March 6, 2017

Winter Sports Travel Insurance Pitfalls

Buying travel insurance has got to be one of the least interesting parts of planning a winter holiday. But let’s face it, we all know someone who’s come a cropper on a ski slope. And if a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing right, even when it comes to getting insured!

So we’re going highlight some tips to consider when planning your break and call out a few common, but not not especially well-known pitfalls that can prevent a successful claim if the worst happens.

Brooklyn Beckham Ski Injury

A face that says it all!

 

Standard/annual travel insurance often isn’t sufficient

Most travel insurance policies don’t cover skiing or snowboarding as they are considered ‘extreme sports’.

A million Brits will go skiing or snowboarding this year without being adequately insured. Around half won’t have any travel insurance, and only a small fraction will be fully covered with a comprehensive winter sports policy.

Most insurers will allow you to add this on for a fee, and standalone travel insurance with winter sports cover for a family of four can cost as little as £50 for a two week trip.

If you are relying on standard travel insurance, or perhaps insurance that you get through your bank, it may still be worth checking there are no technicalities that could affect your trip.

Things to watch out for are maximum numbers of days you can ski per year, age limits, location coverage and whether your equipment and ski passes are covered.

 

EHIC are recommended, but have limitations

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) can come in useful. They cover you for any immediate treatment in state-run hospitals.

They do however have a fundamental limitation in that resort pisteurs will tend to take you straight to the nearest medical centre, which, being on a mountain, are often private clinics where the EHIC card won’t help.

Notably, they also won’t cover:

  • Rescue and evacuation off the mountain
  • Lost, stolen, or damaged property or passports
  • Your return journey to the UK if you are delayed by illness or injury
  • Any longer term treatment

So while it certainly makes sense to take one, it’s not an alternative to separate, comprehensive travel insurance with winter sports cover.

 

Skiing injury statistics 2015 - 2016

Lower leg injuries make up the majority, with stereotypical
knee injuries declining over the past few decades, but still common.

 

‘Extracurricular’ activities are unlikely to be covered!

Travel insurance typically comes with a range of exclusions, especially if you’re planning on doing any so-called “adventurous activities.”

It goes without saying that heli-skiing and ice-climbing are exactly the wrong combination of higher-risk and not likely to be covered on all but the most specialist and comprehensive winter sports policies!

Less obvious activities like “recreational racing” may also not be covered, even if it is organised by your ski school. If you plan on doing any off-piste skiing or boarding, it’s also best to double check whether you’ll be covered, as many policies don’t cover this even if you’re with an instructor.

Oh, and if you are considering any adventurous activities after nightfall (ahem) like night skiing, it’s best to check if your policy covers you during all hours of the day, not just daylight hours!

 

Save alcohol for the après ski

Tempting as it may be to enjoy a glass or four of vin chaud over lunch,  if the worst does happen, the consumption of alcohol could affect the validity of any claim made. Policies often have exclusions for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs unless they’re medically prescribed.

And it’s also worth remembering the effects  of alcohol are multiplied at altitude, so best to save it for the après ski bar!

 

Graham Bell stay safe in the snow

5-time Olympic skier and occasional TV presenter Graham Bell
says ‘stay safe’ and get winter sports cover!

 

Carte neige can be convenient, but isn’t a necessity

Carte neige is best-described as an extra layer of ‘local’ insurance. It’s something we often get asked about by guests. It’s not a full insurance policy – it’s a top-up designed to act in tandem with your private travel insurance.

There’s a deep rabbit hole of anecdotes and opinions about it online, and it’s something we have fairly mixed feelings on, so we’ll aim to stay neutral.

Pisteurs, rescue teams and private ambulance firms have been known to ask for cash payment upfront. This generally isn’t because of anything underhanded, but because local rescue teams don’t want to take the risk of claiming back their very immediate costs through UK-based insurance companies, which can take many months and where they have little comeback if things go wrong.

So carte neige has become a bit of a BandAid solution to a wider problem of trust in the insurance system.

It doesn’t tend to cost much, often has good coverage (on piste, off piste) and if you have to get rescued, you just show them the card and that is the end of it – no quibbles, and no paying in cash then claiming back from your insurer. But it’s certainly not a necessity, and provided you keep all your receipts and have a comprehensive travel insurance policy from a reputable provider, you’re highly likely to get recompensated – even if it takes a few months.

 

There’s far too many intricacies involved to summarise neatly! But if we were to give it a go: get the cover to match your ambition, and if you are in any doubt about what you are covered for, call your insurer and check.