Monday, March 23, 2009

Downhill helmets for uphill skiers?

Natasha Richardson's death by epidural hematoma recently, coupled with the almost simultaneous death of Jackson Hole ski patroller Kathryn Miller Hess from head trauma, have led to a resurgence of helmet law proposals. If I were in PR, I would already be formulating a press release that puts my brands out in front of the scramble for safety in an inherently risky activity. It's actually already being done, but I would also expect to see more features telling a safety story in helmets next year. I know some pro skiers already wear full-face helmets and there are stricter requirements for these motocross-style brain buckets (same goes for DH MTB and DH skiing helms). Pretty soon, we'll have some kind of second tier of products delineated either by marketing spin like "Freeride" or just "Agressive" but maybe also by speed ratings. Currently helmets are designed for impacts around 15mph, but most skiers on blue slopes exceed 25mph so -as long as the legal department lets them- the helmets might come with a sticker proclaiming "Crash Rated to 35mph" or something like that. Still, I wonder how much uphillers are going to dive in for safety, even as they dive into steep, rock-walled couloirs this spring (much like Spacewalk, where Hess was injured)