Ski season is risky business (for Aussies anyway)

Aussie travellers like to think they’re powder hounds on the slopes. But if the high number of travel insurance claims is any guide, they’re among the world’s worst skiers.

Bernard O'Riordan

January marks the start of a mass exodus in Australia as many people head for the powdered slopes of Niseko in Japan or the ski fields of Whistler in Canada.

With Christmas done and dusted and the New Year festivities a distant memory, it’s the perfect time to escape the sweltering heat of an Aussie summer for the white wonders of a northern hemisphere winter.

Embarrassingly though, it’s also the peak time for mishaps involving overly-adventurous Aussies on overseas ski fields.

At the 500 or so ski resorts in Japan, around 89 per cent of those who need rescuing on the slopes each year are Australian, according to medical assistance service INTAC.

Australians make nearly 200 snow-related claims every year worth an average $4,400, according to Travel Insurance Direct. In fact, more claims are made by Aussie skiers in Japan than those visiting Canada, Europe and New Zealand combined.

Gliding around an ice rink while on holiday may not be covered by a standard travel insurance policy.

Skiers are most likely to injure their knees, lower legs and heads, while snowboarders typically claim for issues relating to their wrists, shoulders and teeth.

Whether you are a snow sports veteran or a first-timer, snow sports accidents are frequent, expensive and unpredictable. That’s why no one should leave Australian shores without the right insurance in place.

Even a turn around the ice rink while on holidays in New York or London may not be covered by your standard travel insurance policy because of the high risk of injury.

For a few extra dollars you can add a winter sports package or take out a specific winter sports policy that gives you peace of mind should the unexpected happen.

One major provider is currently offering recreational skiing and snowboarding cover at no extra cost when taking out travel insurance, as long as you ski on-piste. But it’s still best to read the product disclosure statement (PDS) to ensure cover meets your personal needs.

What is Snow Sports Insurance?

Niskeo, Japan

Snow sports insurance – also referred to a ski and snowboard insurance – is a travel insurance inclusion that covers you for accidental injury or illness while on the slopes.

Before jumping headfirst into the snow, it’s important to understand what you are covered for, as not all policies are the same. For instance, some offer cover for loss and damage to ski equipment, others don’t.

Be sure to choose the right policy, not the cheapest, read the fine print, declare existing medical conditions and know your rights.

If you don’t add specific snow sports insurance to your travel insurance plan, you could be left high and dry.

And don’t get caught out thinking your credit card offers you full protection. Many credit cards rarely cover dangerous or risky activities like snow sports.

What’s Covered and What’s Not?

You can’t make assumptions when it comes to travel insurance. Insurance companies are in the business of managing risk, so they are constantly changing terms and conditions. As a result, a policy that covered you last year may have changed this year.

As a minimum, make sure your policy covers medical, rescue, liability, cancellation, delayed travel and loss of luggage and personal effects.

There are also a couple of areas to keep in mind that you may not be covered for. For example, skiers and snowboarders will not be covered if they are off-piste outside the authorised areas of the resort, racing or participating in a professional capacity.

If you’re riding a snowmobile and have an accident you may not be covered for personal liability as a snowmobile is considered to be a mechanically propelled vehicle.

You also won’t be covered if you:

  • Take needless risks on the slopes;
  • If you are under the effects of alcohol or drugs;
  • Go off-piste skiing;
  • Are in a race or competition, or participating in a sporting activity where you receive a financial reward.

Also look out for ambiguous wording in your policy.  Coverage may be applied to “immediate family”, but you need to be clear about who that really covers. If the policy covers loss of luggage and you are taking your own skis, confirm that your skis will be accepted as luggage.

If something’s not clear, if you’re not sure what a particular term means or you’re not sure you are adequately covered, call the insurance company to seek clarification. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

This is NOT paid content and the author does not endorse any specific insurance provider or product. Be sure to read the product disclosure statement before buying any travel insurance product to ensure it meets your specific needs and provides adequate cover.

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