Ski pass insurance earns believers
Something in the back of Clifford Dossigny’s mind last year told him it might be wise to pay a little more for his full-season ski pass and invest in insurance.The decision to buy into the SkierGuard program saved him several hundred bucks.By paying an extra 6 percent of the pass price, skiers can get insurance that reimburses them for unused pass usage in case they suffer an injury that keeps them off the slopes for 30 or more consecutive days. The injury can occur on or off the slopes.Dossigny was skiing during the first week of January when he felt a sharp pain in the quad muscle of one leg.”It made a loud cracking noise,” he said. “I thought I broke my leg.”He ripped the quad muscle, and a doctor ordered him to stay off skis for the season.Even if he hadn’t suffered the on-slope injury, work would have done him in. A short time later, Dossigny’s luck ran dry a second time when he injured the rotator cuff in one shoulder while shoveling snow.In normal circumstances, a person in Dossigny’s boots would have just eaten the price of the ski pass, in this case more than $1,000. But his decision to buy the insurance earned him a substantial refund. Skier Insurance Services calculated what percentage of the season remained and refunded Dossigny a prorated amount of the pass purchase price.After extensive physical therapy, Dossigny is ready to hit the slopes again this season. He is uncertain which pass to get but positive he will invest in ski pass insurance again.”I’m in good shape and I work hard, but I’m getting older,” said the 61-year-old Dossigny, a resident of Brush Creek Village. He advises his friends to buy it as well.The SkierGuard insurance program has been available for Aspen Skiing Co. pass buyers for three years. Customers may buy it when they purchase their passes. Each year, more people have purchased it, said Ron Iverson, president of the company that offers it.Between 50 and 60 people in Aspen bought the ski pass insurance the first season. That grew to about four times that many customers last season, he said. This year, Iverson expects to top 500 customers.The number of men and woman buying the insurance is nearly equal, according to Iverson. The average age of the purchaser is 52.”The younger people, who are invincible anyway, they perceive less of a need,” Iverson said.All recreational skiers under age 71 are eligible for the ski pass insurance, but it doesn’t cover participants in competitions. A flat fee of 6 percent is charged, regardless if the pass is for unlimited skiing or one day per week.The insurance program appealed to the Skico because its managers no longer have to determine if a person qualifies for a refund.”Our refund policy in the past was kind of arbitrary,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.”Very honestly, we kind of stumbled across this thing,” said Iverson, who has owned and operated Tourist Insurance Services for about 30 years. After providing insurance for decades to travelers and adventurers, he recognized the demand had grown for ski pass insurance. He created a division within his company to cover them.Iverson approached major ski companies across the country. The Aspen Skiing Co. was one of the first to implement it, and Aspen remains his best market. In addition to the Skico, 14 other resorts offer the pass insurance. Iverson expects eight more to sign up this season.In addition to covering loss of ski pass use for part or all of the season, the insurance also covers up to $15,000 for medical evacuation and benefits for accidental death/dismemberment.Iverson said his firm has paid out on claims by 23 Aspen passholders so far. Most were for loss of pass use.Iverson said his company requires the doctor of a claimant to fill out information about the injury. That is a way to reduce fraud.”We don’t believe we’ve been taken advantage of in the past,” he said.Aspen resident Norton Eisenberg’s investment in pass insurance paid off when his 2003-04 season came to an abrupt halt in early March, when a skier hit him on Aspen Mountain. “I broke my neck and had to be medevaced to Denver to be operated on,” he said.Eisenberg received a refund for the remainder of the season. He believes the company gave him a generous interpretation on the timing.His surgery was successful, and Eisenberg was able to ski last winter and will purchase a pass again this season. He always buys the pass insurance – just in case.”This is good,” Eisenberg said. “Things could happen, and they did.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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