If you’re off on a skiing holiday this half term, it’s important to make sure you have the right travel insurance in place.
Ski or winter sports insurance is not the same as standard travel cover. Even if your ‘ordinary’ travel policy includes winter sports cover, it may not be sufficient and probably won’t, for example, pay for mountain rescue or piste closure.
You might also find you don’t have adequate or appropriate cover for your ski equipment and lift passes.
Specialist ski cover is therefore essential if you don’t want to risk ending up seriously out of pocket.
You can either buy a separate policy or you can add winter sports cover to your existing travel insurance by paying an extra premium.
Most insurers offer different levels of winter sports insurance and you can pick the policy that suits your needs and your budget.
But try not to cut too many financial corners. Ski holidays and equipment are expensive, so if you have to curtail your trip or you damage or lose your skis, you want to be certain that your insurance will cover the costs.Medical treatment for ski injuries can also run into tens of thousands of pounds – and the bill will be enormous if you have to be repatriated to the UK. So it’s best to ensure you’re fully covered.
So how much cover do you need? Most experts recommend £2m of medical expenses and £1m of personal liability, in case you injure someone or damage their property – not totally unheard of on the slopes.
The limits sound high but they are actually pretty standard across most decent winter sports policies.
Cancellation and curtailment cover is essential in case you have to come home early or cancel your trip completely, normally due to ill health. It should at least equal the value of your holiday, which should include all pre-booked equipment and lessons.
It’s best to get cover from the time you book your holiday so you’ve got cancellation cover immediately. Rather than accepting the cover offered by your travel agents, tour operator or airline, shopping around is a quick and easy way to find the most competitive deal without compromising on the quality of cover.
So-called ski pack insurance covers hired ski equipment, ski school and ski passes that you can’t use because of illness or injury.
A typical limit for this type of cover is £300.
Check, too, the levels of cover for your own and hired ski equipment in case it is lost, damaged or stolen. Again, a typical limit is about £300, but you might be able to negotiate a higher amount if your ski kit is particularly pricey.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there is usually a single item limit for ski equipment. In other words, the overall limit might be £300 but the most you could claim for a single item could be as low as £150.
Cover for piste closure
Cover for piste closure can make the difference between a dream holiday and a nightmare trip.
Many insurers these days will pay out if there is not enough snow and the ski resort is closed. Alternatively, you might be able to claim the transport costs to another resort.
Some policies also offer cover in case of an avalanche. You would then be able to claim additional transport and accommodation costs if you could not reach your destination or get back home because of an avalanche.
Off-piste skiing is ever more popular among today’s thrill seekers, and many insurers are happy to cover adventures off-piste.
However, there may be some restrictions. Some firms, for example, insist that you only ski off-piste with an official guide and you usually have to stay within the boundaries of the resort.
Fun in the snow
Winter sports insurance is not just for skiers. Many policies include a wide range of other activities such as tobogganing, snowboarding and skidoo.
If you are planning to take part in another winter sport on holiday, you should always check the terms and conditions of your policy to make sure it is appropriate.
Otherwise, the insurer could refuse to pay out in the event of a claim.
Follow the rules
It’s also important to follow the rules of the resort if you expect a claim to be successful. For example, if you have an accident while skiing in an area that was closed to the public, your insurer could justifiably turn down the claim.
Insurers can also refuse to pay out for claims if you are in any way negligent. So, if you leave your skis outside a bar and they are stolen, you might have trouble persuading the insurer to meet the cost of replacements.
Insurance companies can also turn down claims if you were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
Nobody expects you to abstain from alcohol completely while you are on holiday, but you have to take reasonable care of yourself and your possessions.
Most companies these days recommend ski helmets after a series of high-profile accidents on the slopes. But a growing number also insist on head protection as a condition of the policy.
It’s therefore worth checking whether a ski helmet is mandatory, just in case.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is unlikely to still be valid once we leave the EU. You can still use your EHIC until the end of the year and it will depend on what is negotiated post December 2020 on the future of British card holders. That said, even with an EHIC, it’s always been recommended that you take out travel insurance too.
While an EHIC might entitle you to some medical treatment on the Continent, it won’t necessarily offer the same terms (you might have to pay towards the treatment) or standard as the NHS.
Plus, it won’t get you down from a mountain and doesn’t pay out for lost luggage or cancellation.
Secondly, although you’ll still be able to use your current passport after we’ve left the EU, you won’t be able to use the EU passport channels at airports – but this won’t come into effect until after December 31.
It’s also likely you’ll need to have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival in Europe.