Cover up well to avoid the slippery slope

The right travel insurance is vital

Thoughts of snow-covered mountains and the adrenalin rush that comes as you head down the piste will entice more than 800,000 people to book a skiing holiday this winter. But, according to insurer Primary Direct, one in 10 will come home injured. Since such injuries can result in huge medical costs, insurance is vital.

Thoughts of snow-covered mountains and the adrenalin rush that comes as you head down the piste will entice more than 800,000 people to book a skiing holiday this winter. But, according to insurer Primary Direct, one in 10 will come home injured. Since such injuries can result in huge medical costs, insurance is vital.

Medical costs have gone up by 12 per cent over the last three years. While you might think the biggest bills mount up in the US, parts of Europe are now equally expensive.

"Medical costs are soaring, and this is not just relevant to the States but also to Europe, where the costs for a broken leg can be anything between £1,000 and £10,000," says Kim Sullivan from Direct Travel. The bill will be higher still if you have to be airlifted off the slope, and repatriation is likely to cost a further £1,000 at least, as a broken limb will mean you require more than one seat on the plane.

American Express warns not to rely on an E111 for medical cover. "Although reciprocal healthcare agreements do exist, the E111 form is not valid in many non-EU countries, such as Switzerland, where medical treatment can often cost twice as much as the same treatment in the UK," says Sarah Harper, UK head of insurance services at American Express.

In addition, Helen Dwyer, director of Primary Direct, points out that an E111 won't cover the cost of getting you off the slope or your repatriation. You may also find that even in a country where there is a reciprocal healthcare agreement, you are taken straight to a private clinic without having any say in the matter; the cost will not be covered by the E111.

It is worth shopping around, not only because prices vary considerably, but because levels of cover differ. The Consumers' Association recom- mends you have a policy which covers at least £1m of medical expenses. You should ensure you have £2m personal liability cover in case you injure someone else. This is important if you are skiing in the US, where litigation is a national pastime.

"There have been a growing number of lawsuits arising from ski collisions. Recent studies show that settlement amounts can range between £1m and £1.5m," says Ms Sullivan.

Other areas of insurance to check include the definition of "off-piste", which may not be covered. Check, too, for cover for lost or stolen ski passes and equipment, as this can prove expensive if it's not included. You should also opt for a policy with avalanche and piste closure cover, so you can claim should you lose any days of skiing because of too much or too little snow. If you have an annual multi-trip policy, be aware that many policies limit winter sports cover to 17 or 21 days.

Anyone who has two or more holidays a year would be far better-off opting for an annual policy rather than getting single-trip policies each time they go away. This is relevant to skiing holidays, as ski insurance tends to be twice the price of normal holiday insurance.

You will also pay far more for your cover if you take out insurance with the travel agent. Travel agents will obviously try and sell you their insurance but you are not obliged to take it and are likely to pay more than twice as much as you would if you purchased holiday cover direct from the insurer.

"Travel agents tend to double the price of the policy for ski insurance, so if a family goes away skiing they'll end up paying a horrendous amount," says Ms Dwyer. "Going to a direct provider will be more than worthwhile and a family would probably find that they pay less for an annual policy from a direct provider than they would if they took out a single trip policy from a travel agent."

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