The Best Canada Ski Season Insurance for Your IEC Working Holiday

It may not the most fun or interesting part of your ski season in Canada, but buying travel insurance is a vital part of it. This post will first go into the why and how of ski season insurance and then offer suggestions of Canada ski season insurance providers.

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The need for Canada ski season insurance

There are many reasons to have ski season insurance in Canada, but here are the two most important (in my opinion):

An immigration requirement

Health or travel insurance for the length of your stay in Canada is a mandatory requirement for taking part in the IEC working holiday program.

You may be refused entry if you do not have insurance.

Your insurance must cover:
medical care
hospitalization and
repatriation (returning you to your country in the event of severe illness, injury or death)

When you arrive at the port of entry, you must have health insurance valid for your entire stay in Canada. 

If your insurance policy is valid for less than your expected stay, you will be issued a work permit that expires at the same time as your insurance.

If this happens, you will not be able to apply to change the conditions of your work permit at a later date.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/iec/prepare-arrival.html

When you apply for a working holiday in Canada, you agree to purchase travel insurance for the length of your stay. Don’t take the risk of having your work permit shortened or even cancelled.

High medical care costs in Canada

The other main reason to have insurance is for medical care costs, especially repatriation*. No-one expects to fall seriously ill or have an accident, but it does happen. And without insurance, the situation can be even worse.

Medical care is expensive in Canada for non-residents. I’m talking thousands of dollars for small injuries even without an overnight stay in hospital.

My mum recently visited from the UK and broke her wrist on day three, just walking down an icy street. The total cost was around $16,000 (£10,000) for the emergency room visit, surgery and one follow up visit.

*Repatriation in this situation means that you (or quite morbidly, your body) would be returned to your home country if serious injury, illness or even death happened on your trip. Even if you don’t care much about medical costs yourself, do consider your family. They would be the ones to pick up the bill in the event of the worst happening.

But what about provincial healthcare?

Yes, Canada does have publicly funded healthcare. But provincial healthcare is no replacement for travel insurance.

  • It does not cover repatriation to your home country if the worst happens (death or serious injury) and it does not satisfy IEC program requirements
  • To add to this, all of the provincial healthcare programs are different, and depending on what plans you have for your time in Canada, you may not even be eligible. In my case, I wasn’t eligible in BC due to having a short term ski resort job
  • There is usually a three month waiting period until you are covered by provincial healthcare programs

What kind of travel insurance is right for a ski season in Canada?

Buying Canada ski season travel insurance is not as straightforward as it may initially seem.

Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for ski season insurance:

  • The length of coverage – your policy must cover the length of your intended stay in Canada, as per the IEC requirements. If not, you may receive a shortened work permit that you cannot extend
  • One-way flights – Most people heading to Canada to work a ski season will do so with a one-way flight. A lot of insurance companies do not insure people leaving their home country without a return flight booked
  • Winter sports – OK, this is an obvious one, but you need to make sure that your insurance covers winter sports plus any other ‘extreme’ activities you may want to do in Canada. And yep, winter sports coverage will raise the cost of your insurance policy
  • Returning home – Some ski season insurance policies do not allow you to return to your home country during coverage without the policy becoming void (and then you’d have to buy another one!) Keep in mind that weddings, funerals and severe illness may happen while you are away
  • Eligibility – Are you already travelling away from your home country? Or have you not lived there lately? If so, you will be more limited in choice of travel insurance providers. Most travel insurers require you to start the policy from your home country and/or have lived there for 6 months or more before leaving

Ski season travel insurance options for Canada

All of the below suggestions have long stay policies available for Canada with winter sports coverage available for an additional premium.

Australia

Cover-More provides 12 month long travel insurance policies for Australians, with three levels of coverage – Basic, Comprehensive and Comprehensive Plus. All provide unlimited funds for overseas medical expenses. Winter sports coverage is available for an additional fee.

For 24 months of IEC coverage, purchase 2 x 12 month policies. Cover-More allows policies to be started while abroad, though there is technically no coverage for the first three days of that policy.

Prior to the pandemic, Fast Cover was one of the most popular insurance providers for Australians heading to Canada for a ski season, with a specific 12 IEC policy that could be extended by another 12 months on the date of departure.

Unfortunately, Fast Cover have restricted sales since March 2020. At the time of this update (April 2022), they cannot provide policies with a return date after December 2022, which is not long enough for IEC participants.

EU and UK

True Traveller offers a 24 month specialised IEC policy that allows unlimited visits home and can be started even if already travelling. I personally used True Traveller for my IEC working holiday.

Winter sports coverage is available and there are no minimum residency requirements. 92 activities are covered as standard with True Traveller, including horse riding and bungee jumping. If you need coverage for more activities (such as rock climbing), an additional activity pack can be selected.

New Zealand

Working holiday travel insurance options for New Zealand citizens have become more limited since the start of the pandemic. I previously linked to Down Under, who had a 24 month IEC specific policy. I do not believe they are currently trading.

Cover-More offers one year policies for New Zealand citizens, with winter sports coverage available for an additional fee. For the other 11 months, Kiwis will need to source another insurance policy.

One option for the second policy would be BestQuote, who are travel insurance specialists partnered with some of the largest and most reputable insurance providers in Canada. There are various coverage amounts available (most starting at $100,000) and adjustable excess levels as well.

For most IEC nationalities

World Nomads offers 12 month maximum at a time so you’d need to purchase two 12 month policies for 24 months of coverage. Policies can be started when already travelling. I have personally used World Nomads multiple times and successfully claimed for illness.

Common questions about ski season insurance

Can I cancel my Canada ski season insurance policy?

No, as this would be considered fraud.

How would an insurance company know whether I have already travelling or not when purchasing a policy?

Their website may use an IP detector which would show where you are when purchasing. Besides that, if you needed to claim then you would need to prove the date you left your home country (with flight tickets for example).

Do I really need to buy additional winter sports coverage if I buy one of the insurance policies that includes up to 21 days of skiing as standard?

Yes. If you needed to claim for a skiing accident, it is very possible that an insurance company would research how often you would have skied.

At the ski resort I used to work at, we would sometimes receive calls from insurance companies asking to examine the ski lift records of season pass holders for claiming purposes.

Why are some insurance policies a lot cheaper than others?

With insurance, you do generally get what you pay for in my opinion.

Why is ski season travel insurance SO expensive for Australians?!

Insurance policies for Australians are particularly expensive – around $2000-3000. It sucks but there are no cheap options for Australians.

I’m planning to work a ski season so will get winter sports coverage but what if I change my mind?

Contact the travel insurance provider before purchasing and ask whether winter sports can be added on at the same price later. That way you can just buy the basic coverage and ‘top it up’ with winter sports later.

What do I need to prove I have insurance on arrival in Canada?

A print-out of the policy certificate showing the length and coverage

Planning a ski season in Canada? Here are some helpful resources

Secure your working holiday visa – your first step to an amazing ski season in Canada is to apply for the IEC program

Research Canadian ski resorts and apply for work – Get the low down on Canada’s huge range of ski resorts and learn tips and tricks for finding a job

Book arrival accommodation – It’s a smart idea to spend at least a few days in whichever Canadian city you land in. Booking.com usually offers the best rates for hostels and hotels, while Airbnb is a great money saving option for couples and groups

Don’t forget travel insurance – A mandatory part of the IEC working holiday program in Canada, travel insurance also protects you against serious medical care costs in case of illness or injury. I have personally used both World Nomads and True Traveller

Get prepared for arrival in Canada – This moving guide includes everything you need to know about immigration, getting a local Canadian number, opening a bank account and more

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