Helmet sales rise after two March ski deaths | PostIndependent.com

Helmet sales rise after two March ski deaths

Ashlee FaireySnowmass CorrespondentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS, Colorado Helmets are flying off the shelves from ski and snowboard shops on the Snowmass Mall in the wake of two highly publicized on-mountain deaths during March.Its speculated that Aspenite Christopher Polk and actress Natasha Richardson could have survived had they been wearing a helmet at the time of their respective accidents. The shock waves of a famous person passing seem to have jolted the senses of skiers and riders as every single ski and snowboard rental shop on the Snowmass Mall reported dramatic increases in helmet sales and rentals since Richardsons recent fatal accident. Helmet sales have gone through the roof, said Russ Wontor, a D&E sales associate. Helmets also happen to be on sale at the moment 40 percent off and the sale helps, but people have to come in looking for a helmet in the first place, Wontor reminded. The situation with an actress dying on an easy run has enlightened people. Four Mountain Sports also is promoting discounts on helmets, and according to rental leader T-Bone, Ive definitely seen more people buying helmets. Although he acknowledged the sale might have resulted in the increase, T-Bone heard several people mention Natasha Richardsons passing while purchasing head gear. The rental boys over at Christy Sports have long been promoting the use of helmets. We try and keep a steady flow of people with helmets on their head coming out of here, said rental technician Andrew Johnston. We all embrace the helmet routine ourselves, so it makes us want to promote it more.Johnston has overheard several skiers request helmets, citing Natasha Richardsons death as incentive. Richardson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson, was enjoying the slopes at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, Canada, on March 16. The 45-year-old Tony-winning actress was sticking to the ostensibly safe, easy runs. She hit her head when she fell during her beginners ski lesson, but she brushed off the injury and declined medical attention. The next day she was airlifted to a hospital in New York City; she died of hemorrhaging in the brain on March 18.Both Aspen Sports and Gene Taylors reported a boost of helmet rentals by at least 50 percent recently. Ive definitely seen an increase, said Lauren Davis, a rental technician at Aspen Sports. Its just gone off . Since a famous person died, people have realized it can happen to anyone. We dont even push helmets, people demand them.Gene Taylors owner Duke Taylor seconded that sentiment. Helmet rentals have radically increased since Natasha Richardsons death. It was like bang, all of a sudden. People dont fluff it off now, they think twice.Taylor estimated that helmets have been a stock item on the market for about 10 years now, and during that time he has seen their popularity continually rise. The young generation is savvy to it, Taylor stated. Its been a rising trend the last four years, Four Mountain Sports T-Bone agreed, but he felt the trend was on the rise particularly with adults. Sandy Saake, a registered nurse in St. Louis, started wearing a helmet seven years ago. You dont die from broken bones, she warned, you die from head injuries. Wearing a helmet, whether you are a daredevil who hucks off cliffs or a beginner like Richardson, a helmet is a must-have, she said.What encouraged Saake to purchase a helmet wasnt her own skiing ability but a concern for other, perhaps reckless, skiers and riders. Snowboarders were constantly crashing into me, she recalled. Whether youre protecting yourself from your own slip-ups or others out-of-control skiing, wearing a helmet, Saake said, just makes sense.Christopher Polks death March 5 resonated profoundly within the community. The 30-year-old Skico snowboarding instructor was taking a few laps on Buttermilk when he hit a tree, and died before patrollers arrived on the scene. Polk was not wearing a helmet. Yet what serve as wake-up calls for the general public seem to be the high-profile deaths of helmetless skiers like Sonny Bono, Michael Kennedy and most recently, Natasha Richardson. Ashlee Faireys e-mail address is afairey@snowmasssun.com

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