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Feature - Fun at a premium

Insurance industry woes put the squeeze on adventure activities

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The problem, he says, is that all outdoor adventure recreation companies are all treated the same, although the risk varies considerably from one sport to another.

"All outdoor recreation is in one category, including cross-country skiing, which is crazy," he said. "Cross-country skiing and mountain biking are very different from alpine skiing, and downhill mountain biking."

Nor do the insurers take into account the kinds of precautions and approaches that different companies take to ensure the safety of their customers. Some companies send people out with no training or assessment of their abilities, said Goldstone, relying on the waiver if something goes wrong.

"For us, it’s an important part of our business… to have a safety plan, with proper first aid and things in place. We don’t just rent the bikes and (cross-country) skis either, we teach people the skills they need before they head out. All of our employees go through the teaching certification process, so our guests get the best instruction possible," said Goldstone.

"This is the direction we were going anyway, before the insurance increases. We found that even giving a short lesson helped riders to get more out of their day, and cut down on the number of injuries."

The Whistler Cross Country Connection has been in operation for six years without a single claim on insurance, and Goldstone feels the company’s safety record, as well as its emergency action plans and staff certifications, should be taken into consideration.

"Good drivers get better rates, so why shouldn’t companies that are safe?" he asks.

So far Golstone and Waller have been able to absorb the increased cost of insurance, but if rates continue to increase they will eventually have to pass on some of the costs to their customers.

In the meantime, Goldstone says they are working to provide customers with the best possible product, including cross-country ski instructors trained by the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI) and mountain bike instructors who have been through the Canadian Mountain Bike Instructor Certification (CMIC) process. Both of these organizations offer insurance to certified instructors, says Goldstone,

"We want to demonstrate to companies that we are serious about safety, and are doing things that other companies aren’t doing," he said. "Eventually the industry is going to have to be regulated like this in order to even get insurance. We’re doing it now because it seems like the responsible thing to do."

Great Wall insurance still climbing

The Great Wall Climbing and Guiding Centre maintains an indoor climbing gym in Whistler, but stands out because they also take groups outdoors for instruction and tours on real rock.