With the snow falling and the winter season approaching fast one question that should be on all of our minds is: 'Are you covered'? I'm referring to winter sports travel insurance of course.

Now there will be some of us covered by our banks, others will have year round policies and of course there are always those who will be booking theirs online the night before the flight. First of all everyone who goes skiing or snowboarding needs winter sports cover on their travel insurance and second of all we need to know for what we are covered.

Over the next few months there will be articles in the papers, on the news and in travel blogs about accidents in the Alps, and those where people don't have the appropriate cover are always the ones to make the headlines. Now, of course there are accidents that are unforeseeable, and often where blame is a very grey area. With mother nature involved we participate in an unpredictable environment that needs to be respected.

In years gone by I have used specialist action sports travel insurance, I've used the company recommended on Iglu extras and I've used my bank, luckily to minimal use. I've also had friends forget to take out a policy or forget to add their winter sports cover thinking they can get away with it and ending up with hefty medical bills and only a credit card to pay for it with no chance of ever seeing that money again.

At the moment there is a story in the press about a group of skiers who are thought to have caused an avalanche in the Swiss resorts of Anzère. The people in question are facing a possible court case that could result in charges, fines and having to pay the costs of the rescue operation deemed to be around 100,000 CHF (£64,000). Though it is a contentious issue to whether they are at fault this does highlight another side of winter sports insurance. Not only do you need to understand the cover for your own injuries, lost, stolen or damaged property etc you also need to understand the level of cover if you cause an accident.

Now I don't pretend to be an expert and the intricacies of law and insurance are outside of my knowledge base but there are definitely certain aspects of each insurance plan you should check. Again this is personal preference, whether it be level of cover or cost. Not everyone needs the highest level of off-piste insurance and not all of us will be upside down in the snow parks.

These are recommendations of what to look for and not what you as an individual should purchase.

What Cover Do I Need?

There are various parts to travel insurance, that when taking a ski holiday, are overlooked. There are the usual suspects that need to be covered; medical cover, repatriation, delays, cancellations, luggage, theft, damage etc.

When it comes to Winter Sports cover there are a few more aspects that need to be considered:

  • Off Piste - There are various levels with a large number of policies covering 'only when accompanied by a qualified instructor' and some policies exclude certain off piste just using the vague wording 'unnecessary risk' without an explanation.
  • Snow Park - Read the small print, if you enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the park make sure you are covered and some insurance, like off-piste, counts the park as an 'unnecessary risk'.
  • Legal Cover - As with the story mentioned above, if you set off an avalanche or wipe out an angry ski instructor you may find that this part of your insurance keeps you out of serious trouble.
  • Public Liability - Again I'm not sure of the exact legalities of this but skiing and snowboarding are fun sports in potentially hazardous surroundings so make sure you are covered.
  • Ski & Snowboard Carriage - If you have the latest kit make sure the covered allowance is is enough, if your skis cost you £600 and your insurance only covers £400 you need to know.
  • Medical Care - I mentioned this before but some policies will pay those horrible hospital bills for you, others will want you to claim back any incurred costs, check the emergency procedures and costs.
  • Ski Packs - Some insurance cover will include your lift pass, hired ski equipment and ski lessons for a variety of closure, cancellation and damage scenarios.

So take a look at the various types of policy available and though we live in a price conscious world, you may find the cover you want or need is only a little bit more than the cheapest options. How much would you pay for piece of mind?