The British Foreign Office recently organised a campaign Know Before You Go informing holidaymakers that ski slopes are among the five sites where travel-related injuries are most likely to occur. Furthermore, it was recently reported that up to 40 per cent of Britons on winter sports holidays are travelling without adequate travel insurance and fewer than 50 per cent know if their annual policies cover the hazards which are likely to be experienced on a winter sports holiday.
Why insure / What are the dangers of inadequate insurance?
The following costs may be associated with a winter sporting accident:
• Search and rescue
• Hospital Costs
• Third party liability
• Criminal and civil proceedings
• Compensation for days missed from holiday, including lift-passes, guides, ski/snowboard school etc
• Lost and broken equipment
Search and rescue costs vary according to the country in which the accident occurred. France provides the cheapest treatment for winter sports accidents. An airlift to hospital costs £2,500 on average while repatriation costs back to the home country can be upwards of £6,000. Helicopter evacuations can cost as much as £9,000 and the cost of air ambulance repatriation can on occasions exceed £50,000.
Although most European countries have reciprocal health agreements, in most the state will only pay up to 75 per cent of the cost of your medical treatment for the first 31 days. Additional equipment including crutches and wheelchairs may incur further costs borne by the victim. Even the most minor of incidents such as a broken wrist can lead to a two week stay in hospital if several intricate operations are required. Victims of serious injury could be hospitalised for a period of up to 6 months and costs could be astronomical.
It should also be noted that should another party be injured during the course of an accident, it is possible that one side of the party may seek further financial compensation, or action resulting in criminal prosecution. Adequate cover for third party liability is therefore important to consider.
Top 10 things to consider when purchasing ski insurance.
Most policies will provide more than sufficient general cover. Limits for medical treatment for example, are usually far higher than necessary. Limits for cancellation and curtailment also tend to be adequate. Cover for baggage and ski equipment varies enormously, some offering ‘new for old’ and others only ‘indemnity’ cover for lost baggage or equipment. The following 10 items are not exhaustive and should only act as a guide when purchasing a winter sports insurance policy:
• Does it cover all winter sports activities intended during the course of the holiday? Moreover, if purchasing an annual insurance policy (including winter sports), it might offer the best value
• Does it cover medical and personal liability? If skiing in N. America, look for personal liability cover of at least £2m for both skiing and boarding
• Does the policy provide 24 hour emergency service / assistance?
• Does the policy provide sufficient cover for any medical eventuality including an allowance for repatriation? The British Foreign Office currently recommends cover of £1 million for European holidays, and £2 million for all other areas of the world
• Does the policy apply to off-piste, glacier skiing, heli-skiing? Different policies have varying definitions of "off-piste", most are unlikely to cover skiing beyond resort piste boundaries
• Does the policy apply to lift closure? Ski areas may close due to a lack of snow, too much snow or high winds. Some policies will allow compensation but it may be that 100 per cent of the lifts have to be out of operation before insurers will pay out
• Does the policy include compensation for a lost holiday, damage or theft of equipment and loss of lift pass? An injury early on in the holiday can result in a wasted lift-pass, ski school lessons, and other services. Theft of ski equipment can be fairly common in resorts. Additional equipment insurance sold by local hire shops usually covers theft of skis, but not damage. Note that many insurers will not pay up for stolen equipment if it is left unattended e.g. outside a restaurant or in your car. Most will not pay out without a Police theft report.
• Does the policy cover pre-paid elements such as lessons, lift passes and equipment hire? If you have to cancel early due to either illness or injury
• Does the policy cover a full refund of costs if the holiday is cancelled or cut short for any reason? Ensure that the policy being purchased is sufficient to reimburse all costs associated with the holiday. Some insurance policies have a maximum figure which may not be adequate to cover your total costs.
• What exclusions apply to the policy? Check the small print of the policy to make sure activities including sledging and ice-skating are covered. Adventure sports such as parapenting, paragliding, skidoo-ing, and racing or taking part in competitions may also be excluded.
What policies are available?
• Carré/Carte Neige – French ‘piste-related’ insurance (this is NOT a travel insurance)
• Single trip European / Worldwide (including winter sports)
• Multi-trip Annual European / Worldwide (including winter sports)
Check the details with your card provider, however, you may find that you are covered by adequate insurance as long as you purchase a significant proportion of your holiday/ski pass/ski equipment using your flexible friend.
An effective method of just insuring for accident in winter sporting activities (mainly in France), is to purchase a Carré Neige, bought in conjunction with your lift pass. The Carré Neige is available at a per day rate of €2.50. If staying for longer than a couple of weeks, the card can be purchased on an annual basis which is then called a Carte Neige. Costs for an annual Carte Neige are generally in the region of €40–60 per year. On and off-piste skiing and boarding are covered as are other sports. A Carte Neige and a valid UK E111 should be sufficient for most on-snow accidents.
The advantage of Carré/Carte Neige is its instant recognition by French rescue and medical servicesand the fact that rescue services do not need to be paid for up front and claimed back later. It should be noted Carré/Carte Neige only covers repatriation to France.
Travel Insurance Policies
If taking a number of holidays over the year, it is generally advisable to take out an annual /multi-trip policy, which includes the option of winter sports. The following table provides a quick summary example of cover available and associated costs:
A few of the specialist insurers offering annual off-piste cover include: Essential Travel, the Ski Club and Snowcard. All policies can be reviewed and bought online specific to necessary purchasing requirements. The Ski Club of Great Britain Superclub, available to Members only, cover is very complete although cover for other sports is incidental to skiing and boarding. In addition it only covers a trip length of 31 days.
Essential Travel have single trip as well as annual winter sports and seasonaires' insurance, amongst the obvious of skiing and snowboarding the cover includes off piste and heli-skiing as well as other activities such as cross-country and sledging.
Finally, if you are unlucky enough to have an accident, remember to keep all receipts and check the time limit for making your claim. Some insurers state you must claim within a week of an accident.
Posted on 14/03/07
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FAQ'S for the use of a helmet when sking or snowboarding.
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