MANY people take to the slopes at this time of year. Although skiing and snowboarding holidays can be great fun, Michael Schumacher's ski accident over Christmas shows that you could have more chance of getting seriously injured on a skiing holiday than during a week in the sun.
Travel insurance is therefore particularly important when you're going on a skiing holiday. A mistake I often see families make is that they don't realise that the cover needed for their time on the slopes is significantly different to that needed for a week in the Costa del Sol.
Another big mistake is waiting until the last minute to buy travel insurance. Almost a quarter of travel insurance claims arise because a holiday has been cancelled. Cancelled holidays can happen between the day you book the holiday and the day you leave the airport -- yet many families are not insured for cancellations because they have delayed taking out travel cover.
Here are 10 steps to ensure you aren't left high and dry by your travel cover if you run into trouble on your skiing holiday.
1 Before you buy travel insurance, examine the small print for exclusions. Not all policies automatically cover snowboarding, tobogganing and "off-piste" (backcountry) skiing.
2 Ensure your ski travel insurance includes emergency assistance cover. If you need to be helicoptered off a mountain, the cost of such an emergency rescue can be very high.
3 Personal liability cover is another must. If you crash into another skier or snowboarder and are sued for injury or damage, you will need this.
4 Check if your policy has ski equipment cover. If you lose or damage your equipment, this cover will usually foot the bill for repairs or replacements.
5 You will be very unlucky if an avalanche strikes while you're away -- but it does happen. Avalanche cover will usually pay for additional accommodation and travel expenses if you're stuck in a resort after an avalanche hits.
6 Poor weather conditions could lead to the closure or part-closure of your ski resort. Piste closure cover typically pays out for each day your resort is closed, so it's worth having.
7 If you're injured, your chances of getting the full use of your ski pass, equipment and lessons are pretty slim. Ski pack cover reimburses you for the cost of your pass, equipment and lessons -- so check that this is included. More importantly, check that you have medical expenses cover. If you're injured and need to go to a local hospital or medical clinic, the hospital bill is likely to be a lot more than the cost of your ski pack.
8 If you are a competitive skier and you don't want as many restrictions on the slopes as those who opt for standard winter sports cover, consider specialised cover for ski racing.
9 Buying an annual multi-trip policy is a good way to ensure you don't find yourself without cover should your holiday be cancelled. These policies cover you for the year so you don't have to take out travel insurance every time you travel. However, these policies usually won't cover individual holidays that are more than a month long unless you have upgraded your cover.
10 If you have private health insurance and are getting a discount off your travel insurance as a result, ensure that your private health cover is up-to-date -- and that all the people named on the travel insurance policy have private health insurance.
Finbarr Crotty is managing director of www.getcover.ie