Winter sports? Grab your ski insurance

If you are planning to hit the slopes this winter, a comprehensive winter sports insurance policy is as important as a decent pair of skis or a well-waxed snowboard.

After all, participating in winter sports is potentially dangerous, as the recent accidents suffered by Michael Schumacher and German Chancellor Angela Merkel so clearly illustrate. But a recent survey by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) found that more than one third of people (38%) do not take out winter sports insurance.

A similar number also don’t check that their existing travel policy covers activities such as skiing and snowboarding. If you’re injured on the slopes and don’t have insurance, you could end up with a medical bill costs thousands of pounds – tens of thousands if you need to be repatriated to the UK by air ambulance.

The good news is that travel insurance is remarkably good value. As our tables show, you can get a family winter sports policy for a week for a little over £20, and you wouldn’t pay much more than £60 for a top-flight annual multi-trip policy with winter sports cover included.

Price isn’t everything, of course, so here’s what you need to look out for when deciding how best to protect your family when you travel…

Specialist cover

Many standard travel policies don’t include winter sports as they are deemed too risky. You’ll also need to check if you’re covered if you have an annual policy or free travel insurance with your bank account. You might therefore need to extend your existing cover or buy separate, specialist insurance.

Normal insurance policies will also distinguish between different types of winter sport activity. So while a policy might cover you for skiing (provided you do not go off-piste without an instructor or guide, say) it would not cover you for heli-skiing, sno-kiting or sno-cross.

It’s important to remember this if you are tempted by an ‘extreme’ sport while you’re at the resort. You should check your policy (or your insurer’s website) to see what cover you have and whether you can extend it while you’re there. Best to resist any temptation to participate without cover.

Medical treatment

A good winter sports policy will cover the cost of any medical treatment if you are injured or fall ill while you are abroad up to a limit of at least £2 million (£4 million in North America) – and it can be a financial lifeline.

The typical cost of medical treatment overseas is about £2,000, but it can vary enormously. If you break your leg while skiing in America, for example, you could end up with a bill of £40,000. Travel insurance should also cover the cost of repatriation to the UK, and many policies include mountain rescue as standard.

European Health Insurance Card

Don’t forget to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are travelling with the European Economic Area. The card entitles the holder to treatment in a state hospital on the same basis as a local resident. It is not, however, a substitute for insurance as many European countries do not offer free care in the same way as the NHS. The EHIC also does not include private treatment or repatriation costs.

Expensive kit

Ski and snowboarding equipment can be expensive, but you should be able to claim on your winter sports policy if your baggage or possessions are lost, damaged or stolen. However, you normally have to meet certain conditions. For example, you usually have to provide proof of ownership and a police report in the event of theft.

Insurers also do not pay out if your belongings are left unattended. In other words, don’t leave your skis outside the bar while you pop in for a drink. Plus, there is often a limit on the value of any single item. So, if someone steals your £450 K2 Slayblade snowboard and your policy’s single item limit is £350, it would only pay out £350 for the board – minus any ‘excess’ on the policy (the bit you pay towards any claim you make).

Equipment hire

If you plan to hire equipment while you are away, check the terms and conditions of your insurance. The policy will usually pay out if the kit is damaged or stolen and you have to hire replacement equipment. You can also usually claim if you cannot use a lift pass or pre-booked lessons because of illness or injury, though there may be limits on the amount you can claim per day or in total.

Piste closure

Piste closure is every skier’s worst nightmare, so it’s a comfort to know that your winter sports insurance will pay compensation if the piste is closed due to lack of snow or bad weather. But again, check the small print as terms and conditions – and the amount you could receive – will vary.

Holiday cancellation

Winter sports insurance should cover cancellation or curtailment of your holiday, in case you have to cancel or cut short your trip, perhaps due to illness or redundancy or the death of a close relative. In addition, most policies pay out some compensation for flight cancellation and delay.

If you buy any sort of package holiday including flights, make sure the tour operator is ATOL protected – this means a government-backed scheme will help you out financially if the operator fails financially.

Take care

Insurers expect you to take care on the slopes and there are a number of activities that could invalidate your policy, which means it would not pay out in the event of a claim. For example, your claim could be turned down if you ski without a helmet, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. And like standard travel policies, winter sports policies do not normally cover pre-existing medical conditions.

Cost of cover

The cost of winter sports insurance varies from insurer to insurer, but it also depends on your destination, age and medical history. Worldwide cover is more expensive than insurance for a ski trip in Europe, because the medical costs are so much higher in countries such as America and Canada.

You can also expect to pay more if you are over 60 or have a poor medical history. You can compare premiums quickly and easily with MoneySupermarket’s comparison service, but remember that the cheapest policy is not always the best.

8 Day Single Trip to Europe including Winter Sports (5-13 January 2014)    
Based on a family of 4
Provider Premium Medical Expenses Cover Winter Sports Equipment Winter Sports Equipment Hire Ski Pack/Pass Piste Closure Off Piste Skiing £20.61 £10,000,000 £350 £350 £75 per complete 24 hours max £300 £20 per complete 24 hours max £200 ü
Economy Single Trip (£150 Excess) (£150 Excess) (£150 Excess)
OUL Direct £31.23 £10,000,000 £500 £250 £50 per day up to £400 £25 per day up to £500 ü
Single Trip (£150 Excess) (£150 Excess) (£150 Excess) £32.99 £10,000,000 £1,000 £1,000 £75 per complete 24 hours max £450 £20 per complete 24 hours max £300 ü
Premier Single Trip (£50 Excess) (£50 Excess) (£50 Excess)
Cover for You £35.75 £15,000,000 £1,000 £400 £25 per day up to £500 £25 per day up to £500 ü
Premier Single Trip (£100 Excess) (£100 Excess) (£100 Excess)
Sourced by 09.01.2014    
Annual Worldwide Multi-trip including Winter Sports     
Based on a family of 4
Provider Premium Medical Expenses Cover Winter Sports Equipment Winter Sports Equipment Hire Ski Pack/Pass Piste Closure Off Piste Skiing £38.31 £10,000,000 £500 £500 Up to £300 £20 per complete 24 hours max £200 ü
Economy Annual Trip (£99 Excess) (£99 Excess) (£99 Excess)
EHICPlus+ £65.12 £2,000,000 £500 £500 £50 per day £50 per day ü
Annual Trip (£100 Excess) (£100 Excess) (£100 Excess)
Cover for You £68.00 £15,000,000 £1,000 £400 £25 per day up to £500 £25 per day up to £500 ü
Premier Annual Trip (£100 Excess) (£100 Excess) (£100 Excess)
Diamond £75.54 £10,000,000 £1,000 £1,000 £75 per complete 24 hours max £450 £20 per complete 24 hours max £300 ü
Premier Annunal Trip (£150 Excess) (£99 Excess) (£99 Excess)
Sourced by 09.01.2014

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