Personal Finance: Ski slope fractures needn't break the bank

WINTER sports enthusiasts will only be too aware of the need for travel insurance, writes Stephen Pritchard. Accidents can happen on any holiday; skiing increases risks and costs. Treatment and repatriation is expensive enough; mountain rescue from the slopes can cost thousands of pounds.

Tour operators and ski specialists offer their own insurance. Prices start at around pounds 40 to pounds 50 per adult per week for Europe. This is not an extravagant sum, but specialist travel insurance companies can arrange cover for half that much. Screentrade, the internet-based insurance broker, added travel cover to its site last month with the winter sports season in mind. The cheapest deal, for a week's cover for Europe, is pounds 33.20. Despite the savings, Screentrade's marketing manager, Sarah Moores, points out that price is not the only factor to take into account. Cover levels differ between insurers, as do the terms. Norman Insurance, for example, will not cover off-piste skiing, which is increasingly popular at resorts in North America and Europe.

Any web user planning to head for the slopes this winter should look at the travel cover available over the net before they opt for an operator or travel agent policy. The Government has banned travel operators from tying insurance in with their packages and, as a result, there are some extremely good value deals.

Professional skiers or amateurs who want to indulge in some competition skiing need to look carefully at policy terms. A sporting federation or club is often the best place to organise the right insurance cover. One, Snowsport Scotland (formerly called the Scottish National Ski Council), has its own range of insurance cover on its web site, which includes supervised racing and training. General insurers often exclude trips within the UK from their travel policies, but Snowsport Scotland "Gold" cover is pounds 32 for 10 days in the UK - including the Scottish slopes - and Europe. Silver cover is pounds 24.50.

Links: Columbus Direct, www.columbusdirect.co.uk; Eagle Star Direct, www.eaglestar.co.uk; Halifax, www.halifax.co.uk; Screentrade, www.screentrade.co.uk; SNSC, www.snsc.demon.co.uk/skiins. htm; Travel Insurance Agency, www.travelinsurers.com

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