Committee passes ski safety bill, requires helmets for children

A bill requiring skiers and snowboarders under the age of 14 to wear a helmet continues to advance through committees in the state Senate.

The legislation, which is being sponsored by North Country Senator Betty Little, aims to improve skiing safety and is supported by the New York State Ski Industry. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The legislation, Little says, requires skiers and snowboarders up to age 14 to wear a protective helmet when skiing at New York ski areas. It's modeled after the state's bicycle helmet law.

"Skiing is a relatively safe sport made safer by the use of a helmet," Little said in an email.

Little notes that more skiers and snowboarders are sporting helmets. That's due in part to an increased public awareness about traumatic brain injuries and their life-altering effects.

"Requiring kids to wear a helmet is a reasonable and smart approach," she said.

If the legislation passes, ski centers would post signage informing guests of the new law, Little says. Lift tickets sold at local ski areas like Whiteface Mountain, Big Tupper, and Mt. Pisgah would be required to include language about the law.

According to Little, ski areas would also need to maintain a "reasonable inventory of helmets for sale or rent."

"This would give mom and dad some added authority by being able to say to their children that it's the law, you can't hit the slopes without your helmet," she said.

The new legislation carries a civil penalty of $50 for violators. But Little notes that the fine would be waived by showing proof that a helmet had been purchased between the date of the violation and the court date.

Parents or guardians responsible for the child not wearing a helmet would also be issued a summons by local law enforcement, Little says.

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