We have all heard the tragic stories of Sonny Bono, Michael Kennedy, Natasha Richardson, and this morning a snowboarder is in the news for suffering a fatal injury on the ski slopes. In this article I am going to give you the 3 main incidents that caused me to wear a ski helmet everytime I ski.
Helmets became popular about 5 years ago, and I got one after suffering a concussion surprisingly on the lower slopes of Mammoth Mountain. I was going fast by some slower skiers blocking a narrow point in the trail. When I went wide to miss them, I got in the crud and lost control. The next thing I knew I was sideways and high-sided into a hard fall on my left side whiplashing my head into the snow. Right before my head hit I thought, “I wish I were wearing a helmet.” That concussion kept me off the slopes a while to recover.
Then I bought a helmet, but I wouldn’t wear it everyday. I would sit in the ski area parking lot thinking, “Am I going to need this today?” Some days I would wear it; some days I wouldn’t. Then I met an emergency room Doctor from Denver, Colorado that told me 80% of his cases that involve a fatal skiing injury could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. I still failed to get the message to wear your helmet everyday.
But 3 incidents proved to me that you can not predict when you will need a helmet anymore than you can predict when you will need to be wearing your seat belt for safety in your car. The first incident was where I was loading a non-detachable chair. I prepared to load and another skier who wasn’t paying attention got in the path of the chair as it came around the corner. This skiers body pulled back the chair and shot it forward towards where I was standing to load. I saw what was happening and tried to get out of the way, but the metal part of the left side of the chair swung forward and hit me in the back of the head. If I hadn’t been wearing my helmet, this could have been an unpredictable fatal injury.
The second incident was when I was skiing the trees without my helmet. I thought I was safe, then all of a sudden, I hit something that tore my left ski off, and my momentum sent me directly towards a large tree. I dove to the left to miss the base of the large tree, and scraped the side of the tree as I slid 15 feet by it. As I slid to a stop I could see that I just missed a direct hit with a tree on the head. This incident again showed me that I could not predict when I should be wearing my ski helmet.
The 3rd incident was when I was skiing a ridge down to another run, and I was not wearing my helmet. I saw a small piece of bamboo pole ahead of me, but because it was only about 4″ long, didn’t pay much attention to it. Well I hit it the piece of bamboo, and it put me down sliding on my hip. The next thing I knew, I slid off the edge of the ridge. As I picked up speed I looked up to see where I was sliding, and I saw I was sliding into a large, unavoidable pile of rocks. I managed to self-arrest by digging in the edges of both my skis and clawing my fingers into the slope to stop. It was the best self-arrest of my life, and I’ve had many.
So it was these 3 incidents, 2 of which I was not wearing my helmet for, that convinced me you can not predict when you will need your helmet when skiing. You have to wear your helmet everytime you ski to protect yourself from the most likely cause of a fatal injury, unforeseen head trauma. So wear your helmet everytime for safety and longevity, OK? But don’t get a false sense of security just because you are wearing a ski helmet because you can still sustain a fatal injury even with a helmet. You still need to ski in control, and watch out for other riders and obsticles. See You On the Slopes!