Vail Resorts may mandate helmets for kids |

Vail Resorts may mandate helmets for kids

Matt Zalaznick

In the wake of a ski season in which a record number of deadly accidents occurred on Colorado slopes, Vail Resorts is now the second company to consider making helmets mandatory next season for children in ski school.

The 15 people who have died skiing or snowboarding in the state this year include a 5-year-girl who died of brain injuries after hitting a tree at Aspen Highlands on Feb. 18 and an 11-year-old boy who died under similar circumstances Jan. 19 at Breckenridge. Neither was wearing a helmet, according to authorities.

3I1ve gotten calls from adults who say its about personal choice and personal freedom, but I1m worried about children,² said Carol Hawk, a mother of two from Basalt who is one of the state1s leading helmet activists.

3Children can1t make these decisions, and parents from out of town may not know any better,² Hawk said.

Helmets wouldn1t have prevented every death on ski slopes this year, including the 43-year-old Texas man who died of chest injuries after slamming into a tree in Vail Mountain1s Game Creek Bowl last month.

But Hawk said a helmet probably saved the life a 5-year-old boy who hit a tree in Aspen Highlands last week. The boy suffered a moderate concussion.

3Two 5-year-olds hit a tree. One was wearing a helmet and survived, the other wasn1t wearing one and she didn1t,² Hawk said.

Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, said Vail Resorts is strongly considering making helmets mandatory next season for younger children in ski school classes.

A major concern for the company are skiers and their children who come to Vail from out of town and may not be aware helmets are a rapidly growing safety trend, Jensen said.

3So many of our guests are destination guests, and they don1t have the same connection to skiing as locals do,² Jensen said. 3We take on an extra level of responsibility when someone1s children are enrolled in our ski school. We should do everything in our power to protect those children.²

Last week, Aspen required all ski schoolers under the age of 6 wear helmets. That requirement will expand to ski schoolers under 12 years old next season.

Jensen said Vail Resorts, which also operates Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge mountains, hasn1t settled on an age limit or how helmets will be made available, but a mandatory helmet rule is likely next season.

3It1s a proposal that1s getting a lot of discussion and serious consideration,² Jensen said.

David Perry, president of Colorado Ski Country, the statewide ski industry association, said that representatives of other ski resorts who gathered at a meeting last week said other mountains are considering helmet rules for ski school.

3Many resorts expressed sentiments of making a move to get helmets on kids in ski school,² said Perry.

Many adult skiers who have chosen not to wear a helmet say they can find one that1s comfortable. Colorado Ski Country hasn1t taken a position on helmets, but Perry said he wears one when he skis.

3Helmet design and technology has improved in the last few years,² Perry said. 3I1ve worn one for four years. It1s comfortable and it1s warm. I think if you shop around, you can find one that fits.

If ski schoolers are made to wear helmets, wearing head protection will likely became as routine for them when they get older as wearing gloves, Hawk said.

3If the little ones learning how to ski wear helmets, it will send the message that helmets are part of their equipment,² Hawk said.

Hawk also said she was especially encouraged that the two ski companies moving to require helmets in ski school were Aspen and Vail.

3They1re the two biggies, and it would be smart for all the others to fllow suit,² Hawk said.

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