Buy specialist cover, check limits, exclusions, cover dates and safety requirements
Winter sports enthusiasts are being encouraged to make sure they have adequate travel insurance before heading off to the slopes, and not to wrongly assume that they’re automatically covered if they have annual travel insurance or travel insurance attached to their bank account or credit card.
Standard and packaged travel insurance products are unlikely to cover skiing or snowboarding. Most (78%) single trip travel insurance policies* only offer winter sports cover as an optional extra, for which an additional fee is payable. A minority (7%) of policies cover winter sports as standard, while 15% exclude this cover.
Following a review of over 600 travel insurance policies, Gocompare.com has drawn-up a list of 10 things winter sports enthusiasts need to consider when buying travel insurance:
1.Medical cover – look at policies that offer a higher level of cover
Snow sports can be dangerous and there is a greater risk of injury than for other types of holidays. Medical insurance can cover mountain rescue, medical treatment abroad and, if needed, repatriation by a staffed air ambulance. Medical costs can quickly mount up, so look for a policy with a generous amount of cover, particularly if you’re holidaying in the USA or Canada where medical bills are higher. In Europe, an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) will only entitle you to state-provided healthcare, not care in a private clinic, which may be the only option in some resorts. Nor does the EHIC cover the costs of rescue or repatriation to the UK. So, if you’re unlucky enough to have an accident without travel insurance, you could be left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
2. Cancellation cover – cover limits should reflect the cost of your holiday
As soon as possible after you book your holiday, make sure you have travel insurance in place just in case you have to unexpectedly cancel your trip, for example, as a result of illness or redundancy. Policy limits for cancellation vary significantly (£500 to unlimited cover) so check the policy wording carefully to make sure the cost of your trip is covered. Also familiarise yourself with any exclusions that apply, as some policies may have different interpretations of what constitutes a valid reason for cancelling a trip.
3. Skis and other winter sports equipment – check limits and restrictions
Winter sports clothing and equipment is expensive to buy or hire, so it’s important to make sure it’s covered against damage or theft. Most policies charge an extra premium for winter sports baggage. Of those policies providing cover, 55% provide cover of £500 to £800 for winter sports equipment, just over a fifth (22%) have policy limits of £1,000 or over, while six winter sports policies exclude cover. If you have especially expensive gear, check the small print to make sure you’ve got adequate cover.
Fewer policies provide cover for equipment which is hired as opposed to owned. Of those that do, cover limits are generally lower. For owned equipment policies typically (61%) provide cover of £300 to £500. For hired equipment only 35% offer this amount of cover, generally policies (53%) limit pay-outs to £100 to £275. Whether you own or hire equipment, insurers will expect you to take reasonable care of it and report any losses to the police and any damage caused while in transit to the transport company.
4. Ski packs and passes – check you have adequate cover
The cost of lessons, hiring skis and lift passes can run into hundreds of pounds so it’s sensible to insure against not being able to use them because of illness, injury, loss or theft. Most winter sports policies provide ski pack cover but cover limits vary significantly (£100 to £10,000).
5. Off-piste and other winter sports – check the small print or risk invalidating your cover
Most (83%) winter sports policies allow you to ski off-piste subject to certain conditions such as being accompanied by a qualified guide and skiing only on recognised paths. 10% of policies cover off-piste skiing as standard, 7% exclude cover. If you fancy taking part in other winter sports activities – dog-sledding or glacier walking for example - check that these are covered, otherwise you could invalidate your insurance.
6. Piste closures – check dates of travel to make sure your trip is covered
Most winter sports policies provide cover if all the pistes at the resort you are booked on are closed due to a lack of snow, excessive snow or high winds. Total cover for piste closures range from £60 to £10,000 but typically (44%) pay-out limits are £300 to £500. However, you need to check the policy wording against your date of travel. Some policies only provide cover between specific dates e.g. 15 November to 15 April or 1 December to 30 April.
7. Avalanche delays
Winter sports policies will often compensate you for the costs of extra travel and accommodation if an avalanche delays your arrival at or departure from you booked resort. Cover limits range from £50 to £1,000, but most (62%) policies will pay-out £200 to £500.
8. Personal liability – look for policies with £1m worth of cover
If while skiing or snowboarding you accidently injure someone else, or damage someone else’s property, you may be sued. Look for a travel policy with £1m personal liability insurance.
9. Take care not to invalidate your cover – read the small print
Insurers require you to take reasonable care of yourself and your belongings. Make sure you follow safety instructions, take notice of local official warnings and keep your belongings secure. Check what sporting activities you can and can’t do – otherwise you risk invalidating your insurance. For example, some insurers may insist on you wearing a helmet when skiing, and participation in professional or competitive sports is generally excluded. Most insurers will refuse a medical claim if they deem that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the accident occurred.
1. Claims – get official reports and keep receipts
If disaster strikes and you need to make a claim, contact your insurer straightaway for advice on what to do. If you’ve been a victim of crime (e.g. theft) get a written report from the police. Likewise, if your snow sports equipment is damaged in transit, report it to the transport provider. You will need to provide evidence to support your claim so keep receipts to show proof of purchase and/or expenditure.
Tom Lewis, Gocompare.com’s travel insurance spokesperson, commented, “Winter sports enthusiasts going abroad without travel insurance are taking a huge financial risk. While losing your baggage might leave you a few hundred pounds out of pocket, being injured and requiring mountain rescue could leave you thousands of pounds in debt.
“So before heading off to the slopes this winter, make sure you’ve got a travel insurance policy which covers you, your holiday and your belongings against mishaps. Policies vary wildly in the amount of financial protection they provide, so don’t just buy the cheapest. Look carefully at the small print and make sure the policy you buy adequately covers the holiday you’ve booked and the activities you want to do.”
Gocompare.com has created a guide on winter sports holiday insurance.
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Notes to editors:
* Defaqto Matrix of 626 single trip travel insurance policies, of which 533 provide cover for winter sports (43 as standard, 490 as an optional extra) (15 October 2015) - instant and unbiased market and competitor intelligence, from independent financial researcher Defaqto. Percentages are rounded up to the nearest whole number.