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Ski Helmets

In the wake of several high profile ski accidents, helmets have received a lot of media attention. There are a few pros and cons to consider for helmets so we thought we’d weigh in and cover a couple of the issues from the perspective of an instructor.

Short version

Don’t read sensationalised stories in the tabloids. Do find facts and figures at ski-injury.com

Long version

You are responsible for your own safety on the slopes and nothing we say here means we accept liability for any accident you have as a result of wearing a helmet or not, and at this point, we would like to stress you should follow the [ski way code] at all times when skiing.

Given our own personal preference is to wear ski helmets, the only recommendation we can make in good conscience is that you should wear a helmet to ski or snowboard, although you should make your own decision based on your own preference and research.

The case for helmets

  • The obvious point is that a helmet can help to protect your head if you’re in an accident (please note - we use the words “help to protect” and we do not say “prevent injury”).
  • Some resorts are starting to make helmets mandatory, so regardless of any personal views on the subject you will need to wear a helmet in those resorts.
  • Even in a resort where helmets are not mandatory, your snowsports insurance policy may require that you wear a helmet.
    • Even if they don’t specifically say this in the fine print, they may argue later that any sensible person would wear a helmet.; Therefore, someone in an accident who was not wearing a helmet did not behave in a responsible manner. So you may find not wearing a helmet invalidates your insurance even for an accident that does not involve a head injury. The question here is: are you aware of your insurance policy details, requirements and restrictions, and how they may be applied to you in the event of any accident?
  • Helmets keep your ears warm

The case against helmets

  • “Risk Compensation Theory” - It is possible that you get “invincibility syndrome” where the fact that you are wearing a helmet means that you take more risks with the consequence that you may have an accident you wouldn’t otherwise have had. Anecdotally this theory seems to be correct, but it’s not proven. In fact it is a bit “chicken and egg” - you may have higher risk taking amoungst those wearing helmets, but they may be the people who would have taken more risks anyway.
  • Cameras attached to helmets may negate the protection a helmet gives because they create a pressure point on the helmet where they are attached, which might increase risk of injury. And back to insurance, if your helmet instructions say “do not modify this product”, then guess what? This might be considered a modification and invalidate your insurance.
  • Helmets that do not fit properly or are not fastened up do not work correctly, so any helmet you wear should be fitted correctly to avoid this problem.
  • On a dry ski slopes we often see kids on lessons wearing helmets in the middle of summer; sometimes you need to balance the risk of a head injury against the possibility of overheating (not too bad during cooler summers, but during heat waves there is raised risk of heatstroke).
  • And talking of small kids in helmets, their balance is different from adults and adding a helmet changes their balance. So parents, please give your kids chance to adjust and don’t worry too much if they don’t ski forward like you. (If you’ve got a child under the age of 5 give this small experiment a go. Try reaching your right arm up over the top of your head and touching your left ear and ask your child to do the same. You will be able touch your ear – the under 5’s can’t because their heads are comparatively larger than adults’ and this effects their balance. You might also like to know this test was developed by medical aid agencies giving age critical vaccinations in countries with no accurate records of births.)
  • “Helmet hair” is the worst kind of bad hair day you can have.

At time of writing, there is not conclusive statistical evidence to prove 100% one way or another that helmets are a good idea – we don’t pretend to be experts on this. Please visit ski-injury.com for the latest on ski safety and ski accident statistics. ski-injury.com is not affiliated with us - we are telling you to check out their site because they are an excellent source for accurate and informed information.