Skiing at half-term? Get the right cover

Winter sports is hugely popular in the UK, and February half-term is peak time for families to hit the slopes in Europe and North America.

But, according to the Association of British Travel Agents and the Foreign Office, a third of skiers and snowboarders will hit the slopes this season without the right insurance.

So, if you’re going on a half-term ski trip later this month, you should check whether any existing insurance you have covers the activities you’ve got planned.

And if you haven’t got any travel insurance, you need to buy some pronto. You’d be crazy to risk participating in winter sports without cover in place – should something go wrong, the costs could be crippling.

Fit-for-purpose protection

Standard travel insurance is not normally appropriate for a skiing holiday.

That’s because it probably won’t pay for mountain rescue or piste closure, and it probably won’t refund the cost of lost or stolen ski passes or expensive equipment that’s lost or damaged.

Similarly, the free travel insurance that came with your bank account is unlikely to offer adequate cover.

You should certainly check to see, rather than assuming (or hoping) that it extends to winter sports activities.

What about EHICs?

Everyone going to Europe should have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), whatever the reason for travel and whenever they go.

BUT IT’S NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR TRAVEL INSURANCE!

An EHIC entitles you to medical treatment in a state hospital. Most insurers also waive the medical excess on your policy if you use your EHIC. But a state hospital in, say, the Czech Republic, won’t necessarily offer the same level or standard of treatment as the NHS.

Plus, the EHIC won’t get you down from a mountain and IT doesn’t pay out for lost luggage or cancellation.

Remember, too, that the card is only valid in ski resorts in Europe and Switzerland, not the US or Canada.

“Most travel policies include insurance for delayed flight departures, as long as the flight is international not domestic..”

Reasonable cost

Specialist insurance for winter sports doesn’t have to be expensive – certainly not when you stack the premium against the price of a typical skiing holiday (especially at half-term, when prices rocket).

Most firms offer different levels of cover, and the type of policy you buy depends on your needs and your budget.

However, experts recommend that you look for a policy with a limit of at least £2m for medical expenses and £1m for personal liability, in case you injure someone or damage their property.

If you’re going to North America, you’ll probably be pointed to limits nearer £5m or even £10m, reflecting the costs in the US and Canada.

The limits sound high, but accidents on the slopes can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, especially if you need an air ambulance and you (or someone you’re responsible for) is found to be at fault if someone else is injured or killed.

Cancellation and curtailment

Cover for cancellation and curtailment is essential in case you need to cancel or cut short your trip, perhaps due to illness.

The limit should at least match the value of your holiday, not forgetting any pre-booked equipment and lessons.

In other words, if your total holiday cost £2,000 all-in, the limit for cancellation and curtailment should be at least £2,000. 

Most travel policies include insurance for delayed flight departures, as long as the flight is international not domestic.

The cover usually comes into force after a delay of six, eight or 12 hours and is intended to compensate for the extra expenses you might incur while waiting for a flight, such as meals and drinks.

A typical policy will pay £20 for each insured person after a six-hour delay, with further payments triggered by every additional six-hour wait.

Range of activities

Don’t assume that even specialist winter sports insurance covers every type of winter sport.

If you intend to indulge in an adventurous activity such as heli-skiing, or if you plan to ski off-piste, you should check the small print of your policy.

Many insurers are happy to cover off-piste skiers, but there are often restrictions. For example, you might have to ski with an official guide and you usually have to stay within the resort boundaries.

Piste of mind

Cover for piste closure is also common, though the rates vary enormously.

Some firms will pay out £35 a day if the piste is closed, but the daily rate could be less than £25.

You should also find out if the policy includes cover against the risk of an avalanche disrupting your plans. 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.

You might also be able to claim for the cost of getting to another resort and back for a day’s skiing if your resort is closed.

Equipment checks

Ski equipment isn’t cheap, especially if you’re kitting out a family.

It’s therefore a good idea to check out the levels of cover for your own and hired ski equipment in case it is lost, damaged or stolen.

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.

Kids’ stuff

If you are putting the little ones into ski school, it’s worth finding out about so-called ‘ski pack’ insurance, which covers hired ski equipment, ski school classes and ski passes that you can’t use because of illness or injury.

Again, a typical limit for this type of cover is £300.

Stick to the rules

Remember to obey the rules of the resort during your holiday otherwise your insurer could turn down a claim.

For example, if you have an accident while skiing in an area that was closed to the public, your insurer could justifiably refuse to pay up.

Insurers can also reject a claim 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.

You could also end up with an unpaid claim if you were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.

Use your head

Most companies these days recommend ski helmets after a series of high-profile accidents on the slopes.

But a growing number actually insist on head protection as a condition of the policy. It’s therefore worth checking whether a ski helmet is mandatory, just in case.

If you’re injured without one, your claim might be rejected.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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