Helmet crusader turns eye to snowboard bindings 

Company calls stuck ratchets a nuisance, not a safety risk

For more than a year North Vancouver’s Richard Kinar has been leading the charge to create a national standard for ski and snowboard helmets. He has made huge strides, enlisting the support of municipal and provincial governments while raising public awareness of the issue through the media.

In response, the Canadian Standards Association is currently looking into creating a helmet standard that would apply the same as standards for bike helmets that have been in place for 20 years.

Kinar stumbled on the helmet issue by pure chance – he witnessed a collision while working speed control at Cypress Bowl where one of the children involved was knocked unconscious while wearing a helmet.

Now chance has led Kinar to investigate what he sees as another safety issue – a set of snowboard bindings that would not open. Kinar’s son was taking a snowboard lesson at Cypress Bowl when the ratchet wouldn’t release the strap. According to Kinar it took the instructor 10 minutes to release the ratchet with a knife.

Kinar took the bindings back to the store he purchased them from and was surprised to learn that the company was already providing replacement ratchets for the same model of bindings – but had stopped short of issuing a recall or informing customers that there might be a problem.

"What happened was that the binding has a ratchet clip on it that doesn’t release in all circumstances," said Kinar. "What they did is they jobbed out these little ratchet devices to another company, and they’re faulty. So they’ve come up with a replacement ratchet made out of metal – it’s quite a substantial little piece – but they’re not making the public aware of the fact that those bindings can seize."

The V7 Plasma bindings are at the low end of K2’s line, and are marketed to beginner-level riders.

Kinar called the company to ask them to issue a recall. When he was told that the company didn’t see the ratchets as a safety he issue, he then notified the media contacts he made during his crusade for helmet standards. Vancouver’s CTV News affiliate made the bindings their lead story on the evening news. A representative from K2’s head office in Seattle told CTV the company stood by its claim that it was a nuisance and not a safety issue.

Kinar sees it differently.

"Obviously it was my position that in certain circumstances (stuck bindings) could be a life and death situation, depending on how you’ve fallen – if you’re in a tree well, if you’re by yourself. My son was unable to get out of these bindings."

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