Skiing and snowboarding is an exhilarating activity many people love. 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. This is skiing and snowboarding.
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 skiing and snowboarding you want to do.
Tips to make sure you get the right ski/snowboard cover
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 and within resort boundaries.
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 not:
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 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
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?
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”.
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.
Many skiing and boarding travel insurance policies do not automatically cover off-piste, heli-skiing or cat-skiing. 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 purchase a policy that provides cover for off-piste skiing/boarding.
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 and 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.
What else does Fast Cover Snow Sports travel insurance cover?
For a start, it covers you for medical while skiing but over and above that, it includes cover for:
1. 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.
2. Cover for piste closure:
This applies when a ski resort has to close due to weather conditions like high wind or lack of snow.
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 you holiday.
5. Reimbursement of pre-booked arrangements:
This is if you get injured and cannot continue your holiday, you may be able to claim back the costs of your unused lift tickets and accommodation.
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 bleeding. This resulted in emergency surgery and a two-week stay in hospital while he recovered.
The medical bill for Tyler’s accident came to $41,000 which included the cost of the surgery, subsequent treatment, hospital stay and ambulance.
Tyler’s travel insurance policy cost just over $500 and also included cover for his ski buddy, Brodie.
~Traveller details have been changed to protect their privacy. Claims examples are from Fast Cover travel insurance customers from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016.