Buyer’s guide to … winter sports insurance

A hefty medical bill for an accident on the slopes is the last thing you need, so consult our guide to buying winter sports cover

Winter sports trips are expensive enough, so the last thing you need is a hefty medical bill on top should you get injured on the slopes.

Given the relatively low cost of winter sports insurance – we found policies from £10 upwards – compared to the potentially massive cost of funding treatment for a serious ski or snowboarding injury, it is a false economy to hit the slopes without adequate cover.

Insurer Columbus Direct paid out £12,000 for one recent claim from a skier who smashed her pelvis, had to be rescued by helicopter, spent several days in a French hospital and was then repatriated to the UK in a specially chartered plane.

The right cover

Comparison website TravelSupermarket recommends you look for minimum cover of £2m medical expenses and £1m personal liability, which is required if you cause injury to someone else and they sue you. Medical cover should include rescue from the mountainside and repatriation to the UK.

Your policy should also provide travel insurance staples such as enough cancellation cover for the total cost of your holiday, plus sufficient baggage cover to protect your possessions.

Then look out for helpful extras such as cover for lost, stolen or unused ski passes and cover to transfer you to other slopes if your piste is closed because of an avalanche or lack of snow.

Get your Ehic

When travelling to Europe, always take a European Health Insurance Card with you, which entitles you to state-provided healthcare and is available free at (but don’t fall for one of the fake charging sites). However, it won’t pay to get you down off a mountain, nor will it necessarily pay for all transport and medical treatment you may need.

Does your bank cover you?

If you already have an annual travel insurance policy or “free” cover with your bank account, check that it includes winter sports cover at a level sufficient for your needs. If not, compare the cost of buying a single-trip winter sports policy with paying a top-up premium on your existing annual cover. The former may well be cheaper.

Look at the small print

Don’t assume that more expensive means more extensive cover. Check the small print, starting with the “summary of cover”, and if you are unsure about anything call and ask the insurer. Also make sure your chosen policy will cover you if you plan on going “off piste” or taking part in more extreme activities such as tobogganing, ice skating or heli-sking, or if you want loss, theft or damage cover for expensive sports kit.

Also check the age limits – many standard travel policies charge more to insure people over 65, or do not insure them at all. If you have any medical conditions, tell the insurer. If you fail to declare a pre-existing condition and later make a related claim, your policy will not cover you and you will have to foot the bills yourself. Specialist winter sports insurers such as Columbus Direct will cover skiers and snowboarders up to age 85 and offer pre-existing medical condition cover.

The cheapest policies

For Europe they start at just a tenner

Moneysupermarket’s cheapest quote for an individual taking a week’s winter sports trip to Europe in February is £10.21 for a single trip policy from Traveltime Insurance. This comes with £5m medical cover and £1,500 cancellation cover, but the excesses are on the hefty side at £175 for medical, £125 for cancellations and £100 on baggage claims. For just a few pounds more, you can cut the excess using single trip policies with comparable cover benefits from Alpha Travel Insurance, with the choice of a £11.50 premium for an excess of £100, £13.50 for £60, and £17.50 for £50. The cheapest option if you want no excess at all is a single trip Premier policy costing £29.06 from Flexicover Travel Insurance, which comes with £2,000 cancellation cover.

North America starts at £30

For an individual taking a fortnight’s trip to the slopes of Aspen, Colorado, the cheapest quotes again come from Alpha Travel Insurance, whose single trip policies covering the US provide £10m medical expenses and £1,500 cancellation cover. A policy with a £100 excess costs £30.72; £60 costs £34.13; and £50 costs £35.84. If you want higher cancellation cover, for the same trip you could pay £65 for a policy from providing £3,000 cover and a £100 excess, or £87.90 for £5,000 cancellation cover and a zero excess from Planet Earth.

Know the risks

Insurers can withdraw cover if you have an accident when failing to follow local rules or you ski against local authoritative advice, so always abide by rules on, for example, wearing helmets and the dos and don’ts for pistes and snowboarding parks. Be aware, too, that insurers can refuse to pay out if you are found to be “under the influence of alcohol” and have an accident. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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