Victoria skier Dusan Markovic said it was a sunny powder day in January when he almost killed himself in Mount Washington’s terrain park this year. Although soft everywhere else on the mountain, the terrain park’s kicker and transition were rock hard, and when Markovic, who was wearing a helmet, landed after a failed 360 attempt "it was like landing on pavement" as he whacked his head and dislocated his shoulder.
"I definitely think it’s quite possible it saved my life," Markovic, 35, said of his Salomon "Screamer" race helmet.
As a result of the accident Markovic ended up in surgery four weeks later, so that doctors could drain just under half a litre of blood accumulated in his brain.
"I can only imagine that if my injury was this severe with a helmet that it would have been much worse without," he said in a telephone interview.
Markovic, an environmental consultant, is also a mountain biker, and said he decided a few years ago to start wearing a helmet while skiing.
"I would never ride my bike without a helmet and yet I go way faster on skis than on a bike, so it just didn’t make sense to not wear a helmet skiing."
Markovic is one example of why a Canadian Standards Association technical committee is looking to develop Canadian alpine and snowboard helmet standards.
The technical committee, comprised of 20 representatives including Health Canada, National Ski Association, Bell Sports, Louis Garneau and the Canadian Brain Injury Association, met for the first time last week in Vancouver to begin drafting helmet standards. Currently there are no Canadian construction standards and helmet manufacturers like Salomon Canada Sports follow international and U.S. standards.
"There are a couple of our helmets that don’t fit in because of style, but the majority of our helmets do follow both standards," said Scott Lumsden, Salomon’s product manager.
The CSA committee, funded by a $50,000 grant from B.C.’s Ministry of Small Business and Economic Development, will also consider advocating for both skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets. Adherence to CSA helmet standards, which could take up to 18 months to formulate, will be voluntary.
Recently, as reported in Pique Newsmagazine , a Lions Gate Hospital emergency physician advised all skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets while on the slopes. Dr. Ross Geddes found in a two-year study of patients visiting Lions Gate that snowboarders and skiers equally incurred head injuries.
Salomon’s Lumsden said helmet usage should be recommended for surfing the slopes, but isn’t too sure about making it mandatory.