Starting this winter, all youth instructors on Whistler and Blackcomb are required to wear helmets - partly for their own safety, but mainly to set a positive example for students that are already required to wear head protection.
Whistler Blackcomb confirmed the new policy last week.
Currently, skiers and snowboarders using the highest level terrain park on Blackcomb are required to wear helmets, and helmets are provided to all youth in ski school where parents have to sign a special waiver if they don't want their children wearing head protection.
As a result, helmet adoption for kids 13 and under is pretty much 100 per cent, says Rob McSkimming, Whistler Blackcomb's vice president of business development.
The new policy for youth instructors includes all lessons for kids 17 and under.
"For that group it's a minor change, a large number of those youth instructors wear helmets anyway," McSkimming said. "I don't have the stats, but it's probably in the range of 80 per cent, and for snowboarding it's probably a little higher than that. We think it sets the right example for the kids they're leading.... The third reason is just that it's probably better to have people wearing them than not."
Youth instructors will be able to choose what helmet they want to wear, both to allow instructors to find the helmet that fits them best and to provide a way for the students to differentiate between instructors in uniform. Whistler Blackcomb's retail department will help ensure that helmets are available to instructors at discounted rates.
As for applying helmets to other departments, McSkimming says there are no plans to expand the policy at this time but they will be keeping a close eye on Vail Resorts, where helmets have been mandated for all staff members that ski or snowboard as part of their job.
Starting in 2009 all Vail Resorts will require employees to wear helmets when skiing or riding on the job, both to make employees safer and to set an example for other guests. The list of resorts affected by the policy includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly.
The announcement came in April, just weeks after actress Natasha Richardson died of a brain injury after a fall on a beginner slop in Quebec.
In a letter to staff, Vail Resorts co-presidents John Garnsey and Blaise Carrig said it was the right decision for their company.
"While there can be much debate about to what extent helmets offer protection, we have concluded that people are safer, at least to some degree, when wearing a helmet. And our conviction is even stronger about kids, where helmet usage is becoming almost universal. For many years, resorts have allowed employees to prioritize personal preference and comfort over the additional protection a helmet provides. We strongly believe that adult skiers should continue to have that right, including our employees when they are skiing or riding for recreation. However, we believe the time has come for our company to take a higher and more visible position when we are at work."