Less than half wore helmet on their last trip
While the wearing of helmets among skiers and snowboarders has become more popular during the last decade, it seems that Irish based enthusiasts are lagging behind those hailing from other parts of Europe and the US.
In a Poll by AA Travel Insurance of 830 people resident in Ireland who have been skiing or snowboarding within the last 5 years, just 47% said they always wore a helmet on their last trip. There is very little difference between the sexes in this regard either with 46% of the males polled compared to 48% of the females saying the same vis à vis their last ski or snowboarding holiday.
The poll did however show more of a discrepancy based on age. 44% of the under 35s to have hit the slopes at some point within the last 5 years said they always wore a helmet compared to 50% of the over 35s.
“Helmets do affect hearing to a degree so perhaps this is a deterrent for some people.” Says Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs, AA Ireland. “However the feedback from the sample of skiers we engaged with on the topic suggests that its skill levels that are really affecting use. Many described themselves as relative beginners who stuck to the more moderate slopes and as such felt they didn’t require a helmet.”
An editorial published by the British medical journal in 2011 suggests that more skilled skiers are more inclined to wear helmets given the more challenging terrain and manoeuvres they undertake.
It is thought that about 73% of those who partake in either snowsport in the US now habitually wear a helmet. Across Europe attitudes vary with France trailing behind other countries. In Italy for example it has been compulsory since 2005 for all children under the age of 14 to wear a helmet and off-piste skiers must wear an electronic pager.
Of the 830 Irish skiers polled by AA Travel Insurance, 10% said they sported an avalanche transceiver or bleeper on their last trip with many sharing that it was built into their ski jackets. Three quarters however indicated they never hit the slopes without their mobile phone.
The AA who encourage boarders and skiers to wear helmets reports that while head injuries are relatively rare, they do account for approximately 10-15% of the medical claims they receive from their Winter Sports Insurance customers. They also share that skiers are more likely to injure their knees while they see more claims relating to damaged wrists and ankles among snowboarders.
Overall 10% of those polled by the AA said they wore wrist guards most of the time on their last winter sports holiday. This compares to 13% who said they almost always wore knee pads.
Other advice to come from the AA is to pay close attention to what is and isn’t covered when it comes to adventure sports such as skiing. In their policies for example AA Winter Sports Travel Insurance covers policyholders for off-piste skiing or snowboarding where an avalanche warning of 2 or less is in place, however many other providers don’t cover the activity or specify certain terms (i.e. the need to be accompanied by a qualified instructor or be within a resort approved area).
 Figure sourced from the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) Helmet Usage and Safety Fact Sheet www.nsaa.org/media/209466/HelmetFactSheet_10_1_2014.pdf