Would you recommend wearing a helmet while skiing?
These days it seems pretty much everybody's wearing bike helmets. Why can't you say the se for skiing helmets? And, do you think it'd be wise to shell out on a ski helmet? I've just booked up for a one-week ski trip to Colorado next February. Not having done much skiing before, I want to enjoy myself but also stay safe! Andrew Charlottesville, Virginia
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OK, first off, a disclaimer: As far as I’m concerned, everyone on the planet should be wearing a helmet at all times, regardless of the activity. Why? A meteorite hit a house in New Orleans not long ago, so who is to say what will or won’t happen when you walk out the door?
With that understood, it’ll be no surprise to hear that I wear a helmet religiously when bicycling (a habit that perhaps has saved my life, or at least prevented severe head injuries, on at least three occasions), when rock climbing, or when traveling on glaciers near rocky walls (like those at Cathedral Rocks on Mount Rainier). I don’t wear one skiing. The reason: I simply haven’t seen any statistics that support the idea we’re all in imminent danger of a head injury. I know that anecdotally these things happen; the 1997 skiing fatalities of Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy, less than one week apart, spring to mind. But it’s not at all clear a helmet would have helped in either case. Hit a tree head-on and no helmet in the world is going to protect you from compression fractures of the neck and spine.
There’s some evidence that youngsters would benefit from helmets, which can protect them from flying skis and poles in an accident, and from hard impacts on crusty or icy snow. So I’d say it’s probably prudent to put helmets on most children under the age of 13 or so. A good basic youth helmet is the Giro Camber ($70; www.giro.com), which has an adjustable fit and goggle grooves to hold goggle straps tight. If mom or dad want to wear one toorole model and allthe Boeri Myto Switch ($99; www.boeriusa.com) is light and comfortable, while offering plenty of noggin protection.
Beyond that? Well, it’s a tough issue. I’m extremely keen on anything that promotes safety in the outdoors. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s a hugely strong statistical case that helmets on adults doing normal recreational skiing (not racing or stunts) accomplish a lot. That said, before the lawsuits start getting filed, I’m open to counter-arguments.