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No helmet, no insurance?

Are the days of shredding in your beanie numbered? Win yourself a WL hat for your comments.

Jaques Alakka enjoys a piste shred in his beanie. If he’d taken out a new policy with Essential Travel, he wouldn’t be insured. Photo: Lolli

We get sent a lot of gumpf in this job – press releases, offers, the usual spam. Yesterday an email arrived that almost slipped through the net. It was from an insurance company. Sounds boring already eh?

As I was readying the ‘delete’ key, however, I glanced at the subject line. “UK Industry First: No helmet, no insurance”.

Yes, quietly thrown out onto the wintersports industry newswires was the bombshell that Essential Travel will no longer insure skiers or snowboarders who don’t wear a lid on the mountain.

“Research has revealed that 77% of skiers/snowboarders are now wearing helmets when they hit the slopes,” claimed the press release, probably accurately. It also revealed that “73% felt that they should be rewarded for the decision to protect themselves by paying lower travel insurance premiums.”

Again, this in itself does not sound massively controversial. If you’re one of the many snowboarders who wears a helmet, then perhaps you do feel entitled to a discount. Only, it’s not that simple. While Essential Travel say they will be lowering their premium by 15%, this is across the board. In other words, it’s not one price for those who wear a helmet and another for those who don’t: they will now refuse to cover those people who ski or snowboard without one.

Jamie Nicholls, the UK’s most famous helmet advocate. He’d be in line for a cheaper premium under the new insurance deal. Photo: Bullit

Whilst helmets are already compulsory in more and more snowparks, particularly in North America, this raises a whole new precedent. Forget arguments over style, and whether the no-helmet approach favoured in skateboarding is more ‘legit’; with Essential Travel, you would straight-up be violating your policy should you forgo a lid anywhere on the mountain. The obvious objection to this is that most injuries would not be avoided with a helmet. Knee damage, broken limbs, twisted ankles, bruised ribs – there are countless ways to hurt yourself snowboarding, and it seems unfair not to pay out if you weren’t wearing head gear.

Pre-empting this complaint was Essential Travel’s Stuart Bensusan:

“Whilst it is true that a helmet does not reduce all sports injury, it seriously reduces the risk of potentially fatal injuries. That alone warrants making wearing helmets compulsory, and we choose to completely support safety conscious skiers by rewarding them with reduced premiums and bonus discounts.”

Now, while that sounds well-meaning, it seems fair to assume that Essential Travel are not making this move out of the goodness of their hearts, or some moral imperative to keep us safe. No, the aim is to appeal to a growing market of lid-wearing potential customers and, quite possibly, to save them money in payouts. “Oh, you broke your arm without a helmet? Sorry, you’re not covered – read the small print.”

For now it is just one company, and of course you are free to take them up on their deal or not. However, if it does indeed prove a lucrative move, then you can bet your bottom dollar more insurance companies will follow suit. In short: are the days of wearing your beanie on the mountain numbered?

What do you think of the idea? Do you prefer riding in a beanie or a helmet? Is this a sensible marketing ploy or the thin end of the wedge? Have your say in the comments below, and our favourite one will win a WL beanie.

** Press Release in Full **

UK Industry First: No Helmet, No Insurance!

Essential Travel Announce Helmet Wearing Mandatory for Wintersport Insurance Cover

Research by travel insurance specialist, http://www.essentialtravel.co.uk, has revealed that 77% of skiers/snowboarders are now wearing helmets when they hit the slopes – a 15% increase since 2010 when the “Use Your Head” campaign was launched. The poll also confirmed that of these, 73% felt that they should be rewarded for decision to protect themselves by paying lower travel insurance premiums.

As a result, from November 1st it is mandatory to wear a helmet in order to benefit from the protection offered on all Essential Travel’s Winter sports Insurance policies – skiers who do not wear a helmet will risk invalidating their policy.

Essential Travel’s Stuart Bensusan comments: “Whilst it is true that a helmet does not reduce all sports injury, it seriously reduces the risk of potentially fatal injuries. That alone warrants making wearing helmets compulsory, and we choose to completely support safety conscious skiers by rewarding them with reduced premiums and bonus discounts.”

By making ski helmets mandatory for insurance cover, Essential Travel are able to offer:

15% discount on Essential Travel Winter sports insurance premiums
Discounts with Neilson Holidays (up to 25%), Ellis Brigham (10%), Tail-Wags (10%) and Facewest (10%)
In addition, Essential Travel are also donating £1 for each policy bought to the brain injury charity https://www.headway.org.uk/home.aspx

** Ends **

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