Why I wear a helmet
First of all what your not going to hear now is how wearing a helmet will prevent you from getting injured. Lets be honest here, if the crash or fall impacts upon your head severely you are likely to still end up injured. Look at the case of Michael Schumacher. Schumacher was wearing a helmet when he crashed on the slopes of Meribel in Frances Les Trois Vallees Ski region nearly three years ago. This incident highlighted the use of helmets when skiing and served for some as an excuse not to wear one. I know a few friends who told me "But Schumacher was wearing a helmet and he is still in a critical condition in hospital". I am more on the doctors side of it in that without the helmet he would probably be dead. Thats not scaremongering but considered fact.
Fact Or Fiction
Wearing a helmet will not prevent your head from being injured completely however it will spread the force of the shock to reduce its impact. Numerous studies have shown that wearing helmets whilst skiing/snowboarding has reduced some forms of head injuries by up to 50% (The New York Times). This accompanied by the increase in helmet use amongst the winter sports community (70% increase between 2003-2013) has helped to reduce the number of serious of fatal injuries that occur due to head trauma on the slopes.
Not All Crashes Are High Speed
For me and a high number of fellow winter sports enthusiasts just hearing statistics however hadn't made much of a difference. A large number of people hit the slopes (pardon the pun) without a helmet every year. It changed for me when I saw first hand what effect a helmet can have on protecting your skull. I was shadowing a fellow instructors lesson during my training where he was working with a beginner snowboard group on a green run. As Ed (the instructor) stood to demonstrate an activity he caught his heel edge in the snow and fell hitting his head. At first I had little concern for his well being it was a routine fall. This incident was low speed whilst in contact with the snow but the force generated had been enough to crack his helmet straight down the middle at the back. After a moment I realised Ed was hurt and called for Ski Patrol. At the end of the day Ed had a broken helmet and a concussion but what could have occurred that day would certainly have been worse without a helmet.
The Right Fit
Should you decide to use a helmet whilst your skiing/snowboarding? Well that really is up to you but there is certainly a few things to consider beforehand. Go to a reputable Ski/Snowboard shop and ask the assistant about your options. Different helmets suit different head shapes and sizes but hopefully there will be a brand suited to you. It is important not to simply choose a helmet because of colour and price. Fit is the most important aspect of your choice. The fit should be snug and so the helmet does not tilt with head movement whether the chin strap is applied or not. The helmet should sit evenly across the top of your head, you will know if it is loose. A loose helmet will not protect you. Most helmets come with a range of foams which you can inset to customise the fit (once again ask the assistant).
One and Done
It is worth noting that like motorbike helmets winter sports helmets are intended for one large impact only. The interior in most helmets is a form of polystyrene that upon impact will compress to absorb the force and protect your head. However this polystyrene will not reform to its original position so once impacted will then offer little to know protection if you were to hit your head in the same part of the helmet. Luckily there is a saviour. Giro, a company well known in the winter sports community for making goggles, helmets and protective wear has got a great helmet called The Combyn. The Combyn rather than using a polystyrene to absorb the impact uses something I can only describe as similar to memory foam. After the helmet has taken a whack the inner foam returns to its original state and is good to go again.
Whatever your view on helmets I hope you have a safe and fun winter! Bring on the snow!
Why not check out our video below which lists our top 10 ski and snowboard essentials. Spoiler alert, a helmet is on the list.