That is the question! In recent years the idea that it be made compulsory to wear ski and snowboarding helmets, has been very controversial.
We believe that wearing protective helmets and clothing for your own safety should be made a priority. However, whether you decide to wear a helmet or not, you should always invest in ski or snowboard travel insurance before you depart. We are pleased to advise that our Alpha Wintersports travel insurance policy offers you full medical expenses cover, wherever in the world you are venturing off to.
Unfortunately, in recent years there have been a record number of deaths in Austria and of course news headlines highlighting the deaths of Natasha Richardson in 2009, (who was not wearing one) and the Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke in 2012 (who was). Both sustained fatal head injuries from skiing accidents: one was having skiing lessons; the other was a professional - just showing the importance of investing in adequate cover before your trip.
In Europe, most countries now insist that children must wear ski / snowboard helmets. Some ski schools require their trainees to have them, whatever your age. The compulsory age range differs from country to country, resort to resort, so you should check the local laws before you hit the slopes. In America, each state will have its own rules.
Italy - all children under 14
Norway and Slovenia - all children under 13
Lower Austria - all children under 14
To give you an example of the speed these accidents can happen: an intermediate skier goes around 15-20mph on a straight unimpeded run. An advanced snowboarder's average speed is probably around 40-45 mph. To hit a stationary object at any of these speeds is likely to cause considerable injury so it is very important to be wearing the correct protective clothing to minimize your injuries.
If you do decide to purchase some new headgear it is important to take advice on the fitting of any helmet, as depending on your choice of sport, requirements will be different for snowboarders and for skiers etc. Different types of helmet include hard and soft shell, full and short shell, vented or non-vented, some have add-on face shields and jaw covers...the list goes on. Consult an experienced salesperson if in doubt before purchasing.
Don't forget to ensure that your new gear meets with standard requirements, look for Central European Standard (CEN) EN1077 or the American standards ASTM 2040 or Snell RS-98. If buying second hand, make sure you thoroughly check the helmet for any serious damage - don't skimp on quality because of the helmet cost, as it can potentially cost you your life.
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