Thousands of skiers risk huge medical bills

FCO urges winter sports holidaymakers to take out travel insurance

As British holidaymakers prepare to head for the slopes this Christmas, new research from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) reveals that almost a third (31%) of people in the UK admit to not taking out travel insurance for their winter sports holidays.

61% of those surveyed were unaware that many travel insurance policies do not cover accidents that occur off-piste and only 16% said that they always read the small print.

The survey also reveals some confusion around European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs). Only 53% of those surveyed understand what cover an EHIC provides.* Many people wrongly believe that the card covers a helicopter ambulance, medical repatriation and transport off the slope with ski patrol and 34% of those surveyed said they didn’t know. **

Phil Lord from the FCO’s Know Before You Go campaign said:

“Winter sports come with risks but the fun can soon come to an end if you have an accident and are not insured. We strongly advise those hitting the slopes this winter to take out comprehensive travel insurance. Many skiers will be unaware that their insurance may not cover them if they’ve been drinking alcohol or for skiing off-piste. Medical treatment and repatriation can leave you thousands of pounds out of pocket – it’s just not worth the risk.”

FCO Consular staff see heavy drinking as a key factor in consular cases linked to skiing and snowboarding.

Dr Laurence Bristow-Smith, British Consul General in Milan, said:

“Many British visitors on a skiing holiday are not familiar with a mountain environment – freezing temperatures, snow and ice and slippery terrain. Many of them are not aware that alcohol can have a different effect when consumed at altitude.

“We’ve provided support in a couple of consular cases where fatal accidents in the mountains were a direct result of drinking too much alcohol. In one case the insurance company refused to pay out as the policy holder ‘had put himself in unnecessary danger and was under the influence of alcohol’. This meant that repatriation costs, amounting to thousands of Euros, had to be met by the family.”

In early December, the FCO working with the ski industry and local authorities will launch safety campaigns in key European resorts***.  For tips and advice on preparing for foreign travel visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel

Ends

Notes to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  All figures above refer to 724 people who stated that they have been skiing or snowboarding. Total sample size was 2185 adults.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 12th November 2010.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • * You need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel – it gives the holder rights to healthcare that becomes necessary during a temporary visit to EEA (European Economic Area) countries or Switzerland. The EHIC replaced the E111 form in Jan 2006. The E111 form is no longer valid. People who are normally resident in the UK can apply for an EHIC.   The FCO website (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/staying-safe/travel-insurance/ehic) explains what the EHIC covers.
  • ** Figures from the survey show that 13% believe the EHIC covers a helicopter ambulance, 15% think it covers medical repatriation and 14% think it covers transport off the slope with ski patrol.

  • *** The key resorts where campaigns will be run are in the regions of Savoie, Haute Savoie, Isère and Rhône in France, Piemonte and Veneto in Italy and the major German and French speaking resorts in Switzerland.
  • The FCO’s Know Before You Go campaign encourages British nationals to prepare for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems.  The campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad.  The campaign works with around 400 travel industry partners to communicate its messages.  For more information please visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel

For more information please contact:

Philip Lord (020 7008 0358/ philip.lord@fco.gov.uk) or Lynda St Cooke (020 7008 0102/ lynda.stcooke@fco.gov.uk) in London;

Raffaella Previtera (00 39 02 72300215/ raffaella.previtera@fco.gov.uk) in Milan

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