During the ski and snowboard season, the news of skiers dying on the slopes comes all too frequently. The recurring story is that of a skier losing control and hitting a fixed object such as a tree, resulting in serious head injuries. During the past 16 years, an average of 34 skiers or snowboarders have died annually, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

Improvements in ski and snowboarding equipment and snow grooming methods have allowed people to ski faster. Recreational skiers can reach speeds of 40 miles an hour, increasing the likelihood of losing control and the seriousness of the resulting injury.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Medical Association have recommended the use of helmets by skiers and snowboarders to prevent head and brain injuries. It has been estimated that the use of helmets would prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries by about 50%.

Getting your child or teenager to wear a helmet can be a challenge for parents, but the effort can actually mean life or death. A useful site on the Internet, SkiHelmets.com lists common excuses for avoiding helmets and the facts for responding, such as:

  • Excuse: "I've been skiing my whole life and never needed a helmet before."
    • Answer: It only takes one fall or getting hit once to cause permanent, severe damage. You never know when that might happen and you don't have control of other skiers.

  • Excuse: "Helmets are not fashionable and I will look like an inexperienced dork wearing one."
    • Answer: There are so many shapes, styles and colors of helmets that you can make your own statement and choose your own look. Kids and teens can decorate their helmets for desired cool factor.

Once that helmet is securely on your head, take a moment to review the seven points of responsible skiing:

  • Stay in control.
  • People ahead of you have the right of way.
  • Stop in a safe place for you and for others.
  • Look uphill and yield when starting downhill or merging.
  • Use devices to prevent runaway equipment.
  • Observe signs, warnings and keep off closed trails.
  • Know how to use the lifts safely.
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