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Hitting the ski slopes? You may need to equip yourself with season-pass insurance

You've been preparing for months to hit the slopes. You've got your season pass in hand, and you've bought new skis and new skiwear. But then you break your collarbone. You'll be out of commission -- and off the slopes -- for a few months.

While you'll have to skip snow skiing for the season, all hope may not be lost. Many ski resorts now offer season-pass insurance. This insurance protects season-pass holders in case of an unexpected illness, injury or tragedy. Some resorts have done away with issuing season-pass refunds in favor of season-pass insurance.

season pass insurance

This insurance is sold by ski resorts for a percentage (usually about 6 percent) of the total ski-pass price. The insurance is valid for one year or one annual ski season, and provides reimbursement for ski passes up to $600 for when a trip is canceled or interrupted.

Among the circumstances when season-pass insurance would kick in are:

• An injury or illness that prevents the insured person from skiing.

• A family member of the insured skier gets injured, becomes sick or dies.

• The main residence of the insured skier becomes uninhabitable because of a natural disaster, vandalism or burglary.

• The insured skier is required to serve on a jury.

• The insured skier loses his job or has to relocate for his job.

• The insured skier must report for military service.

• The insured skier becomes pregnant.

Aspen Skiing Co. operates four ski areas in Colorado -- Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. It's been offering season-pass insurance since 2003. During the 2010-11 season, nearly 18 percent of season-pass holders bought insurance, says Jeff Hanle, a spokesman for Aspen Skiing. If an Aspen Skiing season-pass holder doesn't buy the insurance, he's not eligible for a pass refund.

Resorts that have season-pass insurance generally have strict policies on refunds or don't provide refunds at all.

“You get many stories or reasons every year as to why each person feels they should get a refund," Hanle says. “Insurance makes it more black and white. It takes the subjectivity out of the equation."

If you have season-pass insurance and aren't able to ski, most properties that offer this type of coverage will prorate the value of your pass to determine the refund amount.

“If a guest has skied a few times and is now unable to use the pass, the guest can file a claim for the unused portion of the pass,” says Janet Janssen, director of property management at Travel Guard. “Each property will determine the value of the ski days used and then determine the unused value of the pass.”

During the 2011-12 ski season, the Ski Maine Association, a trade group, is offering season-pass insurance for the first time. The Travel Guard coverage costs roughly $27 if you buy a $450 Mountain pass or $16 if you buy a $250 Sampler pass. Premiums are based on the cost of the ticket.

The Ski Maine Association sells a maximum of 250 season passes each ski season. Season-pass refunds aren't available without insurance, says Greg Sweetser, executive director of the association.

According to the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group for ski resort owners and operators, season-pass holders accounted for 36 percent of resort visits during the 2010-11 ski season. That was up 2 percent from 2009-10.

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