About 2 years ago I got injured skiing. I am normally a snowboarder by definition, but had made a decision to learn how to ski at the start of the week. I took to it pretty well, I guess because I was an experienced boarder. By the end of day one I had hit my first kicker and landed it. At the end of the week I was back on the skis hitting bigger and harder tricks. My first run in with a 6 foot box saw me stack it. Second run I got the landing. Feeling pretty ‘stoked’ I decided to try and style it out a bit more on the third run. I missed the landing. My skis ran away from me. I tried to recover, but the gradient on the run off wouldn’t let me.
My left leg twisted and I finally hit the ground. I lay there for a moment making sure everything was OK. It wasn’t. I didn’t know it yet, but I had torn my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and it hurt. And I didn’t have any winter sports insurance.
Travel Insurance, Anyone?
Travel insurance is something, that when I was younger, I didn’t even think about. I would do weekends away to Europe and never worry about things getting nicked or missing flights etc. I could deal with it, after all what’s the worst that could happen? Well, I was lucky, nothing really did ever happen to me. When I decided to go travelling around the world for a year I got travel insurance that was pretty expensive. What annoyed me was that I didn’t need to use it, ever. I got to thinking, “Why should I get insurance when nothing ever happens to me?” I honestly thought it was a waste of money and that I was untouchable.
Fortunately for me, when I had my accident, I was at Hemel Hemstead Snow Centre. I was picked up by one of the staff who had see me crash. They helped me get down to the first aid room to get the knee on ice. I was lucky – I walked (well hobbled) away from it. Aside from being off the slopes for a fair while after surgery I was covered medically by the NHS. In hospital, waiting for my consultation, I was talking to a girl with a cage brace around her knee in the waiting room. The conversation went something like this.
Me: So, how did you do it?
Me: Looks painful.
Her: It was, but it’s getting better.
Me: How d’ya do it?
Her: [explains intricacies of more or less snapping her leg in two]
Her: And I had no insurance.
Me: Ow Ow!
Excuse me, how much did you say?
So this young lady went about telling me how much this had cost her overall. She was lucky, because she didn’t get airlifted off the mountain. She was lucky because her parents were able to get her out of her Paris hospital quickly and back to the UK. She was lucky because her friends clubbed together to do some charity fundraising to help with costs. She was lucky – it only cost her around £20k.
Just as standard travel insurance varies in cost and cover, so does the winter sports part. Winter sports insurance doesn’t protect you from injuries. It doesn’t make you any better a skier or boarder. But what it does do is protect you from being stung with potentially massive bills and more that could financially cripple you for life.
What does winter sports insurance cover?
The standard features of any travel insurance should ideally cover (among others) medical costs, loss of luggage and cancellation. What tends to vary is the total amount you are insured up to for each part and how much excess you would need to pay if you did claim (with each insurer, check the policy wording).
With winter sports cover again it is important to know what you are getting insurance for. Some insurers cover pretty much anything you can think of in the winter sports arena. The general basic cover will often cover you for on-piste skiing or snowboarding, ice-skating, tobogganing, equipment theft or damage and piste closure. But always check out the exclusions on the policy, especially if you want to try out things like off-piste skiing (sometimes only covered with a qualified guide) and heli-skiing. Also some insurance policies require you to wear a helmet.
I am no insurance/financial advisor. I am not going to tell you who to get insurance from, or even who I now have an annual policy (with full winter cover) with. There are so many different providers of insurance. Some are cheaper than others. Comparison sites pride themselves on offering the cheapest deals; while other companies prefer to cut out the middleman. The important thing is – make sure you check what your cover actually includes and that it is fit for purpose.
I know that I would rather pay around £50 for my annual policy than £20K for when my luck runs out.