Feedback sought on helmet use
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Scott - DCSki Editor
December 28, 1999
Member since 10/10/1999
1,096 posts
Hi!

I will be writing an article on helmet use in the near future and am looking for feedback from DCSki readers. Specifically, I'm interested in determining whether helmet use is increasing in the Mid-Atlantic. What age groups are wearing helmets? Are helmets more accepted among skiers or snowboarders? Do you wear a helmet, or if you don't currently, do you have plans to in the near future? Would you never wear a helmet? (If not, why not?) And so forth. Any thoughts you have on helmet use would be welcome.

Please feel free to post comments in this message forum, or send your thoughts directly to me at scott@dcski.com. I would like to include quotes in my article, so if you don't want to be quoted, let me know. If you don't mind being quoted, please include your full name and a brief description of yourself (whether you're a skier or boarder, how long you've skied, how many times you ski each year, etc.)

To kick things off, I'll start with my feelings. I'm a skier and I don't currently wear a helmet, but I'm strongly considering getting one. The statistics clearly show that helmets can reduce the risk of serious injury, and I wear a helmet while mountain biking and roller blading, so why not wear one skiing? But I'm also used to skiing without one, and wearing one would seem awkward, at least initially.

Thanks!

- Scott

lbotta - DCSki Supporter
December 28, 1999
Member since 10/18/1999
1,526 posts
Like you, I don't wear one... yet... but I'm increasingly considering acquiring one.

My main concern as a former military pilot who wore a helmet as a part of the job for eons, is that other than a form-fit helmet, helmet wear can be so uncomfortable that it can actually impact on safety, that is, when hotspots and hearing loss can take the focus away from the primary activity -- in this case going down a diamond at considerable speed. And in this case, wearing one can be counter-productive as the purpose of the helmet is supposed to be to improve safety.

However, the other day at Ski Chalet, I tried about ten, including a a Boeri that seemed so adaptable as to be comfortable. It didn't result in hearing loss, and was warm. I am planning on trying it out and may consider purchasing it.

Jim
December 28, 1999
Member since 11/22/1999
317 posts
Scott,

Like you and Ibotta, I don't wear a helmet skiing. Perhaps I should. I wear a helmet when riding my motorcycle and bicycle - it only makes sense that I should wear one skiing. I know first hand what the results of not wearing a helmet are. I put myself in the hospital about 14 years ago when I slammed into a tree head first. I was very very very lucky in that with surgery and a couple of weeks in intensive care, I came out with only a dent in my skull and a scar under my hairline.

From what I've seen, there seems to be a broad range of individuals getting and wearing helmets from the very young where helmet use seems more common to adults. Leedom and Boeri are names that are becoming as familiar as K2 and Rossignol.

Helmet use just seems to make sense. I guess my biggest hesitation is warmth - I grew up skiing in the Western New York region and got very used to skiing in cold cold weather. Skiing here is mild and I almost never wear a hat. I guess I'm concerned that a helmet would be too warm. With the increase in helmet availability and the fact that it just plain makes sense to wear one, however, I may have to rethink my position.

Scott - DCSki Editor
December 29, 1999
Member since 10/10/1999
1,096 posts
lbotta,

That's an interesting point that you raise. I have great difficulty wearing goggles skiing, although I have friends who refuse to ski without goggles for safety reasons. But I've found that for me, wearing goggles seems to be more dangerous. They block part of my vision, are constantly fogging up, and make it difficult to breath. And I have to wear them over glasses, too (wearing contacts while skiing is a real challenge for me). I really hate wearing goggles.

I will have to try on various ski helmets to see how comfortable they are. Ideally, equipment should fade into the background so you're not constantly aware that you're using it. That's certainly the case with my bike helmet; I can't even tell when it's on, and it's well ventilated to keep my head from getting hot.

Is it possible to wear a hat underneath a helmet, or are they insulated well enough that it's not necessary to?

- Scott

chuckie
December 29, 1999
Member since 12/29/1999
77 posts
How many SNOWBOARDERS are here?

I have no problems with helmet use.... As long as it remains a matter of personal choice. As soon as resorts make it mandatory, there will be hell to pay!

Folks have skiied for years and never wore helmets, why the sudden influx of helmet use? I give mandatory helmet use the same regard as seatbelt enforcement....What a waste of effort!

JohnL
December 29, 1999
Member since 01/6/2000
3,510 posts
Making helmet use mandatory would be another misguided intrusion into personal choice and responsibility. Helmets make sense in many situations but not all (probably not the majority), so don't make them mandatory. Let each individual decide for themselves. Trying to use a helmet in 60 degree weather at Whitetail would be a joke. Skiing is expensive enough as it is and ski equipment too difficult to travel with.

Where do helmets make sense? For children, those pushing their ability envelope and those who want the additional sense of security that a helmet may (or may not) provide.

Where do helmets not help? High speed collisions with immovable objects (trees, chairlift poles, etc.) This is a leading cause of death of advanced skiiers (fortunately the rates are very low). A helmet wouldn't have helped Sunny Bono and one didn't help Christopher Reeve.

Is skiing like bicycling and rollerblading? No. Asphalt is a lot less forgiving than most snow surfaces.

Would I use a helmet? Under certain conditions when I'm pushing my personal envelope (terrain parks, race courses, pressing the speed envelope, rocky couloirs around places such as Jackson Hole, densely treed areas). Would I use a helmet for other situations? No.

Jim
December 29, 1999
Member since 11/22/1999
317 posts
Scott,

I wear glasses too and abhor the thought of anything in my eye. However, my love of skiing overcame my fear of contacts. Let me say that was no easy feat!! Took me a whole summer just to be able to do it. I now use disposables and its great!!! The new disposable contacts are lighter, thinner and more comfortable that standard lenses. I still prefer glasses and will only wear contacts during skiing. You should keep trying with the contacts - the benefits (no fogging, ability to wear all types of sunglasses, great peripheral vision, no broken lenses, etc.) are worth it.

