Will Young Skiers and Snowboarders Don Helmets in 2011?

Skiers and snowboarders under 18 years of age would join bicyclists under the same age and be required to wear helmets under a bill awaiting action by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Failure to obey the law could lead to a fine of up to $25 levied against the child’s parents.

Supporters offer the same arguments as those who backed the 1993 measure requiring bike helmets for non-adult riders and the 1992 law mandating helmets for all motorcyclists: Helmets reduce injury.

“California’s ski slopes are perhaps the last area of recreation where we do not have basic safety standards in place for children,” said Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, in a statement after the bill was sent to the GOP governor.

“Despite repeated warnings from public health experts, professional athletes and ski resorts, each winter brings news of hundreds of unnecessary tragedies for the failure to wear a helmet.”

Opponents to this and previous helmet mandate bills object to increased regulation of personal behavior.

’”What happened to personal responsibility?’ said Sen. Jeff Denham, an Atwater Republican, during the final Senate debate of the measure. “This is nanny government at its worst.’’

imagesYee’s bill, SB 880, will not become law unless Schwarzenegger signs a linked Assembly bill, AB 1652, requiring ski resorts to create safety plans and report fatalities to the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Yee’s “hundreds of unnecessary tragedies” overstates the situation.

According to the National Ski Areas Association, during the 2007-2008 season there were 41 serious injuries. Of the 41 serious injuries 32 were incurred by skiers and nine by snowboarders.

The rate of serious injury during the same season was 0.68 per million skier and snowboarder visits.

Becoming a paraplegic and suffering severe head injury are included on the “serious injury” list.

On average, such injuries occur at a rate of 43.6 annually, the association says.

However, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in June 2008 found that more people are hurt snowboarding than any other outdoor activity, accounting for one fourth of all emergency room visits. Sledding was second, causing 11 percent of the emergency room visits.

The study of outdoor recreational injuries occurring from 2004 to 2005 found 213,000 persons treated in emergency rooms of which 109,00 were between the ages of 10 and 24.

Fractures and sprains were the most common injuries for males and females of all ages – 27.4 percent and 24 percent, respectively. More than half of those injuries – 52 percent — were to the arms. Nearly 24 percent were to the head or neck. Overall, 6.5 percent of outdoor injuries treated were traumatic brain injury.

“By wearing the appropriate helmet for snowboarding, snowmobiling, sledding and rock climbing, you can reduce your risk of having a head injury,” wrote Dr. Arlene Greenspan, the study’s co-author in a press release regarding the study.

An August post at www.skihelmets.org quotes Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro saying the resort supports both bills.

“We absolutely support the law and we think it’s a great way for California to show leadership,” said Pecoraro.

Heavenly, like many other Lake Tahoe resorts, requires employees and ski school attendees to wear helmets.

The post and several others on the site are sponsored by www.altrec.com, an online seller of outdoor clothing and equipment, including ski helmets.

The issue divides two of the GOP candidates to fill the First District Senate seat left vacant by the July death of Dave Cox. The Senate seat has most of the ski areas in California.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines of Roseville supported the measure on the Assembly floor. Carmichael Assemblyman Roger Niello opposed it.

Schwarzenegger, a long-time skier, has until September 30 to act on the bills.


September 13 is the 75th day of the new fiscal year for which no budget has been enacted. The Legislature is required by the constitution to send the governor a spending plan by June 15, two weeks before the start of the fiscal year.



  1. Does it apply to Nordic (XC) too, or just alpine?

    Comment by Hcat — 9.14.2010 @ 2:34 pm

  2. Hcat –Great question. Forgot to include that. Cross-country is exempted

    Comment by admin — 9.16.2010 @ 9:07 am

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