Head injuries on the slopes constitute 10 to 20 percent of all skiing and snowboarding injuries, accounting for an average of 39 deaths per year. The majority of deaths from snow sports come from not wearing head protection. In the January 8, 1999, a Consumer Product Safety Commission study showed that 44 percent of head injuries to adults and 53 percent of head injuries to children could be prevented by use of a helmet.
Recent innovations in ski and snowboard helmets have greatly decreased the probability of incurring a head injury following a collision. Helmets are constructed with a hard plastic outer shell to lessen the impact of a collision and are lined with synthetic padding to support and cradle the skull. Furthermore, most ski helmets are lined with fleece, contributing warmth and comfort. Present day innovations include vents for breathability and headphones to allow individuals to stream music directly to their helmet.
Although ski and snowboard helmets are available in many different styles that meet safety, functionability and style needs, there are at least three primary types. Half-shell helmets have a hard shell that covers the skull down to the ears and soft padding that covers the ears. Full-shell helmets have a hard shell covering the entire head down to the chin. Hard-shell helmets are not as comfortable as soft-shell helmets but offer better protection. There are also full-face helmets where the hard-shell extends past the jaw, covering the mouth. These are the safest types of ski helmets on the market.
Although wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding will greatly reduce injury and death, they will not eliminate the possibility. Wearing a helmet is not a substitute for safety on the slopes. Excessive speeding and jumping, and skiing in extreme terrain will increase chances of injury whether a helmet is worn or not. Also it is vital to wear a helmet at all times. Many head injuries occur on flat ground, typically occurring from collision with another skier or an unexpected fall.
The use of helmets has increased dramatically over the years and will continue to grow with newer data on head injuries and increased availability of helmets. Also, numerous major ski and snowboard gear companies have began to manufacture helmets with endless innovations. Over time, everyone on the mountain could be wearing a helmet.