Steamboat Springs Though Aspen Skiing Co. will require all ski and snowboard students younger than the age of 6 to wear helmets, Steamboat is not likely to follow suit, Ski Corp. officials said Thursday.
Aspen's helmet policy is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the National Ski Areas Association said. It comes near the end of a ski season with a record number of skiing-related deaths in Colorado.
"After listening to Aspen Skiing Co. staff and our community, we have decided this is the right thing to do," said Mike Kaplan, vice president of mountain operations in Aspen. "We continue to recommend helmets for everyone."
Skiers younger than 6 not enrolled in classes at Aspen resorts do not have to wear helmets.
Steamboat officials said Thursday the ski area does not have plans to implement a similar policy here. Ski Corp. will continue to let parents of children participating in the classes decide if helmets are necessary, spokesman Mike Lane said.
"We recommend folks educate themselves on the benefits of helmets and they can make up their own minds whether to wear one or not," Lane said.
"It's a personal choice for that individual or that parent to make."
Ski Corp. representatives are convinced the best thing they can do to keep people from getting hurt is to encourage them to follow the code of responsible skiing, Lane said.
Ski Corp. does not currently offer helmet rentals at its ski shops, though it is considering offering them next year. Aspen does have rental helmets available.
Colorado ski areas have seen 14 skier deaths this winter, more than any season before. Five of those skier deaths have occurred in the Aspen area.
Just this past week, a 5-year-old boy from Chicago skied into a tree at Aspen Highlands. A doctor who worked on the boy said the helmet he was wearing probably saved his life.
A 6-year-old girl not wearing a helmet was killed last month at Aspen Highlands after skiing into a tree during a lesson.
Local experts generally agree that wearing helmets can help save lives on the slopes. But the necessity of requiring helmets is still up for debate.
Rick DeVos, the executive director of the Winter Sports Club, said a large majority of the young athletes in the club wear helmets. The club strongly recommends helmets for its athletes, though it is not a requirement.
About 95 percent of the kids in the program wear helmets, said Sarah Floyd, athletics director at the Winter Sports Club.
DeVos, however, thinks helmets can also be a hindrance to skiers, especially if they are not made well or do not fit right. They can also give skiers and snowboarders a false sense of security, he said.
From all available information, Aspen is the first ski company in America to require helmets for ski school participants, said Stacy Stoutenberg, spokeswoman for the National Ski Areas Association. She said other resorts would probably take notice of Aspen's move, though she could not predict whether any other resort would make the decision to require helmets.