Helmets will not be mandatory at Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Robert Barron

Special to The Record

Skiers on Mount Washington, and most other ski hills in B.C., will not be required to wear safety helmets during the upcoming winter season.

That’s despite a recommendation by B.C. coroner Timothy Wiles who recently called for the use of helmets on ski hills in the province to be mandatory.

Wiles wrote in a report into the November, 2013, death of a 16-year-old snowboarder who suffered a traumatic brain injury that helmets may significantly reduce injury and mortality rates.

There are currently no law on safety regulations for ski or snowboard headgear on the province’s ski hills.

But Intrawest Resorts in B.C., including Whistler and Blackcomb, made it mandatory in 2009 for all children in its ski and snowboard programs and for all students in its terrain parks, regardless of their age, to wear safety helmets.

Don Sharpe, Mount Washington’s director of business operations, said approximately 90 per cent of the resort’s adult skiers already wear helmets by their own choice, and up to 99 per cent of children under 14 use them as well.

“There are no extra charge for kids taking lessons at Mount Washington to be provided with helmets,” Sharpe said.

“Unlike other sports like biking, most skiers tend to wear helmets for protection while on the slopes without making it mandatory, and we have no plans at this time to do so.”

Sharpe said Mount Washington takes direction from the Canada West Ski Areas Association, the representative body for the ski resorts in Western Canada, regarding the use of helmets on the slopes.

The association recently released an on-mountain survey of skiers and boarders that indicates helmet use skyrocketed from 32 per cent in 2003 to 86 per cent in 2015 and that it continues to climb.

“The association does recommend the use of helmets, but leaves it to the skiers to decide to use them,” Sharpe said.