Snow in the forecast can send winter sports enthusiasts flocking to the mountains for some fresh powder. But unpredictable weather doesn't always make for the easiest travel. Inherently, ski trips might be one of the riskiest to book since you can spend big bucks on ski lift tickets, lodging, airfare and equipment rentals, only to lose the money if the weather doesn't cooperate or an injury occurs.
These kinds of travel woes could affect more travelers as skiing and snowboarding grow in popularity. According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were more than 60 million visits to U.S. ski slopes during the 2021-2022 season, the highest since the organization started keeping track in 1978.
To reduce the risk of losing money on a Presidents Day or spring break ski trip due to adverse weather, ski travel insurance can be an option to consider. Some of the more common travel insurance benefits, such as trip delay or cancellation coverage, can come in handy for vacations in winter destinations. Plus, some travelers might already have those benefits through a travel credit card.
Standalone travel insurance plans, which can offer more specific coverage tailored to ski trips, are also available. With these policies, travelers can get reimbursed for more particular expenses related to winter sports travel.
Here are the types of coverage travelers can expect to find when shopping for ski travel insurance.
Trip delay or cancellation coverage
Trip delay and cancellation coverage is a standard part of most travel insurance plans and can benefit those heading toward winter weather. For example, if flights are delayed because of a snowstorm, this type of coverage can help travelers get money back for days they might've missed at the resort. This usually includes reimbursements for nonrefundable travel expenses such as prepaid lift tickets, equipment rentals and other similar expenses.
Trip delay and cancellation insurance could also pay for extra meals and lodging that travelers may have incurred as a result of a delay.
One important caveat is that this coverage usually kicks in for covered reasons only. An airline delaying a flight would be covered, but a traveler looking at the weather report and wanting to bail on the trip for fear of getting stuck wouldn't be.
Skiers and snowboarders who want complete flexibility to cancel as they please should consider Cancel For Any Reason insurance. This coverage is a special add-on that costs more, but travelers typically receive 50% to 75% of their travel costs back if they cancel for any reason.
Injury is another big risk for ski trips. Injured skiers and snowboarders would most likely have to cut their trip short. That's when ski travel insurance with trip interruption coverage would help pay for the costs associated with returning home early.
Note that this coverage differs from travel medical insurance and medical evacuation insurance. Injured travelers will typically have to use some combination of their regular health insurance and travel medical insurance from their winter sports insurance policy (regardless if it's provided through a credit card or bought separately).
"Depending on where you're skiing, your home health insurance might cover you for an accident. But it also might not if you're outside of your home health network, and certainly not if you're traveling internationally," says Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com.
Advanced skiers and snowboarders will likely need even more coverage. If adventuring into the backcountry, outside of resort bounds or heli-skiing, consider getting additional insurance coverage for adventure sports.
This is a vague name for coverage, but it's a good add-on to a travel insurance policy for winter sports trips. "Travel inconvenience," sometimes called "Lost Skier Days," will reimburse travelers if the resort closes because of too much or too little snow.
This type of coverage is typically available from Dec. 1 to March 31 for resorts in the Northern Hemisphere and can reimburse up to $125 in lost expenses per day.
Lost or damaged equipment
Many travelers are familiar with baggage loss or delay coverage, but some might not know that expensive ski or snowboarding gear might not be covered entirely. After all, typical travel insurance policies insure up to a certain dollar amount only. So if the airline loses your expensive skis, you might not be reimbursed for the full value.
Getting ski travel insurance with coverage for items like skis and snowboards can help. With this coverage, if your gear is delayed, the ski insurance provider will reimburse you, up to a limit, for equipment rentals.
Should I insure my ski trip?
If you're worried about losing the nonrefundable costs of your winter sports-focused vacation, ski travel insurance can provide some peace of mind. Look for coverage that reimburses you in case of winter weather delays or accidental injuries. In addition, travel inconvenience or sports equipment coverage are add-ons that can help you recoup the costs associated with lift tickets and equipment rentals.
Skiing and snowboarding are always an adventure, but delays and accidents don't have to be so costly.