LUDLOW, Vermont — The National Ski Areas Association named Okemo Mountain Resort the winner of the Best Helmet Safety Program in its annual Heads Up National Ski Area Safety Awards.
Nine resorts were recognized in different safety program categories and Okemo was the only New England resort to receive honors. Each season, the awards recognize those resorts that have done an outstanding job of educating employees and guests about skiing and snowboarding responsibly.
“We are continually impressed with the innovative efforts our member ski areas make all season long in educating their guests about skiing and riding safety,” said NSAA Director of Education and Risk Dave Byrd. The winning programs will be officially recognized during NSAA’s National Convention and Tradeshow to be held at Marco Island Resort, Fla., May 13-16. Each of the winning programs will also be highlighted in the August issue of the NSAA Journal.
“One of our main goals here at Okemo is ensuring safe and responsible skiing and riding,” says Okemo Ski Patrol Director Jim Livingston. “The Okemo Ski Patrol has always placed a major emphasis on safety and we are constantly striving to do better. Next winter, we will continue our safety program on the mountain by stopping many skiers and riders to promote respect of others. We will continue to maintain a presence of patrollers and other staff on the trails, making sure everyone is practicing safe skiing and riding.”
“Safety First” is a mantra for Okemo staff members throughout the winter season, but it is during the annual NSAA Safety Awareness Week, in January, that Okemo turns its commitment to safety into a full-blown event. In addition to organizing discounts on helmets purchased at Okemo’s Snowsports Shops during Safety Week, Okemo Events Coordinator Jeff Alexander plans a host of fun events and activities to help educate skiers and riders of all ages and promote on-mountain safety.
Activities include a Skier Responsibility Code Safety Scavenger Hunt and a Helmet Head contest that celebrates that cool, disheveled look of matted hair that happens when a skier or snowboarder removes his helmet after a great day on the slopes. Photos of contestants are posted on the resort’s website and winners are determined by popular vote.
Vermont’s own PHAT team (Protect Your Head at All Times/Protect Your Head on All Terrain) makes several personal appearances at Okemo throughout the season. The Vermont Snow Sports Research Team, a partnership of Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont College of Medicine help educate skiers and riders about helmet use. Over the past five years, this team has been focused on developing a program to prevent serious head injuries by increasing voluntary ski helmet use among children and adults. The team of physicians and health care providers is headed by Robert Williams, M.D., pediatric anesthesiologist and critical care specialist at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen. In addition to education, the team’s project includes observations of skiers and riders to determine baseline data about helmet use. Their work has been presented at medical conferences, accepted for publication in medical journals and has been extensively covered by news media nationwide. The program’s presence at a resort includes posters, distribution of brochures, an exhibit, stickers and prizes. The program is non-coercive and is designed to promote both helmet use and skiing and snowboarding as a healthy lifestyle. Visit www.skihelmetsafety.org for more information.