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Brainbuckets in school

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
Hey people!

What's your take on helmets in ski& snowboard school?

We're going to mandatory helmets for kids six and under in the Aspen system.

We've had a lot of discussion on it, and feel that this particular age group is less discriminating than any other and therefore more vulnerable to some pretty nasty stuff.

We've been on "recommend" mode for quite a while, and it seems that way over 90% (wise parents) of our little ones are already in hard hats. We're planning to nudge that last bunch who's parents just don't know.
post #2 of 38
6 and under? Wow. I worked at a school where it was recommended to us by our insurer that we NOT recommend lids for that age group due to a high neck injury rate. Weird head/torso weight proportions and such. It made sense to me. I used to have a huge melon on top of my skinny frame when I was wee. Have you guys checked into any of that?

By the way I am a HUGE helmet proponent. I wear mine more than "often". I'd be curious to see what else comes up in this thread. Good post!

Spag :
post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 

Yeah, we've discussed that possibility--about body proportions and other injuries-- and we've weighed it against the head injuries. We don't have any neck injuries to speak of that are clearly helmet derived, and I hate seeing a youngster so exposed without them. My kids all wore them.
post #4 of 38
Last year I was in the lift line with a class of seven kids, 8 or 9 years old, and a snowboard class about the same size came in behind us. The other instructor and I looked at each other with the same "what's wrong with this picture?" expression as we simultaneously realized that he and I were the only ones not wearing helmets.

Our shop has a large supply of rental helmets. My observation on weekends, and my director tells me that it is this way on weekdays too, is that most parents automatically ask for a helmet when they are renting equipment for the kids, even though they are not mandatory. The shop strongly recommends them, though, and nobody ever refuses. I would also estimate that more than half of the kids who come with their own equipment also have helmets.

Making helmets mandatory for one age group, while possibly a good idea that would meet with little or no resistance, would bring up some interesting legal liability issues. For example, if a twelve year old sustains a head injury, were we negligent for not requiring a helmet, since we have acknowledged the risk by mandating helmets for younger students?
post #5 of 38
It is a great idea in theory, but mandatory helmets has some real problems. First, how many kids has you ever seen wearing a helmet that fits properly? The rental shops fit them about as well as they do ski boots, and parents buy them huge, so they can last a couple seasons. A helmet that is too big is pretty useless as such, except to prevent a cold head, or minor scapes. It an be a real liability. A big helmet can put stress on the neck, and often flop around affecting vision, and cause collisions. Second, the idea of renting helmets runs into the same problems of renting climbing gear. There is some real implied liability. Who moniters the rental fleet, to make sure that any given helmet has never had an impact that while not doing more than adding to the scrapes on the outside, totally used up the absorbsion on the inside, and offers no real protection from serious head injuries. How about lice? It can be just like summer camp. Does it have to be a certified snell or astm snow sport helmet, or will a biking, hockey, rafting helmet do the trick. The very popular protec helmet was until this season rated for rafting, not snowboarding/skiing.

I am a big advocate of helmets, and have been wearing one for the last four years. I used to rep Giro. I encourage my staff, and our guests to wear one. We also rent them at our kids facility, but I am not ready to make them mandatory.
post #6 of 38
The neck injury issue was derived from a study done when the helmets were a hell of a lot heavier...much better now.
Having to provide rentals to comply is a pain, including the exposure implied by Spinheli....I disagree with mandating intelligent choices on the ignorant few.
post #7 of 38
how about this: a parent recently was complaining to me about his son's board instructor: seems the kid was wearing his helment, and the non-helmet wearing instrcutor said, "oh you don't need that" and had all the kid take their helmet off and leave them at the ski school. Our ski school doens't have a helmet policy, but boy if that had happened to me, I'd be pissed.


heh... another powder day here yesterday...<G>
post #8 of 38
There were talks, a couple of years ago, about making the helmets mandatory for every kid and tenn ager under 16...by law.
It's been lost somewhere on the road from Milan to Rome...
Anyway, as a father of two, helmets are mandatory for my kids. No discussions.
That's a piece of hardware I've got to change every year, since they're growing...
The back side is that I've to postpone my plans to buy one for me, until their growth
will be stabilized (or until I'll find some extra funds [img]smile.gif[/img]).
Since I am the one making it mandatory for them, I feel bad not giving them an example...

