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Feature - Fun at a premium

Insurance industry woes put the squeeze on adventure activities

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Whistler Bungee currently operates a short drive south of Whistler in the Calcheak area. With a 160-foot drop off a new bridge built over the Cheakamus River, the group offers the longest drop in B.C.

It took almost 10 years to get all the permits and approvals into place. The last challenge was finding insurance for a bungee operation in the post 9/11 economy. After being turned away by several agents who had sold policies to adventure tourism companies, they at last found an Alberta broker who provides insurance to heli-ski companies that was willing to take them on. Since then Whistler Bungee has received calls from other Bungee operations that were facing the cancellation of their policies.

"Basically, these guys wanted to buy their insurance through the same guy, but he wouldn’t take on any other companies, just us. He won’t insure anyone else in this business, so we were pretty lucky to find him when we did," said Chris Rollett, who co-owns Whistler Bungee along with Mike Krieger and Don van der Horst.

Rollett says they are happy with their insurance rates and policy, although he acknowledges that their perspective might have been different if they had been around a few years earlier.

"We went in (for insurance) at the top end (in prices), as opposed to carrying good rates for a long time and seeing them double or triple or whatever," said Rollett.

"We were worried about our rates rising this year by as much as 50 per cent, and they stayed the same, so I think the insurance industry has turned around. We’re happy with the way things worked out, but it could have been a lot different for us.

"There was a scary moment when we thought we wouldn’t be able to find any insurance, or that it would be too expensive."

Customer loyalty pays off

Kim and Sean Wilson of Blackcomb Snowmobiles and Whistler ATV have bucked the trend in Whistler.

While a lot of other companies in their industry have seen rates increase 15 to 20 per cent in the last year, says Kim Wilson, Blackcomb Snowmobiles has only seen small increases in the past seven years.

"I guess it depends on who you’re with and how long you’ve been in business with them," she said.

The company used to go to a Vancouver company for insurance, but switched over to an insurance broker in Alberta. The rates were never cheap, but that was never an issue for the company, said Kim.