EU Commissioner for Sports and Cultural Affairs José Barceló is not a snowboarder — “We could not do that in Mallorca when I was growing up” — but on April 1, 2010 he has pushed a bill that will make the use of helmets for snowboarders at winter resorts in all EU member states mandatory starting in Fall 2010.
The legislation requires resorts to “make available” helmets for public use, including through rentals, and requires that individual snowboarders must wear one on the slopes. This new EU law only affects snowboarders. A decisive veto from Austria’s powerful skiing federation ÖSV stopped any movement towards including skiers or any other winter sports athletes.
Next season riders will have to worry about getting pulled over for a ticket midway down a park run: Resorts are required to operate their own slope police – skiers featuring magenta-coloured uniforms and helmets. The headcount per resort depends on its capacities. The penalties for violating the measure will be 100 Euros for a first violation and 200 Euros for a second, with a provision that repeat violations could result in a season-long European ban. The law also requires that resorts post educational material about injury prevention. (In his news conference this morning, Barceló mistakenly gave much stiffer penalties of 500 Euros for individuals and 1,500 for resorts.)
The measure, Barceló said, would be enforced by the EU Department of Sports, Culture & Natural Preservation. The TTR has already released as statement of opposition to the new law. “It takes away much of the freedom that is fundamental to our sport. Furthermore, it does not consider the operational impact on our resorts and customers ,” according to an e-mail from a TTR spokesperson.
“The bill is seriously flawed. … The snowboard industry has a long history of taking a proactive approach to safety in park, pipe and on the slopes. The number of injuries in our sport is marginal. In fact you are two times more likely to be killed by a hippopotamus then to suffer a fatal injury while riding a snowboard,” the TTR wrote.
Barceló’s detractors often cast him as the chief matron of a “European Nanny Continent” for his legislative attempts to curtail everything from cell phone use while driving to, more recently, the use of salt in food — all salt in food. Barceló is also a 10 Euro-per-customer surcharge on strip-joint patrons, a measure that was dubbed the “pole tax”, which would severely affect ISPO and SIA travel budgets.