Five-minute guide to winter sports insurance

Alarm clock

One in eight skiers and snowboarders won't take out travel insurance this winter, according to insurer esure - but the financial cost for failing to do so could be high.

A helicopter evacuation from the slopes costs approximately £1,500, for example, while repatriation costs start from £4,000 in Europe or £8,000 from the US or Canada. Treatment for a broken leg in the US, an increasingly popular winter sports destination, can cost around $10,000, according to AA Travel Insurance.

This winter is set to see huge numbers of people hitting the slopes - a fifth of Britons now enjoy winter sport holidays every year, according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. But credit-crunched wallets mean an estimated 31% will foresake any form of travel insurance. 

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

"The unpalatable reality is skiing and snowboarding brings a much higher than average risk of injury which, without proper cover, could result in a family facing bills amounting to thousands of pounds," says Christian Young, director of AA Travel Insurance.

Read the small print

Not all policies cover loss, theft or damage to equipment, so read the finer details. Also check what activities you're covered for - while winter sports insurance will cover standard ski and snowboard action, more extreme sports such as heli-skiing or bobsleighing may be excluded. Going off piste could also see any claims being rejected.

How much cover do I need?

Shopping around for the most competitive deal is important but be careful to pick a policy that will still pay out when you need it. As a bare minimum, all travel insurance policies should include £2 million worth of medical cover; £1 million personal liability; £1,500 baggage; £250 cash; and a cancellation fee that would cover the cost of the holiday.

You might also want to consider a policy that includes SAFI (scheduled airline failure insurance).

Single or annual cover?

If you plan to go away more than twice in a year, it makes sense to buy an annual multi-trip policy, but bear in mind that different multi-trip packages offer different amounts of winter holiday cover.

Also remember to print off policy documents where possible to take with you, and email yourself a copy. Finally, don't forget to pack your European Health Insurance Card (formerly the E111 card) as this will get you state medical care in any European Union country.

Off 'piste'

Despite the obvious dangers of skiing while under the influence, 24% of skiers admitted to drinking more than four units before taking on the side of a mountain, in research carried out by

Steve Williams, head of travel insurance at, says: "All travel insurance contracts include an exclusion regarding claims made as a result of alcohol consumption.

"Skiers must be made aware of the risk they take if drinking when on holiday - insurance providers are fully within their rights to decline claims involving alcohol, as it is reasonable to assume adequate care was not taken."