You’re heading to the ski slopes for a well-earned break from City life. Your passports have been rediscovered, your flights booked, and your bags packed. But have you arranged your travel insurance?
A survey of winter holiday-makers by the AA found that a third of those buying travel insurance did not check the level of cover they needed. A worrying 18 per cent did not purchase travel insurance at all.
But activities like skiing and snowboarding are classed as “dangerous sports”, meaning that they may not be covered by standard travel insurance policies.
A study by the Association of British Travel Agents showed that two in five regular skiers and snowboarders have injured themselves on the slopes at least once. This makes medical cover a priority. Extreme sports, like heliskiing, catskiing and off-piste skiing, incur an even greater risk and will require you to purchase an additional level of cover.
Rob Thomas of Columbus Direct says that, for anyone looking to venture off-piste, ensuring you have search and rescue cover is key. “A lot of people assume this service is free. This is because in Britain the RAF will come and rescue you (at no charge) if you are stranded.” But this may not be the case everywhere. “A study we ran earlier this year demonstrated that the average evacuation charge amounts to an average of £16,000.”
And evacuation isn’t the only service that may be run differently abroad. Many countries operate private clinics, especially near ski resorts. Bob Atkinson, travel expert at MoneySupermarket, recommends that you get a European health insurance card, entitling you to state healthcare in the EU. However “it should not be considered a replacement for travel cover,” he says. This card will not cover private healthcare or repatriation back to the UK, and the latter can amount to a staggering £50,000. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends medical cover of at least £1m in Europe and £2m for the rest of the world.
The additional risk inherent in skiing and winter sports means that insurance providers may insist on additional safety conditions. For example, David Vincent of Axa Insurance says that “some travel policies have now started enforcing a helmet rule.” They may also have expectations of how you should behave. “This includes not overdoing it on the après-ski, and avoiding alcohol when out skiing.” Know your policy and what is required of you to receive your cover.
Property cover is more variable than medical, and will depend on the value of your personal belong-ings. Thomas says that “most plans will go to £400 to £500, but if you have expensive equipment you may need to go higher.” Even if you are hiring your gear, you will need to ensure that this is covered in your policy.
While price is important, the cheapest policy is also likely to exclude the most. Don’t be afraid to fork out more to cover all possible eventualities. You don’t want to find yourself buried under an avalanche of bills.