Dave Greenberg: Let’s keep helmets optional
I’ve heard an increasing number of people stating that all skiers and snowboarders should be required to wear helmets while at ski resorts. I can understand Vail Resorts’ decision to require employees to wear helmets while on duty, as they are a large, publicly traded company looking out for No. 1. An individual skiing or riding for the day is a different story. I choose to wear a helmet and have worn one for the past six or seven years. It’s useful in the trees protecting from branches and when someone randomly throws the bar down on a ski lift without saying anything first. For those people who do like to put the bar down, it is common courtesy to at least let the people next to you know what you’re doing before you hit their head with cold metal.
Back to the people who want EVERYONE to wear a helmet – it isn’t up to you to decide. Helmets are a choice, and so is skiing. There are inherent risks with anything you do, but it should be your decision to mitigate those risks how you see fit (see crocheting). I see plenty of motorcyclists without helmets and don’t understand it, although it is not my place to tell them what to do. They can do whatever they want as far as I’m concerned because it does not affect me. A helmet is not going to protect anyone else around you whether you are skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding, ice fishing … whatever. It’s an individual decision that should be made by any free-willed person.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, in 2008 there were 3.9 ski/snowboard fatalities per 1 million participants. That same sheet showed 63.5 fatalities per 1 million participants who went swimming. Maybe we should mandate water wings 24 hours a day for residents within 4 miles of Lake Dillon on the off chance that they get disoriented and fall in. The NSAA also reports that there has been a decrease over the past several years in the number of ACL injuries due to people skiing on shorter skis. The proponents of mandatory helmet laws would, using the same logic, like to see everyone on ski blades (maybe just once a year in April). More important than wearing a helmet is individual responsibility and being aware of your surroundings. You make choices every day in your life, and this is just another example of one that someone else is trying to make for you.
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