Forget how you look; Put on a bone dome |

Forget how you look; Put on a bone dome

Sam Bauman

Heavenly is sponsoring for the second time the ESQ “Ski with the Greats” program this weekend. This is a national affair that features demos, a race and a chance to ski with the likes of Phil Mahre, Billy Kidd, Nelson Carmichael, extreme skier Eric DesLauries and Tahoe’s freestyle champion Brad Holmes. Skiing magazine editors will also be on hand.

The fee is $5 and includes entry to all events, including ESQ race, Apres ski party and clinics from 9:30 a.m. to lift closing on Saturday and Sunday.


The details are not clear yet, but the death of Michael Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, highlights the following article. Kennedy apparently was skiing an intermediate run when he hit a tree. He died within the hour. There is no report of whether or not he was wearing a ski helmet, but impacts with trees that result in deaths are usually the result of brain damage. So, read on.

You might not have caught the story, but recently Seth Levinger, a relief ski lift operator, died of injuries suffered while snowboarding at Kirkwood Ski Resort. He was riding a relatively easy run through trees when he apparently hit a tree and suffered head injuries.

And a few weeks ago a visiting skier from the Bay Area sustained serious head injuries at Heavenly when he collided with a tree. “He undoubtedly survived only because he was wearing a ski helmet,” said Dave McConnell, director of the Heavenly Ski Patrol.

So what does this mean to all of us?

I don’t know about you, but I know that from now on when I’m free skiing (not teaching, that is) I’ll be wearing a helmet. I may be an advanced skier, but most of those who sustain serious accidents are advanced skiers or intermediates skiing too fast.

I got into the helmet picture last season when I wrote that skiers and boarders back East were starting to wear helmets while skiing and it sounded like a good idea. Someone called to ask if I’d ever tried skiing with one and I had to admit I hadn’t.

So thanks to the Borei rep I got a chance to try skiing with helmet. I found it to be comfortable, warm and light. A little too warm perhaps for spring skiing and definitely so for summer biking, which I quickly gave up as the ski helmet isn’t right for biking.

Now the helmets come with adjustable air vents and ear holes. I’m looking forward to trying some of the new models (such as the Leedom shown on me from Heavenly Sports, $115) and will report on them. But meanwhile, I’m wearing my “bone dome” on the hill.

Happily, more and more children’s ski schools are adapting helmets for their kids, as are organizations such as the Heavenly D Team and Foundation competitors. Downhill racers have long used helmets; at 70 mph, you welcome all the protection you can get.

The nice thing about the modern helmet is that it is so light and comfortable that you quickly forget you’re wearing one. Of course, you get some funny looks at the lift line, but I’m willing to live with that if I can live through a crash wearing a helmet.

I don’t know how ski schools feel about instructors wearing helmets. It might be thought that it would create a negative impression, but at times, I think it could be positive.

I was with a private lesson the other day with a lawyer from Manhattan who wanted to ski advanced runs all three hours. Fine with me, because you don’t often get that kind of student. But when we were running Ellie’s I was concentrating on his skiing rather than mine, of course. Three or four times I found myself on the edge of skiing off into the trees and I thought then, how nice it would be to have on a helmet.


In America, ski racing doesn’t seem to draw nearly the spectator attention that snowboarding does. But one event that certainly merits your interest is the upcoming Wendy’s Downhill Relays event at Heavenly Jan. 15-18, with the main event on the 17th.

This your chance to see some of the finest skiers in a unique dual racing format, a relay race that starts below the tram on the face, cuts over to East Bowl and winds up on the World Cup run at the base of the tram. If you’ve ever skied/boarded that territory, you know it can be awesomely fast. One of the beauties of this event is that thanks to a large TV screen in the spectator area, you’ll be able to follow the entire race from top to bottom.

The competitors are all well seasoned skiers with Olympic medals, World Cup victories and world records. Steve and Phil Mahre are joined by Hillary Lindh for the American team. The Austrian, Canadian and Swiss teams boast a similar lineup.

On Friday, there will be a pro-am race matching local skiers with visiting celebrities. And Saturday night there will be a gala dinner and auction in Caesars Ballroom to benefit the Dave Thomas (Wendy’s founder and CEO) Foundation for Adoption. Thomas, a former Army mess sergeant, is an adoptee.

On Sunday, Wendy’s is sponsoring a race for on-snow families. Teams are to be composed of at least one adult and one child (12 and under). The fee is $10 per team. This event is part of a 15-stop benefit for the foundation.


Snowboarders may want to head to Alpine Meadows on Sunday for the 11 a.m. opening and ribbon cutting for the Gravity Cavity halfpipe. The Meadows reports that snowfall is currently 90 percent of average for this time of the year.


Saturday Jan. 10 will be celebrated around the lake with the first national Take Your Daughter to the Slopes Day. Typical of the event is Northstar-at-Tahoe’s offering: a free intro to skiing or snowboarding package with the purchase of a lift ticket, free photo of dad, mom, uncle or friend with daughter, a two-for-one pass for the snow tubing hill and snowmobile ride for two with the daughter riding free.

This event is sponsored by the Snow Sports Association for Women. Details on participation by other resorts can be found at or 800-730-3636 fax on demand service. Makes one wish one had a daughter!


Sam Bauman presents a free snowsports briefing Sunday nights at 6 at Harveys Casino Resort. Visitors to Tahoe are welcome.

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