Insurance: Protect Yourself

Types of Insurance Coverage

Accidents and unforeseen events happen every year, affecting one or more of our clients. They may suffer an injury that prevents them from coming on the trip in the first place — after they have paid for flights and their ski touring trip. Or they might be injured during a day of touring — something as simple as an awkward fall might result in a sprained ankle that could keep them from finishing the week and require an evacuation to a hospital for treatment. Or a pandemic may result in a travel advisory preventing travel. It likely goes without saying that we cannot be held liable for any of the many unforeseen circumstances that may force you to change your plans unexpectedly.

These days our trips range in price from around $3000 to $8000 CAD. Ask yourself this question: “If I get sick, or if my government issues a travel advisory and I need to cancel my trip, or if my trip is interrupted, or if I incur added expenses because of unforeseen circumstances am I OK with those expenses, including forfeiting the full cost of my trip?”

If the answer to this question is “No”, we strongly urge you to protect yourself with a suitable insurance policy that covers you adequately for your needs and individual financial risk tolerance. Please take the time to carefully read through our Payment and Booking Conditions document, as well as the “Fine Print” in the Application Form you sign to make sure you understand our policies with regards to cancelled trips.

There are several different classes of insurance coverage to consider when planning a ski touring trip with Sawback Alpine Adventures. Note that many policies exclude adventure activities like backcountry skiing or mountaineering so be sure you fully understand the coverage, limitations and exclusions before paying an insurance company.

  1. Traveller Emergency Medical: This includes expenses as they relate to a medical emergency you encounter during the trip, e.g. an illness or injury , including emergency medical care at a hospital, medication, etc.
  2. Emergency Rescue / Evacuation Services: This includes emergency rescue/evacuation expenses (e.g. helicopter, ambulance, emergency services personnel etc.)
  3. Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption: If you need to cancel your trip before the trip starts, or something happens during the trip that means you have to leave early (either a personal emergency you need to attend to at home or an injury) then this insurance will cover you for your related expenses and loss of your deposit and payments.
  4. Adventure Sports Optional Coverage: All trips with Sawback Alpine Adventures are classified as “Adventure Sports” activities. Be sure that you get insurance that does not exclude adventure activities: i.e. mountaineering, backcountry ski touring and expeditionary type activities. Note that our Svalbard trips take place north of the Arctic circle at latitudes up to (max) 79.6°N; many insurance policies exclude travel above the Arctic circle, and we know of none which provide insurance north of 80°. 

COVID: Guests who become symptomatic or test positive for covid during a hut trip will be evacuated at their own expense as there are no options for quarantine at the huts. Please be very careful in the week prior to the trip start date especially, taking care to adhere to masking and distancing measures to reduce the chances of infection as much as possible. This includes the night before we fly. As tempting as it may be to socialize with other group members, going to a pub is a perfect place to pick up covid. This is possibly what happened on our first trip of the season at Selkirk Lodge, and the affected guests missed out on the last 3 days of skiing and picked up a $1200 heli bill (fortunately no other guests appear to have been infected, incredibly). Best to order takeout and gather in your hotel room after rapid testing! Please read our Covid Response document carefully for more information.

Recommended Insurance Companies

It’s hard to recommend specific insurance companies or policies since each client’s needs and risk tolerances are different. Currently Global Rescue / IMG appear to offer the best coverage, including covid-related claims, albeit at a premium rate.

Again, in all cases you are encouraged to contact the insurance company. Be completely clear about what type of a trip you are doing and ask hard questions about coverage. We offer this information only as a resource; we cannot be held liable in the event that any of these insurance companies deny your claim.

  1. Global Rescue Services (click link to enroll) has long been recognized as the Gold Standard for remote and extreme locations rescue insurance worldwide. IMG Trip Cancellation Insurance is partnered with Global Rescue and provides robust policies for cancellations before and during your trip. This insurance is suitable for all of our trips including Svalbard.February 7, 2022 I received the following note from Global Rescue / IMG — which suggests it is a good option with all of the pandemic uncertainty. Be sure to contact GR/IMG directly to make sure their current policies meet your specific needs.
         Global Rescue provides Advisory/Evacuation services in regards to COVID as we would with any other Injury/illness. If they require evacuation due to Covid & our triggers are met (Meaning needing hospitalization) we will provide Evac. services barring no legal barriers.
         We get this question a lot too: If a member tests positives but just needs to quarantine in a hotel they can still reach out to us for Advisory services but that wouldn’t initiate an Evacuation.
         In regards to IMG’s Travel Insurance. They view Covid as any other sickness or illness. Benefits are available say if they need to cancel due to testing positive pre-trip and if they need to quarantine once arriving on location. A lot of travelers will end up purchasing the Signature Plus with the Cancel For Any Reason Benefit for extra peace of mind.
  2. World Nomads offers combined Medical/Rescue/Trip cancellation packages at affordable rates. The Standard package will not provide coverage for most of our trips. Consider the Explorer package instead. For reasons best understood by insurance underwriters, the Explorer plan covers up to $10,000 for US residents but only $5,000 for Canadian residents. This is suitable for most of our trips, though Canadians (and possibly other nationalities) will have to look elsewhere to cover trips to our International destinations like Svalbard. Note that World Nomads’ packages have always clearly excluded pandemics or force majeure situations and have exclusions relating to covid. Their website currently (Feb 7, 2022) states “World Nomads travel insurance provides coverage for certain claims arising from Coronavirus (COVID-19).” Contact them directly for details.
  3. Lifestyle Insurance, resellers for TuGo insurance, offer affordable insurance packages that cover backcountry skiing and mountaineering trips to Canadian residents only. Unfortunately, Tugo is among the many insurers that refused to cover cancellations resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the fact that pandemics were not excluded. This may have changed now, so be sure to verify with them directly before paying for coverage.

Cheap insurance options

Here are a few miscellaneous “budget” options that might work for you. Take extra care to verify coverage applies to the type of trip you wish to insure.

  • Automobile Association insurance is often available on an annual basis at a reasonable fee.
  • Company benefit plans may have travel insurance included.
  • Many credit cards provide trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage as included perks. Coverage is typically limited and may come with exclusions which may make it unsuitable for your situation (e.g. payouts typically max out at $2500; not nearly enough to cover a week long backcountry ski lodge trip plus travel). Our clients have had good success with making claims from credit card companies for medical-related cancellations. Note, however, that none of our clients were successful with credit card insurance claims relating to the 2020 pandemic.
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