Skiers and snowboarders under age 14 may soon be required to wear helmets as a result of legislation drafted by state Sen. Elizabeth Little.
Her bill is moving through the state's upper house and it has bipartisan support.
"This is modeled after the bicycle helmet law," Little, R-Queensbury, said. "Requiring kids to wear a helmet is a reasonable and smart approach."
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously backed the bill Tuesday.
A very similar, but not identical bill, is currently being considered in the Assembly. The Assembly version is sponsored by Assemblywoman RoAnne Destito, D-Rome.
"The difference is that Betty's bill would require the back of lift tickets to include language about the law," said Little's spokesman, Dan MacEntee.
Destito's bill enjoys a broad bipartisan support. But the movement of Destito's bill has slowed since she was nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February to run the state Office of General Services.
North Country Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, and Janet Duprey, R-Peru, have co-sponsored the Assembly draft.
"RoAnne (Destito) believes, as do I, that the ski centers should be able to post the information wherever they wanted," Sayward said. "If both pass the respective houses, the sponsors would just have to sit down and see where they could agree."
Charles "Chic" Wilson, owner of Willard Mountain in Greenwich, said while his mountain aggressively pushes pro-helmet education to area youths, the idea of government imposing further mandates on people is disconcerting.
He's also concerned about the workability of such legislation.
"How are we supposed to check IDs on kids that don't carry IDs," Wilson said. "It has to be something that we have half a chance of being able to comply with."
Unlike previous helmet legislation, the current draft wouldn't hold ski areas liable for non-compliance.
The Ski Areas of New York Inc., which represents dozens of ski mountains, is supporting the legislation.
"I would be receptive to something that we could live with," Wilson said. "But I prefer to let the parents make those kind of decisions."
Sayward said Destito's bills would be picked up by other members if she is confirmed to the OGS job.
If the Senate bill survives Albany, it would impose up to $50 "fix it" fines on the parent or guardian of a child under 14 not wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding. Under the current draft, the fine would be tossed out of local court if the guardian could prove a helmet had been purchased.
"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," Little said.
The bill would require mountains to maintain helmets in stock for sale or rent and post notifications of the helmet requirement.
Enforcement of the law would fall to the individual ski centers and local police.