British Columbia

Ski resort operator dons new helmet rules

Six months after actress Natasha Richardson died following a fall at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, the company that operates the facility has announced helmet requirements at all its North American resorts.

Includes Quebec facility where actress Natasha Richardson fell

Six months after actress Natasha Richardson died following a fall at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, the company that operates the facility has announced helmet requirements at all its North American resorts.

Starting this season, Intrawest will make helmets mandatory for all children and teens enrolled in ski and snowboard programs and will also include helmets in all rental packages.

By the 2010–2011 season, helmets will also be mandatory in the company's freestyle terrain parks for skiers, snowboarders and on-duty Intrawest employees.

The company, which also operates the Whistler-Blackcomb and Panorama resorts in B.C., has launched a campaign to persuade all skiers and snowboarders to wear the protective gear. Intrawest said it plans to upgrade its website and ads to feature helmet-wearing skiers and snowboarders.

Richardson, 45, was not wearing a helmet when she fell during a private lesson at the Mont Tremblant resort in March. The wife of actor Liam Neeson, she later died of a blood clot.

Her death reignited the debate over whether ski helmets should be made mandatory, but it did not influence Intrawest's decision, said Ian Galbraith, the company's director of corporate communications.

"This is very much an issue that's … been ongoing at our resorts," Galbraith said.

The new rules are a positive first step, said Canada Safety Council spokesperson Valerie Powell.

"There are still a lot of people that are not wearing helmets and this will push them to wear them," Powell said.

"I don't know how far you can go with that, but it's definitely, definitely a good thing."

The Canadian Institute for Health Information's latest figures, which do not include data from Quebec, indicate 138 people were hospitalized across Canada in 2005-2006 because of a head injury sustained while skiing or snowboarding.

Between 1990 and 2008, at least 39 people died on Quebec's ski hills, according to the provincial coroner's office.

Intrawest also operates resorts in Colorado, Vermont and New Jersey.

The Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort will host the alpine ski events and the sliding events for the 2010 Winter Olympics in February.

Corrections

  • Helmets will be mandatory for Intrawest employees working in freestyle terrain parks, not all on-duty Intrawest employees, as an earlier version of this story might have implied.
    Oct 01, 2009 5:30 PM PT

(With files from The Canadian Press)