Snow, Sun and Safety

Are you prepared for your winter sports holiday?

Snow. This winter it has made life a misery for Britons with the risk of road crashes, freezing pipes and transport delays.

But in the French Alps, Austria, Switzerland or even the USA it's a quite different story. People pour over local websites for snow condition reports as they prepare to depart for a spot of skiing or snowboarding – to say nothing of the après-ski.

But according to AA Travel Insurance,* an increasing number of Brits set off for the slopes without winter sports holiday insurance.

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

Says Andy Taylor, director of AA Travel Insurance: "There's no question that planning your break – choosing the resort, your chalets or hotels and flights, as well as sorting out your ski or boarding equipment – is great fun as it sharpens anticipation of the excitement ahead.

"But you mustn't neglect the most important purchase of all – your winter sports cover."

Skiing and snowboarding holidays

Andy Taylor notes that following the recession a record number of Brits are expected to set off for the slopes this winter. "Unfortunately, that means more accidents, and the rather unpalatable reality is that if you have an accident on the slopes it could cost you and your family thousands of pounds without insurance.

"There has been a steady rise in the number of people choosing skiing and snowboarding holidays over the past 10 years, and the recession doesn't seem to be affecting bookings."

Fortunately, most collisions result in little more than dented pride and a few bruises. But if it's worse, it could cost a fortune.

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 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.

He adds: "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."

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

  1. Only attempt runs suitable for your ability
  2. Take some lessons if you're a beginner or out of practice
  3. Pay attention to signs and markers on the slopes
  4. Leave plenty of space when overtaking another skier or boarder
  5. Only stop at the edge of the piste or where you can easily be seen
  6. Ski or snowboard on the marked runs – these are protected from unexpected alpine dangers
  7. Don't ski alone – there's safety in numbers
  8. Ensure you and your party have a piste map, and don't stray from the main areas
  9. Do some exercise and get fit before you go
  10. Après-ski is just that – avoid alcohol until you have finished skiing or boarding for the day
  11. Make sure your winter sports holiday insurance is up to date before you go

All AA winter sports single trip and annual multi-trip policies can be bought online, and all policies now include financial failure holiday protection.

Pick a card

If you're travelling to Europe, consider taking out an AA Euro Travel Currency Card.

This new prepaid card offers a secure and convenient way to manage your holiday money. You simply load the card with funds, which convert to euros, and then use it in the same way you would a debit card to make payments or withdraw cash from cash machines. You don't pay any transaction fees when you spend in euros, and withdrawals are free provided you withdraw €50 or more (below €50 there is a €1.50 fee).

Although such cards have been around for a while, a recent survey by the AA showed that nearly three-quarters of respondents had no idea what a travel currency card is.**

"Most people take plenty of cash out in the UK to take with them when they set off. Using the AA Euro Travel Currency Card is a much safer option and, of course, you can stop the card if it is lost or stolen – you can't do that with euro notes," Andy Taylor points out.

The AA Euro Travel Currency MasterCard® Prepaid Card also earns points on all card spend, in exactly the same way as the AA Credit Card.† Double points are earned for fuel and motoring purchases, while AA Members earn points at twice the rate of non-members, making it particularly attractive if you are driving to your holiday destination. The points can be transferred to your AA Credit Card points balance once you get home, and can be redeemed for a wide range of retail vouchers, luxuries, experiences and, of course, AA products and services including insurance.

You could even put the points towards a new pair of skis.


* AA Travel Insurance is arranged by Drakefield Insurance Services Limited, an AA Group company authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

** Survey carried out One Poll for AA Financial Services (AAFS), December 2010. AAFS is registered in England and Wales number 912211. Registered office: Fanum House, Basing View, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 4EA. AAFS is an Appointed Representative of Automobile Association Insurance Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), registered number 525013. You can check the FSA Register or contact the FSA on 0845 606 1234.

AA Credit Card is arranged by AA Financial Services and issued by MBNA Europe Bank Limited. Registered office: Stansfield House, Chester Business Park, Chester CH4 9QQ. Registered in England number 2783251. MBNA's consumer credit activities are licensed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and MBNA's general insurance activities are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. To improve the quality of our service we will monitor and/or record some telephone calls.

MasterCard is a registered trademark of MasterCard International Incorporated. The AA Euro Travel Currency MasterCard® Prepaid Card is issued by Newcastle Building Society (NBS) pursuant to licence by MasterCard International. NBS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority as an issuer of e-money (registration number 156058).

The AA Euro Travel Currency MasterCard® Prepaid Card is arranged by AA Financial Services Limited (AAFS), registered in England and Wales number 912211. Registered office: Fanum House, Basing View, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 4EA.