Winter sports with no cover is skating on thin ice

Skiers and snowboarders are just asking for trouble if they take to the slopes without adequate insurance, says Chiara Cavaglieri

If you are planning to bring in the new year by hitting the slopes, get the right travel cover in place or you could spend the rest of 2014 paying off a huge bill.

Anyone is taking a risk if they go abroad without comprehensive travel insurance, but for skiers and snowboarders planning an adrenaline-fuelled holiday, it is a massive financial gamble.

Losing your luggage is one thing, but serious injuries that require mountain rescue cost thousands of pounds, and you'll be footing that bill from your own pocket if you don't have insurance.

Tom Bishop, head of travel insurance at Direct Line, says: "A good winter-sports policy will include generous medical cover. This is important because trips to foreign hospitals, piste evacuations and getting patients back home to the UK can be extremely expensive. For example, a piste rescue by helicopter could cost upwards of £2,000, and an air ambulance back from the Alps could exceed £10,000."

Some insurers offer winter sports as standard on their policies but otherwise you can usually extend the cover. If you book your holiday through a travel agent, they may try to sell you insurance but always see what else is on the market or you could pay over the odds.

Comprehensive medical cover should include emergency transport to hospital and back home to the UK. Stephen Ebbett, director of travel insurer Protect Your Bubble, says that one of the highest winter-sports claims he has dealt with totalled almost £15,000.

"High costs can ensue if you need to be rescued from the mountainside or repatriated to the UK. If you have a leg injury, your insurer may have to book multiple seats on a plane for your return journey, or with more severe injuries you could require repatriation with a medical practitioner, which could cost thousands of pounds," he says.

If you are holidaying within the European Union, some medical bills are covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles you to state-provided healthcare, but this is not a replacement for travel insurance. It won't be any use if the resort has a private clinic or you need an air ambulance back home, which can cost around £10,000 from Europe and £40,000 from the US and Canada.

For extra peace of mind, you can pay a local premium at the ski resort, which covers rescue and transport on or off-piste. For example, in France skiers can buy a Carré Neige pass for a few euros per day, which covers rescue and a few basic medical bills. But you still need a travel-insurance policy to protect you against other costs.

"If you ski or snowboard into someone and injure them, and they then take legal action against you, the costs could run into thousands of pounds. Comprehensive winter sports insurance will include personal liability cover to protect you should this happen," says Mr Ebbett.

It is essential that you declare any medical conditions, both when you take out a new policy and to your existing insurer if you develop an illness or start taking medication. If you fail to inform them and later make a related claim, your policy will be worthless and you will have to cover the medical bills yourself.

Cover can vary hugely from provider to provider, and simply plumping for the cheapest one is often a mistake. Agreeing to pay a higher excess can reduce your premiums, but this is no saving at all if you can't actually afford to cover it in the event of a claim.

Comparison site found that a family of four skiing in Europe for one week can insure themselves for £21.14 with, which offers £750 worth of cover for personal baggage and £350 for ski equipment, with an excess of £150 to pay for both. For just £12 more, the Cover for You Premier policy offers the same family a far more generous £1,500 for baggage and £1,000 for ski equipment, with a lower excess of £100.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at, says: "It is essential to check the small print on these policies to so you know exactly what you are covered for while away. While the cheapest policies will ensure you have more money in your pocket, you may find that you won't be covered enough, especially for expensive ski equipment."

It's not much fun but do read the exclusions and caveats before you choose your policy. If you already have insurance through a packaged current account or a credit card, check to ensure it offers adequate protection. The "summary of cover" is a good starting point but you can always phone the insurer if there's anything you're not sure of.

Many policies routinely offer less than £1,000 for accidental damage, theft or the loss of winter sports equipment (typically on top of standard baggage cover) so if you have particularly expensive gear, look for a more-generous policy and always check the conditions. For example, Direct Line offers £500 cover if your equipment is damaged, lost or stolen on your journey, but this is subject to a single-item limit of £250 and it must be under five years old.

Helpful extras include cover for unused, lost or stolen ski passes, as well as payment to travel to another piste should it close if there is an avalanche or a lack of snow.

Some policies exclude off-piste skiing altogether but others will cover you if you are supervised by a qualified instructor, or if you stay within the boundaries of the resort.

If you're a bit of a thrill seeker, extra activities such as heli-skiing and heli-boarding, luging, bobsleighing and racing in an organised competition are unlikely to be covered, so you may need to pay for a more-flexible activity policy from a specialist provider such as Snowcard. If you enjoy the après ski, insurers will probably refuse your claim if you are under the influence of alcohol.

If you are planning any other trips, you can save money with an annual policy but be warned that some limit their winter-sports cover to a set number of days per year or a maximum number of ski trips.

Similarly, couples and families can be put under one policy, but the premiums will be based on the oldest traveller, so if you are travelling with someone aged 65 and over, it may be better to get them a separate policy.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

    Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home