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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:
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?
The evening entertainment at the Freeze Festival offered me the chance to be among the first to see the ground breaking film from O'Neill and Teton Gravity Research.
The new film from Jeremy Jones may not have had the budget of Travis Rice's hit - That's It, That's All - but has to be the biggest film since. With most films these days centred on a variety of perfectly executed tricks, whether in the back-country, the park or using urban rails, a film based deep into the mountains had the feel of an '80s film with 2010 technology.
The film takes you back to the bare bones of snowboarding and opposed to the using helicopters and snowmobiles the riders hike deep into the mountains, whether in Alaska, Antarctica or Chamonix. The line-up is also incredible with Travis Rice, Josh Dirksen, Xavier De La Rue, Jonaven Moore and Johan Olofsson.
The most incredible section of the film involves them 60 miles into some of Alaska's most daunting mountains and being stuck in a snow storm for 12 days. The team have ten days of food with them, their tents are under a foot of fresh powder and all they have for entertainment is building snow caves, playing cards and sleeping. British photographer, Dan Milner, adds some good humour to the situation with some choice comments. Ten days in the guys are on rations and on day 12 the sun comes out. Now most people after 12 days of sun, minimal food and being stuck in a tent miles from civilisation would go home, but not these guys, new supplies are flown out to them and the next few days the team hike and ride some of the most incredible lines you have ever seen.
Another stand out section is where Jeremy heads to Xavier De LA Rue's home resort of Chamonix and they take out a local guide to some of the craziest terrain I've ever seen. Having hiked deep into the Mount Blanc's surrounding mountains the team have to camp overnight and find themselves in a mountain hut that is literally hanging precariously on the side of a massive cliff face. The following day the team are hiking into their line and are underneath some of the scariest looking avalanche conditions ever seen on film. After a few loose pieces of snow the guys are spooked and head back, once off the mountain Jones points out the biggest goal of back country riding is 'to make it home alive'.
Whether a skier, snowboarder or surfer you can appreciate the incredible snowboarding in this film.
After the film we were treated to a few drinks by the sponsors and had time to chat to one of snowboarding's legends Josh Dirksen and one of the UK's stalwarts and the weekend's MC, Tim Warwood. Dirksen, as he usually known, is a very welcoming guy who is still excited about snowboarding for a living after nearly two decades of professional snowboarding. After a few drinks we had a great conversation about how crazy the film was to make and how Travis Rice is the future of snowboarding. I was also given a few tips on how to convince my girlfriend a week's off-piste snowboarding in Chamonix will be good for me. Dirksen may by 34 (which in professional snowboarding years is usually well into retirement) but he still has a huge passion for snowboarding and snowboarders, he happily chatted to everyone at the show and showed how real passion for snow doesn't die.
This year's Relentless Freeze Festival looked like it was ready to step up the UK's premier winter sports festival a notch and Friday's British themed day proved to be a great warm up to a superb weekend.
The main event of the day was the Battle of Britain competition on the huge ski-jump-esque set up. The crowd were treated to a great spectacle with the best of British taking part. Jenny Jones, Gary Greenshields, Jamie Nicholls and Andy Nudds were all throwing it down, and though it is only early in the season the UK riders were really pushing the limit of the jump. Due to warm weather the run in was a little slower than expected, though that didn't stop the guys throwing down some serious tricks.
With Olympian Dom Harington and X-Games winner Jenny Jones not making the final it looked like current Brits champion Jamie Nicholls would be among the favourites. His double-corked 1080 got the crowd going, though due to the hand drag on the landing he only made third place. Scott Penmann had joked with the competitions MC's, Tim Warwood & Christian Stevenson, earlier in the day that his only trick was the double front flip, which he styled out to claim second place. With the lack of speed making the double cork almost impossible Billy Morgan finished the afternoon with a perfectly executed double back flip, gaining both a huge cheer from the crowd and bagging him first place.
Once the snowboarding had taken place there was an hour or so to go until the premier of Jeremy Jones new film Deeper and the Battle of Britain ski competition. With 20,000 people expected over the weekend this was the biggest Freeze Festival yet and with Relentless on board the entertainment had stepped up a gear.
Over by the For Boarder By Boarders stand they had set up a small mini-ramp, and to the backdrop of some beatboxing in the Desperados tent, we were treated to a mini skate demo with Vans snowboarder Chris Chatt showing off his skills on four wheels. There was also a bike demonstration from a couple of guys in the Relentless team including a 1.2m bunny hop and a variety of super-mans, tail whips and back flips all on show.
Battle of Britain Snowboard
Battle of Britain Ski
Friday was an absolutely awesome experience, and though some of the biggest names in freestyle skiing, snowboarding and music were to follow it will take some beating.
Photo's © Paul Anthony Easton
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