Canada to take a lead in ski/snowboard helmet certification

March 24, 2009

After the tragic news last week from Mont Tremblant ski resort we have been looking out for news on the reactions to whether it should become mandatory to wear protective head gear whilst skiing or snowboarding. It seems as though the Canadians are going to be the first to introduce an industry standard helmet which can be certified but they are not at the moment going so far as to make legislation to say the wearing of helmets is mandatory.

So we laud the testing and certification and further suggest that it should not be a mandatory to wear a helmet – which again appears to be the direction the Canadian authorities are moving. Yes we suggest you wear them, yes we like what we are hearing about industry standards and certification but no we do not believe in taking away an individuals choice. We do not like the idea of being so wrapped up in cotton wool that an individuals ability to choose what he or she does is stripped from that individual. Such legislation would take us nearer to becoming automatons.

We have picked up this article from the Canadian Press for which thanks and present a video below which clearly demonstrates the case for wearing a helmet. Well done canada for taking a lead and we hope to see the US and Europe following suit. 

‘Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding can reduce the risk of a head injury by 60 per cent. But not all helmets are created equal, says the Canadian Standards Association, which is introducing certification testing under a new standard.

The CSA developed a new standard for alpine skiing and snowboarding helmets last June and will begin providing testing for certification of the protective head gear next month, said John Walter, vice-president of standards for the non-profit organization.

“This is the first such standard in Canada … specifically developed to meet the needs of Canadians by Canadians,” Walter said Monday. “These helmets are meant to sustain multiple impacts, where a number of helmets that are manufactured are only supposed to (take) one severe fall and they should be thrown out and another one purchased.”

The CSA is to formally announce its certification testing Tuesday, less than a week after actress Natasha Richardson died from a brain injury she sustained from a fall while at Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant ski resort. She was not wearing a helmet.

Walter said the announcement had been planned for about two months, but he acknowledged that Richardson’s tragic death has made the issue of protection from head trauma even more timely.

“You hear people say, ‘I wouldn’t have worn a helmet before, but I will now.’ So obviously that kind of attention will help people be aware that they need to wear a helmet.”

While the CSA committee that developed the manufacturing guidelines considers them superior to U.S. and European standards for snow sport helmets, manufacturers have no obligation to meet the requirements or submit their products for certification.

“This could be adopted by Health Canada, perhaps, as part of the Hazardous Products Act or consumer products legislation … it could be adopted by any of the provinces,” said Walter, who is urging government to adopt the standard and make testing mandatory.

“It could be simply used by particular resorts, a resort that says: ‘We want to ensure there’s a high level of safety (and) will simply insist that no one is able to ski or snowboard on their hills without the equipment.”

“The ideal would be if a government said this is part of the law.”

Currently, most manufacturers follow U.S and European standards, but the Canadian guideline involves more rigid safety requirements, spelling out which areas of the head must be protected and defining minimum levels of shock absorption, stability and strength. The guideline also applies to helmets for tobogganing and sledding.

Walter said he hopes Canadians will demand that head protection they buy for themselves or their children lives up to the CSA standard.

“Now there’s going to be something they can go into a sports store and say, ‘I want this kind of helmet, I want this CSA mark on it. If you don’t have the CSA mark on it, I’m going someplace else.”‘

Richard Kinar, a former competitive freestyle skier from Vancouver, became alarmed after reading an article suggesting that some helmets sold in Canada offered no more protection than placing a bag of milk on one’s head.

Kinar said he and others who began experimenting in the early 1970s with freestyle skiing, with its aerial jumps and flips, had no idea how dangerous it was – or would become in the future.

We really started a sport back then that is really putting a lot of people at risk,” he said, admitting that he wore no helmet. “What the kids are doing now is pushing the limits to the absolute extreme, and extreme sport is fuelling an epidemic of head injuries.”

Those brain injuries can not only be fatal but may also lead to life-long disabilities, said Ellie Wannamaker of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Such an injury can lead to physical disabilities that range from muscle weakness to paralysis and cognitive problems that include short-term memory loss and learning disorders, said Wannamaker, a member of the brain injury team at Bloorview Kids Rehab in Toronto.

She believes certified helmets should be mandatory for recreational sports, just as wearing a seatbelt is required while driving in a motor vehicle.

“I don’t see why we can’t do that. The cost of this (a brain injury) to one family, to one child is incredibly huge and forever.”

So you see its a tough argument to counter – please though don’t make it a crime not to wear a helmet – thanks to Todd1462 for the video – a good reminder of how dangerous it can be when an accident happens – and that is all it needs to be – an accident – an event without apparent cause.



  1. the loss of Natasha Richardson makes think i might wear a helmet next time I go skiing

  2. I can tell that this is not the first time you write about the topic. Why have you chosen it again?

    • because it’s going to be an on-going discussion, we feel we need to watch and report on what happens. That’s what this site is all about – I hope…. useful information.

  3. This topic is quite hot on the Internet right now. What do you pay attention to while choosing what to write about?

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