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Feature - Fun at a premium

Insurance industry woes put the squeeze on adventure activities



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Taken together with the rate increases, some marine companies operating in B.C. saw their insurance rates increase by as much as 500 per cent, and were forced to raise their prices as a result.

In a recent Georgia Straight article on the costs of insurance to adventure companies , Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre on Granville Island reported their insurance costs jump from $6,000 to $30,000 from 2002 to 2003. Hyak Wilderness Adventures’ liability insurance quadrupled, resulting in a $10 rate increase for each and every customer.

There is some relief in sight for operators hit by the Marine Liability Act. In a recent release, Transport Minister David Collenette announced changes to the Act that would limit liability for different motorized boats, and exempt "non-motorized or inflatable hull vessels, mainly used in adventure tourism". Collenette acknowledged "the unique activities accepted or performed by the passengers using these types of vessels" – essentially that all of the people who go rafting fully understand and accept the inherent risks in the sport.

"We’re happy the federal government took a second look at this," said Leighton. "It was ridiculous that rafting companies had to have the same insurance as ocean-going freighters."

Insuring the Cheakamus Challenge

After 20 years, the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race was almost cancelled this year after insurance costs increased from $1,800 to more than $10,000 to cover the event.

After shopping around and not finding a better rate, organizer Grant Lamont announced in May that the event, a mountain bike race from Squamish to Whistler up the Cheakamus Canyon, likely wouldn’t happen this year.

"Insurance just isn’t available," he said. "Even after 14 years (that he had been running the event) and not one claim."

Finding sponsors was also a problem as a result of a sluggish economy. Without sponsorship money, the event couldn’t cover its own costs.

Things have turned around since then, with new sponsors – including the Resort Municipality of Whistler – stepping forward to help.

Cycling B.C. also agreed to sanction the event, which took care of insurance issues by making one day event insurance available to all riders for just $5. WORCA members and carded racers, who have already paid $15 to Cycling B.C. for insurance this season are exempt, which actually lowered the entry fees for many riders.

WORCA saw its own membership fees increase from $20 to $30 this year because of the $15 fee for insurance. Previously, the insurance policy for the mountain bike club encompassed all members, so the per rider insurance costs would vary according to the number of members. Mike Watton, the president of WORCA, says insurance last season, where WORCA had more than 1,000 members, worked out to less than $5 a rider.