Concussions and the code: Vail Mountain Safety and Vail Health step up National Safety Month efforts |

Concussions and the code: Vail Mountain Safety and Vail Health step up National Safety Month efforts

Alex Michel of Vriginia tries on a helmet at a safety booth in Vail on Saturday, Jan. 13, in Vail. Michel said he thought it was time to get a helmet when he took a fall the other day.
Chris Dillmann | |

When Vail won the National Ski Areas Association award for Best Safety Program in 2017, you knew that meant the resort was going to do something extra special for the 2018 National Safety Month.

That month is now underway, and if you haven’t been taking advantage of the great prizes, free swag and, of course, opportunity for a priceless education in how to improve your chances of avoiding injury or worse on the mountain, then you’re missing out.


Speaking from one of several Vail Health swag giveaway booths on Saturday, Jan. 13, Vail Mountain Safety Supervisor Eliza Smith described the outreach efforts underway in January.

“Last year we kind of ramped it up, and this year we’re actually doing more,” Smith said.

Scavenger hunts will take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Chaos Canyon on Vail Mountain on Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28. All participants who complete the scavenger hunt will be quizzed on one thing they learned and receive a gift bag for their efforts. This year, more GoPro cameras are up for grabs to lucky raffle registrants who approach mountain safety personnel and cite the Skier and Snowboarder Responsibility Code. On Saturday, Jan. 20, and Sunday, Jan. 21, head over to Eagle’s Nest atop the Lionshead Village Gondola for an avalanche dog meet and greet from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. It’s a great opportunity to get your picture taken with one of Vail’s amazing(ly cute) team of avalanche dogs.

And on Saturday, Jan. 20, a helicopter will land on the mountain near the top of Chair 2 at 10 a.m. to show you, well, that it can.

“I think Flight for Life is comforting to a lot of people,” said Kim Greene with Vail Health.

Greene is Vail Health’s ThinkFirst program coordinator. The hospital’s Think First Program doubled the amount of booths they had on the mountain this year for their helmet giveaway over the weekend, with booths in Vail, Lionshead, Golden Peak and Beaver Creek.

Greene said since Vail Health started visiting elementary schools in Eagle County 12 years ago, she has seen a dramatic increase in helmet awareness, but there’s still work to be done.

“It’s a choice that people can make,” she said. “But I think, what people don’t understand are the ramifications of a traumatic brain injury, and the fact that it’s preventable.”


In spreading the message of helmets on the mountain, Greene said the basic idea that a helmet can mean the difference between a minor head injury and something much worse is often times not enough to make someone start wearing one.

“I think it goes back to a personal story, if someone knows someone that something happened to, it makes a difference,” she said.

The effectiveness of helmets will never be able to be put into numbers properly with a study, said Greene, because the “helmet saves,” as she calls them, go unreported.

“Once you start talking to people, you do hear those stories, but that’s not hard data that we can track,” she said. “But we do know that it can make the difference between a concussion and a very severe head injury.”

Greene has been effective in the Eagle and Summit County region by sharing her own story of caring for her son who suffers from a traumatic brain injury.

“We can’t fix the brain like we can an arm and a leg,” she said.

The National Ski Areas Association National Safety Month continues throughout January.

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