If contacts are an absolute out - Bolle makes a great pair of large goggle type sunglasses with a prescription insert called the Edge II. I have them as well and they were very good - just foggy at times.

lbotta - DCSki Supporter
December 30, 1999
Member since 10/18/1999
1,526 posts
Looks like an interesting topic we've started. But an interesting sub-topic is the goggles. Should I buy a helmet, it must be adaptable to the goggles. And in the goggles category, Jim raised an interesting point. I wear reading glasses or bifocals, as my far vision is just about perfect but my near vision has suffered the ravages of "post-teen age" living. Also, I always wear goggles, but then I can't read the trail map unless I take them off and put on the glasses. I am also confused about the red goggles, the clear goggles, the yellow goggles, and the endless colors. The other day at Snowshoe, I went ahead and bought one of the glass-friendly goggles. Just awful. It fogged inside so frequently that I just took the glasses off and skied with just the goggles. And goggles at the "Shoe" are almost a necessity, as the resort has absolutely no second thought about blowing new powder into anywhere including lift lines, lift chair access, or on your face.

Lou

(Anonymous)
December 30, 1999
Interesting how discussion is trending towards eyewear vice headwear. I view helmets as still pretty much a racers thing and not for mainstream skiing yet. I have never considered wearing one. If they became very affordable, warm and comfortable I might purchase one for nasty days, esp if I had a tree collision in my background like one commentator. being a doting parent if my kids got into racing I'd probably buy them one. I do always wear a warm ski hat (or ball cap on nice days). Eyewear is something just about every skier/boarder cares a lot about, especially blue-eyed ones like me. I usually keep a yellow pair of goggles on my head and dark sunglasses in my vest pocket unless i'm sure it's going to snow all day, then i ditch the shades. I'm blessed with 20/20 vision into middle age so I just switch between the goggles and shades as appropriate. One of the common sense keys to keeping goggles clear is to dress appropriately and keep moving. excess body heat and standing around in lift lines usually contributes to the fogging problem. whereas staying cool and keeping the breeze blowing through your hair keeps 'em clear.
Gill
December 31, 1999
Member since 06/23/2000
61 posts
Ibotta raises an interesting question about lens color. This is a question I've struggled with over the years as I wear glasses too. What I've found is that yellow or persimmon lenses work best for low light and grey or dark gold lenses work best for the bright days. Polarization makes a huge difference for skiing too, it helps provide better perception of terrain by blocking the blue spectrum glare from the snow.

I've had a terrible time with finding goggles that won't fog. Smith Turbo goggles have a built in fan that I've heard works well (there's several models in the turbo line with the fan). I opted for perscription sunglasses (Oakley EyeJackets). I got the VR28 lens color as it provides a good trade off between low light visability and brighter sun shading. While the glasses are better than goggles for fogging and wrap around enough to prevent tearing when doing figure 11's, they do still fog on occassion. A friend mentioned a product called Cat Crap and a good anti-fog wipe. I plan to check it out ASAP. Apparently it comes in a little tub and you wipe it on the lenses and smear it around with a cloth.

Hopefully this will work for me, because skiing without a perscription is out of hte question and I'm too chicken for LASIK surgery.

Otto
December 31, 1999
Member since 11/19/1999
176 posts
Helmets:

I am an instructor and a tree collision survivor and I have just started wearing a helmet. I tried a lot on, different manufacturers seem to believe in different head shapes. I ended up with a Leedom and I have found that so far I like skiing with it. I don't really notice the extra weight or bulk and I can hear fine and I feel a little more secure going fast. Even when teaching, which can get you sweaty with no opportunities to ski fast and cool off, I have not been overheated. BUT, good ventilation is key. One or two years ago, none of the helmets had provisions for venting. A non-vented helmet is a sweatbox.

I work with helmets in my day job. If you buy, buy one that fits (or you won't wear it), has venting (ditto), and get the helmet that has the thickest hard foam liner that meets the first two criteria. Generally, a thicker liner equals more impact protection. There are no minimum government standards for ski helmets and I have seen some that I wouldn't trust my noggin with. There are voluntary standards - CEN, ASTM, Snell - and right now Snell seems the toughest.

Goggles: Goggles piss me off as I wear eyeglasses too and goggles that fit over eyewear are hard to find and even more heinously overpriced than other goggles. Unfortunately you get what you pay for. Smith makes a decent OTG goggle - I still hate them, but they are workable. Unfortunately, you get what the mfrs think you should pay for and you have to buy top of the line to get something decent.

Some kind of anti-fog dope is vital. Get a no-fog cloth at a ski shop and use it. In a pinch, spit in the goggle and wipe it around.
Use toilet paper to wipe them off/out if you don't have a soft cloth. NEVER use napkins from the base lodge. There are grades of sandpaper that are less abrasive than these paper napkins and you will scratch your goggles and/or take off any manufacturers coating on the lens.

Langebanger
January 5, 2000
Member since 01/5/2000
8 posts
I really can't see myself wearing a helmet. If I did, I'd have to go whole hog and get one of those speed-skier Darth Vader helmets . Just kidding. Mostly I see children under 12 wearing helmets currently. With the type of skiing that we have in this area, I could not justify helmet use. But if I were making tree slalom runs in Colorado, I could forsee investing in a helmet.

As to the goggle sidebar: I don't have a problem with fog. I have Smiths that have a vent, and it seems to work well. I have a BIG problem with blower snow sticking to my goggles (especially at night). I usually end up just taking them off halfway down the run

tony

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