Before you buy
Before taking out a winter sports insurance policy, it is important to establish what the insurance company defines as 'winter sports'.
Skiing and snowboarding are usually the main activities which are covered under such policies, as they are the most popular. However, do not make the mistake of assuming anything. Certain policies may not include snowboarding, or will limit it to on-piste snowboarding, so you should be aware of exactly what the rules are.
On-piste and off-piste activities are usually covered, but be sure to check the exact policy details. Some insurance providers will specify that you need to be accompanied by a guide if partaking in any off-piste activities. Others will state that they will not cover you for any accident occurring in an area deemed unsafe by the ski centre.
Winter sports cover can come in a variety of formats. Some insurance policies will allow you to add it as an optional extra after you have been given a quote for a more general policy, which will raise the premium accordingly.
Other websites will direct you to a special winter sports cover section, where you can then read about the levels of cover and get a quote. However, these are usually just the standard single-trip policies with extra cover for winter sports added on.
Some backpacker and single-trip insurance policies will offer a range of activities within the cover. However, it is very rare to find winter sports cover included within these, and you will nearly always need to pay extra for a higher level of cover.
Winter sports policies are also offered in both single-trip and multi-trip formats, and most companies will provide the option of choosing between these.
Other activities that can be included under winter sports cover are cross-country skiing, bob-sleighing, ice-hockey, tobogganing and many others. Although some of these may seem like harmless activities, again it is crucial to check exactly what is covered by your policy before taking part in anything. What may seem safe to you, and therefore an obvious inclusion in the policy, can easily be left out by the insurance provider.
Most winter sports will involve at least some expensive equipment, and therefore equipment cover for lost and stolen items is a factor that should certainly be considered.
However, different rules govern what is covered and what is not, and it is again essential to find out exactly what you can make a claim on. As an example, some companies will only insure
you for your own equipment, whereas others will also cover you for rented equipment.
When taking out this policy, make sure that you are fully aware what 'theft' is defined as, as many companies will not cover you if items are stolen through negligence on your own part. If you leave your skis outside a bar whilst going for a drink, which is a common practice, this can be considered carelessness on your part and may not be covered.
Ski lift pass
It is quite common to lose ski-lift passes whilst on holiday. Most insurance companies do include cover for this, sometimes within a ski-pack cover, but the rules vary. Whereas some insurers will cover you for loss of the ski-lift pass, others will only cover you for a refund if you cannot use it due to illness or injury.
One problem specific to winter sports holidays is that of not being able to partake in your chosen activity. This could be due to a range of problems, such as an avalanche at the resort, dangerous winds, the closure of the piste or even a lack of snow on the slopes, all of which can severely effect the holiday.
Some companies offer a 'no snow' cover for such an eventuality, but make sure that you are aware of exactly what this entails, as it usually includes the cover paying out a certain amount every day up to a specific level, rather than a refund of the entire trip.
The age of the traveller will also be of importance. Although many insurance providers offer cover for adults up to 79, some restrict their cover to those under 40. If over the specified age limit, then it is sometimes possible to phone the company to arrange a special price.
The very nature of skiing or snowboarding means that there is a greater risk of injury and serious problems. For this reason, it is worth looking into the 'Search and Rescue' cover of the insurance, as it is more likely that this will be needed in mountainous areas than on a standard holiday.
Overall, it is essential that you are covered for every eventuality. By all means shop around for a good deal, but at the end of the day you should be adequately covered, and should not buy a cheaper policy that does not cover you effectively.