Family Ski Insurance - 6 tips to make sure you're covered & why a Carte Neige / E111 combo just won't cut it
Insurance. We all hate it. We all question it at some point or another. Are we paying too much? Are we paying too little and if so would we really be covered if the poo hit the fan?
With the late start to the ski season this Winter, most ski resorts in Europe are still drastically low on their base layer. Meaning rocks that are normally covered by now, remain visible and hard to the human form, particularly at fast speed. Skiing without insurance is fool hardy.
Already this season I’ve got two X-rays, an ECG, and an ultrasound under my belt and am booked in for an MRI at the hospital this Thursday. I'm gutted of course, that I've spend 3 weeks off the hill and counting from a suspected ACL rupture and meniscus damage. I'm hoping I can ski again once we know what damage is done and what brace to wear. Nevertheless insurance is quite a subject in our home at the moment. Thankfully it's nothing serious but I will be claiming back either through E111 or through our Ski Club GB ski insurance policy once we know the total bill.
Check our 6 family ski insurance tips before heading out to the mountains this Winter to make sure you and your family are fully covered and why we don't advise the Carte Neige / E111 combo.
It’s less likely that once you’ve got kids in tow you’ll run the gauntlet without insurance. We’ve all done it in our younger, care-free solo days but once kids are in the mix, it’s absolutely crucial. Even armed with an E111 (reciprocal European health insurance card) skiing without comprehensive cover is risky, if not irresponsible. And yes you can pay an extra few bucks when purchasing your daily ski pass for Carte Neige but that my friend, will only get you off the hill & give you limited medical cover.
If you’re injured on the mountain, it will cost an arm and leg to get you off. The orange medical sled, affectionately known as a ‘blood wagon’ cost between 200-500 euros each descent, a heli rescue could be up to 2 grand and ambulances are private in France, so charge varying amounts. Mounting up to an eye watering figure, your travel costs could be costly before you’ve even reached accident and emergency.
A nights stay in a French hospital costs upwards of 500 euro a night so it pays to think about insurance before travelling
Don't rely on freebie current bank account travel insurance. Chances are it won't cover winter sports.
Ski insurance is very competitive and so for a family of four you can pick up a decent basic policy for a week for under £50 and a full comp policy with bells on for under £100. Even the most basic policies have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and cover for off-piste without a guide comes as standard.
Check these key points on your potential insurance policy before booking:
1/ Additional sports. Make sure that any other activities you might do in a ski resort will be covered. e.g. snowshoeing, husky dog sledding, tandem paragliding, even hiking above a particular altitude.
2/ Most policies now include off-piste without a guide as standard, BUT many insurance companies don’t include snow park cover or you’ll find it’s only in their most expensive optional extra. If your kids like to ski through the snow park, even if they’re not hitting those icy kickers, be aware you might not be insured. So check your policy carefully or avoid the snowparks.
Ski insurance has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Now off-piste without a guide comes as standard on many policies
3/ Pay peanuts and you might regret it. Shopping for insurance is always a ball ache. Even with comparison sites, no two policies seem to be exactly the same and with differing levels of insurance. it can hard to decipher what's really necessary and what's not. It's easy to just opt for the cheapest policy (some for as little as a ridiculous £10.00!) with the ‘it’ll never happen’ mindset - but bear in mind it could cost you in the long run. I know from experience that when skiing as a family, we want to be fully comp insured. I don’t want to save a few quid for lower levels of insurance, not for a ski holiday, in fact never when travelling with the family. Should anything happen we want to know we can trust our insurers and get medical attention quickly without a fuss.
4/ Check if you’re insurer will pay out if you’ve been drinking alcohol. There’s been some discussion of late of some insurers not coughing up if you’re under the influence. This could be as innocent as a warming vin chaud between pistes or a glass of wine at dinner.
5/ Some policies state you need to wear a helmet whilst skiing to be covered. This is increasingly the case and with a large number of adults still not wearing helmets, it could affect you. Check your policy.
