When we first set off on our motorhome ski season we were massively underinsured. This wasn’t through lack of trying but at the time, getting comprehensive insurance for a motorhome, of no fixed abode, that contained an eye watering amount of gear, that was going on the road for 6 months during the winter, was a little challenging! Thankfully things have moved on and as long as you know what you are, and are not covered for, you can plan your trip accordingly.
This article is about helping you to think about what cover you need for your trip and what questions you might need to ask your broker.
What Insurance Do I Need for My Motorhome Ski Trip? There are a number of insurances you need to consider for a motorhome ski trip:
- Vehicle Insurance
- Breakdown Cover
- General Travel Insurance
- Winter Sports Cover
- Winter Activities Cover
- Piste Insurance
- Medical Cover
- Pet Insurance
- Pet Activities Cover
- Insurance for your snow sports gear
- Contents Insurance for your van
- Tech Insurance for your gadgets and technology
If you thought your holiday insurance would cover you for all eventualities, you are probably wrong – we have been unable to find a single insurance provider that can comprehensively cover everything on this list. You of course might not need, or want to go the whole hog but here we’re exploring these elements and what you should be aware of if you chose to forgo cover.
We have leaned on the experience of MPI Insurance to verify our research – they are extremely popular in the snow sports industry for their understanding of the winter travel market and are our go-to when it comes to the more complicated questions we have received from you, or have had ourselves over the years. This list is not comprehensive – just a taster of some of the questions you might have so please defer to your policy small print or your broker for advice.
We’ll break this down, cover by cover.
Vehicle Insurance isn’t optional and if you have a van, you will already have this. If you’re looking to renew or are buying for the first time, these are a few of our tips:
Be completely honest with your broker – there is no point in telling white lies or failing to declare something with an insurance company – it’ll bite you. For those of you converting vans – if you’ve got a solid fuel burner installed in your van – cute as it is – you’re going to have a nightmare getting any cover.
Shop around – lots of motorhome owners have experience with claims so ask a friend for their unbiased view – those who have actually been through the process of making a claim – how easy was it to get a pay-out? etc.
Make sure you’re covered for staying on aires if that’s what you intend to do. For example, parking in an area that has a known avalanche risk (Les 2 Alpes for example) may cause you some issues if anything happens.
How long are you travelling? Some policies restrict the number of days you are permitted to be away and this will extend to your breakdown cover too.
Check your weight. Ski gear is heavy – if you’re over-weight and have an accident, you’re going to be in trouble.
Repatriation, accommodation cover, unused channel crossings….these are all things you will want to check out.
One thing that people sometimes get caught out on is what exactly breakdown cover covers.
Picture the scene:
You’ve taken your fancy A-Class to Montgenèvre for a week of sun and saucisson. You missed the memo about not leaving your electric step extended and the whole thing has frozen – you faffed about with it, gave it a kick and now the damn thing is broken. The motor is making a funny noise, you’ve tried everything to defrost it but it’s kaput. You can’t drive with it in the extended position because it’ll snap off at some point and you have your channel crossing home booked for tomorrow. Is this a job for your breakdown service? Short of getting your far more experienced neighbour Claude to whack it with a big hammer (obviously invalidating your precious warrantee and probably adding to the drama) you are in a bit of a fix.
This is not a fictional story.
Also – there are some ‘habitation’ issues you need to consider. You can cope without most things but heating isn’t one of them! Just understand what you can expect to be covered… we have a long list of things that we discovered we were not covered for once we had been caught in a ‘weather event’ that the motorhome facilities were not designed to withstand. This is also an issue for your warrantee.
General Travel Insurance
If you’re going to get a general travel insurance, make sure it’s got snow sports cover – don’t skimp – talk to a specialist – particularly if you intend to do anything a little nutty like ice driving, ski-kiting or paraskiing. Even if you want to take yourself off snowshoeing for the day, you need to know whether you have rescue and medical cover and where your insurer draws the line. Speaking of which…
Snow Sports Cover
We all know to look out for off-piste clauses in our policy wording but do you know if you’re covered for a walk in the woods after the piste patrol stands down for the day?
Other things to look out for when we’re talking winter mountain sports – what exactly counts as alpinism? Is it carrying ropes with the intention of using them as support? Is it when you attach yourself to a fixed point to climb? Does it include Via Ferrata? Whilst this isn’t a winter sport, we know this is what winter is about for some of you so make sure you know before you go.
Backcountry touring – not strictly alpinism and a little more than a meander off-piste, if you’re going to take a backcountry course, stay overnight in mountain huts, just make sure you have an insurer that knows what this actually means.
