ANCHORAGE -

While National Ski Areas Association statistics say suffering a severe injury or dying while skiing or snowboarding is a one-in-a-million event, a Girdwood incident shows chance favors the prepared mind -- or head.

About two weeks ago the Dudley family was enjoying a beautiful day of skiing at the Alyeska Resort, when 6-year old Liam was struck by a snowboarder as he stood idle waiting for his mom next to the Chair 3 lift.

Liam says the snowboarder tried to get out of his way by falling, but instead of avoiding Liam, the snowboard ended up striking him square in the head.

The blow left the 6-year old with a gash on his head that required six staples -- after it split Liam's helmet into three pieces.

"To think about what would have happened if he wasn't wearing a helmet is pretty freaky," said Matt Dudley, Liam's father.

While helmets aren't required on the slopes, Alyeska Ski Patrol Assistant Director Mik Jedlicka says they offer major safety benefits while skiing or snowboarding.

"Helmets do a couple things for you, they protect against lacerations and penetrating injuries," Jedlicka said. "They protect against the transmission of force, of blunt trauma, so if you were to crash into the snow or tree, the helmet absorbs the force rather than your brain."

In Liam’s case, the helmet did exactly what it was supposed to do, potentially saving his life.

"The helmet did a great job because it kind of split here and went in two pieces," said Brooke Dudley, Liam's mother. "The force of that blow just kind of spread around his head."

Jedlicka says the value of safety gear is a lesson that has sunk in with crowds on the slopes, with many visitors -- 70 percent of them -- wearing helmets rather than ski caps.

"Helmets have changed, technology has changed and they've become more comfortable and cool-looking," Jedlicka said. “Three times more people are wearing helmets now than they were 10 years ago.”