Helmet safety highlighted after death of two skiers

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) -- Twice in the last two weeks, a skier in Colorado has lost their life after hitting a tree. Neither was wearing a helmet.

Ski officials recommend that every person, no matter their experience level, wear a helmet. Though people can still get injured while wearing one, experts say they can dramatically decrease the severity of an injury.

Whenever you hit the slopes, there can be a lot of "What if’s."

"What if an out of control skier or snowboarder hits you? What if you catch an edge and fall head first?" Powderhorn ski patrol director Rondo Buecheler said. “I don't have a lot of accidents, but I wear a helmet every day."

You could say Buecheler is an expert when it comes to mountain safety. He’s been on the slopes more than 30 years and believes so strongly in the effectiveness of helmets, he was one of the first ski shop owners ever to start renting them out.

“When I owned a ski shop [at Powderhorn], I thought it was an important thing to give everybody the option to do it," he said.

Now it seems helmets are becoming a more common sight on the slopes, and skiers and boarders are finding good reasons to wear them.

"I’ve been wearing a helmet since [my son Tyler] asked me, 'Dad, how come I have to wear a helmet and you don't?' I didn't have a good answer for that," father Steve Sheehy said.

Sometimes it's a 53-year skiing vet strapping one on just to be safe. Skier Paul Nelson and his group of mountain buddies made a collective decision to all start wearing helmets as an added safety measure. They’ve been wearing them for close to six years now.

"For most of my skiing days, I didn't even think about wearing a helmet. That was for racers," he said.

Other times, making the decision to wear a helmet is putting lessons from another career into action. Adam Yunker first hit the slopes last year but was convinced by a friend to wear a helmet after he started hitting more difficult terrain.

"Safety is the number one thing in the military, and I don't want to be a military guy and then break my own rules," Yunker said.

Whatever the reason may be, there's no question helmets have saved lives and made a difference to those who've ever taken a spill.

"If you hit something, you go down, you're going to hit your head so you better have a helmet on," Sheehy said.

Ski officials say people give all sorts of different excuses for not wanting to wear a helmet. Sometimes it's because they don't look “cool.” Other times it's because they don't like the way their hair looks when they take it off. If you ask anyone who wears a helmet, though, they'll tell you it's actually the warmest and most comfortable options out there.

"It keeps my ears warm with the little muffs," Yunker said.

"It keeps your head warm when it's really cold,” Nelson added.

Sometimes it saves brain cells, too. Already Thursday morning, Yunker had his noggin saved by his helmet.

"I tried to do a little jump and ran right into a tree, like five minutes ago," he said.

Buecheler says just because you wear a helmet, it doesn't make you invincible. He says it's just one part of being safe on the slopes.

Next week is the National Ski Areas Association “Safety Week.” Other tips for staying safe on the mountain include: preparing in advance for the day’s snow conditions, keeping equipment up to date and checked regularly, watching speed and intensity around other skiers (especially children) and being courtesy to skiers and snowboarders uphill.

For more information, click on the link below.

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