Thou shalt lead trhu example...
post #9 of 38

Can you not just put up a large sign that says "Aspen recommends helmets" and provide a low cost community based rental fleet.

I agree with helmets but not with making them mandatory. Mandatory is a loss of freedom by regulation and I continually struggle with the socio economic stigma of that concept.

Both my kids wear helmets and they make do with rentals. One thing I did note in the US is that buying a new helmet is cheaper than a 10 day rental. Perhaps there is more to mandating than saying "see that shop over there". Rebates maybe, a return\recycle process and\or community based rentals. Baby capsules back home are available from community organisations for a small fee and returned after the basic six month usage. The organisation rents them and maintains them and makes a profit for thier organisation.

If you are going to mandate then the company must take the initiative of making helmets affordable for all.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #10 of 38
Helmets are for racing, chutes and trees.
post #11 of 38
Well noodles...they also come in handy when a 40 pounder gets taken out by an 200 pound moron. That is why my kid wears one.
post #12 of 38

I think the Aspen Ski Schools should be commeded for taking the lead. Are the childrens instructors going to be required to wear helmets too?

My major concern would be the public believing helmets are a "fix all". If you look at the skiing deaths in Colorado this season only few cases would a helmet have prevented the fatality. Chest and abdominal trauma are major contributors to death in skiing accidents.
post #13 of 38
At Breckenridge, KinderHut Ski School is for the 3-5 year olds, and they have helmets for them. I think it's a good idea to get kids into them.

I wear a bucket 97% of the time, probably more. When I'm in uniform I like to chat to kids with helmets on. I comment on how neat they are, and sometimes ask the parents where THEIR helmets are. The kids love that!

Though I always do it politely, and make the staement that adults can make their own choice. I choose to wear a helmet, because I like to ski in the trees and other neat places. So do the kids!

Mandatory helmet laws would stink. It's the same as for motorcycling. This is America, where you can do what you want in a LOT of things. You can't legislate intelligence or morality, it won't work. Sorry, card carrying Libertarian. No, not liberal, Libertarian.

However, what if folks who wore helmets got discounts on insurance, with a surcharge
if something happens to the skull and the helmet is not on? Heck, maybe a small discount on the lift ticket?

Helmets rock. I have been in one for 6 years now. Giro, Pro_Tec, and some of the other "street skating" helmet companies have light and well ventilated buckets.

I use a Giro 9 myself. Best ski helmet I've ever had. It's decent for mountain biking and street skating too. Oh, and an HJC for the motorcycle.
post #14 of 38
Mandatory use of helmets on ski slopes is not unimaginable, but would it make the slopes safer? Helmets are a defense, not an offense, that masks rather than solves the fundamental problem.

I hear that we are protecting ourselves not from extreme hazards but from human hazards. Why do we allow humans to be hazards on the slopes? If we allow bodily assaults to be an accepted fact of life on our slopes, helmets are not going to save us. An exoskeleton by Giro will not even save us.

Solve the problem at the level of the problem. Each ski area could do much more to deal with the behavior problems. Ski Liberty, Park City, and Vail all have something along the lines of Safety Awareness Teams who are visible to the public to deal with offenders. I believe NSP is facilitating the nationalization of the SAT program. In my opinion, this type of program will have more impact in reducing slopeside assaults.

Until then, I agree, kids and many adults will feel safer in an artificial cranial vault.

I would say a measure of success would be when people feel it's safe to ski in a soft hat.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 21, 2002 05:27 PM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #15 of 38
Thread Starter 
You folks all have great stuff to say about this, and we've had all these discussions. The objections and qualifications are intelligent and reasonable.

You need to know, though that we've hauled a five year old girl off the hill dead. And we hauled a five year old boy off the hill two days ago, and he gets out of the hospital tonight--healthy and safe.

She had no helmet. His was supercrunched. She hit a tree no more than an inch and one half in diameter. He hit a huge aspen.

We've got a lot of logistics to work out on this to do it right--and we know it's no substitute for control and education and basic safety--but we're doing it because there is nothing worse than a dead or permanently damaged child.

