Avid skier Fred Welch sporting his new helmet.
Avid skier Fred Welch sporting his new helmet.

By Dave Potter

If you ski, you occasionally fall.

Last spring, I took a hard fall while turning on to Snoozer. It was warm the day before and the temperature had fallen below freezing during the night. As I was turning on a flat section of slope, I felt the tails of my skis bounce on a frozen section. It was as if someone had kicked my feet right out from under me. I went down hard and fast. So fast that my arms were still in skiing position and my ski pole strap on my right arm had travelled up to my elbow. So hard, that I saw stars when my head hit the snow.

The only thing I did right was wearing a helmet.

After the fall, my friends skied up to me and asked if I was alright.

I said, “Yes.”

They then asked if I wanted to get up.

I said, “No.”

The next question was, “Then what are you doing just lying there?”

I answered, “I’m just contemplating my role in the universe.”

Isn’t that what everyone does when they fall down, go boom?

I did eventually get up and immediately checked my helmet for damage. The exterior looked okay. I pulled out the liner and inspected the interior, which also looked okay. I reassembled the helmet and skied the rest of the day, even though I did have a slight headache the rest of the day.

Looking back, I did a couple of things wrong.

The first thing I did wrong was not getting checked for a possible concussion. I hit my head pretty hard, had a headache and was tired when I arrived home. Being a guy, I did downplay it to my wife. I knew that if I had told the truth she would have dragged my sorry butt to urgent care. (It probably would have been a good idea, but we won’t tell her that.)

The second thing I did wrong was to not replace my helmet immediately. Even though it looked okay, I knew it took a very hard shot. It did its job and protected my meager grey matter, although some unseen damage had to have been done.

What made me recall the events of a year ago is that my friend fell hard last Friday afternoon. I was trailing him and saw him go down. As I collected the yard sale and returned his gear to him, he described his fall to me. He told me he had hit hard on the front of his helmet. We had a good laugh, reassembled him and skied the rest of the afternoon.

As we were booting up the next morning, he noticed that he had torn the earpiece off his helmet as a result of the previous day’s fall. His first inclination was to just glue it back on and continue to use it. I grabbed his helmet and inspected the interior and noticed some compacted foam. I then informed him that he HAD to buy a new helmet. The rest of our group, which included some experienced helmet-wearing bicyclists, told him the same thing. He eventually agreed with us. We also had to make him promise not to repair it and loan it to other unsuspecting friends or family.

That afternoon after lunch, he did purchase a new helmet. I went with him just to make sure. I don’t have so many friends that I can afford to lose one. After I went home and relayed the whole episode to my wife, I thought back to last year and how I didn’t follow the advice I had given my friend that day.

So, on my next trip to Ellicottville, I will stop at a local ski shop and buy a new helmet. After all, it only  protects your brain.