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In helmets we trust?

Part 2 of Pique's concussion feature

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It is not mandatory to wear a helmet at Whistler Blackcomb, unless you are taking part in a competitive event or riding in the highest level terrain park on Blackcomb Mountain.

"Why, when we're seeing the percentage going up year over year?" questions Leighton.

"We think it's unnecessary with the trend that's going on."

The key, he says, is to get people using their brains.

"Helmets are a good idea; they are," he says. "But using your head is even more important.

"We would rather have people think about what they're doing and the risks, with a helmet or not."

While that is a good strategy in theory, not everyone agrees that it pans out in practice.

"The one thing we cannot legislate is common sense," says Dr. Pat Bishop. "So you have to legislate other things like it's a requirement to wear a helmet on a ski hill, it's a requirement that you use a seatbelt in your car etcetera.

"I think all these arguments as to why do I have to wear a helmet are spurious; they're quite often knee-jerk reactions, and they're probably a reaction to the notion that government is acting like big brother," says Bishop. "Well sometimes you need a big brother to make sure you're doing the right thing."

Only the province can make it mandatory to wear helmets through legislation.

There are other concerns too — ones that could impact the bottom line.

From an operator's perspective, making helmet use mandatory could be perceived as another barrier to entry in the sport.

"If they don't have a helmet it means they have to buy one or rent one," explains Leighton.

And that could be the difference between choosing Whistler Blackcomb or not.

The single impact rental helmet

About a decade ago Bishop agreed to be a part of the ski and snowboard helmet committee, tasked with developing a standard for snow helmets.

At that time, the committee members representing the ski area operators, voiced concern about single impact helmets and how they relate to their rental programs.

Specifically, they were concerned that the ski helmets didn't provide protection against more than one hit.

Bishop explains that a single impact crushes the lining material in the helmet that protects your head. The liner doesn't bounce back. So, if there is an impact in the same place, the protection has been compromised.

"That (chance) may be remote on the skier wearing the helmet in one day, but it may not be remote for the guy who borrows the helmet the next day," says Bishop.

That's of great concern to helmet advocate Richard Kinar.

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