Get Cover for Your Winter Break

Skiers are at risk with no insurance

With perfect snow reported over the European slopes, thousands of families have been heading for European resorts. But, according to new research for AA Travel Insurance, nearly fifth of travellers could come to a sticky and expensive end because they have no cover.

In an AA/Populus* study of 2,000 AA members who are taking a winter holiday, 18% say they don't buy travel insurance. Of those that do, only a third (34%) take the trouble to make sure that the cover is what they are looking for.

Alan Purvis, director of AA Travel Insurance, says that given the scope for serious injury on the slopes, finding that nearly a fifth don't have insurance protection is worrying. "More than a million people go on a snow holiday every winter so potentially, up to 200,000 are uninsured," he says.

Earlier research** for the AA suggested that 11% of travellers believe that the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a substitute for travel insurance.

"Although every European traveller should take the EHIC, in fact it simply entitles UK citizens to the same level of medical care in an EU country that a local resident could expect," Mr Purvis says. "And the level of treatment will vary from country to country.

"The card can't be relied upon to meet all your medical costs. It certainly wouldn't meet the £20 per minute cost of say a helicopter rescue off the mountainside. Add to that emergency treatment at a clinic or hospital – many of which are privately operated – and you could be staring at a bill of at least £7,000.

"That's a very painful cost to swallow quite apart from the pain and inconvenience of fracturing a limb or dislocating a shoulder, both of which are common winter injuries."

Another surprising finding is that only third (34%) say they look at what the insurance covers before they buy. Mr Purvis points out that while the majority of winter sports policies will meet most conventional winter travellers' needs, many will exclude activities such as off-piste skiing or tobogganing. "It's also important to point out that most standard travel insurance policies won't include winter sports at all," he adds.

Typical costs if you come a cropper in Europe

(Based on winter travel insurance claims with AA Travel Insurance. Similar costs at the USA winter resorts are around 200% higher.)

  • Helicopter mountain rescue at £20 per minute: £1,000
  • Four days hospital admission: £3,000 to £8,000
  • Emergency surgery for fractured hip: £8,000 to £12,000
  • Emergency treatment for dislocated shoulder: £1,000 to £2,000
  • Organising stretcher repatriation from Switzerland to Gatwick: £10,000

AA Travel Insurance offers winter sports cover that includes skiing and snowboarding, up to £10 million medical expenses, off-piste skiing with a guide, piste closure, equipment cover and financial failure of airlines, travel companies and other arrangements booked individually by the traveller.


* AA/Populus interviewed 20,965 AA members in January 2012, of which 2,000 said they were taking a winter sports holiday. Key responses were:
When you buy travel insurance for your trip do you:

  • Buy the cheapest (10%)
  • Look at what the insurance covers before buying (34%)
  • Use a price comparison site (26%)
  • Arrange through travel agent (5%)
  • Other (10%)
  • I don't buy travel insurance (18%)

** In addition, One Poll interviewed 2,000 travellers in December 2010 and of those who do not buy travel insurance, key responses were:
Which of the following describes why you don't buy travel insurance?

  • It's too expensive (22%)
  • It's not really necessary (33%)
  • Always forget (12%)
  • I'm healthy so don't need it (9%)
  • I have an EHIC card (11%)