’t hurt my head in all those years, had I?
Then, my wife Jackie started in on the need for helmets. I argued that helmets were bulky and clumsy, and would impede my vision. Our kids had been racers in high school and wore helmets to race, but jettisoned them as soon as they were off the course. However, Jackie was persistent, and finally put her foot down, saying “Nobody in this family skis ever again without a helmet!” And, she meant it. I realized that there was no way to win this battle, so reluctantly we all went down to the ski shop and dutifully bought helmets.
The very first time we went skiing with the new head gear I was skiing with my son, Mike, who is a fantastic skier. We had a fun morning and then at midday we decided to have lunch. Mike volunteered to ski down to the parking lot to get the lunch and I headed to the sack lunch room at the lodge.
However, Mike didn’t show up. I waited for quite some time and was getting worried when he finally appeared. But, it was clear that something was wrong. First, he didn’t have the lunch sack. He said that he hadn’t been able to find the car in the parking lot. Now, it was a large lot, it was full and we were parked in the middle. But Mike also wasn’t speaking really clearly and seemed a little unsteady. What was up, I wondered.
Then he told me what happened. On the way down he went by the large half pipe and he decided to hit it. I’ve seen him in the pipe before, and I knew he was good and usually got a lot of air above the edge of the pipe. Well, on one of his hits he got good air, but on the way down his skis hit the lip of the pipe and he flipped into the pipe head first! He said that he hit hard, and he showed me the new helmet with the shell cracked. I can only think what would have happened if he hadn’t been forced to wear the helmet that day!
Needless to say, Mike and I both learned our lessons that day. You never plan on having an accident, and you have to be prepared when it suddenly happens. It doesn’t matter how good a skier you are, and in fact, more experienced skiers could even feel a bit over confident. Since Mike’s accident, I have been blindsided by other people on the hill and was very glad to have been wearing my helmet, not to mention the times kids have lowered the safety bar on the chairlift without warning!
Plus, I have to admit that all of my other concerns about wearing helmets proved to be incorrect. The modern helmet is comfortable, does not block vision, and has moveable vents to make them warm or cool, as needed.
So, please wear your helmet whenever you ski. The noggin you save may be your own!
Bruce also provided the following link to an informational article about ski helmets.