Mountain Spy


Is the use of helmets required for any of your resort's activities?

For this edition of Mountain Spy, our 007 Liz Eren posed as a college journalist writing an article. She started her query with that information and said that she had a simple question to ask, giving the person on the the other end of the line an immediate opportunity to transfer her, or not. Most did not, which worked in some instances, not in others.

Vermont, Medium Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose ski and ride info.

Answering Phone: Young female. Very nice.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Yup we do actually. If you're in any ski school program and under the age of 18 you are required to wear a helmet.

SAM: Okay, well do you rent them? Or does your mountain do anything else to promote their safety?

Staff: Yeah, we definitely rent them and do promote their use. There's actually a program up here in Vermont called P.H.A.T which is Protect Your Head At All Times. They basically come around to the mountains promoting the use of helmets and how beneficial they really are. I can give you their number if you'd like.

SAM: No, that's fine. Thanks so much.

Staff: Of course, no problem, thanks for calling.

Rating: 8.5

Comment: Short, sweet, and right to the point. Nice bonus info on the P.H.A.T program, too.

Vermont, Large Area

First Contact: Young female. A little quick to answer.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Umm, the only thing we require helmets for is children in ski school programs. We don't require them for everyone. We suggest it but don't require it. But, yes, any child enrolled in our programs must wear one.

SAM: Okay. Is there anything your mountain does to promote their use? Do you rent them?

Staff: We do rent them, yes. And we sell them in our ski shop.

SAM: When you rent them are they a part of a package, or free or extra?

Staff: Well, they're right there to rent with your skis or snowboard. I think they're an extra $5 dollars, but it's really not much. You know, for the safety of your head and all.

SAM: Very true. Thanks so much.

Rating: 6.5

Comment: Answered the question, but a little lackluster.

New York, Small Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Too many options. Chose 0.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: You know what? I'm not even sure. Let me switch you over to our rental shop.

Answering Phone: Young male. Sounded like I was calling him at 6 a.m. (Too bad, man.)

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Ummmm, we don't require them, no. We do offer them and a lot of people come through and rent them in our shop.

SAM: Okay, so you do rent them then? Is there anything else your mountain does to highlight their safety for skiing and riding?
Staff: Uhhh, yeah, actually. We have flyers and stuff out around the lodge, advertising their safety and that we do rent them. And every person that does rent stuff is always offered the option to rent, no matter what.

SAM: Are they free?

Staff: No, they're not. It's an extra charge, but relatively cheap. It's only $10 dollars.

SAM: Okay, good to know.

Staff: Oh yeah, those little ankle-bitters especially need to be wearing them.

SAM: Ha ha, yeah, they are the future. Thanks.

Rating: 6

Comment: A little slow off the line but gave clear basics and eventually pepped up.

New York, Large Area

First Contact: Automated machine. An impossible amount of options. (Grrrr.) Chose snow sports school.

Answering Phone: Young female. Upbeat and patient

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Umm, yes, yes we do, oh yeah. We require the--well, the mountain doesn't require anyone as a whole, but in our snow sports program, children twelve and under are required to wear a helmet when taking a lesson. No matter what, their little heads need protection. They fall a lot you know.

SAM: Ha ha, very true, good rule. Does your mountain do anything else to promote the use of helmets for other skiers or riders, outside your programs that is?

Staff: Yes, actually. All the rental packages include helmets. Whether you rent a board or skis, the package comes with a helmet. Regular riders are bound to fall, too, sometimes.

SAM: True story again.

Staff: Oh yeah, the rental packages automatically come with a helmet, totally free of charge.

SAM: Nice to hear that.

Staff: Well sure, it's the best thing to ensure the most safety. Beyond that, though, the included helmet that is, it's up to the person-- if they choose not to use one then they have to sign a waiver.

SAM: Even if they're over eighteen?

Staff: Most definitely. And if they're under eighteen, then their parent or guardian has to sign for them, but that'd just be crazy I think.

SAM: Well, yeah, I agree with that. Thanks so much.

Staff: No problem, glad I could help you out. Good luck with your story.

Rating: 9.2

Comment: High points for her enthusiasm and thorough answer. And she remembered to wish me luck with the story.

New York, Medium Area

First Contact: Female. Transferred to customer service

Answering Phone: Female. Super nice and patient.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: We do require the use of helmets for our terrain park events. yes, but not for any general public activities, no.

SAM: Okay. What about for lessons or rental equipment, do you promote the use of helmets there?

