The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

Helmets: should they be compulsory?

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Australia, United States | 4 comments


In New York State, the senate has just passed a bill that requires children under the age of 14 to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding.

While it could still get shouted down in the state Assembly, it got me thinking that this will surely come up for discussion in NSW or Victoria soon enough.

Don’t forget the ‘Premier State’ now punishes cyclists with a $319 fine for not wearing a lid – why not hit up our skiers and snowboarders too eh?

Whether I’m riding on the road or the snow I personally like to wear a helmet. I have experienced what happens when you are cleaned up by a car and I reckon wearing one saved me from a concussion. In a low speed collision – great. High speed? I have my doubts about how much they’ll help.

But I also believe in personal responsibility. If you are just peddling to the corner shop and don’t want to protect your head, that’s your choice. Same goes if you are tearing down High Noon at Thredbo with just a beanie. Just don’t go complaining should you knock yourself out.

To be frank the New York bill actually sounds like it would be quite tricky to enforce. Under the bill, the parents or guardian of a child caught skiing without a helmet could be fined $US50, but law enforcement authorities could only issue a ticket if the violation occurs in the parents or guardian’s presence.

At least at that price point you sense it’s a genuine preventative measure rather than simply revenue raising. If this got passed in Premier Mike Baird’s NSW you’d bet it’d be seven or eight times the slug. Such is life in the anti-fun state at the moment.

Statistically, assuming the numbers are straight up, the bill does come with some sound reasoning behind it.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that there were 84,000 skiing injuries, including 17,000 head injuries, treated in US emergency rooms in 2010. The CPSC also estimated that 2,600 of the head injuries that occurred in children could have been prevented if they had been wearing a helmet.

From being almost non-existent on the slopes two decades ago, it is now thought that helmets are being worn by up to 65 per cent of skiers and snowboarders. It’s a booming industry and with good reason – they are proven to mitigate head injuries. A US study found that all head injuries were down between 30 and 50 per cent in their resorts from 1995 and 2010.

Interestingly enough major head traumas and fatalities had not declined which I would suggest gives weight to my feeling that if you are going fast they’re going to be of limited help in a major incident.

Australian resorts strongly recommend the use of helmets. Broadly speaking they aren’t compulsory though there are certainly some exceptions to that for lessons with children, school groups etc. And quite frankly you’d be pretty silly not to be using one in the park or pipe.

I’m pro-choice but I’m also pro-helmets. Make the wise decision and be careful out there!


Giro helmet

A bit of Giro love will be coming our subscribers’ way next month. Stay tuned!

As part of The Snow Gauge’s three months of giveaways keep an eye out for our Giro men’s and women’s helmet and goggle combo coming up soon. The giveaways start from June 13.



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  1. Every time I see an article on Ski Helmets I DUMP ON IT. I found yours linked with many comments on ‘Elite Skiing’ on Facebook. Jeezus did all the annecdotal parents weigh in.
    Put it in perspective and find J. Shealy’s studies. I quote other studies. HERE YOU GO:

    Wear a helmet on yer knee – cause your knee will get it first. Anecdotals of guys you heard about or knew or your personal injuries are only a part of the number of head injuries/million skier days… This frequency is measured in nano-meters. Don’t drive. Period. Don’t let your kids play football, soccer or hockey. Burn all skate boards. If you want to wear a helmet- wear a motorcycle helmet. If you want to preach to me as soon as we get on the chair… well; I haven’t seen you ski. Plan ahead; I say.

    “According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) “During the past 10 years … out of the 51.0 million skier days about 41.5 people have died”.( ALL causes )

    Austrian report = 207 fatals over a FIVE year period… Half those were cardiacs; half were trauma and half those were head injuries… How many skier-days … still in the millions.
    ps: I only wear a helmet when I am Mountain-biking ON ROUGH TERRAINE. I don’t wear one when shopping or riding to the smoker’s bench. I don’t wear one skiing: I wear one ski racing because ‘I have’ to. I have skied about Fifty 100+ day seasons- take this annecdotally as-if I know what I am talking about.

    • Well I actually go for freedom of choice Paul so in a backhanded way I guess I support you (if not everything you say).

      I wear one because of a couple of low speed biking hits that I reckon saved me from concussions. I’d be wearing a beanie anyway so don’t find it a huge leap.

    • Excellent information here.


  1. The Snow Gauge ⋆ Win: His & hers Giro helmet/goggle pack - […] made my thoughts pretty clear on helmet usage here before. I’m very much into personal choice – that is not forcing…

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