We know we can't ski for them, and ultimately skiing and riding have inherent dangers. But if we don't do all we can to avoid this in the future, then a whole bunch of what we do out here--in terms of joy, fun, excitement--won't make much sense for us in the school.

It's now practical, possible, and logical. So we're doing it. My bet is that we will extend the age range in the near future. But we're starting on the little ones now, because they are the most vulnerable and the least capable of making excellent decisions.

Will I wear one eventually? Probably. However, I hate them on my head, and I hated them when I raced. We've raised our kids in helmet and they were able to understand what was different for me and them--in terms of risks etc. So I don't believe in the argument that parents have to take exactly every precaution their kids have to take. (I don't have to ride the lift with supervision. I can make my own bed time. I can have a glass of wine.) But if it comes to the point where modeling becomes a big deal, I won't fight it.

Obviously we'll develop fashion statements with them, and we'll get beyond the sticker stage.

Megan Harvey wears one with a painting of Hobbes (the tiger) on it. I'm sure it will be a fashion statement. I'm gonna get one with long white hair on it. Or maybe one of those old Boeris with the brain on the outside.
post #16 of 38
I'll never argue against kids wearing helmets.

But to make it mandatory...

Sure, skiing is dangerous. But more and more, what's making it dangerous is that's so many who need lessons; skier safety, ski instruction.

Folks, let's face it. The largest percentage of snow riders still have no idea of the most basic and important concept on the hill - that the skier/rider in front of you has the right of way.

The ski industry's answer is take the simple route - "Just tell everyone they need a helmet". My answer is to take it to a higher level; more promotion of skier safety, more promotion of lessons.
post #17 of 38
Thread Starter 
SCSA, we're gonna do that as well, but we're gonna put our kids in helmets.

By the way, it was not proven that the little girl who died would have not died had she had a helmet. But who wants to take that kind of a chance again? Certainly not our pros who teach the little ones. Most of them are thrilled with this. With some exceptions, it tends to be the ones who don't spend much time with the kids who argue against it.
post #18 of 38

Is this all being driven by the woman in Basalt?

I read about her in the Vail Daily. Since the child's death, she's taken on the task of convincing ski areas that helmets should be mandatory for children.

I think it's the wrong message, but I'll leave it at that.

post #19 of 38
Helmets can protect you from yourself, too. I've face planted at high speed more than a few times, and clipped myself in the back of my head with my skis. Good thing for a helmet.

As for the comment about motorcycles, don't forget that if you end up a vegetable in an institution due to a head injury from no helmet, you are going to be supported by the public's tax dollars when your insurance runs out. I'd rather not pay for your "freedom"

post #20 of 38
Irulan and all

The restriction of an at "risk population" based on social economic impact is myopic!

The number one application for head protection is the family automobile! Check the stats! Our "American freedom" is an accepted mortality. Try to get legaslation passed there.LOL
Precieved risk and actual risk are often far removed.

You all may notice my passion on this subject. Sorry, it goes back a long way.

I never ski without a helmet, I have no fewer than 4 motorcycles and wouldn't consider riding without a "GOOD" helmet. $10 head, $10 helemt.

I have told many that suggest removal of headgear under certain conditions.
"Naw, Sometimes I fall down"


post #21 of 38
Excellent post, Irulan!

Something that Nolo said got me thinking, are there any statistics that show how many fatal accidents are the resort of human colliding with human, as compared with human "colliding" with environment?

Are there fewer "fatal" accidents at Taos, Deer Valley, MRG, Alta? Are there more accidents at Aspen now that boarding is permitted?

Please keep in mind that I am just asking the question, not making assumptions.
post #22 of 38
As a patroller, I have been interested in injury stats. Hits to the head are the scariest.

First, fatalities are so rare as to be statisticly insignificant with regard to "demographics". There are several members of the DMC (Dead Mans Club) at the area I ski. It can be traumatic for all involved. Numbers be damned. Non due to collisions with others.

The incidents per skier day have stayed about the same, (<3 per k I believe) with equipment and mountain maintainance changing the nature of damages away from tib-fib fractures to knees and upper body.

Still, the thumb is the number one ding.\

The collision rate would be interesting. We fill out an additional report form for collisions, so the data must be available.

