Should I wear a helmet for skiing and snowboarding?

In 2011 the NHS reported on the benefits of wearing ski and snowboard helmets.

After reviewing several studies which claim wearing a helmet can reduce head injuries by 35% in adults and 59% in children, the NHS maintain this research has several shortcomings. Firstly many reports have a lack of sampling of control groups, and an unclear definition of what actually constitutes a head injury.

So should we wear a ski and snowboard helmet and what do we gain?

The NHS conclude the actual risk of head injury for skiers and snowboarders is relatively low. Only 1 in 11,000 ski or snowboard outings result in a head injury, and serious head injuries causing fatalities are extremely rare.

Helmets are most effective if collisions happen at speeds below 15mph. As we all know, the majority of intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders regularly travel at speeds much faster, which increases their risk even if they wear a helmet.

So what are the benefits of a helmet?

Most regular helmet wearers describe higher levels of comfort. Helmets unlike woolly hats don’t itch. They don’t soak up moisture and are warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot.

Some claim that once you wear a helmet you will never go back to the beanie. New styles and designs of helmets have also made them more fashionable, and in some European and American resorts studies have shown helmet wearing has increased to 80% of those enjoying winter sports.

If you are considering a ski or snowboard instructor training course, you will find most candidates purchase a helmet.

When teaching it is always better to lead by example, especially to children for whom it may be compulsory to wear a helmet.

When are helmets mandatory?

Snowboarders have to be aware that the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors, (who certify and test those wishing to become a qualified, internationally recognised instructor), have made helmets mandatory for their Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 course exams.

If you want to teach in the park, helmets are mandatory for both skiers and snowboarders.

What do you lose by wearing a helmet?

Some argue helmets may impair vision and hearing and that they may encourage people to take greater risks. There is also a cost factor to consider – prices start at around £45, but then you have to ask – How much is my head worth?

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