Selling ski insurance – 15 Feb 2007

European skiers have been have been forced to think about travel insurance more than once this season.

While the Rockies and more northerly European climes have been blanketed under huge dumps of snow, many of Europe’s most popular resorts have suffered a dearth of the white stuff. For agents, now is the right time to stress the benefits of getting covered for piste closure.

Most ski insurance policies will pay a certain amount of compensation, typically £20 a day, for every day a resort is closed due to lack of snow.

There are exemptions, however: closure must specifically be through lack of snow and not other weather factors such as high wind. Resorts have to pay out to their own insurers if they close, and will avoid doing so wheverever possible. Having just one lift operational means that a resort is classed as open.

What’s worrying for insurers in times of piste closure is the overcrowding that occurs on the slopes that are open.

“If a resort closes the tour operator’s reputation is on the line, so they’ll make every effort to bus their clients to an alternative resort nearby,” said Citybond Suretravel sales director Ian Chalmers.

More skiers on the piste means a greater risk of accidents. According to Columbus Direct, a broken leg can cost an insurer up to £7,500 and repatriation up to £12,000, which is why they prefer to work with tour operators which feature more snowsure resorts.

As an agent, you’re better placed to sell ski if you can locate the snow in the first place, so start researching high-altitude resorts. A guide such as Where to Ski and Snowboard is a good place to start, and the Ski Club of Great Britain offers impartial advice.


Other mountain sports

When the snow fails and the pistes close, there’s still plenty to do in the mountains.

Instead of looking for ski runs, check your piste map walking trails. Walks are particularly rewarding in the beautiful scenery of the Dolomites and the Swiss and Austrian Alps, where the traditional villages tend to be prettier than their purpose-built French neighbours. It’s free too.

Poor snow conditions? Give parapenting a tryParapenting is exhilarating, but at least one lift will have to be running to get you up the mountain. You don’t need any experience – tandem jumps (where the skier is strapped to an instructor) cost around £25.

In Scandinavia, and Lapland in particular, non-skiing activities such as husky dog sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and Santa visits are popular. Inghams offers these excursions in its Finnish resorts for between £25 and £50.

If you’re desperate for powder, heli-skiing is an option, albeit an expensive one. Budget on around £200 a trip, weather permitting.

As Citybond’s Ian Chalmers pointed out, £20 per day compensation for piste closure will at least go towards a few drinks in the pub. Although at Alpine prices, not that many…


Sample product

Citybond Suretravel: seven days’ insurance costs £44.65 with a payout of £20 for each day of full piste closure.

Holiday Extras: four days’ insurance costs £31, with a payout of £20 for each day of full piste closure, or £10 for a transfer to another resort.

Inghams: 10 days’ insurance costs £52 through Fogg Travel Insurance Services. In the event of a piste closure skiers will be transferred to the nearest available resort. In the event of a complete piste closure across a whole region, the payout is £30 a day. Piste closure cover only costs £8 per person.

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