Do YOU have the right travel insurance for your ski holiday?

If you are going on a ski holiday for the first time then this information is important to know! I’m sure you are fully aware that you need to have travel insurance for your holiday – however standard travel insurance will not cover you if you hurt yourself out on the slopes!  The cost of piste rescue if you injure yourself can be significant.  This varies depending on where the accident occurs.  If you’re high up on the mountain, you may need a helicopter ambulance, which will almost certainly break the bank!  So – unfortunately insurance which includes winter sports cover is a must. 

Skiing and snowboarding has a high risk of injury – for beginners while they are learning, as well as the more advanced skiers and boarders who tend to take more risk with their speed and where they go.  That’s part and parcel of a ski holiday!  However, even if you say you are just going to potter around, from personal experience of our own team here at Ski Amis, injuries can happen in the most stupid of circumstances when there is ice and snow around.

We love skiing and we’re sure you will too – if you don’t know that already!  But insurance companies aren’t as affectionate towards it.  To them, a it’s is high risk to insure people to hurl down a mountain at significant speeds with two stabbing objects in their hands and their feet attached to two slicing machines, or one, if you’re a boarder.  And, on top of that, you’re not alone out there!  Even if YOU are an expert and are very careful, you can never control what the other people on the pistes are doing.

What happens if I have an accident on the piste during my ski holiday?

The piste security patrols in France are highly skilled and vigilant.  They keep a constant watch over the skiers and boarders and will usually appear out of nowhere very soon after an accident occurs.  It is normally wise not to ski alone.  If something happens you can send a member of your group to the bottom of the piste because the emergency services are at every lift station.  The paramedics and piste security will assess the situation and arrange to lift the injured person from the piste – and HOWEVER this happens, it isn’t fun! 

If you are on an easy piste, and relatively close to the resort, they will strap you into a stretcher on a sled.  They will seal you inside a cocoon which is similar to a small life-raft.  The sled is attached to two poles and one of the piste security staff will ski back down the mountain, pulling you behind him/her.  Believe me, you feel all the bumps in the piste on the way down!  If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident in a remote location, it will be necessary for a helicopter recovery.  While this may be an exciting experience, it will be VERY expensive.  Somewhere in between, the medics also rescue people using the piste machines.

How does the medical system work in France?

Once at the resort centre, they take you automatically to the nearest emergency medical centre.  They will assess you and carry out the initial treatment.  For minor injuries, you will receive treatment there and discharged.  However, for more serious issues, you may need transport to a specialist hospital in the valley.

There is no NHS in France.  The locals all have an insurance which provides for part of their medical costs by the government and they pay for top-up insurances to cover the remainder.  However, these also do not cover piste recovery and accident, so they also need to have travel insurance.  At each stage, you will have to make payment.  For the piste rescue, for the ambulance, for the emergency medical centre, at the hospital, for x-rays, for medicines – everything has to be paid for.  For the major issues – for example if you need surgery in hospital – your insurance company will normally provide a guarantee to cover the costs directly.  However,  you will still need to pay the incidental costs such as medicines.  And – of course – if you HAVE no proper travel insurance which covers your ski holiday and winter sports, you will have to pay for all of it.

How much does the medical bill come to?

Rescue teams and hospital stays can build up very big bills, very quickly!  These vary depending on whether you are taken to a private medical centre or a general one – and the piste recovery charges also vary by resort.  However, to give you some idea below are some average costs.

  • Rescue sledge could cost around £200
  • An ambulance in Europe will cost up to £500
  • A short helicopter air lift starts at £2,000
  • One night stay in European hospital can cost £1,000 with an intensive care night roughly costing £1,500
  • Medicines and crutches or straps could cost you several hundreds of pounds
  • Repatriation costs to the UK could cost around £4,000 in normal circumstances or around (brace yourself!) £23,000 if you need transport home on a stretcher

Holding an EHIC card does not mean you can skip out on purchasing travel insurance! The EHIC will allow you to reclaim part of the costs (usually 80%) once you get back home.  However, you have to lay out the money in the first place!  It also only covers the medical costs of doctors and hospitals, and not the cost of being rescued from the piste or repatriated.

And travel insurance is NOT just to cover accidents and injuries ….

Apart from accidents and injuries on the piste, there are all sorts of other things which can happen when you are on a ski holiday.  For a start, you need to think about your travel arrangements.  What happens if your flight is cancelled or significantly delayed?  Depending on how you have planned your airport transfer, you may well have to purchase a new one! 

Flights and transfers …

Some transfer companies have a policy on waiting for delayed flights – Ski Amis, for example, guarantee to wait for up to two hours in the case of delays and can also normally manage to schedule you onto another minibus later in the day without any extra cost.  However, many private transfer companies will either not wait for you for very long at all.  They may also charge you a lot of money for the waiting times of their drivers.  If you’ve booked a scheduled coach service, then you may well find you are simply too late and there are no more buses that day.  A taxi from Geneva to the ski resort is likely to set you back around £350-£400 for a one way journey.

