More skiiers and boarders risk helmet hair to avoid head injuries

Consumer Reports News: January 25, 2008 12:08 PM

If you’ve hit the slopes lately, you may have noticed a lot more skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets. Your eyes weren’t deceiving you. New data from the National Ski Areas Association show that 40 percent of skiers and snowboarders wore helmets last skiing season. That’s up from 25 percent helmet usage in the 2002-2003 skiing season.

Pardon the pun, but to us—and increasingly to the snow-sport industry—wearing a helmet is a no-brainer. It's an important piece of equipment that helps prevent head injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 6,326 head injuries from snowboarding in 2006 and 4,922 from skiing.

Those numbers help explain why the industry has been aggressively promoting the use of helmets. This week, for example, a number of resorts across the country are offering discounts and holding all sorts of contests to promote helmet usage as part of National Safety Awareness Week.  Consider Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont where anyone who purchased a new helmet at the resort’s shop received a coupon for a half-price full-day lift ticket. And Okemo was also holding a contest for the best helmet head: “ that cool, disheveled look of matted hair that happens when a skier or snowboarder removes his helmet after a great day on the slopes.” The prize: two complimentary lift tickets.

If you haven’t hit the slopes yet this season, consider visiting, NSAA’s fun and informative Web site, with helpful tips for both parents and kids on how to select proper helmets.  As the site advises:  “The most important consideration when purchasing a helmet is the fit. A helmet is not a piece of equipment that you want to purchase too small or too large to grow into.” When shopping for a helmet, bring along your goggles, or borrow a pair that matches your own from the shop and look for a helmet that conforms to a ski/snowboard helmet standard (Common European Norm, American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and/or Snell.) Ask an experienced ski shop associate to assist you to identify the best brand for your head shape and to confirm a proper fit.  Consumer Reports has also written about and rated ski helmets.

NSAA’s latest data shows that it’s not just kids who need helmet tips. In fact, kids have the highest usage—64 percent of children nine and under wear helmets. It’s the 18 to 24 year olds, a group in which only 26 percent wear helmets, that need some reminding. We hope you’ll do that—and often.

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