Rarely seen a generation ago, helmets are now part of the skier’s wardrobe and often required gear for young skiers and snowboarders. More than 80 percent of skiers in the United States now wear them.
Helmets are especially important for children and teens, and not necessarily because they ski more dangerously (although they may, which increases their risk even more). A surprising number of head injuries result from falls on beginner and intermediate trails and slopes, as beginning skiers lack necessary skills in avoiding collisions. They are less able to change direction suddenly or react to unexpected surface conditions or the sudden approach of another skier.
While no helmet can protect your child from a concussion in a serious accident, helmets do reduce the risk of head injuries for skiers and snowboarders by 60 percent. And if a skier does suffer a head injury it will be less severe if they are wearing a properly fitted helmet.
As parents, we can get our beginning skiers started with their own helmets or by renting them with the skis-and-boots package. And we can set a good example by wearing helmets ourselves. When planning a ski vacation where you intend to rent equipment, ask if helmets are included or offered. If not, you’ll find sports shops near or at the ski area where you can buy one.
It becomes a bit more complicated if you are planning a ski vacation in Europe, slower to adopt helmets. The good news, about 60 percent of adults and 80 percent of children in Europe now wear them, making helmets available as rental equipment nearly everywhere — you probably don’t need to add helmets to your already bulky luggage. In many resorts they are included in the ski rental package and, if not, rentals should cost between €20–30 ($22–25).
Choosing and fitting a helmet is important, too. In the United States, look for the code designation ASTM 2040 or CE EN 1077. The equivalent European standard is EN1077. These codes indicate it met safety standards for shock absorption and durability.
Be sure the helmet fits snuggly, with no spaces between the padding and their head (this is not a purchase where you should allow for growth in hopes of getting more seasons from it). It should protect both the forehead and the back of the head, and not jiggle when they shake their head. The helmet and goggles should just meet, without the helmet pushing the goggles out of place.
Getting teens to wear helmets, especially girls worried about their hair, may be more difficult. But we found starting kids with helmets from their very first ski lesson made it a habit into their teens.
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