People skiing off-piste

Off-Piste Travel Insurance

Going off-piste and down that unmarked slope? Find travel insurance that covers you for off-piste skiing and snowboarding.

With technologies like the GoPro enabling skiers and snowboarders to capture their runs, off-piste skiing has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Just like regular skiing, off-piste carries the risks that you must cover with travel insurance.

Does travel insurance cover off-piste snow activities?

  • Yes. If you’re heading away on a backcountry skiing holiday, the good news is that travel insurance can cover off-piste skiing and snowboarding.

General conditions to ensure you get cover

  • Check which insurers cover you off piste. Don't assume every policy provides cover. You can compare policies with cover below.
  • Add winter sports as an extra. While some policies automatically include off-piste cover, some require you to you add a Winter Sports or Snow Sports pack to your policy.
  • Make sure you have a guide. Cover is usually only provided if you are accompanied by a professional snow sport instructor or guide when skiing off piste.
  • Stick within resort boundaries. Cover is usually only provided if you stay within the resort boundaries.
  • Follow local safety advice. You won’t be covered if you go against a warning or advice from any local authority.

Conditions vary between insurers and policies, so check the terms and conditions in your product disclosure statement (PDS) to learn when you will and won’t be covered.

The finder.com.au best* ski travel insurance policies for off-piste

ProviderDetailsApply
1-cover-logoCover for off-piste skiing is available under the Winter Sports and Winter Sports Professional PDS. You must be within the boundaries of the resort.Get quote
 Budget Direct Travel InsuranceCover for off-piste skiing is available if you add Snow Sports Cover. You must also have a professional snow sport guide or instructor.Get quote
 Columbus DirectCover for off-piste and cross country (Nordic Skiing) is available if you have paid the additional Winter Sports Cover premium. For off-piste skiing, you must have a qualified guide and you must not ski against local authority warning or advice.Get quote
 InsureandGoCover for off-piste skiing is available under Winter Sports Travel Insurance.Get quote
MultiTrip Travel InsuranceCover for off-piste skiing is available if you buy a winter sports cover pack. You must have a professional snow sport instructor/guide.Get quote
No Worries Travel InsuranceCover for off-piste is included.Get quote
 Skiinsurance.com.auCover for off-piste is included.Get quote
 Travel Insurance DirectCover for off-piste skiing is available if you buy the Snow Sports and Activities option. Runs must be within the resort and terrain park boundaries and patrolled/monitored by resort authorities.Get quote

What is considered off-piste?

If you're a backcountry skier or a thrill-seeking snowboarder who likes to go off the track then you might familiar with the term 'off-piste'.

Off-piste is any skiing in the backcountry or on unmarked slopes, runs or pistes. This can included unmonitored areas both inside or outside of a ski resort, even in the woods.

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Five reasons why you should get travel insurance for off-piste skiing

Travel insurance provides you financial protection in case you hurt yourself skiing or snowboarding off-piste. There are several injury risks involved with off-piste skiing, including:

  • Avalanches. Avalanches are a constant threat when skiing off-piste, as demonstrated in January 2015 when two members of the United States speed skiing team were killed by an avalanche in Austria.
  • Hidden crevasses. Hidden crevasses and gaps off-piste increase the threat of injury or even death.
  • Unexpected obstacles. Collision with unexpected obstacles that may be difficult to see can occur off-piste.
  • Unmarked trails. The risk of getting lost increases when you go off-piste.
  • Help not being readily available. You are further away from help should anything go wrong.

Common off-piste skiing and snowboarding injuries to be aware of

The risk of suffering the most common types of injuries that occur when skiing can be compounded when you go off-piste.

  • Head injuries
  • Knee injuries (MCL and ALC tears)
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Spinal injuries
  • Thumb and wrist injuries

When you ski off-piste, the risk of collisions and high-speed impacts can increase due to unfamiliar terrain and obstacles. Make sure you have travel insurance with off-piste cover to protect you from these dangers.

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Popular off-piste destinations

Off-piste runResortLocationWhat makes this run risky?
Highland BowlAspen SnowmassColorado, USAHome to the biggest vertical drop in the USA, Highland Bowl is also a common site for avalanches.
Back of the VallugaSt Anton am ArlbergAustriaThis expert-only terrain is perfect for thrill-seekers, but the series of hidden steep cliffs below make this a dangerous destination.
Corbet's CouloirJackson HoleWyoming, USAThis famous double-black-diamond run starts with a huge vertical drop.  If you fail to stick the landing, you could be seriously injured.
Pas de ChevreChamonixFranceThe route is complex and crevassed, making for an intimidating slope that can result in injury.
Trifide CouloirLa GraveFranceFalls and avalanches are the two biggest risks at this extreme skiing site that offers steep terrain only suitable for experts.
Ruby BowlWhistlerCanadaThis bowl is steep and features cliff edges for airtime that make it both dangerous and perfect for the thrill-seeker.

Why travel insurance is worth every cent

The danger of an avalanche is not the only frightening aspect of these off-piste skiing destinations. The cost of a hospital stay for one night in these countries are as follows:

Medical ExpenseUSACanadaAustriaFrance
Hospital bed for a night*$874.40$808.33$888.71$776.77
Cost of travel insurance with off-piste cover**$144.29$144.29 $102$102

*Based on cost estimates from the World Health Organisation's Department of Health Systems Financing (2011) estimates. **Cost based on a one week trip for a 25 year old with a travel insurance policy from Skiinsurance.com.au.