Staff: We do rent helmets, yes, but they aren't required for ski school lessons. However, we do try to promote the fact that you should become familiar with the benefits of helmets. They're not like a cure-all, but you should educate yourself on their use and protection. I mean it's a good idea, but then most people ski or ride like they're not wearing one when they are. As in when they do, they take more risks. There's actually a man up here that has done a huge amount of research on helmet usage for the last twenty years or so. I can e-mail you his info, I'm just not at my desk at the moment. Where can I send it?

SAM:Sure thanks. My email is

Staff: Great, the guy's name is Bob and he's got so much information on this topic because people do tend to take more risks when they know they're safer. And, more importantly, is that the accident rate hasn't dropped--it's actually increased recently. Also, when you wear a helmet that's designed for skiing, they only really protect you at a direct impact at about 12 mph and people usually ski much faster than that. So, if you're heading for a tree at full-on speed, the helmet is not meant to save your life. It's a very sticky issue. But I'll e-mail that over to you today and get in touch with Bob, it'll definitely add some insight to your story.

SAM: Well thanks so much, I really appreciate it.

Rating: 9

Comment: Very good information--she's obviously researched this and is prepared for this type of question--and sends the press to higher sources. Nicely done.

New Hampshire, Large Area

First Contact: Yong male. Happy and friendly.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: We don't require them, but they do suggest their usage. But no, there's no requirement.

SAM: What about rental helmets? Do you offer that option?

Staff: Yes we do rent them. (silence)

SAM: Oookay. Is there anything your mountain does to promote how safe they are and that people should probably think twice about them?

Staff: We do suggest their use in most of our mountain literature. I mean it does say that not only is skiing and riding challenging, or more so that they are a hazardous sport and, because of that, they do suggest that most riders should really wear a helmet.

SAM: That's surely a start. Are they free to rent?

Staff: Nope, it's $10 dollars to rent a helmet and it's separate from gear packages, so some people might just rent skis and some people can just rent a helmet instead.

SAM: Ever think about making them free to rent? Maybe to make them that much more available to your customers?

Staff: I don't actually know if we've ever thought about making them free. It's definitely a good initiative to consider though.

SAM: Yeah, free safety is hard to pass up. Thanks for your time.

Rating: 7.5

Comment: Tried his best with a good attitude. No fault there. Hopefully he'll take the "free" idea to management??

West Virginia, Large Area

First Contact: Female, transferred to safety services

SAM: Stated question

Answering Phone: Female. Reeeally sweet lady.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Lets see, of course we require them for snowmobiling activities. So, all tours require helmets. I'm trying to think, I don't know if we necessarily require their usage for any other activities, but we certainly encourage it.

SAM:Okay, well I was just curious if any downhill activities require their use or maybe if you rent them to customers?

Staff: Well, definitely for snowmobiling and, of course, we require all of our staff to wear them on any ATV. And, oh yes, of course, we rent them to all our customers if they choose. Again I don't think there's any requirement, but they are encouraged.

SAM: Okay, that's fine. At least you rent them out for people.

Staff: Of course. Let me make some calls and if I find out that any of the information I've given you is incorrect in any fashion, I will be sure to give you a call back. Let me just have your name and number…

SAM:Sure, my name is Kate and my number is 555-000-5555

Staff: Well great. If you don't hear back from me by the end of the day then you can quote all that information.

SAM: Great. Thanks so much.

Rating: 7.5

Comment: Answers a tad hazy, but beyond polite and made sure to check the info she gave me with a call back. Huge plus!

Colorado, Large Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Got lost. Waited to be found by an operator.

Answering Phone: Young female. Very nice.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Um, for ski school they do. For all of our ski school programs and then for our NASTAR races you have to wear one.

SAM: When you say ski school, is that for everyone or is it under a certain age…?

Staff: Adults are not required to wear one but all kids have to, yes. Actually, let me transfer you to ski school if it's about that. Hold on one second.

Answering phone: Young male--sounded as though he drank a bottle of Benadryl.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Uhhh, actually right now, I'm, ah, kinda new at this. But, I know at the ski school for kids at least, the younger ones, they are required to wear them. (silence…) Umm, hang on, let me ask my manager. (Holding…)

Staff: We, uhhh, don't require helmets for any of our programs for any kids but we do highly recommend them. The only place on the hill we do require helmets is in our ski and snowboard park.

SAM: What is the ski and snowboard park (hey, I could live under a rock)?

Staff: What is it? Ahhh, like, ahhh, I don't--what do you mean what is it?

SAM: Well, is it some kind of terrain park, or maybe some other type of unique section on your mountain?

Staff: Yeeeah… it is the terrain park. Ya know, with boxes and rails and jibs… and uh, stuff. They made it a rule this year because of all the accidents that can happen in a park.

