Are you covered to ski off-piste?

Posted by Tina Gardner on 27/01/2014
Off-piste in Zermatt. Photo: www.pyb.co.uk

If you listened to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme today, you may be digging out your insurance policy’s terms and conditions to check whether you’re covered to ski off-piste.

Following a spate of recent avalanche deaths and warnings from officials in the French alps to be vigilant if skiing off-piste, the radio programme covered the issue of disputed insurance claims and cautioned that some ski policies could fail to cover you when you need them most.

You and Yours highlighted the 20 off-piste skiing deaths in the Alps since Christmas and spoke to Chris Radford from Henry’s Avalanche Talk a company providing avalanche safety training for skiers. He has carried out research into when people are covered or not covered by various insurance companies in the event of an accident and found the answers were not always clear. In general he got a very helpful response from specialist companies run by skiers providing insurance for skiers and less clear responses from larger more generalist companies.

Chris pointed out that there are a number of policies that stipulate you can only go off-piste with a guide. He said “the problem with that is the area on piste is the area between the piste poles. In the technical definition if you are one metre the other side of the pole you are off-piste and you are responsible for your own risk. Most skiers, even if they are not intending to go off-piste, will find themselves in an off-piste position at different times during their holiday.  It seems much safer to have a policy that either explicitly covers you for being off-piste without a guide or has no distinction between the piste and the off-piste and therefore is covering you for whatever terrain you happen to be skiing in at the time.”

Rest assured, the BMC’s Alpine & Ski policy does cover off-piste skiing and makes no distinction of whether you are with a guide. It covers up to £10,000,000 for medical expenses. Snowboarding in Europe is covered without additional premium and can be added to worldwide policies at an additional cost.

BMC chief executive Dave Turnbull said: “Having listened to the Radio 4 piece today, we wanted to reassure people that if they’ve got a BMC travel insurance policy that covers skiing then this does cover off-piste skiing. Our insurance policies are designed by mountaineers for mountaineers, including ski-mountaineers and skiers.”

Listen to the full interview on BBC iPlayer.  


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1) Anonymous User
24/02/2018
Extreme skiing is in the excluded list of current BMC policies.
What is the definition of extreme skiing? Is it above a particular grade of descent? Or perhaps a grade in certain conditions? Or perhaps only for ungraded new descents? Anything in Anselme Baud's book is considered extreme?
Without an upfront definition, modern skiers, , might unwittingly compromise their insurance cover doing stuff that is considered 'extreme' by piste skiers but not by the current ski mountaineering community.
I'm sure extreme ski accidents are very rare indeed, the hurdle of the first turn acts as a great 'wally stopper'!
A clarification of the definition would offer reassurance that the underwriters will not try and wriggle out of claim that they conveniently consider extreme.

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