Travel insurance may be the least interesting aspect of action sports holidays but it is one of the most important. In this adventure sport travel insurance FAQ, we interview Snowcard Insurance MD Russell Dadson to learn more about this key element of adventure planning.
Adventure sport travel insurance FAQ
For a long time, the press have focussed on premiums and headline policy limits of travel insurance. So much so, that it can all look very similar. Ultimately leading to a confusing and often misleading picture for those looking to get adventure sport travel insurance.
Having recently gone about getting an annual travel policy covering adventure travel and a variety of extreme sports, I found it difficult to see differences between policies. So rather than re-hashing another comparisons of insurance company premiums, I have decided to try and drill a bit deeper.
I wanted to provide some helpful insight for other people in my position. So I got in touch with Snowcard Insurance to discuss it. Between us we came up with the idea of an interview with Snowcard Insurance MD Russell Dadson.
The idea being I will ask all the questions about adventure sport travel insurance that I can dream of. And get answers straight from the horse’s mouth in an easy to understand format. Ultimately it will help you (and me!) make an informed decision on insurance that covers us for the activities we do.
Interview Snowcard Insurance MD
The below questions are everything I have ever wondered about insurance. Hopefully the answers will help you understand insurance terminology and what you can expect from a specialist adventure sports travel policy.
The questions below are by Luke Rees, MD of AW365 and answers by Russell Dadson, MD of Snowcard Insurance. We look at all the important things to consider when buying specialist adventure sports travel insurance.
LR: This may sound like a silly question but why do you need specialist adventure sports travel insurance?
RD: It’s not a silly question, in fact it’s a great starting point! Standard travel policies are sold by most UK insurance companies. They were historically provided alongside package holidays, often sold by the tour operator when the holiday was booked.
These days, the internet accounts for the majority of direct sales. Standard policies tend to be extremely low cost as insurers fight for business where purchase decisions are based on price alone.
This means policy coverage is very restricted and excludes hazardous activities, like mountain sports. Even where standard policies offer ‘top up’ cover for certain sports, the policy wording itself is not changed to reflect the more demanding needs of adventure sports enthusiasts. For example, important cover for things like search and rescue or heli-evacuation are not included.
Specialist adventure sports policies will automatically include these elements. They also provide wider cover for things like sports equipment, which is not covered by low cost standard travel policies.
LR: How does specialist adventure sports travel insurance differ to normal travel insurance?
RD: As in your previous question, there are extra elements of cover that adventure sports insurance includes that are not found in standard travel policies.
However, the more significant difference, and it’s something that the insurance industry doesn’t really like to acknowledge, is that many of the more standard providers do not have the claims expertise or resources to manage the more complex demands of adventure travellers.
It’s a fine balancing act getting pricing right when claims demands for the year ahead are an unknown. If a policy is very cheap, it is so for good reason and that’s because the insurer prices policies to generate short term income. This is at the expense of providing cover when it’s needed in the future and paying claims in a timely and fair fashion.
In fact, some insurers whom I won’t name here are well known for under pricing policies to get good rankings on comparison websites. They then avoid paying claims because they’ve got their cash flow all wrong.
You ultimately get what you pay for. But the main specialists in the market, like Snowcard, have been around for many years and this is because they provide the sort of service adventure travellers demand. Over 80% of Snowcard policies sold are either to repeat clients or via word of mouth recommendations, that speaks for itself!
LR: What activities does Snowcard Adventure sport travel insurance cover?
RD: We cover a wide range of adventure sports. From traditional winter sports activities like skiing and snowboarding through to more specialist snow sports like ski touring, mountaineering, high altitude trekking and ice climbing.
Most summer mountain sports like rock climbing, mountain biking and white water kayaking are covered by Snowcard. We also cover other non-mountain sports activities including scuba diving, water sports like sailing and windsurfing. But adventure sports that are based on skiing, climbing, cycling or trekking form the bread and butter of what Snowcard is about.
LR: OK so are there activities you don’t insure?
RD: Yes. We don’t cover air sports, but there are more specialist policies for things like skydiving and paragliding available. There are also some professional and military risks we can’t insure.
There is a list of excluded activities on our website. But the main thrust of our scheme is for recreational adventure sports holiday enthusiasts.
LR: Is there a limit to how much of each activity I can do?