SAM: But how is it going to be put into effect? How will it be monitored?

Staff: Well, it's a new rule and I'm new this year, but I would have to guess that they'll have ski patrol out looking. Maybe if you get caught they'll pull your lift ticket that day or, ummm, maybe even your pass if you have one of those.

SAM: Okay, that seems legitimate if you have enough patrol in the park. The other girl had mentioned your NASTAR races as well, do you know any more about that?

Staff: Uhhh… I don't really, no. I just know about the new park rule this year.

SAM: Okay, well thanks for your help.

Staff: Yeeeah, no uhh, no problem.

Rating: 2

Comment: Mixed answers are an unfortunately big no no. And though our man may be new, a "guess" isn't great for the press. Hand the phone to your manager and put down the cold medicine dude.

Arizona, Large Area

First Contact: Nice sounding female.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Weeeeell! Number one. We do not have for the general public any helmet requirement rules. We are thinking though, that if you're going into the terrain park, then you have to have a helmet on. That's not a done deal, yet. Though we do rent helmets here and... I'm trying to think, we have a children's program for ages 4 to 12 and in that group, we have snowboard and ski lessons...let me see if I can get someone from the ski school. I know they're trying to get more helmets in, but I'm not sure if they're going to require them for the younger kids. Hold on one second.

SAM: Sure.

Answering Phone: Same woman

Staff: Okay, here's the deal. We are going to recommend helmets in the terrain park, but we are not going to require them. The terrain park, that is. And we are not going to require them in any of our lesson classes. Our risk supervisor just came back from a seminar and it'd be interesting if you have ever heard of this before...there is some disagreement about helmets on children. They protect them in some ways, but not others. Children have a higher center of gravity compared to an adult. So, if you put a helmet on a child it actually makes their head heavier which will increase their chances of falling and potentially getting hurt. You should actually start asking that when calling resorts and see if anyone else has heard of this debate. See, now you're from the East, and I know it's a little different than the West. I know New York had some areas that are trying to require the use of helmets, but this is something to really think about.

SAM: I've never heard of that debate before, but it seems like it could hold some water. However, wouldn't one think that, overall, it'd be safer for small children to wear a helmet that is certain to protect them when they do inevitably fall anyway, even if it might slightly increase their chances of falling? They're bound to fall either way.

Staff: Jury is out on that. Right now we're not requiring it, but we are researching all aspects of the disagreement of whether or not they should be required and looking into where we can go from here.

SAM: Okay. That sounds as though it's as much as you can do at the moment. Thanks so much for your time.

Staff: Sure, no problem.

Rating: 5

Comment: I'm torn between her helpfulness and the casual, opinionated info disclosed to press.

Caifornia, Large Area

First Contact: Automated machine recording. Lasted for exactly three minutes and then hung up on me with another number to call. Unbelievable. Called the other number--automated machine. Chose 0. I mean, really.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Umm, we do not require helmets, but we definitely recommend them.

SAM: Okay.

Staff: Yeah, it's not a requirement, but we have a lot of expert terrain at our resort, so a lot of people voluntarily wear them anyway. All competition events, though, that we hold, helmets are required for competitors.

SAM: Does your mountain do anything else to promote their usage? Anything for ski school kids?

Staff: Umm I'm trying to think if ski school kids have to wear them. Let me check on that, hold on one second.

SAM: Sure. Holding...

Staff: I'm going to give you over to our marketing director.
Transferred to marketing director. Stated question again.

Staff: Nothing's required, but we do recommend them and, you know, it's one of those things that doesn't actually have any standard across the board in the ski industry.

SAM: Okay. The first girl I spoke with was unsure about ski school... you don't require them there?

Staff: No, nothing is required. I mean we have multiple details for employees to ensure the highest safety measures for kids. Has anyone ever told you about the National Ski Areas Association, the NSAA? They have multiple programs and one especially is called Keep Your Lids, I think, something around that name. Let me jump on their site while I have you, to get it exactly. There are two programs they have and we definitely are in line with them, which are designed to encourage kids, and adults for that matter, but definitely kids, to protect themselves. (Can hear him searching the site has he provides information.) We also highly encourage the NSAA's Smart Style program. The spin off of that is the Lids program. Here's their website which will really help you out some more. It's and if you head there, you'll see they have a lot of safety awareness weekends and such. Here it is...there's Head's Up, Lids on kids and Smart Style. I mean we use it at our resort for multiple purposes, especially through signage and things, to keep it all consistent.

