Helmets to be mandatory for kids at Intrawest resorts

Date: Nov. 10th, 2009
Contact: Intrawest

Six months after actress Natasha Richardson died following a fall at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, the company that operates the facility has announced helmet requirements at all its North American resorts.

Vancouver-based Intrawest says when the ski season begins in a few weeks, it will recommend all skiers and snowboarders wear helmets.

The headgear will be mandatory for all children and teens enrolled in ski and snowboard programs and for any student, regardless of age, taking part in freestyle terrain park programs.

And the company said it will update its advertising images to feature skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets.

The new rules "underscore Intrawest's commitment to guest safety," the company said in a statement issued Thursday.

Intrawest operates nine ski resorts in North America, including Mount Tremblant in Quebec, Panorama Mountain near Invermere, B.C., and Whistler Blackcomb, which will host alpine events for the 2010 Winter Games.

Richardson, the 45-year-old wife of actor Liam Neeson, died of a blood clot on the brain in March just days after a minor fall at Mount Tremblant.

Richardson was not wearing a helmet and the mandatory helmet rules would not have applied to her as an adult who was taking a private ski lesson at the time of her fall.

The actress' death focused attention on the issue of mandatory helmets for skiing and snowboarding.

She seemed fine immediately after her fall, but about an hour later in her hotel room she complained of feeling unwell and was taken to hospital. Richardson died March 18, two days after the accident.

The Canadian Standards Association has said wearing helmets on the ski hill can reduce the risk of head injury by 60 per cent, and has developed voluntary standards for helmets.

Intrawest said it will require employees to wear helmets while on duty in any freestyle terrain parks beginning in the 2010-2011 season. Some resorts are implementing the rule for this season.

Bill Jensen, CEO of Intrawest, said the company is working with the National Ski Areas Association and the Canada West Ski Areas Association to establish best practices.

Jensen said the company will continue to work "to raise awareness of this important initiative and the obligation of everyone to ski and ride in a controlled and responsible manner."