At DOGTAG 100% Proof Travel Insurance we understand that almost all skiers and snowboarders have ambitions to get off-piste whenever the conditions allow and one of the commonest question we get asked is, ‘Will I be covered for off-piste skiing or boarding with your standard winter sports upgrade.” Well, the answer to that is both Yes and No.
Recent changes in the way that underwriters view the risks associated with going off piste have lead to better definitions so let’s get these sorted out:
Off-piste In the Resort:
If you chose our Winter Sports Cover (of the appropriate duration) with your Annual Multi Trip, Single Trip or Gap Year insurance, you'll automatically be covered for off piste skiing and snowboarding within the boundaries of the resort. In most European resorts, his provides a massive amount of scope to enjoy everything from finding your feet by simply venturing off the groomed runs to going off the beaten track to enjoy steeps and trees - provided you stay within the boundaries described by the resort map. So, if you simply want to ski or snowboard off piste but remain within the resort boundaries then all you’ll need will be our Winter Sports upgrade, the default SPORT activity level will do.
Of course, you should never put yourself at risk by ‘going under the wire’ or skiing or snowboarding against resort recommendations. In some resorts, particularly in the USA, this is a felony and you can get arrested or lose your ticket.
This is where we really do need to crisp up the definitions:
• Back Country with a guide
Venturing outwith the resort into areas that are unmanaged and unpatrolled, especially with regard to rescue services and avalanche control are plainly riskier than remaining within the resort. However, if you have a local qualified guide with you who knows the terrain and where all the bodies are buried, or likely to get buried, then we’re happy with that so in acknowledgement of the increased risk over that of skiing within the resort boundaries we have rated Back Country with a Guide as SPORT+. And of course, you’ll also need the Winter Sports cover upgrade.
It’s worth mentioning again that in some North American states, your resort may be in a national park and going outside the resort without express permission can land you in hot water with the local sheriff or at the very least, lose your ticket.
• Back Country without a guide
Ok, we’ve established the increased risk of going outside the managed areas of the resort. Plainly, if you go out without a guide then the risks are greater and consequently Back Country without a Guide is rated EXTREME and you’ll also need Winter Sports cover upgrade.
In case you’re thinking that leveling this risk on back country skiing without a guide as a bit unfair, Extreme is how we rate Ski Mountaineering and we don’t think the two are that much different when it comes to going out into the wilderness.
Finally, you must never ski off piste alone. Even in resort you can get into difficulty and if you’re in a tree hole deep in the woods, nobody’s gonna hear your plaintiff cries for help.
Helicopter Skiing & Cat Skiing or Boarding
Ok, we know that this is off piste out of the resort but you will have a guide with you, so we’ve rated that as Sport+. The same goes for Cat Skiing or any other system that takes you out of the resort to ski in unmanaged areas.
Equipment and Safety:
Having adequate off-piste insurance is all very well but in order to get the maximum enjoyment and to minimise risk, you should take stock of a few issues: make sure your kit is in full working order, that you are fit enough to undertake the physical exertion required when skiing or snowboarding off-piste, that you have the necessary skills and that you have appropriate safety equipment. For instance, a helmet is considered de rigueur these days for all the right reasons. If you think that you might be tempted to venture into a wooded area then it is complete madness to go there without adequate head protection so... get a lid. You'll also find that it's easier to control your temperature with a helmet with adjustable vents than it is, say, with a wooly hat. And a woolly hat isn't tree-proof.
Avalanche safety and all the related equipment is a book in itself. Our view is simple: the equipment is useless without the training.
In the mountains, if you go off piste or back-country you do have to keep your wits about you. You are in charge of your own safety and all the avalanche equipment in the world won't help you if you make the wrong kind of mistakes. We're no experts on the subject but we think it's worth doing some research on the subject. Have a look at these articles:
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland - Avalanche Safety Advice
Even if you're heading to the Alps, the knowledge and wisdom built up over decades of experience in the Scottish Highlands is still very apt. Scottish meteorological conditions, with their rapid temperature changes and fluctuations between snow and wet make for a special type of fragility when it comes to the structure of the snow pack and this is every bit as relevant in alpine regions as it is in Cairngorm.
National Geographic - 5 Tips for Staying Safe in Avalanche Country
Who else would you trust but the one organisation that has been sending journalists to the far flung corners of the world for over a hundred years?
And Finally, Some Science behind Avalanches
From The Society for Science & the Public
Stay safe and enjoy your skiing. For a quick quote, just click one of the red buttons up there on the right.
Will I automatically get Helicopter Rescue?
Ski patrollers are generally very well trained and experienced at assessing injuries and managing the evacuation of the injured person off the mountain and to hospital in the manner most appropriate to the injured person's condition. They decide what is appropriate for the circumstances regardless of who insures you. Serious cases often involve helicopters but, more often, a combination of sled and ski lift is more immediate and appropriate. Other factors such as weather are also taken into account. Again, it is not uncommon to be asked for proof of insurance whilst on the mountain.
You can find some other useful information regarding sports that we cover in our Sports Information Library.
The DOGTAG Team
p.s. if you think this information was useful, why not recommend it to a friend using one of the links below.