6/ If you’ve got an annual travel insurance with winter sport included, check there isn’t a limit on days. Some restrict it to a 7 or 14 days per year. Ski Club GB gives good value with 24 days of winter sports cover in their annual policy.
Make sure all the family is covered and check additional activities you might want to do are covered on the policy. Snowtubing, sledging, ice-skating, husky dog sledding, and even snowshoeing can be in additional policy activity packs.
If I’m going to France can’t we combine E111 and Carte Neige?
A Carte Neige is the official insurance partner of all French ski resorts. The huge draw of a Carte Neige is it's the most recognisable insurance for getting you off the mountain in France. The pisteurs will nod their heads and off you go - no upfront costs and having to get reimbursed by your insurance company. You can buy it with your daily/weekly ski pass for around 3 euros a day (ask for 'avec assurance'). A lot of people don’t actually know that it also covers you for up a limited amount of medical cover (3000 euros of medical bills) and gets you home. Whilst whipping out your E111 covers you for approximately 70% of emergency medical care (but not for standard doctor or physio appointments) and then you'll get the remainder bill to pay. They can be used in conjunction but there will be serious holes in your cover.
Medical care beyond a few days will spiral. So if you’ve broken bones or done something much more serious (brain trauma, broken back, coma) where a longer period in hospital is required, then you repeatedly regret you didn't take out comprehensive medical insurance. We’re insured up to 10 million on Gold cover from Ski Club of Great Britain and it gives me peace of mind. Plus if you’ve been the cause of an accident and someone else is injured, you may well need the legal cover that an insurance policy will include. Think also about the other benefits of an insurance policy - theft of your ski kit from the mountain or piste or avalanche closure. Flight delays or cancellations, stolen passports etc.
Keep yourself and your family safe. Never ski without insurance!
Top Tips on Arrival
Once you’ve hit your ski resort find out from the lift ticket/your chalet/the ski resort website what the local rescue service and pisteurs telephone numbers are and put them in your phone. You do not want to be calling 112, the European nationwide emergency telephone number and losing valuable minutes going through a call centre in Belgium or some other country that you’re actually not in, when you could be talking directly to the pisteurs at the bottom of the hill or the mountain rescue service only a mile away.
Keep a copy of your medical insurance policy number and claims telephone number in your phone. Take a photo of your insurance document and passport on your phone or print out a copy of each and make sure that more than one person in your family or group has the details and knows where to find them.
We are insured with the SKI CLUB GREAT BRITAIN who have kindly provided cover for us during our Winter season, however our opinions are, as always, are our own.
With varying levels of insurance (silver, gold & platinum) all covering a minimum of 5 million medical expenses cover, we feel in very good hands. Plus:
* With annual insurance with SKI CLUB GB you get 24 days winter sports cover included
* KIDS ARE INSURED FREE on family policies
* As SKI CLUB GREAT BRITAIN members we get 15% off our insurance and we also receive loads of other benefits like discount such as 5-10% off most ski holiday operators, £25 off early bird Swiss Air flights + free ski carriage, huge discounts on ski hire and 10-15% off high street ski shops such as Snow + Rock.
Example quote for winter sports cover from Ski Club GB for non-members for a family of four going to Europe skiing in February half term. From only £38 you can insure your family for up to 5 million emergency medical attention.
Whilst we haven't yet claimed on our insurance (which is always the proof in the pudding) we feel confident with both our level of insurance and in a trust worthy grass roots brand such as Ski Club GB who know skiing inside out.
Plus I have been so impressed by their social media - absolutely spot on for providing up-to-date snow conditions in all ski resorts all over Europe. Their new app is brilliant - access 6-day weather forecasts for over 250 resorts. Plus save your favourite resorts and easily check instant information of how many lifts are open, webcam, expected snowfall, recent snowfall, wind speed, temperature etc. Everything you need when deciding which resort to drive to for the day.
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The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far