Entertaining PSA in Favor of Ski Helmets

I took a pretty solid, “HELLO THERE, WAKE-UP!” fall yesterday. My friend Nikhil wants me to tell the story, so here it is.

Falling for me is no big deal. Skiing, I fall all the time; every day. I even have a life philosophy derived from it, “In life, as with skiing, if you don’t fall, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.”

But actually, I rarely fall hard. In moguls you’re usually bent-kneed, down close to the snow anyway, so when you fall you don’t fall far, though you may fall fast and awkwardly. So generally it’s just a bit of a yard sale, but no animals are hurt in the filming. And it’s rarely a situation where you’re going to concuss your head, because all your limbs are crumpling, absorbing the impact, before your head gets anywhere near earth. Technically it could happen, but it’s unlikely (follow my opinion at your own risk).

On the lift yesterday Nikhil and I were talking about helmets. He related that the helmet he was wearing he bought when he was 17 and immediately thereafter, that same ski season, he had a nasty fall that gave him a concussion, even while wearing the helmet. He credits wearing the helmet with preventing a much worse, maybe life-threatening injury.

As for me, since I mostly ski moguls, and as I explained above you rarely endanger your head in the moguls, until very recently I never wore a helmet. I mean, sure, helmet use over the last five years has become like everyone’s mom warning about “someone could lose an eye.” Essentially everyone wears helmets these days. North of 95%. I really stood out without one. But, uncomfortable though it makes me feel to admit my age, I’ve been skiing 49 years without significantly contacting my head against anything harder than it was. So, you know, whatever.

And I had rules to keep things safe. Based on some near-misses over the years I resolved never to ski either in the trees or off a cornice without a helmet (cornices are generally accompanied by rocks). So I actually owned one, an ugly one, and if I planned to do either of those things I wore one. But mostly not.

OK, so … Earlier this year my friend Michelle Grishman Oelsner guilted me into buying a new helmet that I would actually wear. I think she didn’t want me setting a bad example for her sons, which, knowing them, they would surely follow. So starting March of this year, I’ve worn a helmet. And I was wearing it yesterday as Nikhil was telling this story about how, as soon as he bought a helmet, it saved him from that near-miss head injury.

So, of course, literally that next run, you know what happened: I had this fall. :-)

On the near-flats, actually. It was just a stupid fall. I had just completed a series of very quick edge turns, looked over at Nikhil skiing next to me, caught an outside edge and WHAM! went straight down over the front of my skis. So fast that there wasn’t even time to break the fall with my hands; it was like catching a toe edge on a snowboard. Nikhil says he heard a howl and looked back to see me basically sliding downhill on my face. It’s kinda of funny to think of in hindsight. But CRUNCH! the head hit the snow hard.

Actually, CRUNCH! the helmet hit the snow.

Which is the point of this story. The helmet probably did save me from something worse. Even with the helmet, the fall drew blood. And kinda shook me up for a few minutes. I recall my first words to Nikhil being, “Actually, that one hurt.” Because with my falls, that’s unusual.

And that is today’s lesson, class!

Michelle and David and Jim Arges, I learned the hard way. You win. Helmet from now on.

(And Oliver, don’t get any wise ideas.)

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