Insurance: Protect Yourself

Types of Insurance Coverage

Accidents and unforeseen events happen every year, affecting one or more of our clients. A client 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 the trip — 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. Our trip fees do not include a margin to handle cancellations, and for this reason we strongly recommend you get third party insurance.

The cost of insuring a trip is small (starting at about 5% of a trip cost) compared with the total loss of missing your trip. If you need to cancel your trip and you have taken out insurance then the problem is already solved. You get a refund, and we are not pressured to scramble to find a replacement for you.

A decision to not pay for insurance is a calculated economic decision to self-insure. Clients who have never had to cancel a trip may not see the value. Or a client may recognize that they have never paid to insure any trip, for 15 or 20 years, and are now ahead of the game. When an uninsured client who needs to cancel comes to us and asks “What can you do for me?” they are actually asking us to take on the resulting liability of their decision to save money on insurance.

These days our trips range in price from around $3000 to $9000 CAD (not to mention travel costs such as flights, etc.)  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, or if my family or work situations change to prevent me from participating in the trip I have paid for — 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: Our Covid Policy has changed dramatically in response to health authority recommendations and has been renamed “Sickness Policy”. Please read our Sickness Policy document carefully for more information on our policies on guest illness during our trips.

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. IMG is one of the few companies that covered covid related cancellations during the pandemic. Nonetheless, be sure to contact GR/IMG directly to make sure their current policies meet your specific needs.
  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. Acera Insurance (formerly Lifestyle), brokers 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 has changed — like most Insurance companies they now accept certain Covid-related claims. As with all insurance, be sure to verify with them directly before paying for coverage to determine if their coverage meets your needs and risk tolerance.

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.