Does Your Ski Cover Cover You?

Skiing and boarding remains an extremely popular winter sport for many Brits. In fact, almost 1 million of us will jet off to the slopes this winter, but a lot of you will go with inadequate ski insurance for your needs.

Many of us assume, or choose to ignore, that when we go off to the slopes, we're covered by existing travel insurance or even by the free "current bank account" insurance. There's also a false sense of security if you've never been injured, that means you'll think it can never happen to you.

We explore just why winter sports insurance is quite so important and present you with the simplest way to go about organising yours in time for your ski holiday.

Why Winter Sports Insurance is Important

A simple way to appreciate how important it is to have winter sports insurance is to imagine a worst case scenario.

If you had a crash on the slopes and this required you to be helicoptered off the mountain, followed by a few days in hospital, then the cost of all this would be something of the order of £10,000.

With adequate insurance cover, all you would need to pay would be a small excess in the hundreds of pounds.

It is really as straightforward as that. If you have adequate ski insurance cover, then come an accident or fall, you'll get expert support and medical help at no cost to yourself. It doesn't matter whether you caused the accident or were yourself a victim of a reckless skier or boarder, you still use the insurance cover.

If you're thinking of heli-skiing or lots of real backcountry/off piste, then you can also buy specialist insurance providing even better cover features. See our specialist winter insurance section for more.

I Have Never Had an Accident!

The key message is that you can have an accident whether you are skiing fast down a black run as well as skiing gently down the nursery slopes. Mountain terrain is not predictable, so ice can be on nursery slopes and you cannot predict what other skiers and boarders are doing around you. Someone could crash into you because they are being reckless and hey presto it’s your leg that is broken.

In addition many skiers are surprised to discover that many off the slopes activities, including ice skating and dog sledging, are not included in many winter sports policies. So where should you start?

How To Organise Your Travel Insurance

  • Book your travel insurance early; ideally do it the same time as you book your ski holiday. That is because should the worse happen and you, or a member of your party, become unable to travel, you can cancel and claim
  • Price comparison websites can be a good place to start as they will allow you to quickly scan what is out there in the market and will get you thinking about what it is that you need. If for example you know you will be skiing off piste check that your policy covers you for this, with many you will have to upgrade a policy
  • Look at any existing travel insurance that you have and see if you can ‘bolt on’ a winter sports policy, but then read through that in detail, it may still not be enough for you
  • Think about what sort of policy you want. Most insurers divide them into what is called ‘single trip’ and ‘annual’ or ‘multi trip’. Single trip is suitable if you are going skiing for a week. But if you are planning on a number of ski trips then the annual is for you but do check how many days you are covered for, it is not limitless! Family policies exist for families or large groups
  • Do remember that cheap is not always best. There is no point only spending £10 on your single trip winter sports policy to Europe if it doesn’t pay out enough to cover the value of your stolen baggage or snowboard. Try and get a good deal but not at the expense of what you need

What Cover Will My EHIC Provide?

EHIC stands for the European Health Insurance Card - you may remember this as the E1-11. Essentially this covers some of the medical costs when you need treatment in countries in the European Union plus Switzerland. The hospital treating you then claims back some of that costs from the NHS in Britain.

However your EHIC card will not cover some key costs including mountain rescue or getting you home. So whilst we would encourage you to take your EHIC details on holiday with you it should not be viewed as an all inclusive winter holiday insurance programme.

What is Winter Insurance Cover?

Most winter sports insurance policies include the usual things you would find in a usual travel insurance policy including replacing lost baggage, cancelled flights etc. But you will then find additional elements that are specific to winter sports like:

  • Rescuing you from the mountain, which can be as much as £5,000
  • Replacing your ski or snowboarding equipment which can be costly. Do check the detail here as some cheap policies only pay out £200 to replace skis, which is way below what a good pair of skis can cost
  • Cover for equipment hire, lift passes and ski school lessons should you have to cancel due to injury
  • Piste closures and avalanches which disrupt your ski holiday can also be covered

Watch Out

Some activities may be missing from your cover so do watch out for the following:

  • Some activities like bobsleighing, luge and heli-skiing are not covered in most standard winter sports policies
  • Off piste and snow parks are also not automatically a part of all winter sports policies, again do check the detail. You may have to upgrade you policy to be covered. Many insurers also state that you are only covered off piste if you have a guide with you, so do beware
  • Alcohol is certainly something to be aware of. If you do drink at restaurants and bars on the slopes, have an accident and the medical team classify you as 'under the influence' your insurer will in all certainly not pay out. So it is best to leave your drinking to the après ski

Top Tips When Taking Out Winter Sports Insurance

  • Do tell the truth, missing out any previous injuries could let an insurer off the hook. So be honest
  • Before you take out insurance ensure that you know what your equipment is worth so that you don’t underinsure it. If your snowboard cost you £600 then an insurance policy that pays out £200 isn’t really going to help
  • Don’t always think that cheap is best. Look for value but check that your medical needs will be met should the worse happen
  • Ways in which you could lower your premium without affecting your medical cover include looking for higher excess levels, removing cancellation cover, or seeing if your household cover will cover you for some of your baggage

And finally, whilst you can’t guarantee that it will never happen to you there are some things you can do to keep yourself as protected as possible whilst on the slopes. This includes wearing a helmet, wearing wrist guards to prevent from fractures and finally if you are skiing off piste ensure you have the right gear including avalanche airbags and snow shovels.

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