If you’re planning on heading out to the mountains this winter with friends and family, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stay safe on the slopes. There is no doubt that skiing is an exhilarating sport, but conditions in the mountain can change rapidly and the decisions you make can put you in danger. This is a brief guide to how ski travel insurance works in Europe.
Before you go…get clued up on Ski and Travel Insurance
We’re biased, but this is an essential item on the to-do list for your ski holiday is to buy winter sports travel insurance. Winter sports cover can be purchased on a single or annual trip basis, and usually sets you back about £40, but covers you for up to £10 million. With helicopter rescue from the mountain costing up to £14,000, that £40 is a bit of a bargain. But there are a few ways in which you can get confused and believe that you are covered for medical care, when in fact you’re not…
The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) replaced the old E111 a few years ago, but is still an essential item to take on your ski trip, as it covers in the case of medical emergency. Whether the costs are covered or you have to pay for the medical treatment up front depends on the country. In many you won’t be faced with the costs, but in France you will have to pay and have it refunded at a later date.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you are covered completely. You cannot rely solely on the EHIC for insurance, as it doesn’t cover you for mountain rescue or repatriation. It will help you once you are at the hospital, but it won’t cover you for that pricy helicopter journey. The fully comprehensive winter sports insurance you purchase will help cover those costs.
Another piece of protection you can purchase is the Carte Neige. This is a type of French insurance cover that you can buy in resort for about 2.50 euro per day and add to your ski pass. The advantage of the Carte Neige is that it is instantly recognizable to the ski patrol, so the medical costs are automatically covered, and you won’t be asked to pay the bill at the hospital and wait for the paper work to be done to be refunded.
The thing to remember is, buy fully comprehensive winter sport cover so that the bigger medical costs are covered. Don’t scrimp, buy insurance and play it safe!
Buy a Helmet…and wear it!
A helmet does not make you invincible, but it will help protect your head in minor collisions. Over the past few years there have been a number of high-profile skiing accidents. The debate over whether to wear a ski helmet continues, and with this recent spate of accidents many people are calling for ski helmets to become mandatory. There is no doubt that skiing can be a high-speed and at times dangerous sport, and like cycling or horse-riding where helmets are part of the normal gear, it only seems sensible that you should wear one whilst skiing.
In Italy and Austria it is now compulsory for children under 14 years old to wear helmets when they are skiing; and in Nova Scotia, Canada they have made it mandatory to wear ski helmets for the coming winter season 2012/13, and those who don’t comply will be fined $250. But with reports suggesting that the number of skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets has increased over the past few years, the number of head related ski injuries have not decreased.
So do you wear one or not? According to the NSAA (National Ski Areas Association), wearing a ski helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 30-50%. But whilst they do protect, their limitations need to be understand as well and they won’t protect you in all cases. They are designed to protect you from injury when a collision is less than 15mph. So if you were to hurtle into a tree at high speeds (average speed of an intermediate skier is 25mph) your helmet will not necessarily protect you from serious harm.
Read the signs…
The fresh untracked snow lying beyond the rope may look inviting, but if there is a sign with a man falling headfirst off a cliff, then maybe you should think twice about ducking the tape and skiing down. If you are not an expert skier, and you’re thinking of venturing off-piste it is best to do so with a guide or an instructor. Be prepared for the hidden dangers that may lie ahead by checking the avalanche risk level, and be aware of hidden rocks, crevasses and trees.
Take a transceiver and make sure you and the rest of your group know how to use them. Un-pisted areas are not patrolled, and depending on the insurance you have taken out you may not be covered, risking a huge bill to be recovered off of the mountain. If you are a member of Ski Club of Great Britain, you can link up with leaders in most ski resorts, where they will be able to guide you off-piste and provide you with the safety equipment, to save you forking out for an expensive ski guide.