Buying ski insurance has got to be the least fascinating part of doing a season – forking out yet more money (quite a lot of money), and on something very boring and which obviously you’ll never need (fingers crossed).

So why not just roll up at the lift office and buy Carte Neige for a mere 35€? Covers everything including off-piste doesn’t it?

Well, not exactly! Season worker, Christa Jackson, brings us up to date with the real story regarding insurance cover and Carte Neige:

‘Over the past few seasons I’ve seen several people come unstuck with Carte Neige, mainly because they bought it because it was cheap and didn’t understand what it covers and how it works. So here’s a basic users’ guide…’

What it covers:
Carte Neige covers you for transport off the mountain, either on or off piste. If you show your card to the pisteurs they will take the policy number and their costs will be met by the insurance – you have no further involvement.

They then drop you off at the doctor’s surgery in resort. At this point, your Carte Neige is of no help to you at all. Carte Neige is not a full insurance policy – it’s a top-up cover designed to act in tandem with your state or private health insurance. It will reimburse only those costs not covered by your main insurance.

How it works:
The treating doctor will want to see your NHS documents (E101/E111) or a valid private insurance. He will probably charge you for treatment, and you will then have to claim this amount back from the DSS or your insurance company. If you need to go to hospital, they will also need to see your documents, though hospitals will usually reclaim costs themselves rather than asking you for payment. However, your NHS cover doesn’t always entitle you to 100% of the cost of treatment, so if that’s what you’re using, you might still have to stump up a bit of cash.

This is where your Carte Neige comes in again – it will cover anything the NHS doesn’t, and any excess if you’re using private health insurance. But remember that they won’t pay until they see receipts for everything you’ve spent, as well as proof of the amount which the NHS or your insurance company has reimbursed. Lots of paperwork! In practice, this means that you could end up out of pocket for several months, since you have to wait until the DSS/insurance company processes your claim before you can send anything to Carte Neige.

What to do when you ski or board into a tree:
Show the pisteurs your Carte Neige – they will then dump you at the medical centre.
Fill in the Carte Neige initial claim form (you will be given one when you buy the card) and send it to their address in Grenoble. You MUST do this within seven days of your accident or your claim will be void.
Give the doctor/hospital your insurance documents, get your treatment etc. Get receipts for everything you have to spend and keep all the documents you get from the doctor/pharmacist. Send a claim off to the DSS/your insurance company.
Once you have been paid, send your claim to Carte Neige along with any outstanding receipts and proof of the amount you have already been reimbursed.

Common pitfalls:

Q: I’ve been off-piste – I’ll use Carte Neige to get off the mountain and then use my company-provided ski insurance.
Watch out! Some employers do not provide insurance which covers you for accidents off-piste, and they certainly won’t cover you for any accidents ‘out of bounds’.

Q: I couldn’t afford wintersports insurance – I’ll use Carte Neige to get off the mountain and then use my health insurance.
A: No you won’t. If your employer hasn’t provided specific wintersports insurance, their policy will exclude injuries suffered while skiing or boarding. Back to the NHS again, I’m afraid. If you’re travelling on your parents’ private policy, you need to check before you go that it covers wintersports.

Q: I didn’t realise I had to get my claim in within seven days:
A: Bummer. That’s just cost you money.

There’s nothing wrong with Carte Neige insurance, but it’s designed only to get you off the mountain and drop you into the local health care system. This is all very well if you’re a part of that system (ie if you have a French social security number), but if you aren’t, then you will have a million forms to fill out, a lot of shouting at jobsworth bureaucrats to do, and possibly some bills to pay. And do you really need all this when you’re in a cast, in pain and having trouble dressing yourself, let alone anything else?

If you’re on a French contract and in the system, by all means go with Carte Neige – it’s universally recognised and the pisteurs are happy to accept it. But if you’re bumming it or working for a UK tour op it’s worth forking out for full insurance – you can then lie on your hospital bed taking morphine and drinking tea while someone else deals with the paperwork.

Make sure you’re covered…

Seasonal Insurance/Gap Year Insurance - Anyone heading out without a job or wanting to top up your employer insurance (make sure you check the details of what is included in any policy offered by your employer), must get seasonal insurance. Ski Insurance have a small price advantage, but you might like the idea of having a DogTag with you at all times as proof of insurance, particularly when travelling on a Gap year.

Annual and Weekly Insurance - Experienced and regular riders should get an Annual Policy, which offers anything from 17 days' ski/board cover a year. Again Annual Insurance has a price advantage, but DogTag looks better off the slopes!

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