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Ski insurance: the do’s and do nots

It’s February, which means skiing and snowboarding season is here. Many people like to take an annual pilgrimage to the mountain slopes and spend a week or so whizzing down the mountain at high speed attached to a thin piece of wood! If you’ve been inspired by the amazing athletes at the Sochi Winter Olympics and are planning a trip to the mountains yourself, there’s one thing you must remember before you travel: get specialist winter travel insurance.

This is non-negotiable. Skiing and snowboarding are inherently dangerous sports, involving lots of people sliding down a mountain at speed. It’s like a busy motorway where everyone is travelling at different speeds and constantly changing lanes. People get injured taking part in these sports; occasionally people even die. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it, just that you should be careful and make sure you have good cover.

Most normal travel insurance policies explicitly exclude winter sports because of the additional risks involved, so your best bet is to find a specific winter sport policy. Don’t just go for the cheapest policy. Winter sports cover is one type of holiday where it really pays to examine the differences between policies. You’ll need something which covers a serious amount of medical expenses, both for yourself and anyone else you might injure. A good baseline is £2 million or more for medical expenses and £1 million or more to cover your liability for injuries you may cause someone else. Your policy should also cover medical evacuation from the mountain, repatriation and so on.

Look for a policy providing a high level of cover as costs can mount up very quickly. Imagine, for example, that you have a serious crash while skiing – sorry! You need to be taken off the mountain by helicopter and immediately flown to the nearest hospital, where your treatment will take several days at least. Although after a few days of intensive treatment (perhaps even surgery) you’re well enough to leave hospital, you’ve missed your flight and need to make new, last minute arrangements. The costs of such an accident will reach tens of thousands of pounds easily so don’t skimp on your cover!

Don’t forget to look at the level of excess charged. You may prefer to take the risk of paying a higher excess to reduce the policy cost which you definitely have to pay! However, that’s a decision only you can make. Another aspect to remember is the cover provided for your personal items. Ski and snowboarding equipment can be valuable and expensive to replace, so if you’re taking your own gear rather than renting at the resort, make sure your policy covers the replacement cost. Finally, make sure your ski travel insurance covers you in the event that your trip is cancelled, so you get all your money back.

Of course, it’s not all expense – at least on a winter sports holiday you’re guaranteed a great view, and best of all, it will be free!

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