Over 1 million Brits are expected to hit the slopes this Winter, yet almost one third won't have purchased the right travel insurance policy, according to travel association ABTA.
Despite travel insurers in the UK paying out over £1 million per day in travel insurance claims in 2013, the jargon and small-print used by insurers can be confusing.
The Financial Ombudsman (FOS) - a free service where consumers can escalate complaints they have been unable to resolve with a financial business - says it receives about 400 travel insurance related enquiries every month and following the Winter period, up to one quarter (25%)of travel insurance enquiries relate to winter sports holidays. It also points out that of all monthly travel insurance complaints received, less than half (45%) are upheld in favour of the consumer, highlighting the need for travellers to better understand the small print.
So to help, we've highlighted 7 common travel insurance traps to watch out for if you're hitting the slopes in 2015.
1.) Check the insurer's definition of 'ski equipment'
When purchasing winter sports insurance, check the insurer's definition of 'ski equipment' in the terms and conditions. Commonly, this will only include skis, snowboards, bindings, boots and poles. Many snow-seekers may not realise they aren't covered for loss, damage or theft of other expensive items, including ski clothing and accessories such as helmets, goggles and gloves. So if you've forked out for expensive winter sports clothing or are even borrowing from a friend, it pays to check this clause.
2.) Make sure the policy covers you for winter sports activities.
While it may sound obvious, don't just head off to the snow hoping your annual travel insurance policy will have your back. Make sure the policy covers you for any winter sports activities you may do, as these will not be covered on standard travel insurance policies.
3.) Check the total number of days the winter sports policy covers you for.
Before deciding upon the right policy for you, double check how many days the winter sports policy will cover you for. It's not uncommon for insurers to limit travellers to just 17 days of winter sports cover per year, so if you're planning on playing on the slopes for the whole season or going twice in one year, make sure your policy covers you for this.
4.) Wear a helmet or beware
When skiing or snowboarding, always adhere to your insurer's guidelines in case you need to make a claim. For example, most insurers insist you wear a helmet during winter sports activities. Failure to do so in the event of a claim, could see your policy fail to pay out.
5.) Going 'off-piste'?
Check your insurer's limitations. Most standard travel insurance policies will not cover skiing or snowboarding 'off-piste'unless with a qualified guide or instructor, although each insurer's definition of 'off-piste' varies. Most insurers define it as 'within resort boundaries', leaving it up to you to figure out exactly what that means. Are you allowed to ski in the resort's woodland, or if you go just to the side of the marked areas will your policy be valid? Before purchasing travel insurance, ask the individual provider about the specific limitations and how they define 'resort boundaries'. And if you're planning going off-piste, make sure you have specialist winter sports cover because if you are involved in an accident, you may face steep medical bills if inadequate travel insurance cover was in place.
6.) Delayed ski season?
Don't get caught out on your last day on the slopes.Weather predictions suggest we could still be experiencing snow in the UK in May, and if this spreads to Europe too, travellers could get caught out by a clause found in most winter sports policies which says you are only covered up until 31st April in the Northern hemisphere and 31st October in the Southern hemisphere. Check your policy for any limitations on when you can claim for winter sports. Meanwhile, these unpredictable weather conditions mean more travellers could be vulnerable to piste closures. Should you need to claim for piste closure, ensure you have obtained confirmation of the resort closure from the local representative - failure to do so could invalidate any claim.
7.) Medical costs
While it may sound obvious, make sure your insurance policy covers private medical costs. These would be required if you had an accident on the slopes and had to be transported from a mountain to a hospital by helicopter. Without cover for private medical costs, you could be left with a huge bill.
Commenting on the need to be prudent with small print, travel insurance expert at PayingTooMuch.com Beth Macer, said: "When it comes to buying insurance for your skiing holidays, make sure you don't get caught out by vague insurer's definitions. It's really important to make sure the policy covers you for exactly what you need."