Guide to: Winter Sports Travel Insurance

While 1 in 5 brits skip travel insurance when headed abroad, you'd be crazy not to grab insurance before heading to the slops. Obviously, the risk of injury is far greater when hurtling down the side of a mountain than sipping a beer by the side of a pool. If you’ve booked your winter adventure, but not your travel insurance, do it now!

Much of what we've covered in our guide to cheap travel insurance stands here, but I thought I'd pull out the main points that relate to winter sports. And remember, it's easy to compare insurance using the likes of Compare The Market, TravelSupermarket so there's no excuse!

Get it as soon as you’re booking is complete

So you’ve booked your trip and insurance is on the ‘to-do list’, don’t hang about! Assuming you’re in no rush to arrange cover, as your holiday isn’t for another few months, could be a big mistake. If anything, booking your holiday in advance should be even more of a reason to get your cover early as anything could happen before you leave. Travel insurance doesn’t just cover you while away; it also covers for cancellation and other ‘unforeseen’ circumstances BEFORE you go.

Don’t assume that every policy is the same

When choosing your travel insurance, don’t assume you can simply buy it without first giving it some thought. Policies can hugely differ and each will have its own added extras.

Before deciding what to buy, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Will you be taking your own expensive kit, or will you be hiring?
  • Will you be carrying a large amount of currency
  • Do you have any pre-existing conditions
  • Is your destination considered safe by the FCO
What does a travel insurance policy typically cover?

Every policy is different, but most offer some degree of cover on:

Medical

Unexpected accidents, injuries or illness will be covered under the medical section of your policy. This typically covers the costs associated with receiving treatment abroad, including flying you home (repatriation) and in most cases, dental emergencies. Most policies will also cover cremation and repatriation costs for a body should an accident be fatal, but lets try to focus on the more positive elements.

Cancellation

Your policy will also cover cancellation should you no longer be able to go on your holiday or if you need to come back early but you need to have a valid reason for terminating your trip. Having to take care of a seriously ill family member, being called for jury service and loosing your job are all valid reasons, but if you simply changed your mind or found a better deal somewhere else, your claim is likely to be rejected.

Luggage and Personal Belongings

Your policy will also cover loss, theft or damage to your personal belongings. Almost everything you take with you is covered, including phones, cameras, laptops, tablets, jewellery and expensive clothing and many policies will also cover loss of cash and your passport or drivers licence.

The amount covered and the excess can vary significantly across different policies however, so the amount you’d have to pay towards your claim can be very different. Cash and expensive goods or jewellery can often be subject to additional excess so read the fine print.

Personal Liability

You might not always be the victim. Personal Liability protects others and their belongings in case you’re the cause of an accident while away. If you’re skiing for example, and plough into someone, causing them injury, insurers will typically cover you for up to £2 million, which is generally more than enough.

Delays

Adverse weather is one of the most common causes of delay to your travel schedule, so this is one of the most important elements of your policy. Most cover against more than just adverse weather, and some may even include unforeseen events such as mechanical issues or industrial action.

If not, its worth noting that for EU-regulated flights (where the flight departed from an EU airport or where an EU airline landed at an EU airport) compensation can be claimed directly from the airline as long as the delay or cancellation is the airline’s fault, so bad weather for example, won’t be covered by them. There are specific guidelines that govern these claims, so if you’ve been delayed for more than 3 hours or your flight’s been cancelled, you may be able to claim compensation of up to £470. See our Flight Delay Compensation guide for more on this.

If this doesn’t apply to you, you may be able to make a claim with your travel insurer, but they typically pay out for each twelve hour period you’ve been held up and these payouts can be very small compared with what you can get from your airline.

What does a travel insurance policy typically fail to cover?

There are a number of things that travel insurers won’t pay out for, such as:

Alcohol & Drug-Related Injury

If you’re badly injured while more than just a little inebriated, your insurer is likely to reject your claim. Check your policy carefully before you buy as insurers use different classifications for ‘drunk’, with some referring to blood alcohol limits.

Dangerous Activities

Normal travel insurance is unlikely to cover winter sports. Make sure you ask whether it's covered and if not, get a quote for the add-on.

Unattended Belongings

While your belongings may be covered for loss and theft, that doesn’t mean you can take your eye off the ball. If you leave your things unattended and they’re stolen, your insurer won’t pay for their replacement.

Dangerous Destinations

If you travel to a country that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has deemed ‘unsafe’, your cover is likely to be invalid.

Does it matter where I’m going?

Insurers class trips as ‘European’ or ‘Worldwide’. Worldwide can then be broken down further based on the countries cost of medical treatment and the distance for repatriation purposes. The US for example, typically requires an extra box to be ticked and has a higher premium for exactly these reasons.

If you’re travelling just outside Europe however, don’t just assume you need worldwide cover. Many insurers will allow you to use their European cover for select non-European destinations.

What’s ‘excess’ and how does it work?

It’s the amount you have to pay towards a claim, so if you cancel your trip and you’re entitled to get £1,500 back but have a £500 excess, you’ll only get £1,000. Often, different sections of your policy will have separate excesses so if you have your luggage stolen and your cash is inside, you may have to pay an excess on both. It’s also worth noting that if you have group or family policy, you may have to pay an excess per person for any loss that impacts the entire group like cancellation. Make sure you check all excesses so you know what you might have to pay if you need to make a claim.

What are the most important things to check before I buy?

As with all insurance policies, make sure you check all the terms & conditions, exclusions and added extras before making a purchase. Heading abroad without the correct cover could be very costly if the worst happens.

Make sure you check your excess as well. High excess could work out considerably cheaper, but you’ll need to be able to afford to cough up a big chunk upfront if you need to make a claim so make sure you keep things within your budget and never overextend.

