International student Luca Cesar was not wearing a helmet when he died while snowboarding two years ago.
The 16-year-old was on an intermediate run on Grouse Mountain with friends when he vanished from their view. He was found by North Shore Rescue in a rocky area 20-30 meters away from the run’s edge.
Now, the coroner who investigated his death has recommended the province make helmet use mandatory on ski hills.
Grouse Mountain says their stance on mandatory helmet use is in line with that of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.
The Association believes helmets shouldn’t be mandatory because they only protect against low-speed collisions, and are only one component of safe skiing and boarding.
They also say helmet use should be a matter of personal choice because research has failed to find a link between helmet usage and fatality rates.
In a statement, Grouse Mountain says since Cesar’s death, they have implemented an “education initiative aimed at increasing awareness of mountain safety, and actively promoting the use of safe terrain.”
The mountain also says they “strongly encourage all skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets.”
They have created programs encouraging helmet use, like offering discounted helmets to pass-holders. They say since 2012, 4 100 helmets have been sold through this program.
A renowned Canadian brain injury expert says he backs the BC Coroner in its call for mandatory helmets, but says there’s another issue people need to know.
Director of the Neurotrauma Impact Science Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, Blaine Hoshizaki, says not all helmets are created equal.
Only hockey helmets are required to be certified by the Canadian Standards Association- or CSA- but not ski helmets.
“The question becomes if BC Coroner says yes we would like to have a mandatory helmet law, once that happens, that kind of closes a couple of the gaps. IF BC says it has to be CSA certified, CSA will provide the standard.”
He adds, the good news is more and more people are voluntarily wearing helmets on ski hills.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Pediatric Society is supporting the BC Coroner Service in its call for mandatory helmets at all BC ski hills.
Doctor Natalie Yanchar, who was the author of a 2012 report on youth ski and snowboard injuries, says legislation makes sense.
“For the small percentage of people who still do not wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding, it sends a message, a very strong message of the importance of these, as we do know that ski helmets will reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury by at least 50%.”
She says Nova Scotia became one of the first jurisdictions in North America to enact a mandatory ski helmet policy a few years ago.