By MAUREEN PIKAL, U.S Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, Fort Rucker, Ala. January 3, 2012
Last Thanksgiving, the kids and I went to Zell am See, Austria, for three days of skiing. Unfortunately, like so many military Families, Max and Claire's dad was not with us because he was deployed. After unloading the car, we headed straight to the rental shop to pick up gear. My kids hate this part because they have to keep putting the gear on and off, as the equipment is adjusted specifically for their size, weight and skiing ability. My husband and I also insist the kids always wear ski helmets. They complain, but the rule is they wear helmets or they don't ski.
At the end of the first day of lessons, Claire said, "Thanks, mom; I am so glad I had on my helmet because I wiped out so bad and hit my head so hard I would have been knocked out!" Max proceeded to tell me how bad and how often Claire wiped out. Undaunted by a day full of wipeouts, they then informed me they didn't want to ski with me on the third day because "my skiing stinks." Realizing they wouldn't have fun on the "easy" slopes, I agreed and arranged for a private instructor take them skiing the last day.
The next day, I went up on the mountain with the kids and their instructor. When they hit the ski lifts, I parked myself, with book, at the lodge. We later met for lunch, and the kids and instructor were off again.
Not long after, I heard my son screaming, "Mom! Mom! Claire got ran over!" I looked up and saw a very animated ski instructor coming toward me with Claire in tow. The instructor was explaining in a mixture of English and German that she did not pursue the two skiers who did this because she was concerned with Claire's condition. After I verified both my children were OK, I listened to the rest of the story. An out-of-control skier hit and knocked Claire to the ground. His buddy, whom was also out of control, ran over Claire's head with his skis. Claire did not get up and laid on the ground until the ski instructor came to her. Claire's ski helmet had a huge two-and-half-inch-wide gouge running from the back to the front-right temple. The two thugs who ran Claire over stopped, looked at her on the ground and then took off.
The most effective way to prevent any ski injury is to know the rules of the slopes, take lessons and ski within your abilities. If you ski, chances are you will collide with another skier, snowboarder or some stationary object (maybe a tree or pole). Why wouldn't you wear a helmet? I am 100 percent positive Claire would have been dead or permanently brain damaged had she not been wearing a ski helmet that day.