UPDATE ON THE NEWS (3/21/11): An Illinois Senate Committee has kayoed a bill to mandate helmet usage for children and adults. The legislation's sponsor, Sen. Ira Silverstein, acknowledged he has never skied and thought the measure was "precautionary." Sen. Shane Onarga wondered aloud, "Why do you feel the state has to be the mother of everyone who wants to go skiing?" 

 

Illinois, a state with only four ski areas, is considering a proposed bill (SB 57) making its way through legislature that would require skiers and snowboarder to wear helmets. Currently no other state requires snow sports enthusiasts to wear helmets.

The irony is that the Prairie State does not require cyclists and motor cycle riders to wear helmets even though they are in far greater numbers than skiers and snowboarders.

The proposed Ski Slope Safety Act would require everyone to wear a helmet all the time they are at the ski area. The ski area operator would be responsible for making sure everyone utilizing the snow sports area had a helmet, posting signs of the requirement, and having helmets available.

Mike Murphy, president of Chestnut Mountain Resort, the state's largest ski resort, feels the bill is fundamentally flawed.

"It should be up to individuals and parents to make that decision," he told OnTheSnow. "We support the use of helmets for obvious safety reasons.  We have over 600 helmets on hand for rent and more for sale. We have seen an increase in the number of rental helmets going out and those sold.

Through the "Lids on Kids" initiative from the National Ski Areas Association, of which Chestnut is part, and other educational efforts, ski helmet use is already at 87-percent for kids' age nine and under and 75-percent for 10-14 year olds, Murphy pointed out.

"This bill would harm our industry and the state. Illinois resorts average around 175,000 skier visits per season, which is only slightly more than one percent of the state's population," explained the longtime ski area operator. "Many of our customers come from our neighboring states Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Indiana, which don't have such a law.

"This law would encourage skiers and snowboarders to stay in those states, not coming to Illinois. It would take away from our customer base, and further deplete Illinois' tax revenue at a time we can ill afford it."

He wondered how you would enforce it, and what the penalties would be.

"It's just not a well thought out plan.  The bill is unnecessary, fundamentally flawed and would harm Illinois businesses. What more do you need to know," Murphy emphasized. "I've gone on record to our senator with my opposition to this bill."

The way the bill is currently worded, requiring skiers and riders to wear their helmets all the time while at the area, would mean, in Chestnut's case, making sure they wear them to bed.  It's the only Illinois ski area with a hotel.