Skiers in Nova Scotia, Canada, will no longer be able to hit the slopes without a helmet at the eastern province's ski hills without legal repercussions. Under a law passed in the provincial legislature last week, every skier and snowboarder will be legally required to wear a helmet when paying to use lift-accessed skiing after Nov. 1, 2012.
Nova Scotia Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said that failure to comply will result in tickets and fines of up to $250, and that inspectors will be hired to enforce the law on the slopes.
Tony Kiritsis, communications officer for the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness cited the toll that severe traumatic brain injuries take on an individual and Canadian society as the impetus for the bill. "For our healthcare system to look after each individual, it costs about $400,000 a year, per injury. Our research has shown that while almost 90 per cent of Nova Scotians wear helmets, there are those who are aware of the risks and choose not to wear one," said Kiritsis.
Kiritsis said there was no major opposition to the bill from any groups or individuals. "When government makes a decision for the health and safety of the majority, they often come into conflict with the choice of an individual. While it can be a difficult balance, and based on previous helmet legislation, we are confident this is the right choice to protect Nova Scotians," he said.
Nova Scotia has seen 11 traumatic brain injuries on its ski slopes since 2000. Several have resulted in fatalities, such as the high profile death of actress Natasha Richardson at Tremblant in 2009.
In the United States, New Jersey recently passed a law requiring minors to wear helmets on the slopes, while California Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a similar law, saying helmet use is the responsibility of parents, not the state.
Short of legislation, some U.S. ski resorts have begun to independently require helmet use for employees on the clock, for both staff protection and to help increase general public awareness of helmets.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which as of the 2011/12 winter season requires every employee to wear one, supplies helmets to resort staff. "Helmets are not a panacea, but given the nature of the sport, we feel that requiring helmet use is a major step forward toward overall safety," said Jackson Hole communications manager Zahan Billamoria.
Billamoria also noted that the Wyoming resort has seen very significant growth in voluntary helmet use among guests over the last few years.