Soon after the high profile death of actress Natasha Richardson at Mont Tremblant last April, Whistler Blackcomb imposed a new rule requiring all youth ski instructors to wear helmets during the 2009-2010 season, on top of rules that already mandated helmets for youth taking part in ski school programs.
Last week Intrawest, Whistler Blackcomb's parent company, raised the bar once again and in 2010-2011 will make helmets mandatory for all youth programs, all park programs and all employees who ski or snowboard into a terrain park while on duty and use the features
It may seem like a small addition - and well short of mandatory helmet use for all employees that some advocates have called for - but the new rule could apply to park rangers (park maintenance staff), event crews and adult ski instructors who take clients into the park.
"The intent is to really capture all of our staff that are utilizing the terrain park and the features," said Whistler Blackcomb president and chief operating officer Dave Brownlie. "For example we talk about our park staff and rangers, the guys testing the features. We clearly want to capture those people. When they're shoveling and digging, the helmets can come off so they don't overheat, but when they're riding, yes, (they wear helmets).
"The same goes for ski and snowboard instructors who are in there with classes and teaching the class how to use the features... and events staff. Again, any staff member going into the park to test or utilize the features."
Ski patrollers are exempt if they are going through the park as part of a patrol or while answering a call for assistance.
As well, Intrawest is recommending that all skiers and snowboarders wear helmets, while falling short of making them mandatory for staff working on the mountain or guests.
That will be consistent with the Canada West Ski Areas Association, which is also recommending helmets rather than asking skiers and snowboarders to "consider" their use.