Record number wore helmets last season | AspenTimes.com

Record number wore helmets last season

Helmeted Sydney Dagastino, 6, of Nashville, Tenn., and her classmates wait for ski school to resume last March at Snowmass. (Paul Conrad/Aspen Times file)

Helmet use by skiers and snowboarders climbed to a record level last winter, and a national survey suggests use has become entrenched with the youngest and oldest in the sport.

Helmet use surged from only 25 percent in 2002-03 to 40 percent last ski season, according to survey by the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group for the ski industry. The NSAA conducted a comprehensive survey with almost 139,000 skiers and riders at 92 ski areas last winter and released results this month.

Helmet use is highest among kids. It was at 64 percent for skiers and riders 9 and younger. And 56 percent of kids between ages 10 and 14 years wore lids last season.

Helmets were least popular among people between 18 and 54, but usage picked up among the older crowd. It was 48 percent for those between ages 55 and 64, and 54 percent for those 65 and older, the survey showed.

Aspen Skiing Co. customers have been slightly ahead of the curve. About 32 percent of adults on the slopes at the Skico’s four ski areas wore helmets in 2002-03, Senior Vice President David Perry said. The number increased to 38 percent in 2003-04. More recent statistics weren’t available.

Perry said the Skico surveys measured adult helmet usage only. The Skico doesn’t interview children for its surveys.

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If kids were factored in, Perry guessed helmet usage is at least 40 percent and possibly higher. Helmet use has been mandatory for kids enrolled in the Skico’s ski and snowboard schools for six seasons. That’s unique in the industry, Perry said: “Many resorts still aren’t doing it.”

The NSAA doesn’t track how many ski areas require kids to wear helmets when they take lessons. Many of its member ski areas participate in a Heads Up Safety Initiative that includes promotion of helmet use.

However, the NSAA itself is neutral on helmets. It created a website called Lids on Kids but stresses that helmets “shouldn’t be a panacea” for safety on the slopes.

“NSAA’s position is that the decision of whether to wear one should be a matter of personal choice,” the website said. “NSAA recommends that parents educate themselves about the benefits and limitations of helmets and then make the choice that’s right for them.”

The NSAA national survey indicates that helmet use increases with ability. It rises from 26 percent for beginners to 36 percent for intermediates and 50 percent for experts.

Sales fell to 510,601 helmets the following winter but vaulted to 612,816 in 2005-06. Sales dropped to 600,687 last winter, according to SIA.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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