Driving … and others risks …

If you are driving, have you considered who will drive your car home at the end of the ski holiday if you are injured or taken ill?  What if you have your equipment stolen while you are having lunch in a piste restaurant?  Or, you are mugged at the airport by a pick-pocket and lose your cash and your passport?

Pay close attention to the detail …

There are many ways of finding travel insurance on the internet.  Many of the policies on offer appear to be good value for money.  You may also already have winter sports cover for free with travel insurance provided on your bank account or credit card.  However, you need to think about all the details of your holiday and make sure you have the right cover and compare different offers.

What should I be thinking about when I look at travel insurance conditions?

Here are some pointers for things to consider but this is not an exhaustive list.  It is completely up to you to decide what you need, and the level of cover you need.  We are not qualified to advise you on that and can only point you in the right direction! 

  • In the event of an injury or being unable to ski, does your insurance cover the cost of your ski pack (ski pass, equipment and lessons)?  Once you have started to use these in resort, you can’t get a refund.  The suppliers do not accept cancellations during the holiday. 
  • In the event of a flight delay, will your insurance cover the various elements of your travel arrangements? For example, the cost of another connecting flight or the additional cost of a transfer due to significant delays?
  • In the event of a missed flight due to weather or unforeseen traffic conditions which delay the transfer, does your insurance policy cover the cost of booking a replacement flight?
  • Does your insurance company have direct settlement arrangements with the hospital and piste rescue services?  Or do you have to settle the bills yourself and claim back? Piste rescue can be very expensive if it is from a remote location.  Also, dealing with hospital administration can be difficult.
  • Does your insurance cover off-piste skiing?
  • Does your insurance cover use of snow parks? Some policies exclude this as “ski acrobatics”!
  • Does your insurance cover damage or theft of rented ski equipment? The ski shops can provide some limited cover on request but this may exclude certain top levels of skis.
  • Does your insurance cover your deposit in the event of redundancy? In today’s economic climate many people are delaying booking their ski holiday as they are concerned about their job security.  However, most good policies should insure you against this.
  • Is the policy you are purchasing valid in the country you are going to?
  • How much is the maximum medical cover? Some skiing insurance only covers up to £4 million.  Others which are only fractionally more expensive can cover up to £15 million. Make sure you are getting the best deal and cover!
  • Does your travel insurance stipulate compulsory use of helmets? If they require this and you don’t wear a helmet, your insurance will be invalidated.

In our experience, some insurance companies use whatever means they can to avoid paying out claims.  It pays to work with a reputable company, and to make sure there are no catch clauses in the policy.  Of course, it’s all about their risk management!  The usual adage normally applies … you get what you pay for – so if the policy looks cheap, you should question why that is.

Last but no least …. Have you thought about Third Party Liability?

First time skier?  Or maybe a bit of a daredevil?  Well, the mountains can get pretty hectic.  If you forget to look up the piste before setting off, a skier may hit you at high speeds causing them a lot of damage.  In the case of any accident, there is usually somebody at fault.  If that happens to be you, even if it was not malicious, the victim can hold you legally responsible for damage to his/her property and injuries.  Make sure you check that this is included as a claim from someone else is not what you need on holiday!

So where can I find the right travel insurance for my ski holiday?

Here are Ski Amis we do not provide travel insurance ourselves.  The FSA regulate the sale of insurance and we leave that to the specialists in their fields!  However, we did done some extensive research of the different policies on the market.  It was surprising to find how few companies actually covered all the needs we have mentioned above in our list! 

We discussed the different issues with a number of insurers and have negotiated terms with MPI Brokers to provide a range of policies which can be adapted to your needs.  Depending on your travel arrangements and personal situation, you can choose the level which is right for you.  If you click on their name, this will take you to the special introduction page on their site to ask for a quote – we don’t get involved in this at all so MPI will deal directly with you.

The other options you may like to look at include:

  • Check the travel insurance provided by your bank or credit card to see if you already have winter sports cover.  You may also be able to add it on at a low cost.  Make sure you check the policy conditions though to ensure it covers what you need.
  • If you already have a very good policy covering all your risk except for the piste rescue, you might like to consider adding Carre Neige to your lift pass.  We don’t add this for you automatically but can do this on request at the cost of 2.80 euros per person per day.  This is a very basic level of insurance intended to cover the piste rescue (it’s the one the locals use to top up their medical insurance).  Make sure you read their terms and conditions to ensure you don’t have any gaps in your cover though.
  • Search the internet for winter sports travel insurance for your ski holiday.  You will find lots of offers and as long as you are clear in your mind what cover YOU need.  Check the policies on offer, you may be able to find a good deal.

Get insured!

Obviously, we all have our fingers crossed that your insurance never has to come into play!  We want to provide an unforgettable ski holiday experience because of the wonderful time you have in our chalets!  We don’t want you to remember your holiday because of your injuries and medical bills!

Be safe, careful and aware when on the slopes and make sure you have the all-important cover!

Happy, safe skiing!

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