INSURERS have been forced to widen cover on their winter sports policies for 1999/2000 after clients were unable to claim for ruined holidays following the avalanches that hit the Alps last season.
Apart from tourists being stranded in some areas, skiers in affected resorts who were unable to take to the slopes because there was too much snow were also unable to make a claim.
Most policies only paid out for piste closure or unused ski pack - prepaid lift pass, ski hire and lessons - if clients couldn't ski because there was too little snow. Preferential was one of the first to act, changing the £150 avalanche cover in its Winter Sports policy to compensate skiers who were snowed in at their resort before the end of the season. It previously paid out only if there was a delay in getting to and from a resort.
Director John Buckingham said the piste-closure wording, which specifies a payout for too little snow, is also extended to cover too much snow.
Matthew Gerard has also changed its piste-closure cover so it pays out if there is too much snow, to a maximum £200.
Director David Fox said:"We had a few clients last season who were unable to get compensation when they could not ski because there was too much snow. It is unlikely, but if it happened again, they would now be covered. It is a selling point for the policy."
AON's travel insurance services managing director James Beagrie said Suretravel's 1999/2000 ski policy had already been finalised when the avalanches struck.
"We would have liked to have got in cover for too much snow, which is on some of our bespoke policies," he said. "If it becomes an issue that we haven't got it we will add it next year. It will only add pennies to the premium, but these days even that can make a difference between whether you are sold or not."
Two of last season's dedicated ski schemes did have piste-closure wording that covered skiers for too much snow - JS Insurance Management's Winter Sports policy, which paid out for 'adverse weather', and the higher, Excel tier of Hamilton Barr's Skisafe scheme, now rebranded One Ski.
For next season, Hamilton Barr has extended its travel-delay benefit so clients can cancel their holiday because of an avalanche. None of last year's skiers, on any of the policies, were able to cancel just because they wanted to avoid getting caught in an avalanche, even if their resort was inaccessible.
Director Michael Pettifer said: "Clients can cancel or go to alternative accommodation. Despite adding this, the 10-day Europe premium is actually £1 cheaper than last year."
The 10-day rate is £18.62 net for standard cover.
Most single-trip travel insurance schemes offer winter sports cover for additional premium. In some cases, the medical section is simply extended to cover skiing, but other policies have full specialist cover.
Primary's Leisure Traveller policy, used by the Ski Club of Great Britain, covers ski equipment, ski hire, ski pack, piste closure and avalanche closure for double premium. That takes the 10-day Europe net rate from £7.95 net to £15.90.
ABC Holiday Extras' ski package covers equipment, ski pack and piste closure for double the premium, bringing the 10-day Europe rate to £19.34 net. A similar extension to its Economy Trip scheme costs 2.5 times the usual premium, at £16.02.
Ski cover can be added to Inter Assurance's Select Plus policy for a 175% loading, adding £14.71 to the £8.41 net premium for 10 days in Europe.
n Cross-country skiing.
n Off-piste skiing while under the supervision of a qualified guide.
n Racing in national or international events.
n Use of bobsleighs including the Cresta run (unless additional premium paid).
n Mountaineering or rock-climbing.
n Extreme skiing.
Winter sports policies
Hamilton Barr: One Ski Travel Insurance covers winter sports equipment, £600 (Excel, £1,000); ski pack, £300 (£400); piste closure, £200 (£350). Excel pays for physiotherapy, if needed, on return to UK (£600). Net premium 10 days Europe, £18.62 (£21.62); 10 days US/Canada, £28.70 (£35.70).
Matthew Gerard: Ski Master. Covers ski equipment, £600; ski hire, £200; inability to ski, £200; piste closure, £200. Premiums 10 days Europe, £33; 10 days US/Canada, £54.
Preferential: Winter Sports covers ski equipment, £500; hire of skis, £200; delayed ski equipment, £100; ski pack, £300; piste closure, £300; avalanche cover, £150. Premiums 10 days Europe, £21.45; 10 days US/Canada, £32.11.
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