You've purchased travel insurance and paid an additional premium for winter sports coverage, so you have no worries.
The sky is a dazzling blue.
The sun is shining and there are big fluffy clouds on the horizon.
You and your buddy decide to ski off-piste - or 'out-of-bounds' as it is called in America.
The area at the side of the slope is flagged and roped off but you duck under the ropes and head off for a big adventure, laughing and carefree as you expertly navigate down through the choppy snow and powder.
Your backpack contains a bottle of wine and some sandwiches.
You find a place to stop for lunch and polish off all the wine and food.
You have a good buzz and feel invincible.
Life is good! The clouds that were on the horizon are now overhead and the light is fading.
It starts to snow.
You realize you didn't check the weather forecast before you set off.
Surely the weather couldn't change so quickly? Your buddy thinks he knows the way down through a gully which will take you back to the ski area, so you set off.
You eventually realize that you're hopelessly lost.
You turn to head back - but you're not sure which way that was.
The snow has turned into a blizzard.
It swirls around you and you can't see more than a few feet ahead.
You didn't bring goggles so the snow gets in your eyes and clogs up your sunglasses.
As you ski down a steep gully your friend suddenly yells as he falls and you watch him tumbling down, out of control.
Skis, sunglasses and poles scatter over the snow and rocks as he careens down and down, out of sight.
You find him motionless in the snow.
There's a big boulder...
Your buddy has a gash on his head - and there's blood.
One of his ski boots is facing the wrong way.
You can't find a pulse.
You think of his wife...
and his kids.
Then you think of yourself, and your own wife and kids.
You yell for help but the sound dies, muffled by the heavy snow.
You put your head in your hands and yell obscenities in frustration.
You get cold.
You have no idea how to survive in the wilderness.
You eat snow.
How could you have been so foolish? The two friends weren't missed until the ski area closed for the day.
Their wives raised the alarm.
They were questioned by the authorities.
They had not mentioned skiing off-piste...
No, they were not carrying survival equipment.
' Rescue attempts could not begin until the next morning when the weather eventually cleared.
Rescue teams and a helicopter were sent out.
Eventually the men were found - one dead and one close to death.
The surviving man was flown to an intensive care unit and died within two days.
The grieving wives had to deal with the authorities.
They remembered the travel insurance policies.
'Thank goodness for the insurance...
' On investigation, it was discovered that bad weather and avalanche warnings had been posted at the base when the two friends set off.
They had gone off-piste into an area closed and roped off due to the hazardous conditions.
The empty wine bottle was found...
The insurance company denied claims related to the incident! This story is fictional, but it mirrors many real-life tragedies.
It is essential to take out a travel insurance policy with winter sports coverage for your skiing or snowboarding.
It is just as important that you read the policy document and understand what is covered - and the exclusions! Most policies have variations of the same wording.
For example: You are not covered for 'off-piste skiing on areas designated as unsafe by the resort management' or, you must avoid 'willful exposure to danger'.
Your family could find themselves faced with astronomical bills and no financial help.
The costs would not be limited to medical treatment and repatriation of the bodies, but could include hefty bills for the rescue operation and the helicopter! Would you want your family to go through that? Many people are not aware that claims can also be denied because of the misuse of alcohol and drugs! It could get even worse - such as injuring a third party - resulting in lawsuits and even criminal charges! Skiing off-piste can be a big adventure and very exciting, but you must be aware of the dangers - and the limitations of your insurance policy.
It is always wise to hire a professional guide to keep you out of trouble when skiing off-piste.
Your ski insurance should cover you - if you follow the rules.
Don't forget to pack your common sense in your bags along with your travel and ski insurance policy before your next ski trip!