Don't let medical bills be your après ski
Hitting the slopes this festive season? Don't forget your travel cover – or count the cost, say Chiara Cavaglieri and Julian Knight
Sunday 18 December 2011
After the mildest autumn on record, the snow is finally falling in the Alps and beyond. And it's just in time, as Christmas is the traditional start of the European ski season when thousands of Britons hit the continent's slopes.
All too often though what starts as a dream trip to enjoy the powdery snow can end in a painful sojourn to the emergency ward. Even something as innocuous as twisting an ankle can require medical treatment that can run into thousands of pounds. Break something more serious or need an airlift or medical repatriation and costs can rocket. Yet despite this risk, many sports enthusiasts are willing to chance it; a recent Aviva study found that three in five skiers (58 per cent) failed to add on winter sports cover to their travel insurance.
"This is taking a massive financial gamble. There are few of us who could afford to pay a medical or mountain rescue bill after an accident," says Matt Reid, a director of travel insurer Protectyourbubble.com who in the last ski season dealt with a claim that totalled £14,452.
Figures from Bupa Travel Assistance show that the average cost per claim is £917 in France, £785 in Switzerland and at the very top of the list, £6,335 in the United States. Anyone daring to ski without comprehensive insurance in the US is playing with fire. A serious injury is likely to cost an astronomical amount of money; being treated for a fractured leg, for example, could lead to a bill of up to £40,000.
In EU countries – plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland – if you're holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) you will be entitled to medical treatment within state-run hospitals at the same cost as local residents. "This should not be considered a replacement for travel cover. If you already hold such a card, check it is still in date for your trip," says Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at MoneySupermarket.
While an EHIC covers some medical costs, mountain rescue, getting home and some outpatient treatments are not included. Another potentially huge financial threat is if you ski or snowboard into someone and injure them and they take legal action against you. Once again, the bill could be thousands of pounds but if you have comprehensive winter sports insurance it will include personal liability cover to protect you against this.
You can't rely on standard travel insurance for winter sports, but the good news is that cover can be very cheap. A family of four looking for a week's worth of cover in Europe can buy a policy for as little a £16.96 with OUL Direct, according to MoneySupermarket, which covers winter sports equipment, piste closure and off-piste skiing. However, this policy has a high excess of £250 per claim, and only offers £500 cancellation cover and a stingy £200 baggage cover.
You can get a better deal with Debenhams for £20 with double the cover for medical costs, £3,000 for cancellations, £1,500 for baggage, and all with only £100 excess to pay. Look out for EssentialTravel.co.uk too where you can secure a 15 per cent discount if you are willing to wear a ski helmet as part of the new Use Your Head campaign.
An annual multi-trip policy generally offers better value than single-trip insurance – Moneysupermarket says the same family could pay £28 more for an annual policy with Debenhams – so only opt for the single trip if you are convinced you won't be going away more than once.
"Although important, price should not be the primary basis for comparison – after all, buying the cheapest cover available could end up being the most expensive option if it doesn't provide adequate cover," says Mike Powell, the head of general insurance for analysts Defaqto.
Insurers offering winter sports cover use different exclusions, caveats and coverage levels but once you've checked the basics (including cover for lost baggage, cancellations and medical costs), you should see if there are any extras such as cover for damaged or lost sports equipment.
According to Defaqto, of the 342 single-trip winter sport policies on the market, 80 per cent cover less than £1,000 for loss or theft of equipment. Even if you're hiring equipment, you may need a more generous policy as more than half provide less than £500 of cover. Avalanche cover is another consideration in case you need to find alternative accommodation; Defaqto say that 20 per cent of policies do not offer avalanche delay cover at all.
If you're intending to take a sleigh ride or go heli-skiing, ensure you're covered for them – and for extra peace of mind investigate any local insurance top-ups. "It may be worthwhile paying a small premium for local insurance to cover you for rescue and transport," says Mr Atkinson. "In France, the Carré Neige is only a few euros a day and covers rescue and some basic doctor's bills."
Guy Oakley, Marketing manager
Guy Oakley, 36, from Windsor, broke his collarbone when snowboarding in the French Alps last year. "I got caught in a white-out and hit a patch of ice," he says.
"Fortunately, I was fully insured with Snowcard and claimed back all the medical treatment. They also paid for a taxi to drive me two hours to Lyon Airport, re-arranged my flight home and covered physio treatment for two months back in the UK".
The bill would have been £2,500 but was covered with an annual travel insurance policy costing around £60 which included an excess waiver.
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser
Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study
Mark Dampier: Woodford’s young companies could be the stars of the future
Shareholders can hold a company to account
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Santander's new current account is not quite as easy as 1, 2, 3
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 13-17 October
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
- 5 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...
£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...
Day In a Page
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000