SAM: Okay, so the NSAA provides resorts with programs and applications that ensure and promote the best safety practices?

Staff: Exactly. And out here in California, we also have the CSIA, which is the California Ski Industry Association, which provides more California-specific guidelines for us to use and follow.

SAM: Great.

Staff: But in regards to helmet use, there isn't a requirement yet for usage. Things like snowmobiles, for instance and other mountain operation activities like that, there are helmet requirements.

SAM: Well thanks so much for all that info.

Staff: Of course and just thinking through it, things such as competitions...

SAM: Yeah, the girl I talked to before mentioned you require them for competitions…

Staff: Yes, we do, and it's a trend that has really taken hold over the last five years or so. Before that, you would never really see anyone wearing one. Now you're kind of the odd man out if you're not. It's getting bigger and bigger on a voluntary level and to see more and more people, especially moms and kids, to be wearing them is great. It's nice to see that we don't necessarily have to implement such harsh requirements when people are taking it upon themselves to realize they need to protect themselves and ensure their safety, most certainly for kids. You really can't find any child not wearing a helmet now.

SAM: Yeah, that's a start.

Rating: 9

Comment: Very nice execution. The first person knew to transfer and the second person gave simple answers with other great resources.

Pennsylvania, Medium Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.

Answering phone: Suuuuper nice female.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Well, I can try to help you with that. We don't require their use for anything specific, but we do offer rental helmets for $10.

SAM: Okay. Does your mountain do anything to promote their use for more customers?

Staff: Well, let me actually put you through to our public relations director, Bob. If you get his voicemail, though, just leave a message with your number and he will surely call you back. He's great about it.

SAM: Thanks so much.

Answering Phone: Voicemail. Spies don't leave messages.

Rating: 8

Comment: So patient and personal even though we only spoke for an entire 10 seconds, and knew right away I should be transferred.

Michigan, Medium Area

First Contact: Female

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Yes. (I could barely hear her.)

SAM: Yes?

Staff: Yes.

SAM: Okay, yes it is. What are they?

Staff: You mean which activities?

SAM: Yes.

Staff: Why don't I have you talk to someone in marketing. Their number is 555-000-5555.

SAM: Thanks. Called marketing...

Answering Phone: Friendly sounding female.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: We do require the use in our children's programs and we provide them free of charge while they're in the program. Beyond that, we keep it super economical for customers and rent them for only $5. We also try to keep our sales economical and sell them in our shops for $60.

SAM: That's great to hear. Is there anything else your mountain does to promote their usage, maybe something unique?

Staff: Umm, well I guess it wouldn't be unique but we offer it in our children's program for the little people and the middle and high school programs that come during the week. It's a safety station where everyone is required to go through to promote how important helmets are and to verbally encourage the kids to think about wearing one. Beyond that we don't have structured program for their promotion by the programs seem to help.

SAM: Thanks so much.

Rating: 7

Comment: First contact obviously lives in space but marketing contact gave rental and pricing info before I asked and was super nice about it.

Wisconsin, Small Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose operator to be directed somewhere else.

SAM: Stated question and was put on hold.

Staff: I tried to find my boss, but neither are around and I'm not technically qualified to answer your question. Sorry about that.

SAM: It's okay. What about ski school, can I talk to them?

Staff: Unfortunately you can't as all of our press related questions must go through either of my two bosses who deal with those issues. I can take down your name and number, though, and have them give you a call back at their earliest convenience.

SAM: That's okay. I'll try back another time. What's your boss's name?

Staff: Billy Bob.
Staff: Great, I'll try him at another time.

Rating: 6

Comment: Knew the rules and handled it nicely. Can't ask for much more.

Missouri, Medium Area

First Contact: Young female. A bit snappy.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Um, no, we do not. (silence...)

SAM: Okay. Do you recommend or encourage their use or do you rent them?

Staff: Uhh, we don't rent them, but we sell them in the pro shop. (silence...)

SAM: Ookay, is that all you do then in regards to helmets?

Staff: Yeah. That's about it.

SAM: All right then.

Rating: 1

Comment: Not a fan of the cold shoulder. Hopefully someone in their "pro" shop can show non-pro Joe how to properly fit it.

Wisconsin, Large Area

First Contact: Young female, transferred to another woman.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Well, we require it for our boardercross and snowboard competitions and that's the only time we can require it, but we don't enforce it for everyone. We highly recommend them, though. We have school groups that come with kids and there we try to push their usage and a couple of the programs themselves require their students to wear one. So the support is definitely there.

SAM: What about your mountain, though, is there anything being done to promote them more, maybe through rentals?

