Of condoms and other helmets.

Skiing in Japser last weekend, even given my not inconsiderable energiesi on snow-drenched black diamondsii and despite the Monstersiii strapped to my feet, it was barely lunchtime before I found myself in the terrain park in search of ever greater thrills. Like some kinda fatherless child with no sense of self-preservation, I took run after run at the biggest jumps on offer… all without a helmet.

Now for some, this would be considered cavalier. Except instead of “cavalier” as a synonym for recklessness that “everyone agrees upon” because their historical understanding of chivalric knights is derived from pop-pulp featuring love-drunk fools,iv I’m inclined to adopt the traditional (ie. correct) definition as one of a dutiful adventurer and Defender of Good. Whether it’s the fearlessness that comes with the first few grey hairs, the first few megabucks, or some previously latent adrenaline junkie virus inside of me,v it sure as hell isn’t something that tends to come with parenthood. And you can bet your bottom dollar that had I a social media presence and the vanity to post pictures of myself doing even my amateur grabs and twists off of purpose-built jumps, I would’ve drowned in comments of the “OMGERD IT’S NOT 1997 WEAR A HELMET” variety faster than you could say “moral hazard.”vi I know this to be true because one of my ski buddies did exactly this and that’s exactly what happened. And he was just sticking to blue runs!

But heckling or not, risks can never be eliminated, only avoided or embraced. So it is that while I don’t wear a helmet skiing or cycling, you’d better believe that I wrap that shit up in the bedroom.

Not entirely, but at least in part because I’ve spent considerably more time at these outdoor activities than this particular indoor one, their comparative risk profiles are vastly divergent to my eyes. But even if you’re terrible at skiing and cycling, I don’t know what kind of psychopathic moron you’d have to be to risk STDs and children. The latter in particular is a cross that I’m unwilling to bear (unless it’s intentional). Even with the pill, that forsaken shaman of working woman bondage, the effectiveness is only ~90%. This is less than 20% better THAN PULLING OUT. Add a condom into the mix, however, and you’re looking at closer to 99% combined efficacy. Ferfuxxxake just using the pill gives you a one-in-ten chance that you’re either visiting the abortion clinic or raising a child you don’t want. Those odds combined with the magnitude of those consequences make dome-free fucking in-fucking-sane-on-a-stick – like window-licking insane – so goddam insane you shouldn’t be allowed to handle anything more dangerous than crayons.

And yet, almost every dude I know – regardless of whether they’re in long-term relationships or not, regardless of whether they have a schmancy medical or engineering diploma on their wall or not – DOESN’T WEAR A CONDOM!!1 But do they wear helmets on their bikes and boards like good little girls ? Absolutely. Yours truly, on the other hand, does it backwards and has no intention of giving up his yet-to-be-broken Magnums tyvm.

Even though one of my best friends from childhood now has the mental capacity of a 4-year-old after hitting his head on a tree while snowboarding (and wearing a helmet ofc), the take home lesson from his tragic outcome isn’t that “Oh golly jeez isn’t he lucky to be alive it’s a good thing he was wearing a helmet or he’d be dead.” No, the take-home lesson is DON’T SKI IN THE TREES. That’s not skiiing, that’s playing chicken with your maker. Other things to avoid while on skis or snowboards if you value your life (and no, living like a 4yo isn’t living) include

  • No flying blindly off cliffs
  • No wearing goggles with limited peripheral vision,vii
  • No fallingviii
  • No rawdogging

That last one may or may not be a ski thing but at the end of the day, you’re not trying to live, you’re trying to live well. At least I know I am. And if we’ve learned anything at all from Herr Taleb, it’s that it’s not the number of sigmas we need to respect but the consequences of rare events.

That means wearing helmets where and when they count most.
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  1. For my record-keeping as much as yours, I’m currently deadlifting 320, squatting 220, benching 215, and wall-sitting for eight minutes, all of which are in line for college baseball or basketball players (a decade my junior!). Football players are obviously on another level altogether. []
  2. The double blacks off the Eagle Quad were closed on account of the unseasonably warm weather recently. Charlie’s Bowl off the Knob Chair was in the clouds. []
  3. Despite measuring 185cm in height, I prefer to ski 168s to 170s, though Head Monster 163s were all they had available in the hillside shop. I used to own skis but for the two days a year I make it up to the Rocky Mountains, I can scarcely justify the investment given the rate of technological progress in the market. Did you know that there are now skis with ICs in them ? Head is leading the charge and is even using the same “KERS” moniker as F1.

    Also, “Head” is a stupid name for a ski company. Unless you pronounce it HEE-ADD, which afaik isn’t the case even though the firm is Dutch. Besides, “head” in Dutch is “hoofd.”  []

  4. Eg. A Knight’s Tale with a young Heath Ledger (2001). I shit thee not. []
  5. When I went hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro a few years ago, my pulse raised exactly zero bpm as we jumped off the cliff. Zero I tell you! It was almost unsettling how un-unsettled I was. Surest sign of a sociopath if even there was one, which, for all you know, is virally transmitted. Hey, Alzheimer’s is quite probably a prion disease, so why the hell not ? []
  6. To be clear, that I live in a land with first-class socialised medicine has relatively little impact on my decision not to wear helmets. While no one wants to be a resource-sucking vegetable like Michael Schumacher (who was wearing a helmet during his ski accident ftr), I’ve little issue with saying sayonara with a spectacular bang. I mean, what could be better than living a full life and then ending it “too soon” off a barrier-free edge of Mulholland Drive ? Quality > Quantity yo.   []
  7. That helmets restrict peripheral vision by forcing the fitment of goggles with narrower fields of vision is almost the entirety of the reason I don’t wear one. My voluminous hairstyle* is in a distant, distant second with the general fagginess of domes** in a closer third.

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    * Taken last month in Banff but same difference :


    ** As part of safety culture pars pro toto.  []

  8. Even beginners have the option of not falling, at least on skis. That brodudes end up in the hospital because they overestimated their abilities need not deter conscientious (and sober) individuals from strapping on a pair and hitting the slopes.  []