ski insurance
Insurance

Winter Sports: Insurance Questions and Answers

January 23, 2024 - Daniel Dreier

How are you insured against the risks of skiing and snowboarding? Find answers to the most important questions in this guide to insurance for winter sports.

Every winter, the Alps draw numerous winter sports fans across Switzerland to their snow-covered slopes. According to the most recent statistics from the Schweizerischen Sportobservatoriums, more than 40 percent of residents practiced skiing or snowboarding in 2022.

How risky is skiing and snowboarding?

Like all of life’s pleasures, winter sports have their flip side. According to the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (BFU), an average of 59,780 ski-related accidents happened each year between 2016 and 2020.

Snowboard accidents are also common, with an average of 9130 accidents per year over the same time frame. Sledding also results in a fair number of accidents among Switzerland’s residents.

Current Swiss accident insurance statistics show that the likelihood of having an accident while doing winter sports increases with age. Between 2017 and 2021, people between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for just 16 percent of accidents. Adults between 25 and 34 years old accounted for 20 percent of accidents, while those between the ages of 35 and 44 accounted for 28 percent. Adults between 45 and 64 accounted for 35 percent of accidents, and adults aged 55 to 64 accounted for 36 percent.

Are accidents that result from winter sports covered by Swiss accident insurance?

If you have an accident while doing winter sports, the accident insurance from your Swiss employer (UVG) covers the costs. This insurance covers the cost of doctors, hospitals, ambulance transportation, and search and rescue costs. Even a short flight in a rescue helicopter from Rega can cost thousands of francs.

Around 4.74 million people are insured by UVG accident insurance. That includes both employees who qualify for employer-based accident insurance and unemployed residents who receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Residents who are not covered by UVG accident insurance include children, as well as students and homemakers who are not employed on a sufficient basis to qualify for employer-based insurance for accidents outside of the workplace. These residents must get their obligatory accident insurance coverage as part of their compulsory health insurance.

As a self-employed person, you can choose to either get private accident insurance that matches UVG coverage, or to activate the accident insurance coverage from your mandatory health insurance.

Are accidents that result from winter sports covered by Swiss mandatory health insurance?

If you are only insured against accidents by Swiss mandatory health insurance, then you will have to cover the deductible and coinsurance out of your own pocket. The accident coverage from mandatory health insurance is also much more limited than employer-based UVG accident insurance. It only covers half of the cost of search and rescue, does not pay out loss-of-income benefits while you are recovering, and does not pay out a disability pension if you are permanently disabled.

For that reason, getting UVG-equivalent accident insurance is preferrable to using the accident coverage from mandatory health insurance, if you have a choice. If you are only able to get accident coverage with your mandatory health insurance, then it can be worth getting supplementary health insurance that covers search and rescue operations and ambulance transportation in Switzerland and abroad.

Am I legally liable to pay for damages and injuries to others?

Only a small portion of accidents – seven percent in the case of ski accidents – involve other people.

Still, if a third-party is involved, your legal liabilities can be very expensive. For example, if you are found to be responsible for a collision with another skier, you will be liable to cover any costs that they may incur as a result of the accident.

In severe cases, your legal liability can reach into the hundreds of thousands of francs. For that reason, having personal liability insurance is an absolute must for winter sports fans.

Are accidents that occur during ski touring and freeride skiing insured?

Accidents that occur during off-piste winter sports are generally insured by Swiss employer-based accident insurance (UVG), but they can be classified as extraordinary risks if you do not closely follow the official guidelines and requirements. If you have an accident as the result of deliberately taking extraordinary risks, your accident insurance provider has the right to pay out lower insurance benefits than they would otherwise have to.

Skiing with the goal of making a record can also be classified as an extraordinary risk under certain circumstances. That could be the case when you participate in a skiing competition.

You can find detailed information in the moneyland.ch guide to extreme sports insurance.

How is my sports equipment insured?

The theft of your winter sports equipment is a less severe risk, but it can still be very annoying. Fortunately, the theft of ski equipment has declined somewhat in recent years. Still, more than a thousand thefts of ski and snowboard equipment occur each year. Often, these thefts occur at restaurants and train stations.

Having your gear properly insured can help to alleviate the annoyance of a theft. Getting specialized ski insurance, like that offered by some sports shops, is often unnecessary. Having household insurance with the simple theft away from home rider – which generally also covers other possessions like bicycles and laptops – is sufficient.

Limits on household insurance coverage for simple theft away from home vary between insurance offers. Typically, you can choose a sum insured between 1000 and 5000 francs, but a few household insurance providers let you get up to 10,000 francs of coverage for simple theft outside of your home.

More on this topic:
Simple tips for cheaper skiing in Switzerland
Swiss insurance for ambulances, search, and rescue explained
Accident insurance in Switzerland explained
How to insure your things against simple theft away from home
Swiss health insurance: Covered costs

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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at moneyland.ch.
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