Despite the recent press coverage of the number of skiers and snowboarders taking to the slopes without the appropriate insurance or even no insurance at all, three out of five skiers are continuing to take the unnecessary risk.
Many people take out insurance cover through their bank or have an annual policy. It is important to check the policy before heading to the slopes to ensure that cover is provided for winter sports. Many insurance companies consider these to be "dangerous sports" and therefore often require a further premium to be paid. Do not make the mistake of assuming you are adequately covered.
Medical expenses on the slopes can leave a large hole in your pocket. For example, helicopter evacuation will set you back around £1,500 or if you need to be sent back to the UK on a special flight, from Europe alone this could cost approximately £4,000. According to Axa Insurance approximately 30% of skiers and snowboarders are likely to make insurance claims at some point and 25% of them have suffered some sort of injury while on holiday.
It is a common misconception by individuals that their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the old E111 in 2005, will cover them for the skiing accident. This card will only ever reduce the medical bill by up to a maximum of approximately 80%. The card will not cover the accident. This card is also not accepted by all hospitals and they will expect you to have your own insurance to fall back on. If you need to be transported back to Britain because you have been severely injured, this card will not cover you. Overall the EHIC should not be considered as an alternative to travel insurance.
Many insurance policies now require protective helmets to be worn at all times while on the slopes, otherwise the cover will not apply. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) during the past 10 years, 40 people have died skiing or snowboarding per year on average. There were 39 serious injuries, 16 of those serious injuries were skiers and 23 were snowboarders. However more than 40 percent of the annually reported skiing and snowboarding related head injuries could have been prevented or minimised with helmet use.
Due to the improvements in equipment and the continued slope maintenance which allows for greater speed it is even more important to ensure that helmets are being worn. Since the death of Natasha Richardson in 2009 there has been a far greater awareness of the dangers of head injuries while skiing and this has prompted insurers to insist that a protective helmet is part of your ski wear. If you are not wearing a helmet on the slopes then an increasing number of insurance policies will not cover you for head injuries.
Italian authorities have had to deal with more than 1,000 injuries this winter alone, with more than 100 people being fined for dangerous behaviour on the slopes. Last season, 34 people died in skiing accidents in Austria, while more than 50,000 required hospital treatment. Therefore insurance is even more important nowadays.
Without the necessary insurance, injured skiers and snowboarders could end up paying thousands of pounds for treatment, helicopter evacuation and if necessary search and rescue teams.