RD: No. On a single trip policy you are covered for the activity you take part in for the whole holiday.
You just need to have the right level of cover for the sports you are doing. On annual multi trip policies, there are some rules on the number of weeks skiing/snowboarding you can do. But otherwise there aren’t any other restrictions.
Annual policies have a 31 day single trip limit. But this can be extended to either 60 or 90 days. 90 days is the maximum trip length we insure.
LR: I like plenty of adventure but I am not going to be doing the really extreme stuff like climbing 7000m peaks or racing mountain bikes. Do I have to pay for every activity?
RD: No. Snowcard has 5 levels of cover; ‘Adventure Basic’, ‘Adventure Plus’, ‘Max Adventure’, ‘Extreme Adventure’ and ‘Pro Adventure’.
Each level covers progressively higher risk activities. You only need take the highest level you are likely to need. The higher level you take will include all activities in the lower levels as well.
LR: Do you need to know in advance what activities I will be doing?
RD: No. once the policy is decided on and set up, you don’t need to let us know each time you travel. If you think you need to upgrade a policy to cover an unexpected adventure opportunity, you can do this yourself online or by calling our call centre.
If in doubt about whether an activity is covered, just ask and we will confirm whether or not you need to upgrade.
LR: My travel insurance (through a bank) includes winter sports but not off-piste unless with a guide. Does Snowcard cover off-piste activities without a guide?
RD: Yes, all Snowcard winter sports policies cover skiing or snowboarding on and off piste with or without a guide. Skiing out of resort boundaries will require higher levels of cover for ski touring, heli skiing or snowcat skiing.
LR: This winter I am going cat skiing in Macedonia and heli-skiing in Turkey. Would these be covered?
RD: Yes, you will need the Max Adventure level of cover.
LR: Would I be covered if I ski out of bounds?
RD: Yes. You should follow safety advice and carry appropriate safety equipment. If in doubt seek expert guidance.
Preparation and understanding risk are key to staying safe. People are more likely to come unstuck if they disregard safety advice and take part in activities without appropriate skill levels, equipment and training.
If you are with an organised and guided group you will be fine. If going out of bounds without a guide, you should understand the risks and behave in accordance with accepted safety precautions, for your own as well as other slope user’s safety.
A good resource for off piste skiers can be found at Henry’s Avalanche Talk.
LR: How about if I duck under a safety fence to ski or snowboard in a closed area?
RD: If a ski area is closed it is so for a reason. Ski or snowboard under the rope and you won’t be insured. You know I can’t tell you to disregard safety advice!!
LR: How does the insurance work geographically? E.g. if I am only going to be in Europe I won’t need worldwide cover
RD: Yes, you select either a European policy or a worldwide policy. If you start with a European policy and later need worldwide cover, you can upgrade your policy, you just pay the difference in premium.
LR: Are there some places I can’t go with Snowcard
Adventure sport travel insurance?
RD: Yes there are some geographical limits. For example, we don’t cover Antarctica or polar expeditions to the north or south poles.
LR: What about travelling against the advice of the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office)?
RD: You should always follow FCO advice. Again, you know I can’t suggest otherwise!
If you go into an area the FCO advise against travel to, you do so at your own risk. If anything happens, normal emergency services might not be available. Third party service providers like air ambulance airlines might not be able to fly in, either because they can’t get insurance to land or it would endanger their staff.
If a tour operator is taking you to an area currently advised against travel to by the FCO, discuss the risks with them. Some operators know what they are doing, others less so but the risk is ultimately yours.
If you are independently travelling in an area the FCO advise against travel to, it is unlikely you would have normal access to consular assistance if anything happened to you. Snowcard works with the FCO’s Know Before You Go campaign.
LR: Are you insured if you are on holiday in the UK?
RD: Yes, holidays are covered in the UK where there is at least one nights pre-booked accommodation. In the UK you don’t pay for medical expenses or rescue costs and most of our belongings are covered by our home insurance, so the main UK risk is holiday cancellation.
LR: What about for day trip activities in the UK?
RD: As noted, you don’t pay for medical costs in the UK so there is no need for travel insurance cover for day trips. If you want cover for your equipment, you will probably find your home contents insurance covers you whilst away from home in the UK. If not, you will be able to extend your home policy to cover your belongings for minimal cost.
