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New Zealand skiers facing winter wipeouts

The New Zealand ski season just around the corner and a growing number of Kiwis are getting set to hit the slopes! Queenstown sees thousands of skiers hitting its powdery snow fields each year, and Wanaka’s Mt Hutt and Cardrona fields regularly host hundreds of skiers or boarders on any given day.

However, no matter whether you're skiing at home or away, Kiwis that disregard ski insurance for their ski trip are in serious danger of being exposed to enormous medical expenses.

Risks snowball for cover-free skiers 

Many New Zealanders head to the local slopes for a weekend without considering a policy. They simply are not aware of the costs associated with bad weather, ski equipment and piste closure. Even if you’re heading to the New Zealand slopes for a couple of days, travel insurance should be top of mind.

Kiwis still need ski insurance at home

A good ski insurance policy will reimburse you for piste closure from any operating ski resort in New Zealand and would cover you to travel to an alternative location should you need to.

Domestic ski insurance covers:

  • Snow-sports equipment:  You're covered for theft of rental skis/snowboard gear (provided it was locked away). You will also be covered for damage to your hired skis and for the cost of renting alternative equipment should you need to. Note that cover limits apply. 
  • Ski pack: If you have pre-booked a ski pass, equipment hire, ski lessons or lift passes, you will be reimbursed should there be bad weather and you can’t ski, if you injure yourself, fall ill, or your passes are stolen. 
  • Piste closure: Ski run closure shouldn’t burst your bubble. Ski insurance will either pay for you to travel to an alternate location or compensate you. 
  • Bad weather and avalanche closure: Your policy will cover your expenses should hazardous weather or an avalanche force you to cancel.
  • Cancellation cover for any prepaid travel or accommodation expenses you must cancel due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Costs associated with any lost, stolen or delayed luggage and personal items.
  • Legal liability should you cause accidental injury to other persons.
  • …plus, travel delay expenses, rental vehicle excess cover, cover for theft of cash, and heaps more.

No matter how good a skier you are, accidents can happen.

The ACC reports that:

  • 70% of accidents involve falls, and most falls happen as a result of loss of control. For example, a skier or snowboarder travelling too fast for the weather conditions or overestimating their ability.
  • About 10% of accidents are caused by collisions with another person or object.
  • Collisions of all sorts account for 90% of all fatalities - trees are the most commonly struck object accounting for some 60% of all fatalities.
  • 5% are lift-related.

Although the ACC will cover you for any medical costs you incur in New Zealand, the cost of lost or stolen ski equipment, or resort closure due to bad weather would all be out of pocket expenses.  In the blink of an eye your winter ski trip could take a swift downhill turn.

For Kiwis skiing abroad, an accident can truly sting.

The physical and monetary expense of injury can be enormous. Aside from the huge cost of evacuations, (a helicopter mountain evacuation in Europe can cost more than $10,000) medical treatment can set you back dearly. In the U.S, a day in hospital can cost you anywhere from $1,500-$12,500. Getting stitched up in Europe can also reach eye-watering levels with French hospital treatment costing up to $3,596 per day!

Whether you break a leg on the slopes overseas and need to be rescued, or have had your gear stolen out of your locker whilst having lunch, your ski insurance will pick up the tab! Even the most experienced skiers and snowboarders can face a wipe-out of sorts. Insurance provides snow revellers with a comforting safety net should things go wrong.

What ski insurance doesn't cover

  • Sip and ski: Fancy a toasty tipple or warming wine by the fireside? A rowdy après ski session could see you risking your cover. Be warned that an alcohol or drug fuelled claim will be rejected.
  • Risky business: Looking to ramp up your adrenalin charge? Most ski policies will only cover you for
    recreational skiing and snowboarding, whereas cover for riskier activities such as competitive skiing, heli-skiing/boarding, cat skiing, ice hockey, mountaineering and bob sleighing is harder to find. If you’re happy to pay an added premium, 1Cover and World Nomads will provide cover for heli-skiing provided you do so with a licensed tour operator.
  • Skiing off piste: Most insurers won’t cover you for backcountry skiing. If you’re really craving a remote mountainside run, insurers 1Cover, Columbus Direct, and World Nomads will cover you provided you stay within resort boundaries with a qualified instructor.
  • Off season skiing: Some insurers will not cover you in off peak seasons as safety provisions are fairly limited at these times. However, some companies such as 1Cover will provide insurance so long as there is enough snow on the ground to ski!

Top tips: safety for the slopes

Rules rule on the slopes: Much like on the road, the skier in front always has priority. Similarly, skiers should adjust their speed and style in accordance to their abilities and general conditions.

Take note of your surroundings: Awareness is everything. Glancing around and looking uphill before setting off is the best way to avoid collisions.

Helmets prevent hazards: It’s an indisputable fact that helmets save lives. Note that whilst wearing a helmet can ward off some injuries, you must still exercise caution at all times. Additionally, should you incur an injury without wearing a helmet, your claim would most likely be rejected.

Dress to impress: The weather can change radically at high altitudes. Multiple layers are better than one and thin, protective socks, a hat and gloves can prepare you for a multitude of conditions.

Take breaks: At freezing temperatures you run the risk of primary frostbite. Get out of the cold every once in a while and replace all wet clothing with dry, insulated layers.

Avoid breakout performances: If you’re not at star skier levels yet, avoid showman efforts. Avoid pressure to try a black run if you’re simply not ready. Inexperienced skiers are usually most prone to injuries.

Throw some shade: The better you see, the better you ski. It may seem strange to first time skiers but shades are essential for the snow. The combined efforts of wind, sun and glare can do a lot of damage to your eyes. A good hardy set of goggles suit foggy, windswept weather whilst stylish shades are perfect for blue sky days.

Whether you’re planning to tear up the slopes in Queenstown or shred powder in Whistler, it’s essential to pack ski insurance. Without cover, your trip can slip from bad to worse faster than an avalanche.

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