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Archive for October, 2007

Dreaming of a White Christmas? Why next year’s colour is GREEN

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Summer is over and sights are set for the coming winter ski season.  Let’s hope for better snow in Europe than we had last year.  To be fair, after a very poor start, snow fell later in the season and most resorts fared better than had been feared but even so 2006 will go down as a poor season in Europe though much better in the USA and Canada.  And if the forecasts are correct, the ‘El Nino’ effect will bring even better conditions across the Atlantic for 2007/8.  But what about Europe which still attracts the majority of British skiers?  There have been worse seasons in Europe than last year – the end of the 1980’s were notably bad but resorts across Europe are rightly worried that ‘climate change’ is a serious enough threat for them to look at measures to improve their ‘green credentials.’  Resorts at lower altitudes are right to be worried as a 2 degree C rise in temperature over the next century is enough to remove almost a third of ski stations across Europe.  The Ski Club of Great Britain has launched its Green Respect the Mountain campaign to raise awareness on what resorts need to do to protect the environment but also gives the general public information on which resorts are better than others.  If this gives resorts the added incentive to improve their practices and become more eco-friendly then so much the better.  Solar and biomass powered lifts are a new innovation and watch out for more car free areas in resorts.  Better recycling, less reliance on plastic, less use of chemicals in snow making and more widespread use of alternative energy supplies are further examples at the seriousness that some resorts have taken on this issue.   There is widespread agreement and greater awareness that a ‘do nothing’ policy is just not an option these days.

If this also improves the snow conditions, then so much the better!  For those contemplating a week or two on the slopes this winter then it is advisable that they buy a travel insurance policy that covers them for poor snow conditions.  Most travel insurance policies offer cover to compensate for lack of snow (or too much) with the offer extending to bussing to other higher resorts if their resort closes.  And whilst on the subject of travel insurance, do make sure that if you find there is little snow and you therefore want to try out the bungee jumping on offer, just check the small print allows you to do so!

On the Piste or off it – get the right travel insurance cover

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

The leaves may still be on the trees but the first snow has fallen in the Alps and the Pyrenees.  Yes, the start of the new ski season is just around the corner.  The disappointment of last season’s poor snow record is forgotten and with it the hope that this season will be one to remember.  But will it be for the right reasons?  Each year thousands take to the slopes for the first time but some unfortunately will return with an injury.  And it’s not just first timers as the more experienced take on new challenges, on and off piste, the wipe out’s just tend to be more spectacular!  That is why it is essential to have the proper ski and snowboard travel insurance to provide the necessary cover on and off the slopes.  So what should people be looking for?

Most travel insurance providers offer good cover for intermediate and beginners.  This is the vast bulk of the market.  Yes, accidents do happen but they are more likely to be in a controlled fashion, by that we mean on well groomed pistes and with assistance and help on hand.  The problem area is when the skier or snowboarder gains in confidence and skill and wants to seek greater challenges and with it more thrills.  This generally means tackling ever more severe slopes but also to venture into what is loosely termed ‘off piste’.  This is where the unwary can very quickly become unstuck and we are not talking about the snow conditions.  Most travel insurance policies will have restrictions on ‘off piste’ such as ‘only with a guide’ or ‘only within a specified resort area’ so when seeking that ‘adrenaline rush’ it is important to know what you are getting yourself into first.  What’s more, the increasing popularity of ‘half pipes’ and ‘free style’ means that the potential risk of injury has increased as more and more people are attracted to this immensely enjoyable leisure activity.  To make sure you are properly covered for these more extreme sports activities, it is essential that winter sports insurance is obtained that offers protection to this level of activity.  The more expert you are, the more likely you will need more specialist cover than provided by the usual high street provider.  Mountain rescue and medical costs are expensive and if this requires repatriation then the costs mount up rapidly.  It’s probably too late, as you are being strapped to the rescue sledge, to wonder whether the travel insurance you bought before the holiday is going to cover you.  Know before you go.

Travel Insurance – It pays to check the small print!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

A common thread in most complaints over travel insurance is that ‘I didn’t realise I had to do that’ or ‘no-one told me I couldn’t do that.’  Whilst sometimes this is a totally justified call because miss-selling of travel insurance, though less frequent than in the past, still occurs, there is still a many people who take travel insurance out by simply ticking the box on the holiday booking form without as much as seeing what they are covered for.  This is far from ideal when it comes to making a claim because pleading ignorance is never a strong position to come from.  But you can help yourself if you follow a few simple rules:

  • Always get a report from an official source within 24 hours if something goes wrong.  A police report for theft, a tour operator’s reports for baggage delay and loss, an airline letter if you suffer travel delay and a Property Irregularity Report before you leave the airport if your luggage is lost or delayed.  Without these, you will find that insurers will not readily settle your claim.
  • Know what valuables you are taking with you and take extra care of them.  Valuables will be defined in your policy but generally includes all jewellery, mobile phones, computer games and equipment and cameras.  Add to this list the personal money you take with you.  By extra care, we mean you should lock them away in a safe in your room or carry them with you.  They should never be left unattended and never in checked in baggage otherwise this will invalidate a claim.
  • Keep receipts.  Not only will this help to substantiate your claim but you are more likely to get close to value of the lost items back, subject to wear and tear.  If no receipt is provided then the maximum amount that will be paid back will be capped at a low level.  If several unreceipted items are claimed then this will also raise suspicions that the claim is fraudulent and could be investigated.
  • Do call the Medical Assistance line if you have to go into hospital abroad or need medical treatment that could be costly.  It is worthwhile doing this for anything that could be above £250.  Once this is on record, you are generally well covered up to the agreed amounts.
  • And finally, whilst this guidance is for travel insurance policies, many people will have a household policy in force that should cover ‘all risks’ up to a set value and this could also be used for a claims for personal belongings lost or stolen whilst on holiday but do check the small print again to see what exclusions apply.