3 tips for the ski slopes

Ski season is winding down, but insuring resorts in Canada is a year-round business.

There are approximately 150 ski resorts in Canada, a number that fluctuates each year depending on the quality of the previous winter season. Personal injuries on ski hills are often fatal; property claims catastrophic. And the investment into all-season adventure activities, such as ziplines, mountain bike runs and roller coasters has been a game-changer for those insuring the industry.

Given this combination of a relatively small market with big risks, it’s not surprising that just a handful of insurers operating in Canada are willing to be exposed to that level of comprehensive risk, and less than a dozen brokers have any real expertise in the area. For brokers looking to get into this niche, here are three things to remember.

1) Top risk–simple slips and falls: “Ironically, the largest risk associated with resorts that have chalets is still slip and fall issues,” says Jamie Gougeon, the sales manager in the commercial program department at Gougeon Insurance Brokers, headquartered in Sudbury, Ont. “It makes sense when people are moving from chalet to ski hill to restaurant, from activity to activity. We always want to know that our resort clients are maintaining pathways between buildings, salting and sanding in the winter, and generally making sure people have access to clear and safe paths.”

2) Don’t forget subcontractors: A ski club operating at a resort requires insurance based on the length of the season, how many skier visits they will make and what kind of exposures they have. Likewise, a ski instructor on a small hill needs about $2 million in general liability coverage, says Colin Fairlie, a senior underwriter at Sutton Sportscover Ltd. A resort like Whistler may require each individual instructor to have $5 million coverage.

“If there is a ski club operating at Whistler without liability coverage and something goes wrong with one of their members on the hill–they go down a hill that’s too steep or into the woods, hit a tree and get seriously hurt–they’re going to sue everybody in sight,” says Fairlie.

3) Long-term commitment required: “This type of insurance is not transactional,” says Alexis Harke-Hunt, the managing director at Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) Canada. “We are working with these people 12 months of the year.”

“In the past, a broker has come in, only seeing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but doesn’t really understand the industry,” says Bob Bell, a former broker and risk manager, and the current vice-president of operations and maintenance at Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park. “Yes, there are big premiums in the industry, but the claims are also big.”

This post is a condensed version of an article from the January 2011 issue of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine. To read the full article, click here.

A TC Media site,
Business Solutions

TC Media

Transcontinental Media G.P
1110 René-Lévesque Bldv W.
Montréal, QC H3B 4X9
(514) 392-9000