Most snow-related sporting activities aren't covered by standard travel insurance which can create the potential double whammy of not getting an insurance payout if you have an accident on holiday, and facing particularly large medical bills.
The combination of skiing injuries often being quite serious, such as a broken bone, and the transportation costs if you have to be rescued by air ambulance or even repatriated that way, can make for some pricy mishaps.
What about my EHIC?
The European Health Insurance Card entitles you to state provided healthcare on the same basis as residents of the EU country that you visit. (It also applies in Switzerland.) You pay in the same way as locals, which usually means free or reduced treatment. However, it does not cover many associated costs, particular transportation or repatriation. This means specialist cover is still advisable, though you may find an insurer offers a lower policy or a lower excess if you have an EHIC, which is a great deal considering it's free to get one.
Why don't standard travel policies cover winter sports?
Its simply a matter of risk. As fun as skiing is, it's a plain fact that you are more likely to have an accident causing injury when swooping downhill at high speed than sunning yourself on the beach.
What activities are covered by winter sports cover?
In most cases you should expect skiing and snowboarding cover. Other activities that may be excluded, require an extra premium, or simply require you to tell the insurer you will be taking part in them, include bobsleighing, glacier trekking, heliskiing (skiing in locations accesible only by helicopter rather than ski lift), ice skating, lugeing (a form of sledging) and riding on snow mobiles.
Are there any other benefits to winter sports cover?
It varies from policy to policy, but in some cases you'll get additional benefits (compared with a standard travel policy) in terms of specifically covering equipment such as skis against theft or loss, even if that equipment would go above the normal limits for an individual's possession. Bear in mind that you will usually still have to pay an excess for making such a claim.
Many policies don't cover skiing off piste (that is, away from recognised and maintained slopes.) You'll also likely find you aren't covered if alcohol plays a role in an accident -- or even if the insurer merely believes its conceivable that it could have played a role.
What other catches should I look out for?
A policy won't necessarily cover you against your holiday being ruined because the piste you visit is closed due of bad weather. Check the small print carefully to see how it deals with lost possessions: misplacing a ski pass can prove extremely expensive if you aren't covered.
What about annual travel policies?
Some annual policies will cover winter sports, though this will usually be an optional extra with an additional premium. As always with an annual policy, you should never make any assumptions and always read the terms and conditions again when planning a new trip abroad.
PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular travel insurance product or provider. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at www.unbiased.co.uk
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