Skiing and snowboarding is an exhilarating activity many people travel all over the world to do.
When people ask me what’s so great about skiing I describe it like this: Imagine it’s a blue sky day, you’re high on a mountain, the view is spectacular, the air is crisp and fresh. Imagine running as fast as you possibly can then even faster but without running out of breath. Now imagine zooming through a mountain forest with the agility of a snow leopard – you can turn sharply, duck and weave and change direction at a moment’s notice.
Sure, it takes some practice to get your skills up to this point, but once you do you’ll be well rewarded and it’s at this time that you might want to go off-piste.
These are common questions we get about off-piste skiing and snowboarding and why it’s important to have a travel insurance policy that covers the type of snow sports you want to do.
Tips to make sure you get the right ski & snowboard cover:
- Check your travel insurance covers the type of skiing and snowboarding you will be doing, especially if you plan to go off-piste or backcountry.
- When buying your policy, make sure you explicitly select the snow sports, skiing, snowboarding option. Don't assume every policy automatically provides cover.
- Check if your policy requires you to be accompanied by an experienced guide as a condition for off-piste cover.
- Make sure your policy includes emergency evacuation and rescue.
- Familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of your policy. If you break the rules, venture outside resort boundaries, go against a warning or ignore the advice of the local authorities, your travel insurance policy may not cover you.
What is a piste?
Piste is a French term that is better known as a “trail”, “run” or “marked slope” in English speaking countries.
A piste is a marked ski run or path down a mountain for snow skiing and snowboarding.
These are shown on a trail map and are generally marked with coloured poles on either side of the trail or ropes or signage.
Off-piste is generally anything that is beyond these areas but still within resort boundaries. Some resorts operate heli-skiing or cat-skiing that are both off-piste and outside resort boundaries. If you are doing either of these, ensure your travel insurance policy provides cover specifically for these activities.
What’s the difference between on-piste and off-piste?
The term off-piste generally describes any areas within the resort boundaries that are not marked trails.
Areas within the boundaries of a ski resort that are:
Areas within the boundaries of a ski resort that are not:
What are resort boundaries?
The resort boundaries are the limits of the patrolled and maintained areas in a ski resort. Inside the boundaries you will find marked trails and snow patrollers to help if you have an accident.
Outside the resort boundaries you have neither of these things. While there may be some great places to ski or board, these are not marked and there will be no snow patroller to help if you have a problem.
What’s the difference between a groomed and ungroomed run?
A groomed run is a ski slope that has had a big bulldozer-like machine called a snowcat drive over it to smooth out the bumps.
Ungroomed runs are left to nature (and skiers) and can be quite bumpy and uneven.
Are ungroomed runs off-piste?
Not necessarily. Provided the run is marked and open and within the resort boundaries then it is still on-piste.
Is heli-skiing off-piste?
Yes, with heli-skiing (or boarding), skiers are transported via helicopter to remote inaccessible slopes well outside resort boundaries. The skiers then ski down the slope and are collected at the bottom by the helicopter. Generally, a guide comes along and points out the safe places to ski. Heli-skiing takes places outside resort boundaries on unmarked and unpatrolled slopes.
Is cat-skiing off-piste?
Yes, with cat-skiing (or boarding), skiers are transported in a snowcat to areas outside resort boundaries. The skiers then ski down the slope and are collected at the bottom by the snowcat. Generally, a guide comes along and points out the safe places to ski. Cat-skiing takes places outside resort boundaries on unmarked and unpatrolled slopes.
Off-piste and your level of skiing
Your level of experience skiing and snowboarding will most likely determine how likely you are to go off-piste.
If you’re a beginner, you’re unlikely to be going anywhere near an off-piste area.
If you fall into the intermediate category, then you’ll probably be comfortable getting yourself around the mountain and be curious about what an advanced run may hold in store for you. You’re still unlikely to find yourself anywhere near an off-piste run.
As an advanced skier, you’re comfortable skiing all over the mountain. You may enter ski areas designated advanced or expert that have no specific marked run. These are off-piste runs.
How does this relate to ski travel insurance?
Travel insurance for ski and boarding can cost a little more than regular travel insurance because it’s a riskier holiday than sitting on a beach somewhere. This is not to say you shouldn’t go, just make sure you have adequate cover.
When buying travel insurance for a ski or snowboarding holiday it’s very important that you buy a policy that covers these activities. Make sure your policy specifically says you are covered for skiing and snowboarding or “snow sports activities”.
Also keep in mind that many skiing and boarding travel insurance policies do not automatically cover off-piste, heli-skiing or cat-skiing, or have very strict terms and conditions around the cover for these activities.
Fast Cover’s Snow Sports Plus policy automatically covers all these things. If you’re unsure, ask the question of your travel insurer so you get the right cover.
What happens if my travel insurance policy does not cover snow sports but I ski anyway?
If you injure yourself or have an accident, you’ll have no cover.
Remember you’re in a remote location, medical costs will be higher than normal, and you may need to be rescued or even evacuated via helicopter to a larger hospital. These costs could end up being tens of thousands of dollars, whereas a snow sports travel insurance policy may only cost the equivalent of a hot chocolate and a sandwich each day. Is it worth the risk?
What happens if I’m not covered for off-piste skiing and still ski off-piste?
If you injure yourself or have an accident while skiing off-piste, you’ll have no cover. If there is any chance you will go off-piste, then make sure you purchase a policy that provides cover for off-piste skiing and snowboarding.
Tyler, an 18-year-old skier from the Gold Coast, fell badly on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, France. He was rushed to hospital where it was discovered that he had internal injuries which required emergency surgery and a two-week stay in hospital while he recovered.
The medical bill for Tyler’s accident came to $41,000 AUD which included the cost of the surgery, subsequent treatment, hospital stay and ambulance.
Can I upgrade my travel insurance if I go skiing?
If you decide you will be going skiing or boarding after you buy your policy either before you leave or while you are overseas, you may still be able to upgrade your policy, so contact your insurer.
Fast Cover policies can be easily upgraded to include cover for snow sports either before your departure or during your travels.
What extra things does Fast Cover Snow Sports Plus travel insurance cover?
For a start, it covers you for emergency medical expenses while skiing, but over and above that, it also includes cover for:
1) Reimbursement of pre-booked arrangements
This is if you get injured or sick before your departure, or during your holiday and cannot continue skiing, you may be able to claim back the costs of your unused lift tickets and accommodation.
2) Cover for piste closure
This applies when a ski resort has to close due to weather conditions like high wind, lack of snow or avalanche.
3) Loss, damage or theft of your snow equipment
It’s important to note that most policies will not cover damage to your snow equipment while you’re actually using it.
4) Snow equipment hire
If your snow equipment gets lost, stolen, or damaged, this is so you can hire replacement equipment and continue your ski holiday.
5) Medical evacuation and rescue
If you find yourself in a bad situation on the mountain and need to be rescued and evacuated to a hospital.
If you're keen to head off-piste on your next winter holiday, make sure you have a travel insurance policy that covers you for the type of skiing and snowboarding you want to do.
Get an instant online quote now or talk to us about our Snow Sports Policy and what it covers so you can hit the slopes with confidence!