The Brave Ski Mom - Helmet safety
Look around any ski resort and you’re guaranteed to see lots of kids wearing helmets. And lots of adults, too.

The most current statistics from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) show that 80% of skiers and snowboarders in the U.S. wore helmets during the 2015-16 ski season. In 2014-15, the number was 78%, while in 2002-2003, when NSAA first began tracking this data, just 25% of people wore helmets when skiing and riding.

The numbers for children and teenagers are even more impressive, with 89% of skiers and snowboarders under age 17 wearing helmets and a full 93% of kids under the age of 9 wearing helmets.

And while children are the group most likely to wear ski and snowboard helmets, the group least likely to wear helmets are young adults, ages 18-24, of whom just 73% chose to protect their heads last season.

As for statistics outside of the U.S., a 2014 article in the U.K.-based Guardian found that an average of 73% of European skiers and snowboarders wear helmets, with the figure approaching 76% in Switzerland.

How Well Do Helmets Work?

Clearly, parents, teenagers, families and adults are getting the message on helmets.

While you’ll still run into people who resist wearing a helmet, these people are increasingly rare.

It’s important to note that while helmet usage is now the norm at ski areas and resorts around the world, data regarding head injuries remains murky, with some studies showing a decrease in potentially serious head injuries and other data showing an overall increase in head injuries as helmet use has increased.

According to a 2015 study from the University of Rochester (New York), helmets are extremely effective at reducing skull fractures and have nearly eliminated scalp lacerations. As for concussions, approximately 3/4 of all skiing and snowboarding-related head injuries are mild concussions requiring minimal treatment. Without helmets, these concussions could be much more serious.

Another study, from Eurosafe (using Canadian data) found a reduction in head injuries from 21% - 45% with the greatest benefit for children under the age of 10 (a 50% reduction).

As for the net increase in head injuries between 2004 and 2010, these data came from a study published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. This study found that other factors influence rates of head injury including crowded slopes, increased risk-taking and better brain injury detection.

Make Your Helmet Work For You

In my opinion, and clearly the opinion of most skiers and riders, helmets are a good thing. But just wearing a helmet isn’t enough. You also have to be a smart skier and rider. And it’s important to teach your kids how to be safe, too.

Step One: Make Helmets a Habit. If your children start wearing helmets from the moment they start skiing and snowboarding they'll never know anything different. If you don’t own helmets for your kids, look into renting them when you rent their ski gear or sign up for lessons. Many resorts require helmets for all kids in lessons and have spares on hand.

And while you’re protecting your child’s brain, be sure to protect your brain, too. If you always wear a helmet, your kids will most likely always were their helmets.

Step Two: Ensure a Proper Fit. While wearing a helmet is the first step, making sure your child’s helmet fits is important, too.

Here’s how you do it: Measure your child’s head about 1” (2.5cm) over the eyebrows and ears, using a soft tape that measures centimeters.

Try on the helmet that corresponds to the measurement. It should not be tight, but it should not be loose. It should be snug, with no pressure points and no excess space between your helmet and your head.

Ask your child to shake his or her head. The helmet should not move independently. It should stay in place and the skin of the head should move with the helmet if you push it up or down, right or left.

Luckily for parents, many kids’ helmets now come with a wheel or dial that allows easy adjustments and fine tuning.

Never buy a helmet with “room to grow.” And be sure to check your child’s goggles. They should fit snugly against the top of the helmet, with no gap.

Step Three: Toss it Out. If your child has had a fall or accident involving their helmet and head, it’s wise to toss out the old helmet and get a new one.

I know, it can seem like a waste. Our son recently hit his head in a fall, while wearing a brand-new helmet. Because helmets are designed to take that first big impact, but can then be compromised, we got him a new helmet.

Also, most helmets have a 3-5 year lifespan before the dampening and cushioning materials begin degrading. Plan on updating the helmets of everyone in the family every few years.

Step Four: Ski Smart. While helmets are excellent for head protection, the best way to avoid head injuries of all sorts (and other injuries, too) is to avoid accidents. Data show that the most serious injuries occur when skiers and riders hit trees, rocks and other people.

Make sure your kids understand the FIS Rules for Safe Conduct.

Similar to the U.S. Responsibility Code, the 10 FIS rules outline responsible and safe behaviors on the ski slopes. It’s worth taking the time to discuss these rules each season with your kids.

Enjoy and ski safe!


Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.thebraveskimom.com


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