/ Travel & Leisure

Would you wear a helmet on the slopes for cheaper insurance?

Smiling man wearing ski helmet and goggles, with a snowy mountain in the background

A leading travel insurance company has announced it won’t provide winter sports cover to any skier who goes on the slopes without a helmet. I don’t think it’ll be the last.

Essential Travel, an online travel insurance company, won’t provide insurance cover to travellers who don’t wear a helmet when they’re skiing, claiming to be the first British firm to adopt such a policy.

I think it just makes sense to protect yourself. If I planned to go horse-riding or cycling at speed, I’d always reach for a helmet. Hurling myself down a mountainside is no different.

A change of attitude at altitude

Not that I’ve always thought that way. I’ve been skiing since I was nine years old, on slopes in Scotland, Europe, Canada and the States, and I’ve happily whizzed down runs wearing only a woolly hat (and the rest of my ski gear!). But three years ago I changed my mind.

As I say, I’ve been to ski resorts around the world. I’d spent three consecutive years skiing in the States and Canada. Over there, the mountains are vast, the lift queues are almost non-existent and the slopes at times can be empty. I was confident in my ability, so why would I need a helmet?

Fast forward to my ski session in St Anton, Austria. It’s a busy, intermediate resort and I can hardly traverse without another skier getting in my way. Again I wasn’t too worried about myself taking a bad tumble, but the amount of skiers who managed to fall into me from behind was alarming. After one too many incidents, I was sold on the idea – I was off to buy a ski helmet.

A boost of confidence

And what a difference a helmet makes! I‘m much more confident now – bring on the black runs. Yes, I’m aware that a helmet alone won’t reduce all injuries, but I now wonder why I ever risked skiing without one. And I’m not alone – 77% of British skiers now claim to wear a helmet on the slopes, up from 62% in 2010.

With this travel insurance company saying that it will offer reduced premiums to those who wear a helmet on the slopes, I’ll certainly be reviewing my winter sports policy when it’s due. Do you wear a helmet when you ski or snowboard? If not, would a reduced insurance premium encourage you to wear one?


I’d skied for three years without a helmet and without incident. Being a confident wakeboarder, I didn’t think anything about not donning a helmet for my first snowboarding trip – figured I wouldn’t be doing anything too risky on my first time out anyway…

…two hours in I collided with another snowboarder and fell with my head landing on the edge of his board. Needless to say it was rather a deep cut and I still have a rather grisly scar that is visible when my hair is short enough. It really shouldn’t have taken such an incident, but I made a decent investment in a helmet – one that should withstand more than a single knock.

Slopes can be crowded and people do knock into each other, both skier or snowboarder. Years on from that incident and being a much more competent snowboarder – I still wouldn’t get out on the slopes without a helmet, but I would welcome a reduction in insurance.

I have been ski-ing with a helmet for over five years and it certainly saved the back of my head from a very hard impact on one occasion when I wiped out on ice. The trouble is that it will never be cool to wear a helmet until all the instructors are wearing them.
It is not so many years since none of the riders on major cycle road race events rode with helmets, until that is, it became mandatory. After that I am certain we began to see more riders on the roads everywhere with helmets. I think if all ski schools made their instructors wear helmets many more skiers would follow suit.

Just saw my own comment – Ha! no helmet. Well, that photo was taken in Canada in 2005. Time for a new self portrait perhaps….

Alan Duff says:
13 November 2012

I first wore a helmet when my son started skiing at aged 6, to set a good example to him. I have worn it every time since, the last 9 years! I had a big wipeout this year, a black eye caused by my sunglasses, and very sore ribs and arm. I am sure the helmet saved my head from certain damage! I will always wear one in the future.

Denis O'Brien says:
23 February 2015

I am definitely against mandatory wearing of helmets whilst advising the wearing of them.
The helmets sold are dire in quality and FIS have now made World Cup racers wear Kevlar layered helmets because their research showed how bad general helmets are.
Same for climbing, cycling, paragliding helmets.
In 36 years of professional skiing the number of serious head injuries I have seen has been……0 !
Shoulders, knees, ribs, back but head = zero.
I wear a helmet and a back protector when I judge I need them, as for most of the beginning of this winter, low snow cover, hard snow, exposed rocks.
Personal choice; risk assessment is and always should be a personal choice.