Am I covered if I go off-piste without a guide?

In some cases, off-piste skiing without a professional or qualified snow sports guide will be excluded from your travel insurance cover. However, some policies do not feature this exclusion, so it’s essential to check with your insurer to find out if you need to head off-piste with a guide in order to be covered.

Why should I get a guide?

Off-piste skiing without a guide is extremely dangerous. Guides have in-depth knowledge of the local conditions and potential hazards, and they know when it is and isn’t safe to visit certain areas. An experienced guide also knows all the right equipment to take along, will prevent you getting lost, and knows what to do if something goes wrong.

What qualifications does my guide need to have?

Travel insurance providers typically require guides to be a:

  • Holder of Level 2 Backcountry security award or relevant equivalent of this award. Instructors with this award have undergone critical assessment and training in high mountain safety.
  • Holder of backcountry and mountain safety qualification.  This is mandatory for Level 4 back country instructors. Instructors with this award can teach off-piste snow sports and lead tours in high mount terrain and areas outside the boundaries of a resort.

Am I covered for snowmobiling?

Carving through fresh powder on the back of a snowmobile can be ridiculously fun, but unfortunately it comes with a high risk of injury attached. The consequences when things go wrong on a snowmobile can be significant, with head injuries and broken limbs just two of the potential risks.

Some policies allow you to add it as an extra

If you’re planning on going snowmobiling on your holiday, most travel insurance providers will not offer you any cover in a standard policy. However, some will offer a winter sports pack that you can add to your policy for an extra premium to ensure that you are covered for any claims that arise in connection with you operating a snowmobile.

BrandConditionsApply
InsureandGoSnowmobiling is provided if you have purchased the Winter sports Cover upgradeGet quote
Skiinsurance.com.auSnowmobiles can only be provided by recognised piste authorities as a form of transport to and from skiing areasGet quote
STA Travel InsuranceSnowmobiling and cross country skiing is automatically coveredGet quote
Travel Insurance DirectSnowmobiles can only be provided by recognised piste authorities as a form of transport to and from skiing areasGet quote
Woolworths Travel InsuranceSnowmobiling is covered by paying an additional premium for the winter sports packGet quote
Worldcare Travel InsuranceSnowmobiles can only be provided by recognised piste authorities as a form of transport to and from skiing areasGet quote
youGoSnowmobiling is covered by paying an additional premiumGet quote

Snowmobiling safety tips

  • Slow down. Speed has been shown to be a contributing factor in the majority of snowmobile accidents, so make sure to travel at a safe pace when riding a snowmobile.
  • Be safe. Throwing your snowmobile around corners and off jumps like you’re a stunt double in a James Bond movie might sound like fun – but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Don’t be stupid or reckless – drive safely and you’ll reduce the chance of any accidents.
  • Don’t drink and ride. We all know the risks associated with driving when drunk, so don’t get behind the handlebars of a snowmobile if you’re under the influence.
  • Choose your steed carefully. Make sure any snowmobile you ride is in good condition and receives regular maintenance.
  • Wear the appropriate gear. As well as a helmet, make sure you have gloves, goggles, boots and other appropriate clothing.
  • Plan your route. Plan your snowmobile route ahead of time and tell someone where you are going and your expected time of arrival.
  • Stay alert. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for any obstacles and if fatigue starts setting in, take a break.
  • Take a first aid kit. Make sure you have emergency medical supplies handy in case something goes wrong.

Am I covered if I heli-ski?

Rather than using the traditional ski lift, heli-skiing gives you access to off-piste downhill skiing and snowboarding routes via helicopter. If you’re planning on going heli-skiing on your next trip, make sure to check whether this type of snow sport is covered by your insurer before you start your journey.

While some insurers do cover heli-skiing, you’ll usually need to pay extra to take out snow sports cover or even cover specifically designed for heli-skiing. Other companies will exclude all claims related to heli-skiing, so contact your insurer for more information.


What should I do if there's an avalanche?

The importance of an accompanying guide cannot be understated. Not only will a professional guide have a wealth of knowledge about the local conditions, they will also have all the necessary tools and equipment for off-piste skiing. If something goes wrong, they’re the best chance you’ve got of being rescued and getting out alive.

There are some other general safety tips you should always keep in mind in regards to avalanches when skiing off-piste, including:

  • Carry the essentials. A shovel, a transceiver and a probe are three essential devices for avalanche safety, and you should always carry them with you when skiing off-piste.
  • Practice makes perfect. If you’re planning on going off-piste, consider heading out beforehand with your skiing companions to practise searching for buried transceivers. Knowing exactly what to do could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Know the warning signs. From wind direction and snow deposits to the distinctive sounds when an avalanche is about to occur, make sure you know the warning signs that indicate a slope is unsafe.
  • Listen to the experts. Wherever you are in the world, make sure to read daily avalanche warnings for your particular area and take note of any advice and recommendations.

I'm ready to receive quotes for off-piste travel insurance

Compare travel insurance policies with off-piste cover for skiing and snowboarding

Picture: Shutterstock

Maurice Thach

Maurice is a publisher for finder.com.au. Daily research of Australia's insurance offerings allows him to breakthrough the noise of the many policies out there to uncover what can (and can't) be covered. Maurice hopes to make finding the right insurance easier for all.

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