This is written by your intrepid foreign correspondent according to his best understanding but he is not qualified in any way and this shouldn’t be seen as advice.

Do your own research, read the T&C’s and satisfy yourself that the policy you buy is right for you.

Even if you’ve got all this insurance thing down its worth a read, esp “How will it work if I have an accident?” and “What to carry with you” - might have some useful tips you’ve not thought about before.

Why can’t you just tell me which one to get?

Cos it’s not that simple - In fact it’s a bloody nightmare!

So I’ll tell you some of the things to look out for but you’ve got to do the work yourself. Sucks right?

Remember - there is absolutely ZERO point in getting cheap insurance that will not pay out if you should ever need it.

In part II (if I get around to it) I will list a few insurance companies that people have used before - but they are not a recommendation and you must still look to see if they are right for you.

What is Insurance for?

Don’t laugh, it’s often misunderstood… Insurance is intended to help cover financial loss arising from unforeseen circumstances.

(Unforeseen is a key part here - hence the importance of having it in place early see “When do I buy” and disclosing pre-existing health conditions).

It’s not a magical money tree and on average you will pay more than you ever get back - its intended to cover catastrophic financial losses like crashing your car into a rare Ferrari driven by some Nuns taking orphans to school. Paying for accidental damage cover for that £10 kids toy from Argos is pointless.

Everyone’s definition of ‘catastrophic’ is different but in travel insurance terms you’re talking about health costs (as we’ve all heard the horror stories about £50k medical/repatriation bills) and 3rd party liability (crashing into someone). Less catastrophic but still very owie is the cost of missing out on a whole holiday due to whatever circumstances.

Less useful are things like gear being stolen (which if you look at the T&C of most insurance has to be stolen off your feet whilst you’re riding to be covered).

Almost totally useless IMHO are things like Piste Closure which cover you a small daily allowance to travel to an alternative area if every lift is closed (assuming the resort is at the min height level and your trip inside the dates covered). Ask yourself under what conditions would an entire areas lifts be closed yet you can still reasonably travel to a close unaffected area? Apart from a few occasions in 2018 / 2019 I can’t ever remember an entire area being closed (I’ve seen one open just ½ a lift for example when the weather was utterly brutal) and even in those snowmageddon years it’s not like you’re going to jump in a bus, if its even running, and battle for hours through 1m snowdrifts to go somewhere else.

I am not saying that you discount any insurance policies with these ‘features’ or they can never be claimed on - just make sure you concentrate on what’s more important, and that’s making sure you’re covered for medical expenses for the activities you will be doing.

What about EHIC?

European Health Insurance Card (used to be called E111) gives you access to emergency healthcare under the same terms as the locals - which is not necessarily free.

Obviously it only covers EU member states. Also obviously no one knows what will happen after Brexit.

It doesn’t cover private clinics (which are common in ski areas which have a ready supply of patients you see) or other things like rescue / repatriation / theft / loss / curtailment / cancellation so it isn’t a replacement for Travel Insurance.

That being said you should also have this - some Travel Insurance companies insist on it as part of their T&C, some reduce or eliminate excesses if you have an EHIC.

It’s free so get one now if you haven’t already.

What about Carre Niege?

Carre Niege is an extra Insurance in France that is offered with a lift pass or online for a fairly modest €3 a day (or the annual Carte Niege).

It isn’t a replacement for full Travel Insurance as it doesn’t cover things like supplier failure / theft / repatriation. Its main benefit is that it covers the blood wagons down from the slopes and ambulances to clinics without any upfront payment.

My own personal view (see disclaimer above) is that it’s not necessary as you need full travel insurance anyway and should still carry a credit card for upfront payment of any other fees so why not put this money into better main travel insurance? Plenty of people disagree with me though - it’s not a lot of money & it is convenient so make your own decision.

OK, so what do I look for when buying Snowsports Travel Insurance?

First think about some of the common questions of what you might need that are key differentiators. (I’ve not included things like Personal Liability as they are all pretty much a muchness.)

  • Annual or Single trip? (Annual often only slightly more expensive than single trip)
  • Area - Europe / Worldwide (Worldwide inc USA/Canada are often much more expensive due to health care costs. If you’re going for a annual one have you any other trips planned in the year, snowboarding or otherwise?)
  • Off Piste (with a guide or without a guide - harder to get)
  • Back country / ski-touring - if you’re doing this you probably know what you are doing, but in the Insurance company T&C’s its often not clear when ‘off piste’ starts and back-country begins, e.g. where exactly in Europe is a ski-area boundary?
  • Park riding (often not called this, think about terms like Freestyle / Terrain Park / Boarder Cross / Jumps / Fun Park)
  • What about other trips and holidays and activities you might do? Spot of Heli Sking? Bungee Jump? Mountain Biking? Golf? (GET OUT!)
  • How many days winter sports holiday are you going to be taking (work out both the longest single trip and the total number of days) and see “What about Long Stays?”
  • Supplier Failure - how important is this for you as many don’t cover this. ABTA / ATOL only covers package holidays so if its an independant trip.
  • Cancellation / Missed Departure & Delays (like problems at the airport) / Curtailment (having to cut short)

Now you know what you want get on a PC.

  • Get a shortlist of prices paying attention to limits and excesses of key categories.
  • Find the policy document / T&C’s and read the small print (use the search feature to help find specifics)
  • You can try phoning the companies up and asking but some won’t give advice (opens them up to legal ramifications) and if they do and tell you something that is different to whats printed in black and white you will still have a hell of a job arguing it.