Will I still be covered if I’m taken to a private hospital?

There isn’t a straightforward answer to this one, some policies cover you, and some don’t, so double check before you buy. For example, if you’re abroad and having chest pains, LV says they cover you for a private hospital, but Holidaysafe says they don’t so make sure you’re not caught out (always check the fine print). If it’s an emergency and you’re taken to a private hospital without your knowledge, there’s more chance your claim would be accepted, but it’s still not guaranteed. If you’re not happy with the decision, you can get in touch with the Financial Ombudsmen Service (FOS) to investigate your claim.

One thing is certain; an EHIC categorically will not cover you for ANY private treatment, so keep that in mind when deciding on your cover.

Get you’re free EHIC if headed to Europe slopes

A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is absolutely free and entitles you to treatment in any state-run hospital within the EU, but also Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Effectively you’re treated like a local, so if they don’t pay for healthcare, you don’t pay for healthcare. It’s not an alternative to travel insurance as it cover far less, but it is free so well worth getting one. If you come across a site claiming to offer one for a fee, leave immediately. Instead, head over to the official EHIC website to apply FOR FREE.

Do I need one if I’ve already got insurance?

You should get an EHIC in addition to travel insurance, not instead of. Insurance covers many more scenarios, in addition to delays, baggage, repatriation and more. You may also still have to pay if using an EHIC where your insurance will cover that cost plus an EHIC can sometimes negate the excess.

On top of this, an EHIC doesn’t discriminate by circumstance, so if you’ve got a pre-existing condition or you’ve had too many to drink, you’ll still be treated. NB going abroad specifically for treatment is prohibited.

Declare any pre-existing medical conditions

You may not feel comfortable discussing your conditions with an insurer, but if you fail to make them aware of any issues you have prior to purchasing your insurance and then you need to make a claim, it won’t matter if the claim is for loss, theft or cancellation, they may reject it regardless.

Find out more about this in our Pre-Existing Conditions Travel Insurance guide.

Even one glass of wine could invalidate a claim

Most people aren’t aware that if you’re out for dinner and have an accident or loose something and you’ve had even one drink, you’re insurer could reject your claim. In reality, most insurers will determine the success of a claim made “under the influence’ based on whether the drink has effected your decision making ability – theoretically this could mean that for some less tolerant individuals, one drink could be enough to invalidate a claim.

Having a claim rejected can be more damaging than just leaving you out of pocket, it could exclude you from future cover too. If you’re skiing and stop for lunch only to discover you somehow managed to polish off that entire bottle of Burgundy, you might want to re-think hitting the slopes again afterwards. You’re increasing your chances of having an accident that you may not be covered for.

What's covered in a typical policy?

Skiing and snowboarding are covered as standard in all winter sports policies, and most will also cover additional activities such as sledging, but if you’re planning to do something out of the ordinary such as ski jumping, not only do we think you might be a little crazy (☺), you might also want to check out providers such as Snowcard or BMC, who may be able to offer you specialist cover.

If you’re looking for specialist cover, check the details carefully to make sure you really are covered for what you’re planning, and don’t forget to tell them about any pre-existing conditions and ensure you have your EHIC if your heading to Europe.

A basic policy will probably be fine…

Medical bills if you’re away skiing can be outrageous so it’s vital you have the correct cover. Being airlifted off the slopes could cost you £2,500, flying you back to the UK could be another £10,000 and if you’re in the US or Canada, that could be as much as £40,000 and it won’t be a private luxury Lear jet!

A specialist policy will also cover your equipment, which can also be expensive if something goes missing or gets damaged.

Will off-piste skiing require extra cover?

As long as you remain within the boundaries of the resort or a qualified instructor supervises you, most winter sports policies will cover you for off-piste skiing, but always double check the fine print to be sure.

Can I make a claim if the slopes are closed?

If the slopes are closed, typically due to lack of snow or an avalanche, you’re policy may entitle you to some compensation, but it tends to be a fixed amount per day with a limit of two to three hundred pounds in total.

My equipment will be hired, is it still covered?

Cover for loss, theft or accidental damage is typically included with most winter sports policies, but you’ll still be expected to be responsible for keeping it safe, so don’t leave it out for anyone to get their hands on.

Equipment is typically covered up to about £3000, but different limits apply depending on the insurer. Axa Direct cover equipment up to £2000 with some policies, where Admiral will only cover half that amount. Work out the value of your stuff and choose a policy that offers the right level of cover.

Hired equipment may be covered for loss, theft or damage by your insurer and some providers include rented equipment as part of your baggage cover up to a specific limit. Others may only offer up to 50% of the value of hired gear though you may find that the equipment providers have their own cover as part of the hire price so check with the resort before you make a purchase.

Typically, your ski cover will include fees, lift pass and hired equipment with the amount ranging between £150 and £500, but it can be considerably higher so always check the fine print to be sure.

What if I don’t wear a helmet on the slopes?

Make sure you do your homework before making a purchase. If you head onto the slopes without a helmet and have an accident, some providers may reject your claim. In some countries, it’s a legal requirement to wear a helmet, so make sure you follow the rules.

Travel agents could charge seven times more

If you purchase you insurance through an airline or travel agent, you’ll almost definitely overpay. Individual worldwide annual cover for an 18-35 year old via Holidaysafe Lite for example, will cost you £19, where the cheapest option we found from a selection of travel firms, came in at £41-£109 – you do the maths.

You can use comparison sites such as Confused.com, Compare The Market, TravelSupermarket or Gocompare, to quickly check for added extras.

Post by John

John is a software developer, travel blogger and digital nomad. Where ever his laptop is, he calls home. Favourite destination? California. San Francisco is the coolest place on earth! Next trip? South of France.

Share with your friends

Related posts