Ski Helmet Usage

Snow Sport Helmet Usage

Position Statement

The Canada West Ski Areas Association recommends wearing helmets for skiing and riding.  Skiers and snowboarders are encouraged to educate themselves on the benefits and limitations of helmet usage. The primary safety consideration, and obligation under the Alpine Responsibility Code, is to ski and ride in a controlled and responsible manner.

The key reasons that we have adopted this position are as follows:

  1. The ski industry has achieved major success in promoting helmet usage.

CWSAA provides its members with free safety signage and videos, which include clear messages encouraging skiers & boarders to wear helmets.   The Canadian Ski Council also actively promotes snow sport helmet usage.  In addition, ski areas across Canada strongly encourage their customers to wear helmets.   As a result of these efforts, snow sports helmet usage in Canada has increased from 32% in 2003 to 86% in 2015.  Moreover, 99.5% of children (14 and under) wear helmets while skiing & boarding.   (Data Source: Canadian Ski Council (CSC)).

  1. Education is more effective than legislation.

Mandatory bicycle helmet legislation in various Canadian provinces has failed to achieve helmet usage rates matching those amongst skiers & boarders.  For example, in British Columbia, snow sports helmet usage (85%) is significantly greater than bicycle helmet usage (65%), despite the fact that bicycle helmets are mandatory, while snow sports helmets are not (source: CSC / Statistics Canada).

  1. A helmet is only one component of a safe approach to skiing & boarding.

The Alpine Responsibility Code promotes ten safety practices that collectively help maximize the potential for safe skiing & boarding. The Canadian ski industry actively promotes this code through safety signage, videos and on-line media.  We believe that encouraging a comprehensive set of safe skiing & boarding practices is a more effective approach to maximizing safety than legislation of a single safety measure (e.g. mandatory use of snow sport helmets).

  1. Helmets only provide protection against low-speed collisions.

Ski helmets are only certified to provide protection at speeds up to 22.5 km/h (Snell RS-98 & ASTM).  However, research indicates that helmet users tend to ski & board at higher speeds (i.e. 40-60 km/hour).   Accordingly, promoting helmets as a panacea for avoiding injury may provide skiers & boarders with a false sense of security and thereby increase risky behaviour (e.g. skiing at excessive speeds or without appropriate control).

  1. Research has failed to find a link between helmet usage and fatality rates.

Dr. Jasper Shealy (Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology), who has been studying skiing and snowboarding injuries for more than 30 years, has stated: “There is no clear evidence that helmets have been shown to be an effective means of reducing fatalities in alpine sports”.

  1. We believe that helmet usage should be a matter of personal choice.

We believe that Canadian skiers & boarders are capable of making responsible choices with respect to their safety on ski slopes.  Moreover, we do not deem it appropriate or beneficial for any government to legislate mandatory use of snow sport helmets.  In our opinion, diversion of government resources towards creation and enforcement of helmet legislation, and away from other priorities, would not provide a net benefit to the public.