15 Nov

2.5 million Brits have taken to the slopes without ever having winter sports travel insurance

New research from ABTA shows that more than 2.5 million1 British adults who have been on winter sports holidays admit never checking whether they have taken out appropriate insurance for the activities they are undertaking, including skiing and snowboarding.

As Brits prepare to head off on their ski or snowboarding holidays this winter, ABTA is encouraging people of all ages to stay safe both on and off piste, by making sure they have the right level of fitness to enjoy their holiday injury free as well as appropriate winter sports travel insurance.

According to new figures, ABTA Members reported two British ski related fatalities and 197 significant incidents on the slopes overseas in the past 12 months2. However, these figures represent just those cases reported by ABTA Members – and the Association believes the total number of incidents to be much higher.

Snow sports enthusiasts who have an accident on the slopes could face hefty medical bills – running into thousands of pounds if they have to be airlifted off the mountain. Holidaymakers are encouraged to check their travel insurance covers winter sports activities and what is actually included. Overall, just over one in five (22%) people who have ever been on a winter sports holiday never check their insurance – rising to more than a quarter (28%) of people aged 55 and over.  

Meanwhile, younger generations take the most care with their winter sports holiday cover, with only one in seven (15%) 18 to 24 year olds saying they never check if they have the right insurance.

Holidaymakers are also urged to wear a helmet at all times when taking part in winter sports. Many insurance policies request a helmet to be worn regardless of the local legal requirements.

To help skiers and snowboarders prepare for their breaks, ABTA has teamed up with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and The Ski Club of Great Britain to provide helpful advice, from pre-departure to après ski. 

Nikki White, ABTA’s Director of Destinations and Sustainability, said:

“Thousands of people are hitting the slopes each year without the right travel insurance. Many wrongly assume they are automatically covered for winter sports as part of their travel insurance, putting them at risk of costly medical bills if they have an accident.

“As we head into the winter sports season we advise holidaymakers to check their insurance cover before travelling. It’s also important that holidaymakers get themselves ski-fit in order to be safe on the slopes.”    

Susan Crown, FCO Head of Consular Communications and Engagement, said:

“As the ski season gets under way, we recommend anybody heading for the slopes ensures they are well prepared so they have a safe and enjoyable holiday. It’s important to know that the FCO cannot pay medical bills if you are hospitalised abroad nor can we fly you home, and unexpected medical costs or returning to the UK can be very expensive.

“That’s why it’s worth taking a few minutes to be sure all planned activities are covered, and any medical conditions declared. This small step can help ensure that you get the support you need should anything go wrong. We want to encourage British nationals to #SkiSafe this winter.”

Supporting ABTA’s Ski Safe campaign, Darren Neylon, CEO, Ski Club of Great Britain has provided the following advice on fitness, helmet safety and insurance this winter:

“It’s really important to get fit ahead of your ski holiday, even if it’s just a bit of cycling or running at the weekend in the months ahead of your trip - regular exercise could help prevent injuries and make your slope time more enjoyable. Make sure your insurance covers you for all the activities you are likely to do in the mountains as many don’t cover off piste, touring or après ski activities like sledging or ice skating. It’s also worth checking that there are no age or medical condition exclusions applicable before you travel.

“More people are choosing to wear helmets than ever, in fact 97% of skiers and snowboarders who took part in our 2018 Consumer Research said they owned a helmet. When buying a helmet, it is important to check that it meets the correct safety standards, look out for CEN1077, F2040 and Snell RS-98 stickers to ensure they are designed for snow sports. Many resorts now require children to wear helmets and if you are heading into a terrain park, your insurance may require you to wear one too.”

Ex-Team GB Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott has partnered with The Ski Club to take you through some simple exercises which can be watched on the Ski Club of Great Britain’s website.

When booking your holiday, look out for the ABTA logo. By booking with an ABTA member you can travel with confidence and access a range of support, protection and expertise should you need it.


ABTA’s top tips for having a safe holiday in the snow

  1. Make sure your insurance covers the activities you want to do. Many policies will not cover damage to rental equipment or skiing off-piste without a guide, and many policies require you to wear a helmet at all times.
  2. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) won’t cover all your medical costs, private treatment or return to the UK, so you will need to take out travel insurance to ensure you are fully covered. If you have an accident or become ill your EHIC will still allow you to receive state-provided medical healthcare at the same rate as a citizen of that country. Apply for your free EHIC now at: www.nhs.uk/ehic.
  3. Get fit so you can enjoy your holiday. If you’re not physically prepared you’re more likely to injure yourself.
  4. Choose the right route/pistes. It is important to be aware of how pistes are classified to indicate their difficulty. Know your limits and don’t attempt slopes beyond your level of ability.
  5. Remember, many insurance policies require you to wear a helmet on the slopes regardless of the local legal requirements. Visit www.skiclub.co.uk for more information, advice and tips.
  6. Don’t head off-piste without being fully prepared. For example, you should make sure you take and are able to use competently the appropriate equipment - an avalanche transceiver, a probe pole and a shovel. And check your travel insurance for any restrictions.
  7. Be avalanche aware. Snow reports, weather forecasts and avalanche risk levels are available in resort at the lift stations and at www.skiclub.co.uk.
  8. The sun is much stronger at altitude so appropriate strength sun cream should be worn along with ski goggles or sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection. 
  9. Know your limits. Alcohol affects your resistance and awareness of the cold, and also impairs your judgment, co-ordination and reaction time. Drinking alcohol at altitude will affect you more quickly and your insurance cover may not be valid if you injure yourself or others whilst intoxicated.

Visit abta.com/skisafe for more advice on how to stay safe in the snow.

For information about how the FCO can help British Nationals abroad visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-british-nationals-abroad-a-guide 

Notes to editors


About the research:

1Calculations by ABTA, based on YouGov data – 23% of GB adults who have been on a winter sports holiday is 11,648,142 (based on ONS 2017 GB population estimate of 50,644,094). 22% of GB adults who have been on a winter sports holiday and never checked their travel insurance is equal to 2,561,426.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from an online survey with a total sample size of 2,000 adults, of which 452 adults had been on a winter sports holiday in their adult life. Fieldwork was undertaken by YouGov Plc between 20th and 23rd April 2018. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

2ABTA Members identified incidents between October 2017 – October 2018

For further information, contact:

Tom Sommerfelt, Senior Media Relations Executive, 020 3117 0531

ABTA press office, press@abta.co.uk or 020 3117 0596

Out of Hours:  Contact the Duty Press Officer via pager: 07623 951 339

Web: www.abta.com

Twitter: @ABTAtravel

About ABTA

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 65 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.

The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.


We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.


ABTA currently has around 1,200 Members, with a combined annual UK turnover of £38 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.