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Safety on the slopes

With the winter sports season now well under way, aficionados may have been following Channel 4 series, The Jump, where various celebrities try to master a range of snow and ice-based disciplines, and be thinking of trying their hand at some of the activities too. From the soaring thrill of ski jumping to the daredevil speeds of skeleton, there’s a whole host of wintery adventures out there to be experienced.

As with any sporting activity, though, there are risks you take when you head out on the slopes, no matter how experienced you may be. Making sure you know how to stay safe is just as important as having fun. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office have recently launched a travel advisory service for ski and snowboarding holidays, offering tips on how to avoid injury and the consequential expensive medical costs that can arise.

The Flexicover Team looks at some of this advice.

Travel insurance

Taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers all your intended winter sports activities should be fundamental to your preparations. Whilst we never hope to use it, the lifeline it offers in the event of an accident can be crucial. Ensure that the policy covers non-emergency scenarios as well, such as accidental damage to hired ski equipment, piste closure or loss of ski pass. Check the wording carefully as it’ll specify certain conditions that must be observed (such as no cover for off-piste skiing unless accompanied by a qualified guide). ABTA have produced a ‘ski safe’ video which is also worth looking up.

Limit alcohol intake

Whilst it’s obviously nice to have a tipple or two in the evenings, particularly as part of your après-ski wind down after a day on the slopes, be sure to keep an eye on how much you indulge. Drinking alcohol at altitude affects our bodies quicker and can affect our awareness and judgement too. As you might imagine, most travel insurers will reject claims for injuries or events that may occur whilst under the influence of alcohol (though what counts as ‘under the influence’ or ‘excessive’ will vary by insurer). Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, unimpaired and safe.

Stay within your limits

If you’re heading to the pistes, be sure to tackle slopes that match your ability and choose the right route for you. Whilst the temptation’s there to stretch your wings, attempting more difficult slopes could leave you in a tricky situation as you try to adapt to unfamiliar conditions. Run classifications do vary between countries and can even differ between resorts in the same country. Generally, though, green tends to denote the easiest runs, followed by blue, then red and ending with black (or orange). Snow conditions can also change throughout the day so do stay aware of the weather too.

Wear a helmet

Accidents do happen. Travelling at speed, be it down a slope or an ice track, and taking a tumble usually leads to the body going into a spin or roll, meaning the head and neck are particularly vulnerable. Wearing a helmet is crucial to hopefully avoiding some of the worst damage. Indeed, most insurers these days make it mandatory to wear them for full cover to be in place. Again, make sure you check your travel insurance policy carefully to see what safety equipment is advised. It is strongly recommended that, even for the most experienced of practitioners, a helmet should be worn at all times.


If you’re travelling in Europe, make sure that you have a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with you. In the unfortunate event that you do have an accident or become unwell, your EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical care. Whilst an EHIC is not a direct substitute for travel insurance - it may not cover full medical costs and cannot offer repatriation services - it’s still important to carry one with you as many insurers will waive the policy excess if you use it to reduce your treatment costs. If you have one already, remember that they need renewing every 5 years. If you haven’t got one, apply for one free here:

Wherever your travels take you and whatever winter sport you choose to participate in this year, we at Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.

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