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New company offering private pass insurance

Whistler-Blackcomb no longer offering season pass insurance

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Accidents happen. In fact, when you’re talking about skiing and snowboarding, accidents can happen with such frequency that the Whistler Health Care Centre will handle more than a hundred patients in a single day.

In past years it was possible for Whistler-Blackcomb Season Pass holders to pay $50 for insurance, guaranteeing skiers and boarders that they would get some money back if they were injured or fell ill during the first part of the season. That program is no longer being offered by Whistler-Blackcomb due to insurance industry regulations, although some refunds will be allowed on a discretionary basis. For the first time passholders are being encouraged to get private insurance for their passes.

Only one company is currently offering pass insurance, Skier Insurance Services of Newmarket, Ontario and based in Kalispell, Montana. The policy is called Skier Guard, and it’s available for six per cent of your pass cost.

Not only does it cover the cost of your pass if you are injured or ill, the policy also provides $15,000 in evacuation coverage if you’re ever injured on the ski hill and require helicopter or ambulance transportation, as well as $10,000 in Accidental Death or Dismemberment insurance.

"We had two claims last year which were a little more serious because of the emergency evacuations that were involved, and let’s just say they were really glad they bought the insurance," said Ron Iverson, the owner of Skier Insurance Services.

"One person was run into by someone else who was going too fast, and ended up breaking his neck. We were able to help by paying back the value of his season’s pass and for the emergency evacuation, which was in the thousands."

In B.C., the cost of a helicopter ambulance evacuation is not covered by provincial health care, but only by extended health insurance plans.

According to Iverson, business is doing well in only the company’s second year. More than 19 ski areas across North America are partners, compared to just six resorts the previous season. As participating agents, the ski areas will offer the insurance through their own sales departments in exchange for commissions.

Whistler-Blackcomb is not a participating agent, but local skiers can still purchase insurance online or by contacting an agent at SIS.

Many ski areas offer their own insurance policies, and Iverson says there is a lot of variation between what is offered at different resorts. In addition, none of those plans cover the cost of evacuation or provide any life/dismemberment insurance.

Iverson, who is an avid skier, said the idea originally came from a woman in his company. "I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t," said Iverson, whose normal line of business for the past 28 years is travel cancellation insurance.

"Pass insurance and cancellation insurance are pretty similar in the way they work, so it was a logical step for us to start offering this to skiers as well. We just put two and two together."

The company had a total of 10 claims last season, eight of which were for pass refunds due to illness and injury.

Under the Ski Guard you won’t lose your pass for an entire season in the event of an injury or illness, either. If you recover before the end of the season, but missed 30 consecutive days or more, you can file a claim to recover those pro-rated pass costs (a percentage determined by the number of days in a season and the cost of the pass) while SIS holds onto your pass for you (a little insurance of their own).

The pass insurance applies until 30 days before the end of the season, while the emergency evacuation and accidental death/dismemberment insurance is good until the day before the last day of the season.

There are a few limitations. For one, the SIS Season Pass Cancellation/Interruption and Emergency Evacuation coverage is voided if you’re in professional, semi-professional or interscholastic team sports; if you’re skiing out of resort boundaries; or if you’re injured during the course of high-risk activities like hang gliding, heli-skiing or hockey.

A lack of snow is also not grounds for a claim.

You can file a claim regarding your pass for any injury that happens anywhere, as long as you meet the terms and conditions of the policy. "If you get injured and miss half the season, you’ll get half your money back," said Iverson.

Evacuation and loss claims can only be filed if the incident occurs on the mountain you hold your pass.

In addition to insuring your season’s pass, the program will also allow you to insure special passes like weekday passes or multi-day passes.

More information is available at www.skierguard.ca.

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