What about pre-existing health conditions?

All insurance companies require you to tell them about pre-existing health conditions that may affect how risky your cover is and how much they will charge (if they even want to cover you at all).

The exact threshold of what you need to tell them varies and there are plenty of horror stories of companies denying claims for what seems like unrelated conditions (though the odbusman may agree it’s unrelated if you take it all the way to a formal complaint) - so read those damn T&C’s again and if in doubt ‘fess up.

Good luck!

When to buy it?

As soon as you book a trip! Don’t leave it as a job for later as if anything happens in the mean time then you’re buggered - its for UNFORSEEN things right!

Generally (though they can all be different, get scouring that small print again!)

  • For single trip insurance then you will be covered from the day you buy the insurance, not the date that it runs, for things that may stop you taking the holiday (health / injury / supplier failure etc).
  • For annual multi-trip insurance you’re only covered from the start date to the end date - so make the start date the day you buy it (or the day your last annual policy expires).

Also - if you forget and try to buy it when you’re already away most companies won’t touch you so buy it on the day you book the holiday.

What about insurance through my bank account?

A lot of ‘premium’ bank accounts have inclusive travel insurance. Many require you to pay a supplement for hazardous activities and winter sports and many will be more restrictive than specialist policies (e.g. no off piste without a guide or limit on the number of days.).

It might well work for you but check the terms.

What about long stays?

For annual policies

  • Must insurance policies restrict the total number of days of any single trip, typically 21 or 30.
  • Most also impose separate limits on the number of ‘winter sports’ days such as 14 or 21 days in the policy (and less common is something like 21 days in any one trip but unlimited for the total number).

It can’t be a surprise that this is a key restriction - the more days you spend on the snow the more likely you are to break yourself and therefore the higher the cost.

“Oh I’ll just tell em I only flew out a few days ago, how will they know?” It won’t work. For anything but a trivial claim they will ask for proof (e.g. receipts for out and return travel).

If you’re staying or working an entire season search for “Seasonaires insurance” and beware some policies will be invalidated if you’re working abroard, esp if you’re working ‘on the mountain’. Your employer should be able to advise.

Helmets, Booze and Jerry of the Day

All Insurance companies will refuse to pay out if you’ve been reckless. Exactly what constitutes reckless is a grey area but if you start hucking backflips off avi barriers above a closed piste after a heavy session at the Folie Douche then that word might apply.

Some companies are starting to mandate the use of helmets. If you prefer to slide naked then check the T&C’s.

How will it work if I have an accident?

  • You will say owie a lot and maybe ask for your mummy.

  • If injury is minor you may be able to sort yourself out to get to a clinic, otherwise :-

    • Depending on injury and location ski-patrol will ferry you to an ambulance at the bottom of the hill using ski-do’s / sledges / helicopter or a dustpan and brush. In France they will charge you for this. (Credit Card). In other countries it should be included in your lift pass cost (baring difficult off piste rescue or something involving helicopters and the A-Team).

    • The Ambulance will ferry you to the nearest clinic (which is often a private clinic but can be a public hospital). Sometimes you can ask to go to one or the other - but often it won’t be a choice especially if the injury is severe. They will likely charge you for this (Credit Card!).

  • A private clinic will sort you out but will probably require up front payment (Credit Card!)

  • A public hospital will sort you out and probably not require up front payment but will need your EHIC / Insurance details.

  • Afterwards there may be all sorts of additional costs. Some of which you’re likely to need to pay up front like a taxi back to your apartment (Credit Card!) and some of which the insurance company may organise themselves (like a flight with extra leg room for that broken leg).

  • You should phone your Insurance Companies 24hr emergency line as soon as is practical. In more severe or lengthy cases they will often arrange payment directly between insurance companies and hospitals/clinics but don’t rely on this (Guess what I am going to say here! Yup… Credit Card)

  • If its a bigger injury and you’re going to be in hospital for a while your mates (you haven’t pissed them off right?) can provide invaluable help by getting you a change of clothes and phone charger and taking your ski-stuff back to the accommodation. Maybe packing for you so a courier can take your stuff back to the UK (helps if you don’t unpack your stuff like you’ve used explosives). Get them to keep any receipts for taxi etc.

  • Keep all the paperwork you can and get organised from the get go as when you claim you will need to provide a metric fuck-ton of documentation and it will likely take a few months to get your cash back.

Credit Card?

Because you will likely have to pay up front for rescue/treatment and claim back from your insurance company later (which can take months) then it’s really handy to have a credit card with a good limit on it.

Most anyone can get one, just use it wisely. No you don’t need that new board…. No not the boots either. No…No… put it back in your wallet. ;)

If you don’t have one or a way of paying up front you’re not going to be left to rot as they can bill you at home (though minor injuries may not be treated at private clinics) but its going to entail a lot more hassle and possibly the ransom of your snowboard (in France).

What to carry on slopes with you?

See above - How will it work if I have an accident?

When I am snowboarding I have in my lift pass pocket (which only has these things so they will never be left behind or lost).

  • Lift Pass (obviously!)
  • Credit Card (see above)
  • Small bit of paper with details of my Insurance Company (emergency telephone number + policy number), next of kin, EHIC number etc. Don’t print on an inkjet or write in felt tip like an 8 yr old as it will be unreadable if it gets wet.

Sure you can keep all these details on your phone but paper doesn’t get broken or run out of juice. Paper rocks!

More information Money Saving Expert - Travel Insurance


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