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PHAT Celebrates Ski Safety Week

Just in time for Mardi Gras, Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow celebrated its own version of Fat Tuesday with a little help from Vermont's PHAT team (Protect Your Head at All Times).

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 was on location to help educate skiers and riders about helmet use. Over the past several 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 Health Care. PHAT did several drawings for a free helmet throughout the day and a Mardi Gras bead hunt on the slopes rewarded skiers and riders with fun prize packages.

During Okemo's recent celebration of National Safety Week, representatives from PHAT were on hand to speak with guests. Okemo's Snowsports Shop, in concert with helmet manufacturers, donated a portion of sales from every helmet sold during Safety Week to the Vermont Children's Hospital.

On Phat Tuesday, Okemo representatives Dave Martin and Jeff Alexander presented a phat check for $1,600 to program coordinators Karen Williams and Rick Wiesel. In a unified gesture of support for PHAT, everyone wore helmets during the check presentation.

In addition to education, PHAT's project includes observations of skiers and riders to track 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 designed to promote helmet use, and skiing and snowboarding, as a healthy lifestyle. Visit www.skihelmetsafety.org for more information.

The National Ski Areas Association named Okemo Mountain Resort winner of the Best Helmet Safety Program in its 2009 Heads Up National Ski Area Safety Awards. Each winter season, the awards recognize those resorts that have done an outstanding job of educating employees and guests about skiing and snowboarding responsibly. "Safety First" is a mantra for Okemo staff members all year long, but it is during the annual NSAA Safety Awareness Week, in January, that Okemo turns its commitment to safety into a full-blown, award-winning event.

For more information visit www.nsaa.org., www.okemo.com or call 228-1600.

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