Proposed Mandatory Helmet Laws

North American resorts are struggling with the idea of making helmets mandatory while skiing and snowboarding, motivated by recent incidents including actress Natasha Richardson’s death, after she fell at Mont Tremblant. Some resorts now require all children and teens enrolled in ski and snowboard programs to wear helmets and also include helmets in all rental packages. Vail Resorts recently began requiring all employees to wear them while skiing or snowboarding.

Two proposed California laws would require minors to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding and fines parents up to $25 if their children didn’t comply. Another would extend the requirement to resorts and force them to enforce the law. Resorts would also be required to submit monthly injury and death reporting, sign posting and file annual safety planning.

If the bills become law, California would have the nation’s most restrictive helmet laws for skiers and snowboarders and the most stringent requirements for ski resorts.

New York and New Jersey lawmakers also are pushing ski helmet mandates. One bill would compel resorts to “make (helmets) available to the public for sale or lease,” and require individual skiers and snowboarders to wear a helmet on the slopes. A second, similar bill would restrict the mandate to children under age 14 – the current state cutoff for mandatory bicycle helmet use. Some ski areas and organizations in both states oppose the bills.

According to the SnowSports Industry of America (SIA), this season’s helmet sales have already set records with 1.1 million units sold. Sales are up more than 25%, compared with the 2008/09 season, also a record setting helmet sales season.

Thanks to the SIA for keeping us up-to-date on this issue.

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