AURÉLIEN LAURENT – SKI PATROLLER IN LA CLUSAZ

WHY WEAR A SKI HELMET? THE PROS GIVE THEIR ANSWER!

Hello, can you introduce yourself?

I'm Aurélien, I'm passionate about skiing and I've made it my winter job. I've been skiing for over 30 years and have tried all types: downhill skiing, Freeriding, forest skiing, derby racing etc. I've been working as a ski patroller in La Clusaz for 8 years.

 

Tell us a little about your job; what does being a ski patroller entail?

In this job, I'm on my skis every day. As patrollers, we're responsible for slope access and safety: prevention, marking dangerous routes, avalanche prevention, slope closures; and, of course, helping those injured on the slopes.

 

What is the point of wearing a helmet on the slopes when skiing, snowboarding or tobogganing?

The helmet is obviously there to protect your head from impacts. Today, the slopes are very well prepared, which encourages people to go faster. But although people may go faster, that doesn't necessarily mean they are more competent skiers. Higher speeds and a lack of control lead to more falls and collisions between users, and harder impacts. Wearing a helmet helps protect you from some of the most serious consequences resulting from these accidents. It's the same when you venture off piste because of the rocks hidden under the freshly-fallen snow... We see a lot of accidents linked to the rise of Freeriding (off-piste skiing).

 

We also forget that ski helmets are much better than hats at keeping your head warm ... and in terms of style, there really is something for everyone!

 

You're a patroller: in your job you see the consequences of wearing or not wearing a ski helmet - what might these be?

The most serious consequence is head trauma with loss of consciousness. We see it fairly regularly. Fortunately, almost all children wear a helmet. What's more, a helmet is mandatory in ski lessons. But as far as parents are concerned, there's still some way to go. Yet we know that when you fall, it's often your head that you hit first.

Do you have any particular experience you can share with us to illustrate this point?

Yes, a good skier took a bad tumble on a blue run because of a technical problem: his binding had been ripped off. Initially, he came to see us about his binding. Then his girlfriend came back to see us a few hours later because she didn't recognise him. In fact, he had a major head trauma. At first, he thought it was okay, but his condition gradually deteriorated. Fortunately, his girlfriend came to see us because it could have been very serious. He eventually got better but he spent more than a week in hospital.

 

Do you wear a helmet? What are your reasons for doing so?

Since I've been skiing, more than 30 years in all, I've been wearing a ski helmet. Firstly, because the way I ski, a mistake can happen quickly: in the forest, when Freeriding, a branch or a hidden rock are never far away! And then, at work, we sometimes have to ski very quickly when we go on a rescue. For me, it's as much about prevention and setting an example as for my own safety.

 

What about a final word to sum up?

Yes, I'd say that we need to be vigilant about the environment we're in, and respect the rules: weather, snow conditions, appropriate well-prepared equipment, paying attention to others both on and off the slopes ... Put simply, you need to make sure that you ski safely wherever you are. And today, brands compete to design ever more attractive helmets, suitable for all head shapes, so there are no good reasons for not wearing one.

SOPHIE CLAUDE – GENERAL PRACTITIONER IN LA CLUSAZ

WHY WEAR A SKI HELMET? THE PROS GIVE THEIR ANSWER!

Hello, can you introduce yourself?

I'm Sophie Claude, I'm 38 years old, I'm a general practitioner, I've been a member of the mountain doctors' association (www.medem.org) for more than 10 years, and I'm stationed in La Clusaz ski resort (Haute-Savoie).



Tell us a little about your job; what does being a mountain doctor entail?

As a mountain doctor, we do as much traditional medicine as trauma (radiology, reduction work, plaster casts etc) or specific consultations (frostbite, dizziness, vertigo…). Practising in the mountains is like working in a "mini hospital", it's extremely rewarding. Our intervention often helps prevent hospitalisation, as was the case for 94% of injuries sustained during the 2014-2015* season.



What is the point of wearing a helmet on the slopes when skiing, snowboarding or tobogganing?

Primarily to protect against collisions: collisions with the ground, but especially collisions between users. If we take the figures of the Mountain Doctors' Association, which created a network for monitoring accidents in ski resorts, collisions between users account for 11% of accidents on the slopes. And nearly 35% of head injuries, including head trauma, result from user collisions*. But it's been proven that wearing a helmet can reduce the severity of injuries related to head impacts, including head trauma. So there's no excuse!



You're a mountain doctor: in your job you see the consequences of wearing or not wearing a ski helmet - what might these be?

An impact to the head may result in head trauma. The impairments or after-effects that can result from head trauma are extremely diverse, depending on the type of impact. Although 90% of victims recover from mild traumatic brain injury within 6 months, consequences can be more serious, resulting in a coma and long-term effects such as paralysis, difficulty balancing, memory problems etc. Today, 3% of injuries observed following an accident on the slopes are traumatic brain injuries*.

Do you have any particular experience you can share with us to illustrate this point?

I remember one 82 year old patient who used to ski on his own without a helmet because he never fell over... The problem was ... he was hit by another skier. He was all right in the end but he had to be monitored for 48 hours in hospital, leaving his wife, who couldn't drive, all by herself...



Do you wear a helmet when you ski? What are your reasons for doing so?

Yes, I wear a helmet for my own safety but, particularly, as an example to my own children and all those adults who still who don't wear them ...



A final word to sum up?

Although we notice that more and more people are wearing helmets every year, including 98% of children and 89% of teenagers, there is still a lot to be done when it comes to persuading adults, including ski professionals (patrollers, instructors etc), very few of whom wear helmets.

In my view, it's not about your skiing level; you can be an excellent skier and never fall over but you can get hit by another skier unable to control his speed or someone who doesn't know the slope safety rules... No one is invincible; look after yourself by wearing a helmet.