The pitfalls of off-piste travel insurance: a review of 30+ products

While travel insurances are relatively straightforward for those wishing to ride exclusively on-piste (i.e. the groomers), it can be a veritable minefield for those wishing to ride the backcountry, or even off-piste with resort boundaries (yep, you heard it – EVEN within resort boundaries).

So when buying insurance, it pays to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) very carefully. This is important but nonetheless a very boring and time consuming task.

Luckily, backcountry enthusiast, Damien Gooch, has done all the work for us by reviewing the policies of around 30 different providers. Damien’s post was originally published in Australian Backcountry, an Australian-based Facebook Group for backcountry enthusiasts. Damien very kindly granted us permission to republish it here.

Off piste skiing at Madarao, Japan, a gladed tree skiing area THAT IS within resort boundaries

Before we start, a bit of a disclaimer. Damien emphasises that this is very much a guide, and takes no responsibility for errors. He is not a lawyer, insurance professional or a financial advisor of any kind. He also states that the information provided is for Australian providers and that quotes will vary depending on your individual circumstances. All prices are estimates in Aussie dollars based on an 18 day trip in January to Japan for a person 36 yrs of age (obviously prices will differ depending on your age and the duration of your trip). So, bottom line; please CHECK FOR YOURSELF before taking out any of the below mentioned options. Not all details in the PDS are included below.

Options and price estimates are provided for a number of riding options: off piste outside resort boundaries, off piste inside resort boundaries, off piste with and without a guide and on-piste only. Note also, that ‘Guided’ typically means by a qualified guide i.e. holder of Level 2 backcountry security award or equivalent of this award.

COVERS skiing or snowboarding outside piste boundaries BUT only if you are not going against local advice or warning (No Guide required) And includes Heli (But Heli must be guided)

CBA – $243

COVERS Back Country AND Off piste (Inside Resort Boundaries) (No guide required)

Insure 4 Less was the only provider who covers Backcountry without a guide, but it came at a proce. Their requirement was that you were not alone and were not traveling against advice. They do cover CAT but do not cover Heli. They also do not cover anything in North America. $337 for the base cover, $60 extra for 1 week of BC cover, then roughly $40 per day extra beyond this.

COVERS Off Piste (Inside Resort Boundaries) (No guide required) AND Covers Back Country, Cat & Heli (Guide required for BC, Cat & Heli)

  • Travel Insurance Direct – $173
  • World Nomads – $221

COVERS Off Piste (Inside Resort Boundaries), Back Country, Cat & Heli (Guide required for all options)

  • Budget Direct – $167
  • FastCover – $211
  • Insure&GO – $166
  • Tick – $108
  • OziCare – $167
  • ING – $168

COVERS Off Piste (Inside Resort Boundaries) (No Guide Required) AND Cat & Heli (Guide required for Cat & Heli)

  • Zoom – $138
  • 1Cover $140
  • Woolworths $179

COVERS Off Piste (Inside Resort Boundaries) (Guide required)

  • AIG – $291 (BC Also with Guide)
  • Columbus Direct – $168
  • Bupa Australia – $205
  • CGU – $183

COVERS On Piste Groomer only. EXCLUDES ALL ACTIVITIES THAT ARE NOT ON A GROOMED RUN (some may or may not exclude groomed as well but Damien did not look for that clause) (note terrain parks are often not considered part of the groomed area)

  • AAMI
  • Alianz
  • AMEX Sup
  • Chubb
  • Covermore
  • Easy Travel Insurance
  • NRMA
  • DU Insurance
  • Simply Travel
  • Travel Insurance Saver
  • Australia Post.

Damien says that what surprised him the most was that out of all of the PDS documents, the only ones that were unnecessarily vague were AAMI & AIG (neither make mention of the exclusion of types of snow cover). Every other one was fairly comprehensive and only a handful needed a follow-up phone call to confirm the details.

After speaking with the AAMI call centre and complaints department, Damien confirmed that AAMI DO NOT cover OFF piste any more. There are also MANY policies where you specifically purchase SNOW cover yet it actually provided you nothing more than cover for a groomed run. Key message: Buyer beware.

Have fun and stay safe out there! Sincere thanks again to Damien Gooch and Australian Backcountry.

The walk out from the ‘gated’ off piste area in Niseko United

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