Skiing insurance policies can be poles apart

Richard Thomson on the ups and downs of cover against slip-ups on the slopes
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The Independent Online
We all know the statistics about skiing by now: how it is less dangerous than driving and - more surprisingly - less threatening to life and limb than golf.

Of the 700,000 or so Britons who head for the slopes this season, around 14,000 will get hurt. It's a small percentage, but highly significant nevertheless if you are one of the casualties.

And when you consider that it is likely to cost several hundred pounds to be rescued by helicopter from the mountainside, then another £4,000 to £5,000 for even a small operation, then perhaps £5,000 more to be repatriated if things are serious, it doesn't do to be caught out-of-pocket. Insurance is essential.

The company that sells you the skiing holiday will almost certainly offer insurance and may even put some pressure on you to buy it. But there is a good case for looking around. The most expensive policies are about £36 for 10 days, while cheaper ones are about £26, saving a family of four between £30 and £40.

All schemes give medical cover of at least £1m, which should cover most eventualities. Insurers advise, however, that you should always carry proof of your policy with you when skiing, or .hospitals may demand a hefty credit card deposit until they can check you are covered.

The personal accident and personal liability cover also do not vary much from one policy to the next. So look for things like the amount of cover available if your baggage goes astray, and the cover provided for loss or damage to skis. For anyone with anexpensive pair of hi-tech skis and bindings, for example, the £300 provided by Columbus or Bladon Lines will seem pretty inadequate. Very few policies, moreover, cover hire-skis.

Another area to check is whether injury while skiing off-piste is covered. Policies are often not very clear about what is included - skiing with a guide, for example, is often covered, but without a definition of who qualifies as a guide. Bladon Lines'sinsurance firmly includes off-piste. Ski Enterprise, however, does not.

Many skiers heading towards snowless Alps before Christmas were worrying whether their policies included a snow guarantee. Some, like Bladon Lines's, do not. On the other hand, those that do are sometimes little practical use. They may specify that the entire resort has been closed before customers get some cash compensation or a bus to another ski area. In practice, resorts very rarely close completely.

Before plumping for a 10-day policy for the next trip to the slopes, think again. There is a more attractive alternative when considering the value for money of insurance, particularly for anyone planning to head for the hills more than once in the season. Annual travel insurance policies, which give cover for the whole year, are relatively cheap at between £75 and £100.

Not only do these give good cover for all your summer holidays, many include up to, say, two weeks' skiing for no extra charge. The level of cover they provide, particularly on key elements like medical expenses, is often more generous than the standard winter sports policies.

Even annual policies, like Columbus's, that do require an extra payment for winter sports cover still offer a pretty good deal. The basic annual policy costs £97. For an extra £30, however, it provides cover for three months of skiing in Europe. The total £127 is much the same as it would cost to buy a pure winter sports policy for 90 days that gave you no cover for the rest of the year.

Frizzell's new annual policy includes winter sports cover for up to 17 days. It costs £47.20 for cover that excludes luggage and money, or £65.88 to include this cover. Any number of children under 16 can be covered for £31,47 for the restricted cover or£43.92 for the wider cover.

The Independent has arranged an annual policy with General Accident. It costs £42 for trips up to 31 days in Europe, and £75 for worldwide cover. Both policies include cover for skiing.

WHAT IT WILL COST Up to 10 days in Europe

Insurer Premium Medical Personal Personal Baggage Ski accident liability equipment

Columbus £29 £1m £25,000 £1m £1,500 £300

Douglas Cox Tyrie £36 £1m £10,000 £1m £1,500 £500

(mini-ski) £26.50 £1m £10,000 £1m - - Thomas Cook £36 £5m £30,000 £2m £1,500 £500

Bladon Lines £28 £2m £5,000 £1m £1,000 £300

Ski Airtours/ £37 £2m £25,000 £1m £750 £750

Fogg Insurance

Annual policies

Thomas Cook* £120 £5m £30,000 £2m £1,500 £500

Douglas Cox Tyrie** £97.38 £1m £10,000 £1m £1,500 - Columbus*** £97 £1m £25,000 £1m £1,500 £300

General Accident* £75 £2m £25,000 £1m £1,500 -

*Includes 17 days' skiing cover; **Extra cost for skiing cover assessed individually; ***Extra £30 for unlimited skiing cover as long as no individual trip exceeds 90 days

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