Vail mandates helmets for employees, kids |

Vail mandates helmets for employees, kids

Jeff Munson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Ryan Slabaugh/Sierra Sun

As part of a skier and snowboarder safety initiative, Vail Resorts announced Monday that all of its employees from Colorado to Heavenly Mountain Resort at Lake Tahoe will be required to wear helmets on the job.

The company also announced that it will require helmets for children 12 and under who rent equipment or participate in group lessons.

“We firmly believe when children are participating in our ski and ride school programs that we must provide them with the proper equipment that promotes enjoyment of the sport while also reducing the possibility of injury,” said Blaise Carrig, co-president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division and chief operating officer of Heavenly Mountain Resort.

“Even though we will now require children in our ski and ride schools to wear helmets and make them a mandatory part of every child’s rental package, we strongly recommend the use of helmets for all of our guests, regardless of their age or ability level,” Carrig added.

The decision will affect roughly 6,400 Vail employees, said Heavenly spokeswoman Aimi Xistra-Rich. Employee reaction at Heavenly has been positive, she added. Helmets will be provided to every employee next fall as part of their standard uniform.

“When you go out on the mountain, a lot of people are wearing them already,” Xistra-Rich said. “I can’t speak on behalf of Vail, but my personal opinion is that skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous at times ” and we all know that ” so this sounds like a good move.”

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Vail’s policy change has the support of the California Ski Industry Association.

“Clearly the industry has a strong interest and support of helmets. They are a fact of life for most resorts, and the fact that Vail is requiring them on employees and ski schools sends a very strong statement that the professional class recommends the use helmets,” said association Executive Director Bob Roberts. “It is very analogous to the pro bike racers wearing helmets. When they did that, the move toward helmets took off among the general public.”

Other resorts might or might not follow suit, he added.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if more resorts pick this up. Not everyone will, but clearly with Vail and its size and being a company that is considered a style and standard-setter, other resorts will look at it as a way to set their policies.”

“At Vail Resorts, the safety of our employees and guests is a top priority and we believe the time has come for us to take our commitment to safety to the next level,said John Garnsey, co-president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division. “Our employees will set the example next year for all who enjoy skiing and riding our slopes.”

” Luke Beasley of the Sierra Sun contributed to this report.

While almost all ski resorts encourage skiers and riders to wear a helmet as a safety precaution, some still question whether helmets provide much in the way of protection.

A 2005 study conducted by the University of Alberta looked at incidences of head and neck injuries at skiing locales in Quebec, Canada, and concluded that helmets are relatively effective in preventing or mitigating the severity of head injuries.

Nevertheless, the researchers admitted that they could not disprove the claim, which helmet critics have latched on to, that helmet usage may increase the probability or severity of neck injuries. Others question whether helmets, in general, actually prevent significant injuries or death.

Nonetheless, helmets ” once a foreign sight on the slopes ” are, by all accounts, becoming more and more popular. A survey of skiers during the 2007-08 winter season by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) found that 43 percent of skiers and riders wore a helmet, compared to just 25 percent in 2003.

With that rise in helmet usage, however, has not come a noticeable decrease in fatalities. Instead, helmets seem to guard more heavily against minor head injuries, like cuts and minor concussions, according to several studies.

Regardless of the actual protection helmets provide, ski resorts still stick by the idea that it’s best to wear a helmet, but ski and ride as if you aren’t.

” Luke Beasley, Sierra Sun