More skiers, riders wearing helments in Jackson
JACKSON, Wyo. – Kurt Moore has been snowboarding for most his life. But it wasn’t until three years ago that he started wearing a helmet.”There weren’t nearly as many people wearing them when I started working here,” said Moore, who has worked at Hoback Sports for 10 years. “I didn’t wear one until three years ago. I guess it took me awhile to find a helmet that fit my style.”Moore’s story is a common one.Over the past eight years, use of helmets by skiers and snowboarders has exploded to record numbers. According to a study by the National Ski Areas Association, helmet usage among skiers and riders nationwide during the 2008-09 ski season increased 12 percent over the previous season.Forty-eight percent of all skiers and riders wore a helmet at the time of being interviewed, up from 43 percent during the 2007-08 season. In comparison, only 25 percent of skiers and snowboarders wore helmets during the 2002-03 season. The annual demographic study is compiled from more than 130,000 interviews of skiers and riders nationwide.The obvious explanation for the spike in helmet sales is safety. But Moore said recent developments in helmet technology have made them more practical.”The last few years, sales have been kind of huge,” Moore said. “I attribute it to them being lighter and more comfortable to wear. Helmets now have ventilation and iPods and music integrated in. It’s as much about trends as anything. Once people start seeing everyone wearing something, they think they have to have it. A lot of it is keeping up with the Joneses.”Within the past decade, manufacturers have begun molding foam and the hard shell together instead of laminating them, making helmets much lighter.Helmets have also become more aerodynamic and overall more conforming to one’s head.”They don’t look as dorky as they used to,” Moore said.Also, within the past four years, manufacturers have added plug-in features for skiers and riders to connect their iPod to speakers in the helmet. Hoback Sports offers an upgrade package on helmets to add the speaker system feature.Moore estimates that his store sells this feature to between 25 percent and 50 percent of helmet buyers.”They’re pretty popular,” he said.Of course, safety is also another factor. The benefits of helmet safety continue to be evident in all corners of the ski and snowboard community.Professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce is recovering from a major head injury suffered while training in the halfpipe at Park City, Utah earlier this month. He was wearing a helmet, but his accident could have been worse without one.Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club member Blaize Oswald was wearing a helmet when he fell 30 feet from a chair at Snow King Resort earlier this month, suffering minor head trauma.Last March, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patroller Kathryn Miller suffered fatal head injuries in a fall in Spacewalk Couloir. She was not wearing a helmet.Jackson Hole Mountain Resort implemented a new policy last offseason stating all resort employees must wear helmets when working in the backcountry and in all terrain parks and the halfpipe.Actress Natasha Richardson died March 18 after a fall on a beginners slope at Mount Tremblant, Quebec. She was helmetless.The National Ski Areas Association helmet safety fact sheet, available at nsaa.org, however, cautions that studies show that helmets help most in preventing only minor head injuries.Nonetheless, safety is a popular reason for the rise in helmet use. Sandy Blankenship, of Los Angeles, has been taking annual ski trips for 20 years now.Blankenship, who was skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort recently, said she only began wearing one after hearing of Richardson’s death last March.”Back in my day, nobody wore helmets,” she said. “But you start hearing about stuff like (Richardson’s death) and it scares you.”___Information from: Jackson Hole News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com
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