Brits urged to get travel insurance for winter sports abroad

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

December 1
00:15 2016

As thousands of Brits prepare to head off on snow sports holidays this winter, research from ABTA, in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), shows that a third (33%) of snow lovers never check whether they have taken out appropriate insurance for the activities they are going to do, including skiing and snowboarding.

Surprisingly, those most likely to travel without the appropriate cover were in the over-55 age bracket, with almost half of that group (46%) admitting that they never check that they are covered for winter sports, significantly above the general average of 33%.

There have been 58 British deaths and 118 hospitalisations from skiing and snowboarding holidays reported to the FCO in European resorts in the last 4 years, with thousands more suffering injuries both on- and off-piste. To increase awareness of the importance of being prepared, the FCO has teamed up once again with ABTA as well as former British Winter Olympian Graham Bell to provide helpful advice, from pre-departure to aprs ski.

Michael Vibert, head of Consular Communications, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:

As the ski season gets under way, we want to ensure that everyone is adequately prepared for their winter sports holiday. The research from ABTA suggests that not enough British people are checking they have taken out appropriate insurance before they travel. We want to emphasise the importance of taking responsibility and preparing for your trip so you can #SkiSafe this winter and enjoy your time on the slopes.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said:

People heading off to the slopes this winter should make sure they are covered by the appropriate travel insurance. Winter sports holidays often include activities that may not be covered by the usual insurance policies, so we would advise holidaymakers to check that they are covered for everything they plan to do.

Unfortunately, accidents can happen and can lead to costly medical bills, but having appropriate insurance means people can rest assured that they are adequately covered and can make the most of their time on the slopes.

Five-time Olympian and #SkiSafe campaign ambassador Graham Bell said:

Its fantastic to see so many Brits heading off each winter to take part in the sport I love. Theres a wide range of resorts to choose from across Europe and North America, and its great to see so many of my compatriots getting involved.

Most of the time, nobody will run into any trouble, but to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip, its important to stay vigilant on your winter sports break. There have been 58 British deaths in the last 4 years relating to skiing and snowboarding holidays, and many more injuries and hospitalisations, and so being prepared is key.

But far from wanting to discourage people from going away this year, I just want to make sure that everyone is taking the necessary precautions to make their trip as fun as possible. Have a look at my top tips for some of the main things to take note of both on and off the slopes.

Graham Bells top 10 tips for a safe trip this winter

  1. Make sure your insurance policy covers all of the winter sports activities that you are planning to do.
  2. Remember to take your free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) along with you, for necessary treatment at public hospitals in Europe.
  3. Get fit for the slopes by doing ski-specific exercises that work the quads, glutes, and core. Try to include balance and co-ordination into your work-out.
  4. If youre a first time skier, make sure you pick a resort that is suitable and will help you to progress. Look for lots of blue runs, and a beginners area close to town.
  5. Use the right equipment including a properly fitting helmet.
  6. When youre on the slopes make sure you are using appropriate safety equipment, and familiarise yourself with the International Ski Federation guidelines so that you dont put yourself at risk of a collision.
  7. Dont forget the sunscreen! You can burn in the mountains even in the middle of winter because of the reflection from the snow.
  8. Make sure youve got appropriate footwear for use off the slopes, or get yourself a pair of rubber snow grips to put over your shoes.
  9. Keep in mind that alcohol and winter sports dont mix. The effects of alcohol are multiplied at altitude, so save it for the aprs-ski.
  10. If youre heading out in the evening, make sure to stick together with friends and family. Temperatures can drop dramatically at night, so you dont want to end up getting lost.

For more information on staying safe on the slopes, visit our #SkiSafe page on

ABTA has advice for people heading on a winter sports holiday at

Further information

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,031 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9 and 10 May 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About the FCOs Travel Aware campaign

This campaign is part of the FCOs Travel Aware travel safety campaign, which aims to advise all British nationals travelling abroad, encourage responsible travel and reduce preventable consular cases. The campaign works with more than 400 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit Travel Aware.

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCOs Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am-5.30pm GMT, Monday to Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice on Twitter and Facebook.

How the FCO can help British people abroad

The FCO can: The FCO cannot:
Issue you with an emergency travel document Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
Provide information about transferring money Give you legal advice or translate documents
Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime or are ill or in hospital Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people (but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards)
Contact you if you are detained abroad Pay any bills or give you money
Contact friends and family at home for you if you wish Make travel arrangements for you
Provide help in cases of forced marriage
Assist people affected by parental child abduction


If youd like to find out more about the above information contact: or phone +44 20 7781 2300.

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