One million British skiers and snowboarders will head to the slopes this winter without adequate insurance, according to a new survey, potentially leaving them facing costly medical bills. According to the Ski Club of Great Britain, more than half of those heading for the slopes will do without travel insurance. And of those who do have insurance, only a quarter will check the terms and conditions to ensure they are covered for winter sports activities.
According to Axa, one of Britain’s largest travel insurers, in a recent survey of skiers and snowboarders, one in five (19 per cent) said they believed an insurance policy would not pay out for injuries and one in three did not believe coverage would be provided for transport home if injured. Much of the confusion may arise because of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
All holidaymakers travelling to Europe are advised to get one of these cards, as they cover some of the cost of medical treatment in Europe. But they are not an adequate substitute for insurance. They only offer up to 80 per cent coverage for medical bills in hospitals that accept the card. And that is only if you are taken to a hospital within the network, if taken to a private hospital the EHIC care will not cover your medical treatment. The EHIC card also won’t pay for any transportation costs – either to hospital, or for repatriation back home.
Skiing and snowboarding injuries are relatively common. The Association of Mountain Doctors in France said it dealt with 140,000 injuries last year; and according to the Axa survey, about a quarter of those who have been on a winter sports holiday have suffered some kind of injury – and the cost of treating these can soon escalate.
But what should you look for in a winter sports policy? First off, check you are covered for these sports. Many people rely on an annual policy, which won’t necessarily cover these activities. If you already have an annual policy, it is worth contacting your insurer. Most will add on this cover, for a fee of course.
Check it covers your holiday destination. This may sound obvious, but some people buy winter sports coverage, thinking this will cover them wherever they go skiing or snowboarding. But if you have European-only coverage it’s obviously not going to cover you for skiing trips in Whistler or Aspen. People who simply renew an annual policy each year, without really checking what they have, could potentially fall into such traps.
Aside from the medical cover, you also want to make sure the policy has personal liability and legal expenses cover. This will cover your costs if someone injures you and you need to take legal action against them; likewise it will cover you if you are involved in a collision and someone wants to sue you.
Winter sports enthusiasts should ensure that their policy is tailored for all snow activities. Off-piste skiing, for example, may not be included, or only if you are with a registered guide. Likewise, there may be insurance restrictions on activities such as tobogganing, ski touring, glacier skiing, heli-skiing or even racing.