Helmets looking better all the time | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Helmets looking better all the time

Sam Bauman

In the wake of the two recent deaths of skiers Michael Kennedy and Rep. Sonny Bono, questions are being raised about the use of ski helmets by the general public.

Such helmets have long been worn by downhill ski racers, who often attain speeds of 70 mph. While helmets probably would not have averted the death of Kennedy, who broke his neck, or Bono, who suffered facial injuries, in many cases the use of helmets would have saved lives, medical authorities say.

At Sierra-at-Tahoe, helmets are worn by children attending the Wild Mountain Ski Camp, and instructors are encouraged to wear them. John Rice, president of Sierra-at-Tahoe, said Tuesday that helmets were already on order for adult ski school students. He also said, “Employees can buy helmets at cost from our store.”

At Kirkwood, where an assistant lift operator died after snowboarding and hitting a tree, company policy is to encourage use of helmets.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” said Kevin Luttrell of the marketing department. “We encourage our employees to buy helmets at a discounted price through payroll deductions. In our children’s school the kids are offered helmets.

“While helmets are not a panacea, we do think they have an important role to play in back falls where the head is the first part to impact the snow. There has been a strong interest by the general skiing and boarding public in the purchase of helmets from the first of the season.”

At Heavenly, where Bono died in trees off the Orion run, policy on the use of helmets was unavailable Tuesday due to the pressure of Bono’s accident. Last month a skier crashed into trees on a Heavenly California run and was “probably” saved by wearing a helmet, said the Ski Patrol. Heavenly promised a statement on Wednesday.

Alex Cushing, chairman of the board at Squaw Valley USA, said Tuesday that the resort race team and Mighty Mites (youth racers) wear helmets, but that for the average skier “there is no need for helmets. We teach people to ski in control since you can’t win in a collision with a tree.”

At Boreal ski resort, ski helmets are optional in the children’s ski school but,”we have no policy. It’s up to the skier,” said Kris Breen of the marketing department. “A few of our ski instructors wear them.”

At Alpine Meadows, Robert Olmer, director of marketing, reported that the resort basically had no policy on use of helmets, although ski instructors were authorized to wear them. “We encourage parents to provide helmets for kids,” he said.

The trade association SnowSports Industries America reports that during the 1995-96 season 66,143 ski helmets were sold in U.S. stores. For the 1996-97 season, the figure climbed to 80,537. Eastern ski areas reportedly lead in the use of helmets.

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