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The bottom line is that the suppliers of ski equipment did a fantastic job of leaping on the public’s awareness of a couple of well publicized celebrity ski deaths to transform a tiny niche product into a category worth perhaps a half billion dollars per year. Never mind that helmets almost certainly wouldn’t have saved either Michael Kennedy or Cher’s Ex. Along with the switch to shaped skis it is arguably the greatest success story in the industry over the past 10 years. Bravo, that’s free enterprise but just because some slick marketing tells you need to spend $200 or more on a helmet doesn’t necessarily mean the facts substantiate the marketers’ claims. Natasha Richardson's story is sad – she a great human being by all accounts – but in her case again, nobody can be sure that she didn’t have some preexisting weakness in a cerebral artery that was a ticking time bomb whether she was on the Bunny Hill at Tremblant or on a Broadway stage. But, no matter, you once again can hear the insistent beat of the marketers’ war drums telling us to ski in fear if we dare to go without a helmet. And this time idiot politicians are taking up the hypnotic beat. Scary!
Finally, there is the emotional side of it. Skiing for many is about freedom. Can you imagine Stein with a helmet on a bright sunny morning at Deer Valley? I’m all for people choosing what’s right for them and if I lived out west and skied in the trees or out of bounds all the time I would probably do the prudent thing and buy a helmet (with big ear holes). On the other hand, the notion of some government bureaucrats and/or ski area executives swallowing all this marketing crap and forcing me to wear a helmet is repugnant in the extreme. No, I want to be like Stein when I’m 82 reveling in the sheer joy of it all with the cold wind whistling through my grey hair. And if somewhere along the way I catch an edge and meet my end because I don’t have a helmet then I will have died a happy and free man.
Go to skiingmag.com
Go to nastar.com
Go to warrenmiller.com
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