Skiing, scuba diving and white water rafting are perilous activities at the best of times. Get your adrenaline buzz without adequate insurance cover and you really are asking for trouble.
Amazingly, one in 20 skiers takes to the slopes without any insurance whatsoever, according to research by Primary Direct.
But even if you have taken precautions and bought travel cover, can you be certain that if the worst comes to the worst, your wallet won’t be bruised alongside your ego?
If you are partaking of a hazardous sport in an EU country, you should, in theory, qualify for free medical treatment under a reciprocal health agreement with the UK.
But these agreements are shaky and cannot always be relied upon. And don’t forget that some popular European winter sports destinations, such as Switzerland and the former Yugoslavia, are not in the EU. Breaking a leg here can easily set you back Pounds 2,800.
Neither, of course, are the likes of the US and Canada, where medical expenses are even higher, around Pounds 4,500 for a simple leg fracture.
It’s not something to think about while hurtling down the slopes, but a death abroad can easily burden your family with a Pounds 10,000 bill just to repatriate your body. But simply buying a travel policy off the shelf is not a viable option either.
As Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, says: ‘Your standard travel policy is not normally designed to cover you for hazardous sports.’
Julian Hicks, director of Sports Cover Direct, a specialist intermediary which arranges cover directly with Lloyd’s brokers, adds: ‘A lot of annual policies, particularly those that people get free with credit cards, exclude all hazardous sports.
‘In addition, many annual policies do not include liability cover. This is an issue if you are travelling at speed, where you could hit someone else or damage their property.’
If you are heading for the slopes, you must ensure that winter sports cover is included. However, is this enough? Questions to consider include:
- Is off-piste skiing included? Many policies stipulate you must be with a ski guide to be covered.
- How about heli-skiing? This activity, where a helicopter whisks you up slopes well away from the tourist runs, is growing in popularity, but is rarely covered on standard policies.
- And snowmobiling? A popular apres-ski ‘add on’, which again is often excluded.
- What happens if your holiday is ruined by the weather? Avalanche closure is another handy clause to consider.
- How much equipment cover is included? Expensive skis and specialist clothing can easily exceed the maximum liability for luggage and possessions, typically Pounds 1,000 to Pounds 1,500.
Vanessa Haines, spokeswoman for The Ski Club of Great Britain, says: ‘You do hear some nightmare stories. Some of these concern carte neige, insurance you can buy on the slopes. This often doesn’t cover you if you have a really expensive injury. There is a cap on the cover available.’
However, skiing is far from being the most dangerous sport, or most costly to cover.
Sports Cover Direct has its own danger scale. Category one includes activities usually covered by standard travel policies, such as trekking, cricket, windsurfing and mountain biking.
Category two features skiing, rock climbing and football. If you’re into rugby, mountaineering or hunting, then it’s category three for you. Whilst those into paragliding, hang-gliding or parachuting can rest assured that their sports are considered the most dangerous of all.
Even a specialist such as Sports Direct may not cover all your needs.
Its gold cover insures Pounds 600 worth of equipment, on top of the standard Pounds 1,500 baggage limit.
If you want to insure that costly scuba diving gear or mountain bike you will need a top-up from elsewhere, although your standard home contents policy may help. Adventure insurer Harrison-Beaumont specialises in this area.
Of course, adding these clauses will bump up the cost of your insurance.
Consequently, the cost of cover for a winter sports holiday tends to be at least twice as high as for a traditional summer break.
But you can cut this by shopping around. Although many travel agents will try and sell you their cover on top of your holiday, it is now illegal for them to insist on you taking it.
Prices for standard winter sports cover for a single person for a week vary widely. Asda For Travel quote Pounds 24.95, Columbus Direct Pounds 25, Insurancewide.com Pounds 27.16 while the AA quoted a massive Pounds 42.16.
Telephone broker Primary Direct is another to consider. Its policies range from Pounds 23 for 10 days in Europe for a single adult, to Pounds 122 for a family spending 10 days in the US.
The Ski Club of GB offers its own policies. As you might expect, its insurance covers off-piste skiing, heli-skiing and snowmobiling. But it also has something to offer non-skiing hedonists, with water skiing, windsurfing and scuba diving included as standard.
Its policies for non-members start at Pounds 29.90 for a single person spending up to six days in Europe. But if you enjoy more than one activity holiday a year, annual insurance is often a better bet.
Ski Club’s own annual multi-trip policy costs Pounds 49.50 per person for up to 17 days winter sports in Europe, or Pounds 76 for the same cover worldwide.
Sports Cover Direct’s cheapest level of annual European cover ranges from Pounds 49.71 for category one to Pounds 180.77 for category four.
Leisure Care Insurance (intermediary) 01793 750150.
- Steve Johnson is deputy news editor of FTyourmoney.com.
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