Inside Kathy Kreiner’s Personalized Helmet

Maple leaf helmet, circa 1970

In today’s light, it’s hard to believe there was anything state of the art about yesterday’s ski equipment. Take Kathy Kreiner’s downhill helmet, circa 1970. It’s safe to say that the meagre foam padding and cloth lacing inside offered little more protection than her mother’s hand-painted maple leaf and flying goose did outside. Especially when you factor in that Kathy was hitting speeds on cold, icy courses that would frighten most sensible people to death. Small wonder that ski helmets were once called, “brain buckets”. 

Sadly, too many downhillers paid the price for pursuing their passion with so little protection. Kathy’s teammate, Dave Irwin lost 20 years of his precious memory because he sustained too many concussions during his storied career. For all its glamour, prestige and glory, downhill ski racing is a dangerous sport. Thankfully ski equipment manufacturers, organizing committees and racers are always working to make today’s equipment and racecourses measurably safer. Amen.

Side note: Kathy’s helmet was later gifted to Angela Gougeon, an up-and-coming ski racer, who proudly wore the helmet during her races.

Artifact Details

Date: pre-1972
Discipline: Downhill
Type: Clothing / Equipment / Bibs
Colour: red, white, black, brown, blue, green, yellow
Material: plastic, metal, foam, vinyl/leather, cloth lacing, paint
Measurements: approximately 25 cm front to back, 19 cm side to side (ear to ear) and 17 cm top to bottom (when resting flat)
Markings: There are three paintings by Kathy Kreiner's mother on the helmet: a maple leaf at the front of the helmet; a flying grey bird over trees and water at the back of the helmet; and a yellow crescent moon and blue star at the back near the crown of the helmet.
Catalogue Number: 2008.250.1