LR: As a specialist adventure sports travel insurance provider, do you also cover all the usual travel insurance stuff such as flight delays, lost luggage, and medical expenses if you get ill?
RD: Yes. With Snowcard, you can tailor your policy to include baggage, activity equipment (including bikes), cancellation and travel interruption.
If you have, for instance, a free bank account policy that covers cancellation and baggage but not your high-risk sports, you can just take the medical and rescue cover with Snowcard. Likewise, if your home insurance covers all of your belongings but you need cancellation and delay cover, you can take the medical and rescue cover plus cancellation.
Snowcard policies are the most flexible in this respect in the UK. The medical cover includes everyday illnesses and accidents whilst travelling as well as whilst taking part in your activities. So if you fall down the steps getting off the plane or you have a bout of food poisoning, you would be covered for normal emergency medical expenses.
LR: In the case of a serious accident what support can I expect from Snowcard?
RD: Our underwriters operate a 24/7 multi-lingual assistance service called International Medical Rescue.
We are able to manage requests for assistance from the point of rescue to evacuation to the most appropriate medical facility and then repatriation back to the UK, by air ambulance if necessary. With 30 years of experience in managing claims from every corner of the world, our underwriters have just about seen it all!
We have always been with the same insurer and our joint experience in managing adventure holiday claims for such a long time is unparalleled. I’m not aware of another insurer in the UK market with the combined experience that we have with our underwriters.
LR: Do I pay my medical fees and claim it back or does Snowcard pay it all upfront?
RD: For serious incidents involving large sums of money, International Medical Rescue will organise guarantees for payment and settle rescue and medical costs directly for you. For small claims, it is often more convenient to pay at the point of delivery and make a claim on your return home.
LR: Do you cover damage to gear in the course of normal usage?
RD: No, the equipment insurance only covers accidental damage in the event of an accident and it does not cover wear and tear or damage that is a part of normal use. For instance, burst tyres, fraying ropes or scratches or dents to kayaks are not covered.
If your equipment is damaged in a collision or your kit is broken in a situation where you are injured, like following a fall, that would be ‘accidental damage’. You can claim for replacement costs, cover is based on ‘market value’ and is not ‘new for old’.
When talking about ‘breakage’ in normal use. If a piece of kit fails because of manufacturer defect or fault, you should contact the sales outlet or original manufacturer to see if the warranty would cover replacement.
LR: What about if your skis or snowboard get stolen and you haven’t locked them up?
RD: Skis left outside a restaurant that are not locked are covered whilst you go in for lunch. If any equipment is left out all night and it is unsecured, it wouldn’t be covered.
In the event of a claim for theft, a police report is required. Skis or snowboards stolen from secured ski locker rooms would be insured subject to a police report being obtained. In the absence of evidence of a theft, police in ski resorts can be very unhelpful when it comes to providing reports for insurance so beware!
LR: And how about my tech gear such as mobile, camera or laptop?
RD: We have a dedicated section of cover that we call ‘Techno Pack’. This can be opted in to although sometimes people will find their high value items are also covered by their home contents insurance. It is best to check as it does add to the overall premium.
LR: Am I covered if it is a work trip?
RD: All policies cover non-manual business travel. For guides or instructors, they would need to take our Pro Adventure level of cover.
If unclear about whether a Snowcard policy is suitable for a work trip, let us know and we can confirm the situation. Employers within the EU (even if their staff work outside of the EU) have a legal responsibility for injury to their staff whilst working, including working abroad. Snowcard policies are primarily intended for recreational activity holidays so it’s always best to check.
In your case, if you are just visiting a resort to get a feel for it and then write an article on your return, we would cover you as a recreational skier because your skiing is not ‘work’ in the sense you are not guiding or instructing. If you are filming or making documentaries, we would regard this as manual work and Snowcard would not be the right policy for you.
LR: To conclude this interview with Snowcard Insurance MD Russell Dadson I’d like to say a big thank you!
RD: Thanks for the opportunity to talk and I really hope some of these answers will help. If anyone has a query or would like me to explain anything in more detail, contact me at: www.snowcard.co.uk/contact-us
We hope you found this adventure sport travel insurance FAQ useful. And that this interview with Snowcard Insurance MD Russell Dadson answered your questions. To obtain a quote, visit: www.snowcard.co.uk