Specialist insurance for back country enthusiasts. You don’t need to stray far from a marked run to be considered as being off-piste. With better lifts and improved access to the off-piste most skiers will tend to venture off-piste nowadays, some without even realising it!
During the season, ski resorts make significant efforts to ensure the ski area is as safe and enjoyable as possible. Insurance companies will put specific clauses in their winter insurance policies with regards to off-piste coverage, so ensure you read your policy clearly and take note of all conditions.
Before venturing off-piste make sure you understand what your insurance company classifies as being ‘off-piste’. Whilst there are policies that will provide off-piste cover you may find that they will specify off-piste as being ‘X’ metres from the side of the piste, or they may stipulate that you must be accompanied by a guide. However, some policies will simply exclude off-piste skiing altogether, so it is important to read your policy document and make clear you understand the policies limitations.
The Telegraph spoke with Betony Garner, spokesperson for the Ski Club of Great Britain, to identify the grey areas of off-piste insurance :
'Many resorts have ski routes or itineraries, which are off-piste runs marked by the occasional pole. These are not groomed and so, in a literal sense, are off-piste. Whether a skier with a basic policy would be covered on such descents was questionable, "often itineraries are marked on the piste map so it could be a grey area", says Miss Garner'.
Off-piste insurance case study:
In 2005, two experienced snowboarders were killed in an avalanche whilst skiing off-piste on the Grand Motte in Tignes. Both snowboarders were covered by their policy for off-piste skiing and their grief-stricken parents assumed that the insurance company would pay for their rescue and repatriation costs. However, in August 2006 the insurance company refused to meet the families insurance claim, citing a clause within the policy that invalidated cover where it is felt they had exposed themselves to ‘danger which is reasonably foreseeable’. The avalanche indicative risk or hazard rating number on that day was 3 (out of a scale of 5) which meant that the risk had been classified as ‘considerable’. Under French law, liabilities can pass to the deceased’s family. The family of these two snowboarders have since been left with a bill of more than £20,000 for the boys' rescue costs.
In summary, if skiing off-piste make sure you have the appropriate avalanche equipment, you know how to use it and you understand your limits! Better still, always take a local mountain guide with you and check those policy coverage details too!