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SKIING TRAGEDIES HAS THE SPORT'S SAFETY UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Published January 9, 1998
In the wake of the skiing-related deaths of Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono, the national media have examined the safety of the sport and possible future safety guidelines. SAFETY IN NUMBERS: The National Safety Council says that since '84, skiers "have made 52.25 million visits to the slopes annually, and an average of 34 of them have died each year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/7). Those numbers indicate that skiing is "about 20 times safer than bicycling ... and many times safer than any water sport, save the backyard pool" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8). In N.Y., James Brooke noted there has been "less than one death for every million ski-lift tickets sold in the last decade" in the U.S. (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7). ARE HELMETS THE ANSWER? NEWSDAY's Gregg Sarra wrote that industry "insiders believe skiing will join football, hockey, bicycling, and mountain biking as a sport that mandates the use of a helmet" (NEWSDAY, 1/8). According to Ortega & Nelson of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, at ski shops in Colorado and Utah "sales and rentals of helmets climbed sharply in recent days." However, the helmets, which sell for $30-$160, "provide only limited protection to skiers flying down a hill" at speeds of 30-40 mph (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/7). In Oregon, Katy Muldoon wrote that with head injuries involved in 2.6% of ski accidents, "[e]ven those who treat skiing injuries don't agree whether it's reasonable to ask recreational skiers to wear helmets" (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/7). An S.F. CHRONICLE editorial stated, "There are dangers on the ski slopes. ... No helmet law can erase those dangers" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/8). HELMETS ARE HOT: On CNBC, Garrett Glaser reported that the accidents "might have given concern about safety on the slopes a jolt, but in the last year, the protective helmet industry had already grown about 20%, from about 66,000 in sales in 96, to over 80,000 in 97." Kim Gibbons, Asst. Manager of NJ-based The Ski Barn: "Guys snowboarding have helmets on. It's a cool thing now, it's not a nerdy thing." Steven Hollander, VP/Marketing for helmet manufacturer Briko, whose sales are up 25% from '96, said helmets provide advertising opportunities: "Helmets have fantastic graphic capabilities and it allowed the Briko company a way of advertising" ("Business Center," 1/7). In AZ, Dawn Gilbertson wrote that Bell Sports Corp., a bike helmet company which "is rolling out a new ski helmet and has another line in the works," has seen its stock rise 20% this week, and analysts say the accidents are the "only attributable factor in the spike" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/8).