Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Wearing a Helmet

Yesterday I went snowbaording up at Hunter Mountain. Beyond learning an important lesson about snowbaording on ice (which has left me bruised, battered and slightly numb), I was amazed by the number of helmets I saw. Now Hunter is a bit of an exception in that they give free helmets with rentals, but I would guess about 90 percent of people on the mountain had them. Got me thinking about a few things that I’m not sure all amount to anything, but I felt like sharing anyway.

  • First off, I was never much of a skiier, but I did go a few times as a kid. I don’t remember seeing any helmets really and don’t think I’d even heard of them until Michael Kennedy died skiing in 1997. It’s pretty amazing to me that in the 10 years since then, helmets have made such a move into the market.
  • Even if you’re a mountain that lets people borrow helmets for free, there’s still no guarantee the majority of people will take them. Helmets are, or at least were, a classic “uncool” product. The interesting thing about uncool products, however, is that if everyone uses them they all of a sudden become cool (or at least accepted). This, to me, seems like the case of helmets on the slopes. If you see enough people with helmets on the slopes all the social pressures of being cool diminish and all of a sudden another peer pressure (towards safety) develops.
  • Ski helmets look pretty cool (I think). Much cooler than bike helmets. Plus they eliminate the need to wear a hat (which is nice).
  • Mountains are in a great position to encourage helmets because of the importance of lessons. Most (if not all) kids that learn to ski take ski lessons at some point. If a mountain requires its instructors to wear helmets, it sets a good example for the kids and I imagine would significantly speed up the adoption. (This happens with parents all the time when the set a good example for their kids by wearing helmets, cleaning up after themselves or whatever else they do.)
  • Apparently 15% to 24% of skiiers and snowboarders wear helmets.

Anyway, like I said, I’m not exactly sure where this was meant to go except to say it’s an interesting case study in adoption of safety gear.

Back to icing my wounds now . . .

January 13, 2008