Winter Sports Insurance: A detailed buyer’s guide

Picking the right winter sports insurance is a crucial part of your trip to the mountains. Here's everything you need to know

The Sport Review staff
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winter sports insurance guide
Picking the correct winter sports insurance is a key part of your trip Photo: Rod Leefe / Flickr Creative Commons

During the winter holidays, skiing, snowboarding, bobsleighing or even lugeing can be a lot of fun. But this pretty picture can quickly turn into a disaster if you happen to have an accident on the slopes and hadn’t thought about purchasing winter sports insurance.

You might think it is too expensive, especially as winter sports trips already are quite pricey, but don’t skip the insurance. Injuries sustained skiing or snowboarding are usually serious and can include ligament damage, dislocations and severe breaks.

Imagine finding yourself injured on the ski slopes, having to be rescued by helicopter to be taken care of in a French hospital and then repatriated back home in a specially chartered plane. This is what recently happened to a woman who, thankfully, had purchased winter sports insurance. Her insurer, Colombus Direct, paid out the £12,000 needed.

Do I need to buy a winter sports insurance?

The short answer is yes. But, even without one, you can get some form of protection.

– European Health Insurance Card
If you’re travelling to Europe, then you can enjoy the benefits of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives you access to state-provided healthcare. You can get yours for free by applying online at ehic.org.uk.

However, the EHIC is nothing like a travel insurance in the sense that it doesn’t cover any private medical healthcare or costs like mountain rescue or being flown back home. Neither, of course, does it cover luggage loss or theft. Only a proper winter sports insurance will cover you for the specifics of your trip.

– Your bank might offer travel insurance

Some bank accounts, usually the premium ones, include perks for their customers, such as free travel insurance. However, they might offer you standard travel insurance; do check whether or not winter sports are covered by your bank’s policy.

What should I look for when choosing the right winter sports insurance?

According to the comparison website TravelSupermarket, you should be looking for a policy that will cover up to £2m in medical expenses and a £1m personal liability in case you injure another person who decides to sues you.

But note that winter sports insurances cover more than just medical expenses and liability. Depending on your chosen policy, you insurance could cover the lost days due to bad weather, lost, stolen or unused ski passes, as well as what a regular travel insurance would cover, like lost baggage or cancellation. It’s up to you to decide how much coverage you need and want to pay for.

What does winter sports insurance cover?

Winter sports insurances cover the specific of winter sports as well as staples covered by regular travel insurances.

1) Specific to winter sports

Your winter sports insurance, usually an add-on to a standard travel insurance, should offer specific coverage.

Medical expenses

This means that you are covered for any injury sustained on the slopes. Most insurance policies cover a minimum of £1m, with some going up to £20m. Certain policies include special travel back to your home country, or mountain rescue.

Personal liability

Personal liability covers you against law suits filed against you by someone you have injured, or whose property you have damaged.

Equipment

Skiing and snowboarding gear is pretty expensive. If you chose a good winter sports insurance, you will be covered against loss, damage or theft or your equipment.

Ski passes

If you tend to lose things easily, you should probably go for a policy that will cover you if you lose your ski pass.

Piste closure

What if your piste is closed due to an avalanche or lack of snow? A premium winter sports insurance policy should cover the cost of transferring you to another slope to make sure you can enjoy your trip whatever happens.

skiing insurance

Your winter sports insurance policy should include cover for piste closure Photo: O Bruchez / Flickr Creative Commons

2) Regular travel insurance staples

Most winter sports insurances are added to your regular travel insurance package, so you need to make sure that the travel insurance policy is advantageous too. Here are some of the elements that a good travel insurance policy should include:

Cancellation and curtailment

This is the basic of any travel insurance. It covers you if you need to cancel your holiday or leave earlier than expected. Be careful though: each insurance company has its own list of valid reasons for cancelling a trip.

Baggage coverage

This means you will be covered if your luggage gets lost, stolen or damaged. There are different types of limits: an overall limit, a limit on each individual item, and a cash limit. Make sure to estimate the worth of what you’re taking with you; if you’re taking your own equipment, you will need a higher limit (over £1,000)

Loss or theft of passport

The best policies can cover you for the cost of obtaining a replacement passport if it has been lost or stolen during your trip, so you can return back home. The whole cost might not be covered, so make sure to check the amount stated in your policy.

Delays

This provides compensation for airline delays, depending on the threshold set by your insurer. Don’t forget to get a written proof of the delay for your claim.

Hospital benefit

This feature allows you to receive a set amount per person for each day spent in hospital. It can be useful if you need to pay for phone calls, or to cover the taxi fares of your visitors.

How to choose the best winter sports insurance policy

Comparison websites are a great place to start when it comes to choosing the right insurance policy for your winter trip. But don’t just look at the price. Just because one policy is more expensive than all the others doesn’t mean it’s the best one, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you.

To make sure you can chose the best winter sports insurance according to your needs, comparison websites have made it easy for you to select the features you want and set minimums. On CompareTheMarket, you can choose a minimum medical cover, baggage cover, cancellation cover, and a maximum excess, while TravelSupermarket allows you to filter results by choosing optional features such as gadget cover, loss of passport, travel delay, hospital benefit, legal expenses or natural disaster.

Most insurance comparison website present the results of your query as a table, making it easy to compare the various policies at a glance. Now it’s up to you to do a little more research to make sure that you perfectly understand what is and isn’t covered by each policy, and, more importantly, the amounts covered.

skiing insurance

The prices of winter sports insurance policies can vary greatly Photo: Leo-seta / Flickr Creative Commons

How much does winter sports insurance cost?

The prices of winter sports insurance policies can vary greatly, from a tenner to a few hundred pounds, depending on where you are going, the length of your stay, the number and age of the people travelling, whether or not they have any pre-existing condition, and the features you wish to see included in your policy.

A standard winter sports insurance for a couple in their early thirties travelling to France for a week costs only £13.49. But, if you also want your insurance policy to include gadget cover, loss of passport and travel delay, and want the highest level of coverage for cancellation, medical expenses and luggage, then you’ll be paying £90.92.

According to CompareTheMarket.com, you could pay as little at £13.99 (with TravelInsurance.co.uk) or as much as £143.03 (with Rac Insurance) for a winter sports insurance for a trip for two to France. What’s the difference between the two? When the cheapest option covers you for up to £15m in medical expenses, £500 in luggage and £500 in cancellation, the most expensive one covers medical expenses up to £20m, luggage up to £2,000, and cancellation up to £5,000. The priciest insurer also boasts a 5 star rating, when the cheapest one only gets 2 stars.

Of course, it is also worth noting that having a pre-existing medical condition, or simply being older, means you’ll have to pay more to be covered. Although of couple in their thirties can be covered for only £13.49, a couple in their forties with a history of diabetes will have to pay at least £17.57. Older travellers might find it even more difficult to get covered, as many insurers do not even cover people over 65 years old.

How to get the best winter sports travel insurance

To get the best deal, you will first have to correctly assess your needs. Are you taking anything of value with you? If yes, you might need a policy covering more than £500 for lost or stolen luggage. Did you book a cheap trip? If so, then you won’t need to be covered for up as much as £6,000 in cancellation; £1,000, or even £500 might be sufficient. Make sure your insurance coverage matches your expenses.

Whichever insurance policy you decide to go with, don’t abuse it. Almost all insurers will refuse to cover you if you have been skiing against local authority advice or if you’ve had an accident while drunk. Have fun on your holiday, but make sure you play by the rules set out in your policy.

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