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Winter holidays: Everything you need to know before travelling to the snow

Many popular winter sports destinations, including France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, are now operating with minimal Covid restrictions with some are operating with none at all. As a result, for the first time since the pandemic, travellers look set to return to the slopes in full force.

Skiing and other winter sports are a lot of fun but can also be dangerous no matter how experienced you are. Most travellers will also likely be a bit rusty this season after a few years off. 

Therefore, when booking your winter sports holiday this year, it's more essential than ever to ensure that you're sufficiently protected should anything go wrong.

Package holiday vs doing it yourself 

Given the current cost of living crisis, booking the separate aspects of your holiday yourself can seem a more cost-effective way of travelling rather than booking through a tour operator. However, in doing so you may miss out on key legal protections.

Importantly, as a result of Brexit, travellers have lost the automatic right in many instances to bring claims for accidents which occur in the EU through the English courts. This means that, should the worst happen, you may have no option but to bring a claim in the local court of where your accident happened, forcing you to navigate a foreign legal system in a foreign language.

By contrast, if you book your winter sports holiday as a package holiday through an English tour operator, then your holiday will be protected by the Package Travel Regulations (2018). One of the main advantages of this is that the tour operator bears the legal responsibility for the proper performance of all aspects of your package holiday, even if certain aspects are being performed by local companies engaged by it. 

This means that you will be protected for all aspects of your holiday, including not only flights, accommodation and transfers but your ski/snowboard hire and lessons as well - so long as they were included in the package. If anything should unfortunately go wrong with your holiday, leaving you injured and/or out of pocket, you may be able to claim directly against the tour operator in England.

In addition, booking your winter sports holiday as a package places a duty on your tour operator to provide you with “appropriate assistance without undue delay… in particular by providing appropriate information on health services, local assistance and consular assistance.”

This duty applies for the duration of your holiday even if the difficulty which arises is nothing to do with any aspect of the holiday the tour operator provided. This could be a life saver if, for example, your accommodation unexpectedly fell through last minute, leaving you stranded abroad.

Finally, in the current financial climate, travellers can be reassured that if a tour operator becomes insolvent, any deposit you have paid to them will be refunded. If the tour operator becomes insolvent after the start of the package holiday, and if transport is included in the package holiday, your repatriation back home is guaranteed. In addition, if before the start of your holiday, the tour operator cancels it, you will be entitled to a refund and compensation where appropriate.


Whether or not you book your winter sports holiday as a package, it's absolutely essential that you ensure that you are covered by appropriate travel insurance for the entirety of your holiday. 

Insurance can ensure access to any emergency assistance you require. In addition to medical treatment it may also cover repatriation; trip cancellation, interruption or delays; lost or stolen luggage or damage or injury caused by you. Should you need to bring a claim following your holiday, it's also possible, depending on your particular policy, that your insurance will cover part or all of your legal fees.

It's important that travellers check the wording of any travel insurance policy they're purchasing - or the wording of any policy you may have already - to ensure that winter sports are covered as cover for accidents arising from winter sports can often be excluded from generic policies. 

Travel Advice

It's always advisable to check the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office's travel advice website before travelling. It provides the latest information on Covid, safety and security, visa and entry requirements and travel warnings.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people following accidents on the snow at our dedicated skiing and winter sports injuries section