Accident stats are compiled by the Association of Ski Areas (ASA). I
will try to make inquiry to get the latest stats.
post #23 of 38
Thread Starter 
SCSA, although the woman, Carol Hawk, has certainly been quite loud about the helmets, she is not the driver on this. (The Aspen Skiing Company gets yelled at a lot! We're used to it!)

But she is part of the community chorus. We hear it within the company and outside as well. We think it's the right thing to do, and we've been recommending helmets for quite some time.

Lisamarie. I know you weren't making judements. So here is the story.

The number one source of fatalities within ski areas is tree impact--by far. The number one source outside is avalanche.

(I could stand for correction on these statements, but I believe they are accurate.)

This is not to say that there aren't a lot of collisions caused by incompetence and ignorance. The collisions (not the trees) is the number one reason I put my kids in helmets when they were little.

As far as snowboarding is concerned, we have long had snowboarding at three of the four ski areas here. The addition of snowboarding on Aspen Mtn has no effect on the number of accidents. Basically the snowboarders are not choosing Aspen Mtn in great numbers. The other mountains seem to continue to draw more riders.

We don't know why we've had such a toll this year. We can't seem to find a linkage that puts them together. Nevertheless, we've responded with a very powerful effort to take what I considered to be an excellent attention to safety, and upgraded it.

It's up on everybody's radar screen now, and I think that will be a good thing. And this is a lot better than sitting around wringing our hands about it.
post #24 of 38
CalG, I'm with Irulan on this.
Sorry, but I do not think it's a myopic view at all.
I live in a country where until mid- end 1980s cars seat belts and bike helmets were not compulsory...
Today still, there are people around arguing that a helmet or a seat belt can be life
threatening in an accident!
And moping that they have been "robbed" of their freedom to choose by the lawmakers!
Then, if I check around, at least 7 out of 10 car occupants do not fasten their seat belts!
I broke a vertebrae in a motorbike accident,
and only that, on a road where a lot of
people used to die while driving a bike, only because I was wearing a helmet, and motocross boots (otherwise I would be like peg-leg Pete now, if not something worse, like on a wheelchair).
I cringe when I hear someone talking about
"freedom", and then to hear that our nation
vaults are way down below 0 (nearing 0 Kelvin, I daresay) and therefore we need to pay extra taxes, give up our retirement benefits, and so on.
Mind you, solidarity is great, but then everyone should to their share.
Every little bit helps, so the less heavy injuries around, the better.

Again, your freedon ends where someone elses begin. ("you" being rethoric).
Laws are there to assure that everyone can enjoy at least a piece of freedom, rather
than person "a" enjoying 100% of freedom and person "b" being deprived of his piece of the "cake", better for both to have 70%
of freedom, no?
Even anarchy, was suggesting that people would have found a natural balance without
laws, alas this has not happened.
post #25 of 38

You missed my point.

If the goal is to save society money, put a helmet on when you drive your car.

Plane and simple, head trauma in car wrecks is the number one preventable injury.

I guess fatalities aren't a burden to us insurance and tax payers. (bad humor!)

I am an advocate for protective gear. I just find it unreasonable to point a finger at a small population when the greatest benefit can be obtained elswhere.


post #26 of 38
Dont' forget helmets as a concussion prevention device, not as a protection against death.

post #27 of 38
Acoording to the woman in my life, I was born with a bucket on my head, anyway. So I might as well wear one.
post #28 of 38
Point taken, Calg. [img]smile.gif[/img]
Still, I do not agree with "put an helmet
on while driving a car". We're still in the phase "fasten the seat belt", here in Italy.
As for skiing, I firmly beleive kids should wear one.
post #29 of 38

If you're listening to your customers, that's what it's all about.

So Cheers to you,
post #30 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thanks SCSA.

Yes we are listening to our customers--who are giving us responsibility for their children--so we're doing what we can to be worthy of that.

Today was the first day of the six and under rule. We had no problems, no resistance, no argument--except one parent who said he was worried about lice from a rental helmet. (I almost chewed blood out of my lip to keep from laughing.) It's amazing how easy it is when the timing is right.

I think it's become a little like boating. I've never heard a parent argue against a life vest. Kids who go to climbing school, wear helmets, period. Although this is new for us, we seem to be there.
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