You might not think you need snow sports cover if you’re not downhill skiiing or boarding. Perhaps you’re just going to enjoy the views. However, if you fancy the faster route down from the mountain restaurant and choose the zip line of luge – are you covered?
This is not intended to alarm anyone but if your insurance doesn’t cover you for your activities, then it’s worth finding a cover that will.
We all know about this – it’s the €3/day addition to your ski pass that YOU MUST TAKE. It is optional but if you chose not to take it, you’re bonkers. This is the mountain cover that will get your sorry backside down the hill when you run out of talent (or someone else does). You need to carry the receipt with you (some resorts have it digitally attached to your pass but best check) and it avoids the dreadful and time consuming process of having to produce insurance documents and pay with a credit card before you are loaded onto the rescue sledge or worse – a helicopter. Not funny.
What a time to be discussing medical cover. So – you probably know what to look for generally but there are a few things that you might want to think about this season.
Repatriation of your vehicle
So – you break your leg and you have to get home. Obviously, you can’t drive and you were smart enough to make sure that you were covered for medical repatriation by plane or some such method. What’s going to happen to your motorhome? If you’re the only registered driver, your insurance will probably recover your vehicle to your home address (check that out). However – what if your travel buddies are in fact registered to drive by can’t/ won’t?
This is something that has occurred and caused a bit of a ruckus. Let’s call him Boris. Boris was a twerp, got himself into an accident and was completely unable to drive home. He wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t travel by road but with a foot in a cast, driving was out of the question. Boris’s wife Marge is a registered driver on the motorhome policy but has NEVER DRIVEN IT. She really really didn’t want the first time she took the wheel to be on a rescue mission in the snow. Couple that with the fact that she had never put the chains on and you’ve got some questions for someone – medical, travel, motorhome insurance?! Will your vehicle be recovered if the main driver is injured and the named driver does not want to drive? Who’s paying for the named driver to be teleported home?
The Dreaded COVID
Many of you are finding that your travel insurance doesn’t cover you for contracting COVID whilst away. That’s complicated because you may be hospitalised, you may be required to isolate, your family might be required to isolate too…is your treatment and care covered? Does your policy allow for temporary isolation accommodation? Worth checking. Having spoken to MPI, they are one of a few brokers offering COVID cover of this nature.
Pet Insurance and Pet Activities Cover
This is seemingly a lot less complicated – travel insurance for your pet isn’t usually horribly complicated and is often part of your pet insurance (or a simple extension) but you will need to check just how much extreme-pup cover you have – you know – if your dog wants to go on the lifts and join you on a hike up Mont Blanc.
This is a really good article from BoughtByMany – this is an insurance company that has been a big disruptor in the pet insurance game and this article is blumming useful for all of us travelling with pets.
Insurance for Your Snow Sports Gear
Just check your snow sports gear is covered by your snow sports travel policy. One thing to watch out for is those of you carrying your ski gear externally on your van, or who leave it outside at night – and the usual stuff like if you are po-faced and your gear gets nicked from La Folie Douce.
Most campsites have secure (ish) storage for your gear and there are loads of friendly ski hire shops near the lifts that will store your kit for a small fee. In places like Chapelle d’Abondance, there are lockers inside the hire shop and there are lots of places like this about.
Contents Insurance for your Van and Tech Insurance for your Gadgets and Technology
This is what caught us out. Making sure our gear was covered when we were out skiing was a tough ask – if we were in a campsite, that was one thing but on an aire or in a car park (or worse still wild camping) we found most of our stuff wasn’t covered – we were carrying an eye watering amount of gear – from a generator and tools to camera gear, computers and other paraphernalia….
If you want to read how we found ourselves emprissioned in the van (completely unisured) read this article from out time at Grand Bornand – it’s a first hand tale of nearing loosing our minds, nearly coming home and nearly setting the van on fire…. On purpose.
Basically, you need to know what you are and are not covered for. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s just money down the drain (if you’re aren’t frozen solid) but it is possible to get really good cover if you look around and ask the right questions.
If you want to have a play with the online quote machine on MPI, we highly recommend it. You can get a really good idea of what cover you might need and they are specilists. They cover seasonnaires touring and static seasonaires as well as single trip and annual cover. They cover Covid medical expenses at the moment and this is a huge deal.
Just like winter tyres, we would never be without comprehensive cover ever again – it was an anxiety bubbling away in the background – it meant a certain degree of parking smart, and feeling like we were waiting for an accident to happen, quite literally.