Insurance cover for off-piste skiing and snowboarding

David Woodfield By David Woodfield

Off-piste skiing and snowboarding insurance

For ski and snowboard trips, travel insurance becomes a question of skiing insurance. While airline failure, travel delays and cancellations are important to be covered for, being on the snow comes with its own risks that need their own cover. Most travel insurers offer comprehensive cover for on-piste activities, usually through their winter sports option.

However, leaving marked runs on the slopes and venturing off-piste might not be covered. Off-piste skiing is a usually considered a different activity by insurers due to the different risks involved. The cost of rescue and recovery can be much higher so it’s essential to check your cover first. To help, we have collected reviews of a few insurers along with details of how they cover off-piste skiing here.

The question of whether you are covered or not is complicated by the different ways insurers interpret off-piste skiing. When checking with your insurer it is important to know the details of what they consider off-piste to be. Many say that any off-piste activities have to take place with a resort's boundaries, and some state that you have to be with a guide. A technicality could leave you with a large bill, check the policy wording or give them a call.

Join the Bought by Many off-piste skiers group to get access to a discounted, members-only travel policy.

What to look for to get the best off-piste skiing insurance

To help you concentrate on your skiing rather than your cover, we’ve put together a few key things to check with your insurer, so you can get the best off-piste skiing cover for you.

  • The definition of off-piste

    It’s important to know exactly what your insurer means when they talk about off-piste. Typically, anything outside a marked run (the poles at the edges of the slope) is considered off-piste. These areas are not man-made slopes and are not groomed by machines overnight – they will be bumpy, possibly rocky and even have glades or forests of trees. Check your policy or ask your insurer what their definition is so you can be clear.
  • The limitation of your cover

    Just because you have skiing insurance, don’t assume that you can roam free into the wild! Many insurers will cover you within the boundary ropes of the resort – beyond that, you might be considered a back country skier or a ski tourer in the terminology of the insurance contract. So you may not be covered if you cross that rope.
  • Do you need a guide to ski off-piste?

    This point seems to vary between insurers, so it is very important to check your policy. Some providers will only insure you if you ski off-piste with a qualified guide, whereas others state you are fine to ski or snowboard alone but you must remain inside the resort boundary rope. For example, M&S and Saga winter sports policies provide cover if you use a guide but the Post Office, AXA, Columbus and LV= say you are fine without a guide but must ski within the resort ropes.

    If you are considering skiing off-piste without a guide, you may want to look at specialist policies such as those from The Ski Club of Great Britain Insurance or The British Mountaineering Council

    The Explorer's Winter Sports cover our members can buy at a cheaper rate says you must ski with a qualified guide if you off-piste, but you are able to venture beyond resort boundaries if you wish (a common restriction on other policies).

  • Levels of cover and activity packs

    Winter sports insurance policies come with lots of detail but the things you are most likely to care about are the medical cover, getting a payout if you damage your equipment and, of course, the activities you are allowed you to do. For experienced skiers and boarders, there are a range of adventurous activities such as heli skiing, cat skiing and touring on offer at many resorts and making sure they are covered is more important than getting a generic ski policy. Some insurers, such as Dogtag, offer different levels of winter sports cover. Its Dogtag Sports+ policy includes the use of helicopters for skiers and snowboards.

    Insurers such as Alpha offer activity packs that can be purchased on top of standard winter sports cover. Alpha has 8 packs you can choose from, that include everything from glacier skiing to snowkiting. You just pick the pack that has the activities you want, however, packs with a lot of activities or more dangerous ones are likely to be more expensive.

  • Local advice

    Resorts do their best to provide for off-piste skiers and manage any risks. The local ski patrol usually publishes safety information like the avalanche risk scale and may close areas of the resort (within the boundary rope) that they deem to be unsafe or unsuitable for skiing. Insurers will expect you to be mindful of this local advice and avoid closed areas or heed the avalanche warnings. If not, it’s likely that you will invalidate your cover.

There are plenty of UK ski insurance firms to choose from and how much your policy costs will depend on a range of factors including your age, health and level of cover you want. Some providers even offer family off-piste and winter sports policies, so it's possible to carve through some powder with your kids in tow.

Join Bought by Many to access better insurance cover for off-piste skiing

We think there’s a better way than spending hours on the phone to call centres or trawling the web for the best quote. Bought by Many groups people with similar insurance needs, such as off-piste cover. That gives individuals more buying power and allows us to negotiate discounts from insurers that members could not otherwise get on their own. Using this principle we are able to provide 10% to 20% discounts to members of the group. Join the off-piste skiers' group here.

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