Vail Resorts to require helmets on employees

Starting next winter, all employees at each of Vail Resorts’ five ski areas will be required to wear helmets when skiing or snowboarding on the job.

Vail Resorts, based in Broomfield, operates Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts in Colorado, and Heavenly Resort at Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada boarder.

Helmets will be provided to every on-mountain employee as part of their standard uniform.

A Vail spokesperson said the company will issue some 6,400 helmets.

“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 and chief operating officer of Beaver Creek Resort.

“Our employees will set the example next year for all who enjoy skiing and riding our slopes.”

Vail also announced that all children 12-and-under participating in a group lesson must wear a helmet. Also, a helmet will be included as part of a children’s ski-rental package at all Vail

Resorts-owned rental shops. A parental or legal guardian waiver can offset the helmet requirement.

A 2002 Norwegian study on ski helmets found wearing helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by 60 percent. The study also indicated the risk of head injury was greater for snowboarders than downhill skiers.

Others studies indicate helmets can reduce brain injuries from 50 to 80 percent, said Dr. A. Stewart Levy, chief of neurosurgery and neurotrauma at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. Levy in 1997 began a personal campaign to raise public awareness of helmet use by giving helmets to ski patrollers and instructors across the Rocky Mountains.

He has given away more than 1,000 helmets.

Earlier this year, actress Natasha Richardson died of a head injury after a seemingly minor fall during a ski lesson on a beginner’s run at Mont Tremblant Ski Resort northwest of Montreal. She was not wearing a helmet.

A 2008 survey by the National Ski Areas Association showed 43 percent of U.S. skiers and boarders wear helmets. That’s up from 25 percent in 2003, the NSAA report says.

The survey also showed that while 70 percent of children 9 and younger and 59 percent of adults 65 and over wear helmets, only 32 percent of men ages 18-24 wear helmets.

While the NSAA strongly encourages helmet use, the trade group for ski areas and operators admits there still has to be some skier responsibility when it comes to skiing or snowboarding safely.

Citing concerns that wearing a helmet might cause a skier or boarder to take risks he or she might not otherwise take, Dave Byrd, director of education and risk for the NSAA, said a skier’s behavior has as much to do with safety as any piece of equipment.

“We urge skiers and snowboarders to wear a helmet, but to ski or ride as if they’re not wearing one,” Byrd said.

A fact sheet from the NSAA says that in 2006, there were 2.07 skiing/snowboarding fatalities per million participants, fewer than for bicycling or swimming.


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