This article has been sitting in my queue for quite sometime however after receiving the sad news of Sarah Burke’s passing I felt this to be a wake up call for all of us spending time on the mountain.
Just as your old skis have lost their energy and edge, your ski helmet may have loosened up and have become unsafe. It doesn’t take much for a helmet to lose its fit or protective qualities and depending on how old your helmet is, it may not have some of the important safety features we see today.
Within the recreational ski world we have seen huge improvements when it comes to helmet safety and technology. Safety is ultimately the number one goal of wearing a helmet; I know it’s a big surprise that it’s not about making a fashion statement. For a helmet to be accepted into the US market the helmet must meet a certain level of criteria to be called a helmet. Some key factors are impact absorption, penetration resistance and rear head protection, all of which are imperative for you to be safe while skiing. On the technology side of things, most helmets purchased today come with fit systems, ventilation and goggle integration. So what does this mean to you? You now have the ability to not only ski safely but also wear a comfortable integrated helmet/goggle system. This allows you to have your head protected without even noticing you are wearing a helmet, and in the meantime your goggles may even stop fogging up so easily. This occurs because you will have increased ventilation through the goggle and a reduced level of precipitation that can get into your lenses.
So you drop your helmet on the ground is it still good??? Maybe….maybe not. A helmet’s job is to break when impacted; they aren’t glass slippers so if you simply drop it from a low height you’re probably ok. But what if you fall and hit your head? The helmet may look unaffected from the outside but there is a strong possibility that as a result of that impact your helmet is no longer safe and needs to be replaced. The reason for this is that the helmet takes the impact of your head hitting something hard and then disperses that energy through its structure. The result is a fracture or break in the helmet rather than your head absorbing all that energy. The good news is this greatly reduces the risk of head injury. The bad news is that it means the helmet is toast. Now there is such a thing as a multiple impact helmet. These helmets are made of materials that are designed to take more than one impact resulting in a structure that is capable of absorbing energy without it always breaking. Does that mean that you can take a horrific crash and still use the helmet? Possibly, but once again helmets are made to break, whether you are able to see the fracture or not there is a high probability that your helmet is no longer safe.
Ultimately it’s wise to use your good judgment and spend an extra $100-300 after a crash. It isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things and your head is extremely important. A safe helmet can make or break you and even at the slowest of speeds a life altering head injury can occur if you are not properly protected. I am absolutely positive that every one of you has a friend, family member or acquaintance that has suffered such an injury. Don’t let that happen to you – protect your head!!!
With this in mind, here at Start Haus we are launching a new initiative. If you come in with your old helmet we will donate 25% of your helmet purchase to the Sarah Burke Fund from now through Valentines day 2012 to send Sarah’s family some love. High Fives will also be matching the first $1000 raised (www.giveforward.com/sarahburke).