Skico says no more refunds
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen Skiing Co. has abandoned its longstanding policy of issuing refunds to season pass holders who are injured early in the season.
In its place, the company is offering an optional insurance program – the first of its kind in the nation – that requires the pass holder pay an additional 6 percent on top of the regular purchase price.
“We are offering pass insurance this season,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle confirmed. “People will need to buy it if they’re afraid they might be injured.”
Under the old system, if someone broke their leg or otherwise became incapacitated before a cut-off date in February, the Skico would typically issue a refund pro-rated to reflect the number of days left in the season. In exchange for the refund, however, the injured skier had to surrender their pass for the season.
The new insurance program, offered through Skier Insurance Services of Kalispell, Mont., allows injured skiers to receive partial refunds based on the amount of time they’re incapacitated, and still keep skiing.
For instance, if an insured pass holder twists her knee in December and is unable to ski for 45 days, she’ll receive a refund for the lost days. Once the skier’s doctors says it’s OK for her to hit the slopes again, she can pick up her pass and use it for the remainder of the season.
Ron Iverson, president of Skier Insurance Services and its parent company, Tourist Insurance Services, said Aspen/Snowmass is one of four ski areas in the nation to sign up for the pass insurance program. The others include Eldora outside Nederland, Mammoth Mountain in California and Diamond Peak in Nevada.
“In the process of dealing with resorts that would market our vacation insurance to people from out of town, we realized there was a whole market among locals,” Iverson said.
Skier Insurance Services offers resorts a 10 percent cut of insurance sales as an incentive. Skico will receive $6.17 for each person who insures their $1,029 Premier Pass, which costs $61.74 to insure.
Iverson, who has been in the vacation insurance business for more than 30 years, based the pass insurance on a similar program that’s been operating in Canada for several years. Vacation insurance allows individuals and families to recoup costs – hotels, airline and other tickets, car rentals – if the vacation is unexpectedly canceled or cut short.
“We kind of stumbled on this and realized that there’s a lot of exposure here – $1,200 or $1,300 is a lot of money,” Iverson said. Pass prices for other major ski resorts are typically higher than the early bird special offered by Skico on its Premier Pass.
Because the pass insurance program has only been in effect in the United States for three weeks, Iverson is expecting more resorts to sign on over the next month.
The loss of use coverage is good for just about every kind of injury or illness. “If you’re working in Paris and get run over by a taxi, well then you get your money back,” he said.
There are, however, some activities and circumstances that are not covered. Such exclusions include injuries that occur from extreme skiing, helicopter skiing, skiing or snowboarding out of bounds or during any kind of organized competition. Job loss or relocation are excluded as well.
The coverage also includes $10,000 dismemberment or accidental death insurance and $15,000 evacuation insurance. “We’ll send the helicopter in ourselves, if we have to,” Iverson said.
Skico’s Hanle could not say exactly why the company was abandoning refunds in favor of insurance. The senior managers who would be able to answer that question were out of town on a raft trip yesterday.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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