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WB to mandate helmets for kids' instructors

Vail Resorts making helmets compulsory for all staff working on mountain



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The letter also pointed out that the helmet rule in professional hockey and helmet requirements for cyclists have not damaged either sport, while arguably making both sports safer.

"While change is never easy, we strongly believe that it is the right thing to do and hope that each of you will embrace our decision in an attempt to create the safest possible environment for both our employees and our guests."

Dave Brownlie, president and CEO of Whistler-Blackcomb, encourages the use of helmets but believes they should be optional for most staff members and all members of the public.

"At this point the issue seems to be taking care of itself, as there are more and more people using helmets every year," he said. However, he worries that people may rely too much on their helmets and not enough on common sense.

"It's important to remember that putting on a helmet doesn't guarantee safety," he said. "The reality is that they are only effective at speeds which are quite low, while at higher speeds it doesn't matter as much if you're wearing a helmet or not."

Brownlie is concerned that helmets might give mountain users a false sense of safety, and give them courage to ski or snowboard at higher speeds, or to tackle bigger obstacles in the terrain park that are above their ability. Getting people to use the mountains safely and play within their limits is a bigger priority in many ways.

That said, Whistler Blackcomb is encouraging helmet use. For example, free helmet rentals are available to kids renting skis and snowboards, and helmet rentals are available to the general public as well.

Richard Kinar, a spokesperson for the Brain Injury Association of Canada and a leading advocate for helmet standards and helmet use, says the decision to make helmets mandatory for youth instructors is a positive step.

"The view of the Brain Injury Association of Canada is that this is a step in the right direction, but it's not going far enough," he said. "Our opinion at this point is that either (ski area operators make helmets mandatory for all employees) voluntarily out of respect for their workers, or WCB (Workers' Compensation Board) will force them to do so.