DENVER – Vail Resorts employees will be required to wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding on the job starting in the 2009-2010 season.
Vail also will require helmets for all children age 12 and under who take group lessons through its schools, and helmets will be part of the resort’s children’s rental packages unless parents or guardians sign a waiver.
The company announced the policy Monday. It will be in force at all five of its resorts in Colorado and California.
Helmets will be provided next fall as part of employees’ uniforms.
“We did it as a way to promote safety for employees and guests,” said John Garnsey, co-president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division. “By making helmets part of the uniform, our employees are setting a very good example to our guests and especially children.”
Vail Resorts worked on details of the policy for more than a year, and executives were required to wear helmets this season as part of a pilot program, Garnsey said.
The company was talking with manufacturers to secure about 6,400 helmets. Garnsey did not have an estimate of costs.
Vail Resorts, based in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, owns the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts in Colorado and Heavenly in California.
The company says it strongly recommends helmets for skiers of all ages.
The National Ski Areas Association also supports helmet use. The Lakewood-based trade group doesn’t track resort helmet policies but said use has been steadily rising.
An estimated 43 percent of all skiers and snowboarders at resorts used helmets, according to a 2007-2008 demographic study by NSAA, up from about 25 percent in the 2002-2003 season.
“After a situation like what happened with Natasha Richardson … the issue comes to light quite significantly,” said Dave Byrd, director of education with the association.
The 45-year-old actress died of head injuries last month after falling on a beginner ski slope at Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. Richardson was not wearing a helmet. Her death prompted officials in Quebec to consider making helmets mandatory on ski hills.
A report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1999 found that helmet use by skiers and snowboarders could prevent or reduce the severity of 44 percent of head injuries to adults.
NSAA is launching a safety campaign this fall to encourage use of helmets for all kids ages 14 and under by 2012.