Enjoy your skiing or snowboarding holiday safe in the knowledge that you're covered by the right ski insurance policy for you. Here's what to consider when choosing your ski insurance policy.
As many as one in three skiers and boarders don't take out ski insurance when you go skiing, say the Ski Club of Great Britain. Of those that do take out an insurance policy, around three per cent of you will need to make a claim. What happens should you need to make a claim but don't have an insurance policy? Your worst nightmare scenario is being landed with thousands of pounds of medical and rescue bills.
The most common ski injury is damage to the knees, such as ligament tears, and treatment of this costs about £2,500 in North America or £700 in Europe. Add air ambulance rescue into the equation and you are facing several thousand pounds of bills. But it is not just medical emergencies that ski insurance protects you from financially - policies typically include cover for stolen or broken equipment, baggage loss, piste closure, personal liability, loss of ski passes and lessons, and repatriation.
Choosing the right ski insurance policy
If you Google 'ski insurance' you'll find a plethora of different companies that can insure you to go skiing or boarding, from sports travel specialists, insurers, credit card companies, ski and mountaineering associations, and even supermarkets. So, what does the Tesco have over the AA, or The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) have over Insure and Go?
It depends what kind of skier you are. If you are a beginner or inexperienced skiier, or someone happy to stick to the piste at all times, you will find basic policies will suit your requirements, even the cheapest ones. If you do a wintersports one-week single trip search on moneysupermarket.com you will find that policy prices start at approximately £20.
If you are a more advanced skier and wish to engage in some off-piste, heli-skiing or cat-skiing, or even ski touring or ski mountaineering, you will need to find a policy suitable for the activities you wish to do. The best bet for the extreme skier is checking out specialist insurance providers such as Ski Club of Great Britain, the BMC, Dogtag, Snowcard, and Ski-insurance.co.uk.
Expect premiums to get more expensive depending on the increased risk or danger involved. For example, sport specialist insurer Dogtag's premium for a weeks' wintersports cover on their most basic 'Sport' policy for Europe vary depending on what level of cover you opt for. The basic 'Sport' policy allows you to ski off-piste with a qualified local guide, a 'Sport+' package covers you for heli- and cat-skiing and the 'Extreme' package covers you for ski-touring and ski mountaineering.
The BMC is an exception to this, with only one 'Alpine & Ski' package that covers the daredevil skier for ski touring and mountaineering, heli- and cat-skiing, off-piste skiing, ice-climbing and alpine climbing (under 6,500m), but you also have to be a BMC member (not expensive) to take advantage of this insurance. Watch out for special offers on BMC membership which is sometimes discounted by up to 50 per cent.
Read ski insurance small print
Always 'read the small print,' says the Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB). 'People never read the small print until it is too late,' says Mike Welby, the MD of Dogtag. 'Make sure you are definitely covered,' says Perry Wilson of Insure and Go.
We know it is boring squinting at all of the terms and conditions of your policy, but if you take out a insurance that does not cover you for the activities you are doing and you are injured you'll be kicking yourself - that is if you haven't broken both legs already.
Likewise, if you have expensive equipment, double- and triple-check that your precious Scott Crusades or K2 Apache Coombas are covered. In some policies ski equipment cover might be as low as £300, some policies might only allow a pay-out of £200 per item stolen, or in some cases you will need to know if your policy allows for you to leave your skis unattended outside restaurants. If your policy states you must take resonalble measures to secure your skis against theft, and your £600-worth of planks are nabbed just propped up at the side of the restaurant, you'll feel like a dunce.
Watch out for testing conditions that require you to know the serial number of your skis or camera, to be able to prove ownership and cost by supplying a copy of the original invoice and to obtain a police report locally. If don't read the policy properly before you buy it, pore over straight away, while you still have some leeway. 'You have two weeks on any insurance policy within which time you can cancel and get a full refund,' says Mike Welby.
Ski insurance tips
Carry your proof of insurance with you in your ski jacket pocket. Some specialist insurers, such as Insure and Go and Snow card give you a credit-card style card to carry on you, which is much more practical than a soggy computer print-out when it comes down to showing the pisteur you can pay for your helicopter rescue. Even more practical is the Dogtag, which is worn around your neck and contains your insurance details - you can also upload medical information onto it such as your blood type, medication you are taking and next of kin.
Buy ski insurance in advance of your holiday, or it will be invalid. Insurance claim auditors always ask for proof of travel, such as air tickets, to ensure your cover is for the holiday and guard against people buying insurance after their accident.
Check policy limits, policy excess and exclusions
How much ski insurance do you want?
Often policies will have different bands of cover, even if the activities covered don't change, offering different amounts of cover. For example £2,000,000 medical expenses on a premium policy or £500,000 for a basic policy. You have to weight this up depending on how many risks you'll be taking. If skiing in North America you'll need higher levels of cover so if in doubt speak to a broker and take advice.
How much excess do you want to pay?
Perry Wilson from Insure and Go says: 'If you have to pay an excess on medical treatment, try and get the most inexpensive treatment you can, it might be cheaper than your excess, for example if you go to a physio for a sprained ankle look at the physios in the phone book rather than the one at the bottom of the slopes that probably charges about five times as much.'
Skiing off piste with or without a guide?
Some insurance policies state you must be with a qualified guide that knows the region to have your off-piste cover validated, for example Dogtag, whereas with Insure and Go and SCGB you are covered without a guide as well. Bear this in mind even if you only want to ski freshies off the side of the piste.
What other activities are covered?
Some insurance companies such as the Insure and Go and Dogtag, won't cover you for any kind of park action or any aerials on skis. However, SCGB does cover you for jumping in the park (but not for heli-skiing). Specialists such as SCGB, Insure and Go and Dogtag also include cover for ice skating, tobogganing etc. Make sure that the activities you want to do are included in your policy.