Staff: We do rent them, yes. All of our new ads we're creating, we're switching over to make sure there are helmets on every person. Safety is the #1 thing we try to teach here--safety, fun and learning! As a parent myself, I try to promote it, especially with our instructors. I really try to push to teach by example and to wear one so the kids will, too. So a lot of instructors are doing just that and it's really helping. I mean it's just like riding a bike. You get on a bike, you put on a helmet. You go skiing, you wear a helmet. The liability on renting though is crazy. We have to inspect thoroughly and make sure we properly fit it on their head. That's why we didn't do it for so many years, but we had so many requests that we needed to start renting them. The popularity has just grown so much. It's only $16 for one week and this is your child's head, it's that simple. I don't understand why some still either chose not to wear one or don't put one on their kid's head, that's their brain!

SAM: Sure, of course. So you say it's only $16 to rent them, but some are reluctant to do so. Have you ever thought of renting them for free to push their usage even more?

Staff: I think there's more issues with that, I think there's more liability, too. That'd be a question better suited for our manager, I can transfer you to him if you'd like.

SAM:That's okay, I got a fine idea of your policies. Thanks so much.

Rating: 8.5

Comment: Loving the idea of putting helmets on every person in their ads. So simple. Liability can be touchy and knew to transfer me before going any further. Good call.

Canada, Large Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose marketing department. No answer. Called back and chose Sports School.

Answering: Young female. Really nice and patient. English was definitely her second language though.

SAM: Stated question

Staff:Umm, yes. We require them if you go in any terrrain park on the mountain.

SAM: Okay. Do you require them for anything else?

Staff: No. We, uh, they are recommended if you go in the woods or if you go on any black slopes. Those can be dangerous. They are only required in the snow parks though.

SAM: Do you rent helmets for your guests?

Staff: Sure, yes! We rent them to everyone.

SAM: Is there a cost or are they free?

Staff: They do come with a cost, but it's very cheap. We don't want to make it expensive.

SAM: Well, sure, of course. Thanks so much.

Rating: 8.5

Comment: Language barrier didn't stop her from answering precisely and nicely. My kind of response. Could have been improved with a price on the rental.

British Columbia, Large Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose guest services.

Answering phone: Young female, nice sounding.

SAM: Stated question

Staff: Hold on just one second, let me find out. Staff: Thanks so much for holding. No, it's not mandatory, but it is highly recommended for the younger children.

SAM: Okay, that's a good start. Does your mountain do anything like rent helmets to promote their use?

Staff: Oh, definitely you can rent them. They're available in the rental shop with all our other gear.

SAM: Great. Is there anything else you do to get more people to use them? (silence... ookay, I'll chime in) Well, I know of some places that push to have all their instructors wear helmets, hoping the kids will catch on. I was just curious if your mountain might be doing something like that?

Staff: Sure, let me check that for you. Hold on one second please.

Staff: Thank you so much for holding again. I, unfortunately, don't have all the information that you need, but I can easily put you through to Billy, our marketing director, who can help you further. Just hold on one more time please.

SAM: Sure, thanks.

Answering Phone: Voicemail. All set.

Rating: 9

Comment: Politeness prize awarded here. Checked facts first, gave solid answers and didn't hesitate to transfer me when the water got deep. I love Canada.

Canada, Large Area

First Contact: Automated machine. Waited for assistance

Answering Phone: Young female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Let me actually transfer you for that to our PR department. Can you hold on one second?

SAM: Sure.

Answering phone: Female. Friendly sounding

SAM: Stated Question

Staff: We do in our highest level terrain park. It's the terrain park that's rated advanced so you actually have to sign a waiver before you enter and, in that instance, helmets are mandatory. There's nowhere else on the mountain, though, that we require them.

SAM: Is there anything for ski school maybe?

Staff: Oh yeah, kids must have helmets if they're in a lesson. They're actually given helmets with their lesson.

SAM: Oh, okay, great. Do you rent them as well?

Staff: Yup. We definitely rent them for any and all of our customers. They're not expensive either, by any means.

SAM: That makes it helpful. Is there anything else your mountain is doing to promote their use?

Staff: Not specifically but having them be mandatory in the advanced park is starting to make an impact with the younger kids. They see all the bigger riders wearing them, regardless that they have to, and they start to see they're for a good cause and reason and, of course, are "cool" by pro standards.

SAM: Ha ha, always has to be cool it seems. At least it has a positive effect though.

Staff: Oh yeah, I think it's a great idea that we require them.

SAM: Thanks so much.

Rating: 8

Comment: Whoops on forgetting ski school but super nice and really engaged me.


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