Five ski insurance myths

Skiing can be a dangerous business. And yet many people heading off for a holiday on the slopes won't have adequate insurance. That could prove to be a very expensive mistake. Ruth Jackson examines the reasons why, and dispels five of the most common myths about winter sports cover.

Ski season has arrived. Most of us know someone who's come a cropper on a ski slope, yet a million of us will still go skiing or snowboarding this year without adequate insurance. According to the Ski Club of Great Britain, more than half of the people heading for the slopes this winter won't have any travel insurance. And only a quarter of these who are insured will make sure they are covered for winter sports activities.

That could be an expensive mistake. 30% of skiers and snowboarders are likely to make a claim on their insurance during their winter sports 'careers', says Axa Insurance. And those claims aren't small. Evacuation from the slopes, an operation and an air ambulance home from Austria can easily cost £25,000. Yet, comprehensive winter sports insurance for a family of four for a week can cost as little as £50. So why are so many people taking the risk? It may be a result of the many myths surrounding travel insurance. It's time to dispel five of the biggest.

Myth 1: You don't need travel insurance in Europe

Many people believe that they don't need to have travel insurance if they are staying within Europe provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) formerly E111. That is not the case. An EHIC will only cover some of your medical expenses basically, it covers you for state treatment in the country you are in. So, if you are stuck somewhere that provides minimal public health services you will be in trouble. And the chances are that you won't go to a state hospital anyway. "If you are injured on the slopes, resort pisteurs will probably take you straight to a private clinic, where the EHIC care will not cover your medical treatment," says Dr Tim Hammond of medical assistance provider CEGA, in The Daily Telegraph. And your EHIC card won't cover evacuation from the slopes or your transport home.

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Myth 2: Standard travel insurance covers skiing

Most travel insurance policies don't cover skiing or snowboarding as they are considered 'extreme sports'. So check your policy and get them added before your trip. Equally, if you are planning anything particularly adventurous, such as off-piste skiing or heli-skiing, make sure your insurance provider covers it. Even standard ski insurance tends not to cover these riskier snow sports.

Myth 3: Travel insurance covers all ages

So, you've bought your travel insurance and you've checked it covers skiing. But have you checked what age of skier it covers? Despite the fact that many people ski well into old age, many policies don't cover skiers over the age of 60. So make sure you check the small print or call the insurer and ask.

Myth 4: I've got annual insurance so I'm covered

If you have annual travel insurance with a winter sports add-on you are indeed probably covered. But you need to check two things. First, does your policy have a limit on the number of days you can ski a year? Second, does your policy cover you for where you want to ski? These days many of us have free annual travel policies provided by our banks or credit cards. Double check what type of insurance you have. A lot of free policies only cover Europe. So crash into a tree on a slope in Canada and you'll face a very expensive bill.

Myth 5: My travel insurance will cover all my costs

Make sure you check your policy limits before you buy. Medical treatment for ski accidents can be very expensive, so make sure you have sufficient medical expenses cover many will cover you for millions. Also check the cancellation cover ski trips are expensive, a £1,500 fixed payout may not cover all your expenses. And while you are reading the small print, look to see whether you are covered for legal expenses (in case you are involved in an accident with another person and they sue you or you need to sue them), piste closure and any expensive ski gear.

You can shop around for travel insurance at all the big comparison websites such as MoneySupermarket, Compare the Marketand Go Compare. Just remember, if you are in any doubt about what you are covered for, call your insurer and check. It's better to find out you are not and do something about it well before you have an accident.

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Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings accounts and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping, among many other titles both online and offline.