As an Olympic ski medalist who has been skiing for over thirty years, I wonder why Natasha Richardson's tragic demise has not catalyzed people across the US to push for mandatory helmets for skiing. Instead, traffic on the internet is still arguing about whether a helmet would have saved her or not. In many other countries helmets are mandatory, especially for children. Yet, in the US, the percentage of people skiing in helmets is still well below 50%. Instead of arguing about whether it would have helped, isn't the point that it certainly wouldn't have made her worse off? It would have increased her chances of survival.
Since my background is economics, I look for the money trail. Each ski area must feel that mandatory helmet rules would make people want to go elsewhere -- so unless all the resorts do it, no one area wants to be the bad guy. They must feel that they would lose more money by requiring helmets than they lose by the bad publicity of famous people dying from a minor spill on the bunny hill. One wonders how many people who aren't famous die from head trauma while skiing each year. Maybe now, the money equation will finally shift.
For years I didn't wear a helmet (except for the very fast Downhill races where we were clocked at 65-70mph). No one wore them for regular skiing. When they began to be introduced, I didn't want to wear one because it would mess up my hair. I admit it, I was shallow. What turned me around was knowing that my daughter wouldn't wear one if I didn't. That made my decision simple. I call for others who have experience and love the sport to take a leadership role to encourage everyone to wear a helmet.
Bottom line: I wonder why this is even a discussion anymore. How many more high profile (or low profile) accidents do we need? Why risk leaving children motherless or fatherless to avoid a bad hair day? It may not prevent every accident from skiing, but if it saves even one wife and mother of two kids from a senseless death, that is enough for me.
Let's call it the Natasha Rule -- then maybe her death would not be entirely in vain.
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