Ski insurance: Travel insurance for winter sports

Ski insurance: Travel insurance for winter sports

Skiing is one of the most popular winter activities. But between the cost of flights, lift tickets, lodging and rental equipment, taking a ski vacation can be very expensive. Whether you’re planning a family ski trip or a solo adventure, it’s important to have the right financial protection in place during the ski season. Getting ski insurance can provide some peace of mind in case something goes wrong.

What is ski insurance?

Skiing insurance is a travel insurance policy that covers the various risks you might encounter on a skiing or snowboarding vacation. Travel insurance for skiing will cover things like lost baggage, trip delays due to snowstorms and injuries that result from a ski accident. Many ski insurance policies also provide higher coverage limits for your ski gear.

While most standard travel insurance plans cover skiing, check the fine print for excluded activities before you purchase a policy. Some travel insurance companies only cover skiing and snowboarding when you add an “adventure upgrade” or a similar endorsement. However, this is more common if you’re planning on something more extreme than skiing at a resort, such as backcountry skiing or heli-skiing.

How does travel insurance for skiing and snowboarding work?

The main purpose of ski travel insurance is to get financial coverage for prepaid and nonrefundable expenses if something unexpected happens during your trip.

For example, if the ski resort has to close due to severe weather and you have a nonrefundable lift ticket, your travel insurance policy can reimburse you. Or, if your snowboard gets lost in transit, insurance will help pay for a replacement or a rental board during your trip.

All ski insurance policies have a coverage limit, which is the maximum amount of money the insurer will reimburse for nonrefundable trip costs and other covered expenses. Before you purchase travel insurance, it’s a good idea to review the limits for individual categories so you know exactly how much coverage you have if something happens.

Does ski insurance cover family members?

Most travel insurance policies only cover the person who purchases the plan by default, but some may extend certain types of coverage to family members or people you live with. Some even cover kids under 17 for free. If you’re worried about having coverage for your travel companions, you typically have the option to add additional people to the policy during the purchase process.

Why buy ski insurance?

Skiing is a fun way to stay active during the winter months. But whether you’re taking a week-long trip to the Alps or planning a road trip to a regional resort, things don’t always go as planned. Purchasing winter travel insurance before you hit the slopes can be worth the investment. Here are some of the things that ski insurance will cover.

Vacation cancellation coverage

“Ski travel insurance can provide reimbursement for your prepaid and nonrefundable trip costs if you have to cancel travel plans due to a covered reason,” said Andrew Jernigan, CEO of Insured Nomads.

For instance, imagine you’re getting ready for a European ski adventure by practicing at your local mountain. You crash and tear your ACL. You need surgery immediately and won’t be able to make the trip. In this case, you could cancel the trip and get reimbursed for nonrefundable expenses, like your flight and lift tickets, up to your coverage limit.

However, it’s important to know that not all reasons for cancellation are covered. In addition to serious medical issues, most travel insurance plans will cover cancellation due to scenarios like acts of terrorism, natural disasters and the death of a close family member. Things like flight anxiety, known storms and preexisting medical conditions (unless you qualify for a preexisting condition waiver) usually aren’t covered.

Many travel insurance companies offer cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage, which can help cover cancellation reasons that are excluded under the standard policy. However, CFAR typically only reimburses 50% to 75% of your eligible expenses.

Trip delays due to snow

When you’re traveling during the winter months, snow-related travel delays are always a possibility. If your travel gets delayed because of a snowstorm, your ski insurance policy may reimburse you for prepaid and nonrefundable expenses and may cover extra accommodation, transportation and food expenses.

For example, if you miss the first night in your slopeside condo rental due to a storm-related travel delay, your insurance policy could reimburse you for the cost of that night’s stay, assuming the rental company won’t issue a refund. It could also cover the cost of staying in a hotel near the airport until your rescheduled flight leaves the next day.

Baggage loss, damage or delays

Having ski travel insurance can be very beneficial if you’re flying to a ski resort and are taking your ski equipment with you. Although some travel insurance policies don’t automatically cover ski, snowboard or other sports equipment and require you to purchase an add-on, doing so can help protect against your gear getting damaged, lost in transit or delayed.

If your luggage gets lost, your insurance policy will help reimburse you for the value of those lost items. This also goes for equipment that gets damaged during travel. But keep in mind that you may not receive the full value of the items that are lost or damaged if the total value exceeds your policy’s coverage limit. Additionally, your travel policy may only provide reimbursement after you’ve filed an initial claim with the airline, paying only the difference between what your items are worth and what the airline compensates.

