Upon reading my Twitter feed yesterday I came across @BraveSkiMom‘s post about Kids Safety and Ski Helmets. It made me think of our family’s own practice. Prior to having children my husband and I never wore ski helmets. The ski season after our first child was born we became avid wearers not only to set an example of proper protection but also because it made sense to us at that point. It made sense to preserve ourselves to be able to continue raising our children. Besides once you wear a helmet you realize there is no better wind barrier and the helmet does an excellent job insulating your head against frigid temperatures.
Having worn helmets their entire skiing lives the act of wearing a helmet is second nature to the kids. They know nothing different. And, thus, the attire of skiing changed in a generation.
That the helmet remains a safety device left up to individual choice in most states is fine by me. That some choose not to wear a helmet is between them and their own luck, I think. I truly understand that “freedom to fly” argument presented by many that hit the slopes.
I bring this up to point out only that the individual choice to use a safety device such as a bar restraint on a ski lift does not exist in many places. Patrons of ski resorts do not have the ability to bring up individual bar restraints to use as they wish as they do helmets. If they did perhaps our family would not have had to experience the tragic accident we did (if an individual lift restraint was even plausible).
Thus, we truly hope that the installation of ski lift restraints becomes a universal industry standard in the near future. A restraint for the individual resort patron to use or not use- this between them and their own luck. This luck is pressed when the patron is a child sitting on a bench that does not properly fit their femurs, etc.
Despite educating our black-diamond skiing daughter on how to safely sit on a ski lift, luck was not on her side when she fell 32 feet in April of 2010. Or perhaps luck was there in that she was wearing a helmet that protected her head and goggles that protected her face. In another post I will talk more of the other lucky coincidences that occurred that day.
Here is the picture of Keely’s helmet and goggles that more than likely saved her from massive head trauma that would have surely resulted from her 32 foot fall. These sit on her trophy shelf now… we bought her new items for the following ski season. You’ll note that the goggle lense popped out- correctly designed to not shatter.
My last entry regarding our push to change ski lift standards talked of our efforts for legislative change. In August of 2011 I submitted our proposed Keely’s Law to the office of Assemblyman Morrell and assumed change was on its way.
Ski season started and the Sugar Bowl fall with resulting fatality of a seven year old was reported. We had wrongly assumed that our draft bill would provide notice of dangers and prevent these types of accidents from occurring. I followed up with Morrell’s staff and was advised they would not be pushing our bill through as their priorities were economic related bills and transparency though they would look at co-sponsoring a bill if we could find another legislator to push it through.
And the rose-colored glasses that somehow have found a permanent place on my head were yet again fogged over. We quickly attempted to find another local politician to assist. Though meeting with wonderful staff members and gathering advice, campaigning and the realities of party politics in our state were obstacles.
So we reached out to consumer and industry groups and were embraced by both. The first to respond was the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization (CSSSO). At a time when we were feeling all alone in our efforts we were told, “You are NOT alone.” This meant so very much. They offered research tools along with the SnowSport Safety Foundation and networking with Northern California legislators and media with a history of advocating for safety requirements in winter sports. This time we acted trepidly in our push for a legislative change as we realized that perhaps that might not be the best approach when shooting right out of the gate.
With legislative assistance on hold we met with the California Ski Industry Association. Craig, Keely and I sat at a table and presented our case. Our introduction? We are a skiing family and love the resorts. Families are big business for resorts. How can we make it safer for the children and prevent another family from experiencing what we and many others have gone through because of ski lifts that don’t properly fit a child? How can we have a positive impact on families and resorts?
The meeting solidified our desire to create an industry change in ski lift safety through an industry standards change as who better to study, analyze, update a safety standard than those within the industry itself? The California Ski Industry Association agreed.
While seeking a change all agree that the education of proper loading of children on ski lifts should be emphasized to resort employees and patrons. “Back to Back” needs to be a mantra. Though a child with his/her back sitting against the back of a lift chair is quite uncomfortable with the weight of their ski equipment making riding up a difficult experience since their knees do not bend at the end of the bench like an adult causing their legs to stick straight out; and further that they can’t quite scoot back until they are already lifted at a height allowing for the back tip of their skis to not hit the ground below- all this is a necessary precaution pending restraining devices that would assist the safe transporting of children up a ski hill.
Yesterday we held a successful blood drive at the kids’ school for LifeStream. They were responsible for providing the large amount of blood replacement products that saved Keely’s life after her ski accident. We are forever indebted to them and the donors that contributed in that effort. It’s because of blood donors I get to do this….
Jody Boryski Photography