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Does EHIC Cover Winter Sports?

EHIC only covers some of the medical expenses you could incur if injured whilst skiing or snowboarding in Europe. You'll also need travel insurance to help to help pay for medical costs not covered by an EHIC, such as private medical care or repatriation whilst on a winter sports holiday. We explain the details below.

EHIC Cover for Winter Sports

A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to receive state-provided medical healthcare if you're injured or fall ill whist in a European Economic Area (EEA) country, as well as Switzerland, for the same cost as a citizen of that country. In some cases this cost may be free, in other cases you may still need to pay a portion of medical costs.

An EHIC may be sufficient to cover winter sports if, for instance, you have a minor skiing or snowboarding accident, you can be treated in a state-run medical facility in a country that offers free healthcare and the injury is minor enough that you can make your own way back to the UK.

However, if you are treated in a private facility or your injury is serious enough that you need medical repatriation back to the UK, then your expenses will not be covered by your EHIC. Also, if the country you're visiting only offers reduced-cost healthcare (not free) then you'll be responsible to pay what the EHIC won't cover—this is where travel insurance comes in.

Here's What is and Isn't Covered by an EHIC for Winter Sports
What EHIC Covers
  • Free or reduced-cost, state-provided medical healthcare if you're injured whilst skiing or snowboarding in EEA or Switzerland
What EHIC Doesn't Cover
  • 100% of state-provided medical costs (sometimes you still have to pay a percentage of the costs, depending on the country)
  • Private medical treatment
  • Repatriation back to the UK (e.g., air ambulance)

Why Travel Insurance is Necessary

If you're injured whilst skiing or snowboarding, a travel insurance policy can pick up the tab where the EHIC won't. For instance, many EU countries still charge something (albeit at a reduced rate, say 70%) for medical care from the state. Travel insurance can cover these costs (less the excess, of course). In addition, travel insurance can cover treatment at a private facility and return to the UK (i.e., medical repatriation) if necessary.

Here's What Travel Insurance with Winter Sports Covers
EHIC Covers
  • Free or reduced-cost, state-provided medical healthcare if you're injured whilst skiing or snowboarding
Travel Insurance Covers
  • Amounts you need to pay for state-provided healthcare if you've used your EHIC
  • Private medical treatment
  • Medical repatriation back to the UK

Medical repatriation can cost thousands or tens of thousands of pounds, as we discuss in our article Disaster Prevention: How Travel Insurance Rescued 7 Holidaymakers During Medical Emergencies, which details real-life medical emergencies in which British travellers ran into health trouble overseas and needed help from travel insurance to get home.

Don't Get Caught Out

While travel insurance is necessary to help protect you against financial loss in the event of a winter sports accident, there are two critical steps to make sure you have the coverage you need.

You still need an EHIC: Most insurance plans require you to travel with and present your EHIC card for medical treatment. That is, insurers expect you to use your EHIC to secure free or reduced-cost state medical care where available. Travel insurance is supplemental to an EHIC card; it does not replace an EHIC for European travel. When you use your EHIC, many insurers will waive the excess on any related medical claims.

Make sure you have specific Winter Sports Cover: Most travel insurance will NOT cover winter sports related accidents unless you have specific Winter Sports cover on your policy. Oftentimes, you'll need to pay an additional premium to add this cover. To learn about how much you'll need to pay for winter sports insurance, please see our article Average Cost of Winter Sports Insurance UK.

Resources

Preparing for winter sports abroad from Gov.uk

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.