Top GB Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott is helping the government with a new campaign to ensure Brits are prepared and protected on ski holidays this winter, after research found a third of travellers don’t have the right insurance for winter sports.
ABTA and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) found 31% of holidaymakers don’t check whether they have the correct insurance to cover winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, before jetting off.
There have been 45 British deaths from skiing and snowboarding holidays reported to the FCO in the last 3 years, with thousands more having suffered injuries both on and off piste. Finding you’re under-insured after you’re injured can lead to costly medical bills. To raise awareness of the risks, former British Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott was asked to provide the latest travel advice from pre-departure to apres ski.
Chemmy Alcott’s top ten tips for a safe trip this winter:
- Take out comprehensive travel insurance with winter sports cover and check what it covers
- If heading to Europe, travel with a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get free necessary treatment at public hospitals
- Make sure your passport is valid before you travel
- Check the FCO’s travel advice for the country you are visiting
- Keep up to date with the local weather conditions before you go and while you’re in resort
- Stick with your mates when walking back to your hotel or chalet and follow the signed paths
- Only ski off-piste if you are a confident skier, aware of the risks and are with a qualified guide
- Wear a helmet. In some resorts it is a legal requirement for children to wear helmets. Remember, many insurance policies require you to wear a helmet on the slopes regardless of the local legal requirements.
- Remember the effects of drinking alcohol increase at altitude – your judgment, coordination and reaction times may be affected
- Make sure you and your friends know that in an emergency, the number to call is 112 in Europe and 911 in USA
The advice from the FCO also includes:
- Watch your speed and distance. Most skiing injuries are caused by collisions with other skiers.
- Stay in your comfort zone. Don’t attempt slopes you’re not experienced or fit enough to tackle.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said:
“As we look forward to the winter sports season, we are urging holidaymakers to be aware of the potential risks of such activities. Along with following safety advice, we would also advise anyone planning a winter sports holiday to ensure that they have appropriate insurance in place. Unfortunately accidents can happen and can lead to costly medical bills, but having the right kind of cover means people can make the most of their time on the slopes without having to worry.”
Make sure your insurance covers the activities you want to do. Medical costs and returning to the UK unexpectedly can be very expensive. Many policies will not cover damage to rental equipment or skiing off-piste without a guide, and many policies require you to wear a helmet at all times. So it’s worth checking your policy!
It could also leave you high and dry if:
- You’re injured on-piste and need a helicopter rescue
- An accident happens off-piste
- You’ve been drinking alcohol
- You take part in a ski race
- You’re injured in a slip or fall in resort
- You’re injured in a snowpark
- You injure someone else on the hill
- You decide to try another activity like bobsleigh or paragliding
Many policies don’t routinely cover you for these things. Val d’Isere Medival Centre doctor Alan Griffiths says: “I see people come in without the proper insurance daily. Most people think Carte Neige covers them for any injury anywhere in resort, but unless they’re injured while skiing on piste they’re not covered – for example if they slip and sprain their knee outside their chalet. Even people who do have ‘proper’ insurance don’t realise that they have to pay upfront for treatment normally, then claim it back from their insurer.”
Don’t leave it to the last minute and try to buy insurance once you arrive in resort – most companies won’t offer any cover after you’ve left the UK. Seasonnaires should also check their policy is not voided by a trip home.
Specialist ski insurer MPI Brokers is run by dedicated snowsports enthusiasts and covers you in all the above eventualities. If you’re unsure about your insurance visit their website www.mpibrokers.com for more information – and make sure you can ski worry free!
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
Travelling in Europe? It’s essential that you take a valid EHIC with you. If you have an accident or become ill it will allow you to receive state-provided medical healthcare at reduced cost, or sometimes free. Remember to carry your EHIC card with you at all times to access paid-for medical care – but don’t rely on it to cover you for everything. It won’t help you with the cost of a piste rescue, being flown back to the UK or lost or stolen property.
Check your EHIC is in date – it needs renewing every 5 years, so if it has expired apply for a new card prior to travel. The EHIC is valid in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. But you still need to take out travel insurance, as an EHIC won’t cover all your medical costs, private treatment or return to the UK. Some insurers now insist that you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.
Apply for your free EHIC now at: www.nhs.uk/ehic
- More information: Search for winter sports on gov.uk and follow @FCOtravel on Twitter and FCOtravel on Facebook.