If your ski gear gets delayed in transit, your insurance policy will help reimburse you for the cost of replacements until your baggage arrives. This might include the cost of renting a ski or snowboard for a day, as well as buying personal essentials. There are usually maximum per-person and per-day coverage limits until your luggage arrives.

Snow-related injuries

One of the biggest benefits of ski travel insurance is coverage for snow-related injuries, especially if you’ll be traveling abroad as most US health insurance companies don’t provide international coverage. Ski insurance policies will cover accidents and injuries that occur while skiing or snowboarding.

For example, let’s say you fall on your wrist while snowboarding for the first time and the ski patrol recommends that you get medical attention right away. Your travel insurance policy would help cover the cost of the emergency room visit, X-rays and a cast.

Ski travel insurance will also cover medical evacuation. If you get badly injured while skiing in a remote area and need to be taken to the hospital in a helicopter, your travel insurance policy can help cover the cost.

Depending on the policy, travel medical insurance can be primary or secondary. Primary coverage means that the policy will reimburse you for medical bills whether you have health insurance coverage or not. Secondary coverage means that your travel insurance policy will cover your medical bills only after you submit a claim with your health insurer first.

What is an adventure upgrade?

An adventure upgrade is an optional endorsement that provides coverage for high-risk activities that are excluded under most basic travel insurance plans. You might need to add this upgrade to fill the gaps in your base plan if you’re planning to participate in extreme winter activities, like heli-skiing, backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering or ice climbing.

If you participate in an excluded activity, your travel insurance plan won’t provide any coverage if something happens, especially if you get injured. When you add an adventure upgrade, it removes the exclusions in your base policy, so you get broader coverage for related losses like damaged gear and emergency medical care and evacuation.

Do you need a Global Rescue membership?

If you’re planning a ski trip that will involve high levels of risk, you might consider getting a Global Rescue membership. Global Rescue members get emergency medical evacuation services anywhere in the world from a field rescue team. The cost of emergency transportation is included in the price of membership.

“Travelers should definitely consider getting a Global Rescue membership if they are going off-piste or leaving the marked trails, or are going into high altitudes, and want to ensure that search and rescue services can be deployed in the event of an emergency,” said Jernigan.

While most ski travel insurance plans cover emergency medical transportation, the process may not be as simple as it seems: With travel insurance, you must find a company to perform the medical evacuation, pay for its services and submit a claim to your insurance provider for reimbursement. With Global Rescue, there are teams already in place for search and rescue and emergency transport, and you never have to file a claim or pay out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles.

Even if you’re not planning a ski vacation this season, having a Global Rescue membership can be a worthwhile investment if you participate in high-risk winter activities regularly in your local area.

Global Rescue also has additional benefits for travelers that travel insurance plans might not include, such as assistance with local health care systems, travel document issues, translation services and real-time event notifications.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

When purchasing ski insurance, there are a few things you should look for. Most importantly, you should make sure that skiing, snowboarding and other activities you’re planning are covered. Depending on the policy, you might need to add an endorsement to get coverage for skiing and your equipment.

Also, check the policy limits for each type of coverage. For example, if you’re traveling with expensive ski gear, choose coverage limits that are suitable in case your equipment gets stolen, lost or damaged.

Off-piste skiing, also known as backcountry skiing, isn’t usually covered by standard ski insurance policies. Off-piste skiing is much riskier than resort skiing, and there is no patrol to respond in case of an avalanche or a medical emergency. If you’re planning to explore the backcountry during your ski vacation, you will likely need to add an adventure upgrade to get the coverage you need.

Ski insurance does cover trip cancellations. Specifically, it will cover prepaid and nonrefundable travel expenses, such as flights, hotels, lift tickets and equipment rentals if you need to cancel your trip unexpectedly. However, only certain reasons for cancellation are covered, such as the death of a family member or a natural disaster.

Many travel insurance companies offer cancel for any reason or CFAR coverage, which allows you to cancel for reasons outside of those covered by the base policy and get reimbursed for nonrefundable travel expenses. However, while standard trip cancellation coverage can reimburse up to 100% of your expenses, CFAR usually only reimburses 50% or 75%.

Yes, medical emergencies and injuries are typically covered under ski insurance policies. If you or an insured person in your travel party gets injured at the ski resort (or at any time during your vacation), your insurance policy will help cover your medical expenses. However, this only applies to injuries that occur from covered activities. If you get hurt doing an excluded activity, like heli-skiing, your plan won’t reimburse you for your medical bills.

Additionally, if you don’t have a preexisting condition waiver, then any illness or injury that meets the insurer’s definition of preexisting won’t be covered if you need treatment during your trip.