Why ski helmets are important

I have to admit that I was always sceptical about wearing a helmet while skiing, until I got one at the start of the season last year.  I was sold on several aspects, the most important two being that 1) my kids would wear them and I have to represent, and 2) I go way slower on my bike overall, and have much more control

in general on a bike than on skis (probably true), and I wear a helmet for that.  Point taken.  There are also some interesting side-notes about helmets, notably that they are incredibly warm, and mine came with an integrated audio jack that lets me listen to tunes/podcasts/whatever while I jet up the lifts and down the hill.  Just fine by me.  My noggin remains entertained, warm and protected.

Tragically two weeks ago, a helmet was not enough to spare serious injury from a legend.  On December 29, 2013, Michael Schumacher, the most successful racing driver ever in the history of Formula One, was injured in a fairly straightforward fall in Meribel, France.  The man who has stood seven times as champion of the pinnacle of motorsports world-wide fell while skiing and wearing his helmet, which was cracked in two.  It is reported that he skied off-piste

into a sort of waste area between two runs that contains unmarked rocks which can be seen in the photo at right; CNN was also kind enough to send a skier out to retrace the route.  These areas are extremely common on ski resorts throughout the world, and I have skied through areas like this dozens of times.  The press is having a field day reporting that he was skiing 9-10m off-piste, confirmed by Schumacher’s GoPro Hero helmet-mounted camera (another benefit of helmets, I suppose), as if he was somehow hot-dogging it out of bounds.  This is not a typical thrill-seeker gone into the back-country story, this is a skilled skier going on an ungroomed and untended section of the open mountain, surrounded by groomed ski runs.  He was apparently travelling at a slow 20 km/h when the crash happened; this from a man whose career routinely took him over 300km/h for sustained periods.


Still in a medically induced coma at the time I’m writing this, “Schuey” (as he is known to any fan of the sport) will have a longer recover for each day he is comatose. Because of the work I’ve done in my career, I’ve dealt with several people who have suffered serious closed head injuries, including comas.  I am very afraid that we have lost the Michael Schumacher we knew, and can only hope he comes back and is able to live comfortably.  That said, he has a chance of coming back solely because of the helmet, which according to reports likely saved his life – even if some studies are showing that helmets aren’t reducing traumatic brain injury.

I don’t care.  For years we’ve heard about people who won’t wear bike helmets or complain about seatbelts or airbags causing additional injuries.  They well might, but they might also prevent death.  The fact is that it’s kind of like most people driving to the ski hills in SUVs – they feel safer even if the risks are in fact just different.  I now wear a helmet and am an advocate of them.  When I wear it, I feel safer, and apparently I will be less likely to get a concussion or a significant laceration if I fall.  And when I wear one, I stay warm and tuned in and that all works for me.  There’s more information below, and some great YouTube videos from thecrashreel.com, but I encourage you – if you don’t currently own a helmet for skiing, go get one now.  They are a cheap investment for your head.

Quote of the Day:
A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.
–Robert Burton

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