ski insurance - tailored for experienced skiers 

Covered in snow!

THOUSANDS of skiers and snowboarders will soon be taking to the slopes all over the world. But many will return home via the unplanned, and unwanted journey through a foreign hospital. Like it or not, you have to get the right insurance says ASHLEY GREEN.

GOOD comprehensive insurance cover is an essential prerequisite of any winter holiday but many go uninsured or with inadequate cover. In the event of an accident it may not only be your body that's injured, you could find yourself facing serious damage in the wallet or purse as well.

Last year Mrs Maycock of Gloucester did make sure she had proper cover which was just as well when her American ski trip was brought to a premature end by an unfortunate accident which resulted in a medical and repatriation bill of $59,000. This was all covered by her policy.

Latest figures from BUPA report that even a broken wrist in Europe can cost up to £5,000. A serious injury may mean you need a rescue helicopter to get you off the mountain and this - if you'll pardon the pun - will cost you an arm and a leg. It's recommended that you take the E111 form with you when visiting European resorts but although this will ensure you get medical attention it will not meet the costs of a helicopter or getting you back home.

Even the French insurer Carte Neige, widely promoted throughout the country's resorts, can have its limitations. Lift pass offices will often offer a service of adding the insurance when you purchase your ticket. This will usually ensure you are taken off the mountain quickly following an accident, by helicopter if necessary. But Brits have sometimes arrived at French hospitals to be told they don't work with the company.

This is further evidence that appropriate independent advice should be taken which may reveal that you have some cover for your holiday already in place.

For example many household insurance policies cover personal possessions away from the home so baggage cover may not be necessary. Gold cards may offer some protection and even some cover may be available on your private health insurance, but the onus is on you to check.

It's tempting to see winter sports insurance as something like car insurance - you know you should have it, but you don't think you'll ever need it and so you don't pay much attention to it.

This is the start of your first big mistake. There are many different companies offering you insurance and some of the policies can, on the face of it, look very attractive, but closer research can be both disturbing and revealing.

Some insurers, for example, do not include off piste cover. Now you may say 'I only cruise the blues so I don't need off piste'. But sometimes you may not have a choice especially during times of poor visibility. There are files full of stories of people who fell and injured themselves after finding themselves in the wrong terrain. Claiming "I thought I was on the easy run back to the village but got lost" is not accepted as an excuse when it comes to paying the bill.

Insurance packages should cover at least £2m of medical expenses, according to the Consumers Association, repatriation, liability cover of at least £1m, plus missed or delayed departure and loss of ski pass.

Many policies appear at face value to be similar but the small print and exclusions often differ. Other activities such as heliskiing, racing, snowmobiling are generally not covered on the standard policy so specialist guidance is recommended.

Robert Atlee of Manchester lost an argument with a tree in Breckenridge last season which resulted in a £40,000 total bill. Without the right insurance he would have had to sell or remortgaged his house. But the largest bill I have come across was £395,000 - does anybody know of a higher one?

© The Skier & Snowboarder Magazine, November/December 1999

Don’t bump into a French Skier!

SKIERS without insurance face a risk that can be as financially ruinous as medical bills–personal injury claims says Lynne Bateson.

In the US, courts have long made big awards to anyone making such claims. Now the practice has reached European slopes.

Travel insurer Home & Overseas, which provides many skiing policies sold by the Halifax, NatWest and Woolwich expects more claims arising from litigation.

While legal action is still rare when it happens it can be frightening. Claims of between £7,000 and £15,000 are average.

Home & Overseas business manager Pippa Highfield says: 'You may have to meet victims' immediate medical bills if they are uninsured, you may also have to compensate them for loss of earnings and long-term psychological damage.'

Who you bump into can impact on your chances of being taken to court. French or Austrian skiers are more likely I to press a claim than the Swiss.

Ms Highfield adds: 'The more expensive a country's medical treatment, the more likely you are to face action by an injured resident.'

And you can also end up in court for damaging property

Most skiing policies give up to £2 million of liability cover and usually give between £10,000 and £50,000 of expenses. They will also pay to pursue claims with a reasonable chance of success.

The risk of hurting yourself is high.  One in 20 people made a medical claim on their policy last year. Numbers will rise as the sport's popularity makes the slopes more crowded.

Treatment for a sprained ankle could cost £500 and a broken leg £25,000 in the U.S.

Britons in Europe must not have a false sense of security from the E111 reciprocal health care scheme. Treatment abroad is not equivalent. Policies usually pay medical bills of up to £10 million. Better ones also cover ski equipment and inability to ski due to the weather.

Bills often mount before reaching a doctor. A ride on the rescue sled can cost £300. Being airlifted in Switzerland can set you back nearly £1,000.

Those with annual travel insurance may not need a separate policy. Indeed, if you take more than one holiday a year, they can be good value. Many annual policies cover ski trips, but check the limit on the number of days and trips.

Buy cover soon after booking your break–one in five claims is for cancellation. Some travel agents include free policies as part of a package deal. Cover is usually adequate, but read the policy and don't expect many frills.

Check for any exclusions such as off-piste skiing and snowboarding and the definition of family in family cover. Direct Travel and Primary Direct are among the insurers with the widest definition. Their policies include children aged up to 23 if in full-time education.

Ask if piste-closure payouts are for too much as well as too little snow and if there are any subsistence payments should you be unable to leave the resort because of an avalanche.

© Daily Mail, Wednesday October 27, 1999

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