Your guide to better skiing

Mind Your Head
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The Independent Travel

The difference was remarkable. One week I was skiing in New England, where perhaps half of the adult skiers wore helmets; the next week I was in Engelberg, where by my count there was just one adult on the slopes with a helmet - and that was me. North American skiing is often regarded by European hardliners as obsessively safety-conscious, but in the comparison of attitudes towards ski helmets we are the ones who suffer.

The difference was remarkable. One week I was skiing in New England, where perhaps half of the adult skiers wore helmets; the next week I was in Engelberg, where by my count there was just one adult on the slopes with a helmet - and that was me. North American skiing is often regarded by European hardliners as obsessively safety-conscious, but in the comparison of attitudes towards ski helmets we are the ones who suffer.

Why don't more skiers use helmets on this side of the Atlantic? Mainly, it's a scalp thing: "helmets are hot" and "I want to feel the wind in my hair" are about as far as the argument goes. (Odd, then, that so many skiers wear hats.) But at this time of year, when a fall is most liable to bring you into contact with something hard, wearing a helmet is actually a comfort. Spring may be a different matter; but in January and February a helmet helps to keep you safe as well as warm.

How safe? Evidence that helmets prevent head injuries, so the argument goes, is, inconclusive. This is true; and until volunteers are found who will ski into trees at 30mph with and without helmets, it may remain so. But a US study concluded that 44 per cent of ski and snowboarding head injuries in 1997 could have been prevented or reduced in severity by the wearing of a helmet. Which is at least persuasive.

If you don't think you'd enjoy wearing a helmet, just try it. I did that a year ago, and I've been wearing one ever since.

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