Oct 1, 6:42 PM

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Six months after actress Natasha Richardson died following a fall at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, the company that operates the facility has announced helmet requirements at all its North American resorts.

Vancouver-based Intrawest announced Thursday that when the ski season begins in a few weeks, it will recommend all skiers and snowboarders wear helmets.

The headgear will be mandatory for children and teens enrolled in ski and snowboard programs and for any student, regardless of age, taking part in freestyle terrain park programs.

“The objective is to raise the awareness of helmet use and the obligation of everyone to ski and ride in a controlled and responsible manner,” said Ian Galbraith, spokesman for Intrawest.

Galbraith said the move is an important “first step” that will increase awareness of the importance of helmets. But the company decided not to make them mandatory across the board.

“It’s an evolutionary thing. At this point, it’s a personal choice whether resort guests want to wear helmets or not,” he said.

Some may balk at even the limited helmet rules for children and teens, Galbraith said, but “we feel it’s the right way to go and it’s really the way the industry is heading.”

He said the new rules have been in the works for some time and are not a response to any particular incident.

However, the death of Richardson at Mont Tremblant earlier this year focused attention on the issue, although the new rules would not have forced Richardson, an adult, to don a helmet during her private ski lesson.

The 45-year-old actress, wife of actor Liam Neeson, died of a blood clot on the brain two days after the fall.

The Canadian Standards Association, which recommends skiers and snowboarders wear helmets, has said they can reduce the risk of head injury by 60 per cent.

“Ski hills making it mandatory is certainly going to help raise awareness,” said Anthony Toderian, spokesman for the association.

But “like any rule or law or any regulation, it can only go so far. It really needs to be the public themselves that recognize and be aware that these things can happen,” he said.

According to the Canadian Ski Council, there were about 4.2 million Canadian skiers and snowboarder in the 2007-2008 season.

Statistics from the U.S. show that nearly 50 per cent of skiers and snowboarders voluntarily donned helmets last season, up from 25 per cent six years earlier.

Intrawest said it will also update its advertising images to feature skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets. The company operates nine ski resorts in North America, including Mount Tremblant in Quebec, Panorama Mountain near Invermere, B.C., and Whistler Blackcomb, which will host alpine events for the 2010 Winter Games.


Helmets can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 80%.  Here's my ski helmet on a beautiful day this year at La Reserve (St. Donat).

Helmets can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 80%. Here's my ski helmet on a beautiful day this year at La Reserve (St. Donat).

In my opinion: Although a step in the right direction by Intrawest it should have gone further making it mandatory for all of its guests.  The government is still too slow and must legislate mandatory helmets for cyclists, skiers and snowboarders.  Cote Saint-Luc has been a pioneer in helmet legislation in Canada and I am proud to have championed this issue since first elected in 1990. Read more on my posts on this topic here or by searching “helmets” on this blog.

Letter to the editor, Montreal Gazette, Oct. 6, 2009


À mon avis: Même si un pas dans la bonne direction par Intrawest, il aurait dû faire obligatoire pour l’ensemble de ses clients. Le gouvernement est encore trop lent et doit légiférer la porte du casque obligatoire pour les cyclistes, skieurs et snowboarders. Cote Saint-Luc a été un pionnier dans la législation du casque au Canada et je suis fier d’avoir défendu cette question depuis ma première élection en 1990. Pour en savoir plus sur mes posts sur ce sujet en cherchant “helmets” sur ce blog.