Christmas Ski or Snow-board holiday?

Take proper precautions says AA Travel Insurance

2 December 2009

The winter sports season has got off to a great start with record early snowfalls in some European resorts and with 50cm to 100cm new snowfall expected in the Alps over the next few days says AA Travel Insurance.

But the AA is concerned that an increasing number of Brits are setting off for the slopes without winter sports holiday insurance as people try to squeeze the most out of their income this year.

Britain's biggest ski magazine The Good Ski Guide has already warned that accidents on the piste are increasing, especially among snowboarders while the most common accidents are collisions between skiers and boarders.

Christian Young, director of AA Travel Insurance says: "A fifth of Britons now enjoy winter sports each year and that means the pistes are becoming more crowded. Overcrowding is also tempting people to take risks – such as skiing off-piste, away from the throng, without a guide which obviously can be dangerous.

"But I'm most concerned that according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, up to a third are travelling without insurance that covers the sports they intend to take part in."

John Hill, editor of Good Ski Guide adds: "There has been a steady rise in the number of people choosing skiing and snowboarding holidays and although snowsports travel fell 6 per cent last year because of the weak pound and the economy, bookings this year seem as strong as ever. The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are encouraging people to take to the slopes although the recession could well reduce budgets and lead people to make cuts – such as choosing a less expensive resort or, worse, not bothering to insure themselves."

Fortunately, most collisions result in little more than dented pride and a few bruises. But as Young points out: "The unpalatable reality is skiing and snowboarding brings a much higher than average risk of injury which, without proper cover, could result in a family facing bills amounting to thousands of pounds."

He adds that boarders are more likely to suffer a fracture than skiers – and by far the most common boarding injury is a broken wrist, especially amongst beginners as the natural reaction is to protect a fall by putting out a hand.

Boarding is growing in popularity, making up 18 per cent the market, a growth of 1 per cent year on year. But it's estimated that there are over 95,000 wrist injuries amongst boarders every year," he says.

"A little common-sense goes a long way towards enjoying a happy and trouble-free holiday, whether you're skiing or boarding. Only 10 per cent of snow boarders bother with a wrist guard yet they're not expensive and they can literally save an awful lot of pain – and perhaps an early flight home.

"But you still need the protection of insurance because the unexpected may be just around the next bend."

The reality of claims costs

Treatment for a broken leg in the USA, an increasingly popular winter sports destination, can cost around £10,000 and in Europe around £4,000. Serious claims can be in excess of £15,000 if helicopter recovery and hospital fees are taken into account. And that's quite apart from chartering a flight home if you can't travel on a scheduled flight because of your injuries.

Says Christian Young: "Many people don't realise that collisions on the slopes are dealt with in much the same way as a car accident.

"If a collision is clearly your fault, you could well be held personally liable so insurance is absolutely fundamental. It's the same as with car insurance – it's there to protect others just as much as protecting you."

Travel tips

AA Travel Insurance suggests a few simple points to help make sure you enjoy your holiday – and get home again in one piece:

Read AA European travel advice (includes local rules, snow chains and documents) »

  • Only attempt runs suitable for your ability
  • Take some lessons if you're a beginner or need a refresher after a couple of years' break
  • Pay attention to signs and markers on the slopes
  • Leave plenty of space when overtaking another skier or boarder
  • Only stop at the edge of the piste or where you can easily be seen
  • Ski/snowboard on the marked runs - these are protected from unexpected alpine dangers. Skiing or boarding off-piste may invalidate your travel insurance.
  • Ensure you and your party has a piste map and don't stray from the main areas
  • Don't ski alone – there's safety in numbers
  • Do some exercise and get fit before you go
  • 'Après-ski' is just that: avoid alcohol until you have finished skiing/boarding for the day!

Join the discussion in the AA zone


11 December 2009