New England leads the nation with the highest rate of ski-helmet usage, according to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association.
This winter, a new policy will require employees at nine ski resorts, including Sunday River in Maine and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, to wear helmets while working in the snow.
It follows the death in March of Alexander Witt, who wasn’t wearing a helmet and sustained blunt force trauma to his head while working on a steep trail at Sugarloaf in Maine.
“[Witt] was skiing to pick up a coworker’s ski that had gotten away from him after a fall,” according to a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “As the employee transitioned from one snow type to another, he lost his balance and fell.”
Sugarloaf Mountain Resort was fined $11,400 by OSHA for the rules violation.
“We had varying levels of policy in place,” said Julie Ard, senior vice president of communications for Boyne Resorts, Sugarloaf’s parent company. “In most instances, we were highly recommending helmets for numerous departments that had employees on snow. As part of the commitment to OSHA, we’ve moved to a standardized policy.”
Of roughly 8,500 employees, an estimated 3,000 have jobs on snow, which could mean working on skis or a snowboard for all or part of an employee’s role, Ard said.
Ski helmet usage has increased every season for 15 years, from just 25 percent of all skiers in 2002 to 83 percent this past season, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
“I have long stressed don’t put a helmet on and think you’re done,” said Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the NSAA. “The bigger challenge to protect yourself and others from injury is staying in control and adhering to the responsibility code.”The Associated Press contributed to this report. Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.