Check your ski insurance first

As half term begins in France and the UK, check you’re covered before you hit the slopes!

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With more than eight million people heading for the ski slopes in France each year it is obvious that there will be some mishaps – and the Association des Médecins de Montagne say they will see about 150,000 injuries each year.

One in three of those injured people had to be brought down from the slopes and that could add up to a pretty sum if they have no insurance coverage – especially with a €2,000 minimum if a helicopter is brought in.

Am I already covered?

Most people in France have some cover through their individuelle accident, garantie des accidents de la vie policies or their mutuelle insurance while others will have cover through bank or credit card.

But the cover offered is limited in many cases – and will almost certainly not be suitable for a severe incident hors piste or even simply getting lost and not injured.

They will also rarely cover the cost of unused ski lessons, equipment hire or hotel rooms.

Ski insurance on credit cards?

Credit card cover can be more complicated as it may be limited to cards such as Visa Premier or Gold Mastercard and will depend on the card having been used to pay for some part of the costs.

If you need assistance, use a card to pay. In all cases, you should check with your insurers before setting off so you avoid surprises. The Compagnie de Mont Blanc, which covers the ski areas around Europe’s highest mountain, says that difficult rescues this year, whether on or off piste, will be charged at between €930 and €16,000 – to which must be added the cost of any helicopter transport from the accident site to the ambulance or hospital.

How much does recovery cost?

The average cost of being helped off French slopes varies from €170 to €314 and just under €700 off piste, but costs rise with ‘extras’ such as getting you to the first aid room and then hospital.

Medical expenses for twisting a knee or breaking a leg will be covered up to a limit by the sécurité sociale and your mutuelle but separate cover such as Carré Neige will pay the excess over this limit and includes getting you back home. It costs in the order of €20 for a week’s peace of mind and also means you will have no up-front costs to pay – plus getting back unused ski class expenses.

There are different types for Alpine and Nordic use: Alpine costing €2.80 a day and Nordic €1.30. These policies will cover you for incidents within resorts’ ski areas – even off piste – but those who prefer to ski in other mountain areas or who head off into isolated areas will not be covered.

However, incidents in the haute montagne away from ski lifts and resorts are looked after by the gendarmes, CRS or pompiers and this is a free service. Ski and mountain clubs such as the Club Alpin Français, Club de Sport, Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l’Escalade and the Fédération Française de Ski offer reasonably priced annual insurance if you do a lot of such sport and have the necessary licence.

Will home insurance cover me for skiing?

Your household insurance, will provide the cover needed for any accidents you may cause as they already include cover for Responsabilité Civile. This should also cover all your immediate family but it does not, however, cover you if you have been negligent or ignore basic safety rules on the slopes. Insurance companies generally say you should not need extra ski insurance but before depending on this assurance you should check exactly what your insurance says.

Check to see if helmets are obligatory; if off-piste skiing, zip wires, snow parks and toboggans are covered; if ignorance of local ski rules invalidates cover, and if cover is reduced if you have been drinking. n If you are in an incident, the Club Alpin Français advises all mountain users to call 112 – the Europe wide emergency number – for help if you have phone signal. If a helicopter approaches and you need help, raise arms in a Y for Yes or one high/one low for a diagonal to signal N for No.