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A new strategy in the season ski pass war: medical insurance policies

Telluride passes will cover up to $25,000 in medical bills
Members of Purgatory Resort Ski Patrol load a practice patient, a fellow ski patroler, onto the AirCare helicopter in 2020. (Durango Herald file)

The season-pass war that has reshaped the resort industry in recent years is getting a new tactic: injury insurance.

Telluride ski area has partnered with Spot, a startup insurance provider to offer $25,000 insurance policies for skiers injured on the mountain. The no-deductible Spot insurance coverage will be included in the price of every lift ticket and season pass Telluride sells. (Telluride hasn’t released the price for tickets and passes for the coming season.)

Spot is working with many other resorts for the coming season, CEO and co-founder Matt Randall said.

“We plan to be live on a number of mountains next season,” he said.

Spot also provides on-demand injury insurance policies directly to consumers – for $25 to $30 a month – as well as through partnerships. The company offers injury coverage to members of USA Cycling and the National Ski Patrol as well as running, cycling and motorcycle athletes participating in races.

The Austin, Texas-based tech startup in July announced it had raised $17.5 million in funding to help create new partnerships and grow its staff.

Medical expenses are the top reason Americans file for bankruptcy protection. Randall said Spot insurance is “a huge opportunity” for both resorts and skiers.

Resorts get to differentiate their passes with an added perk. The policies cover up to $25,000 in medical expenses from an accident on the hill, with no cap on the number of accidents covered. So a skier can blow their knee in the early season, get their bills paid and have coverage for accidents when they return to the slopes in the spring.

“Think of how often we all see people being skied off the mountain in a stretcher. Instead of being stuck with those medical bills, they are covered,” Randall said. “Telluride is the first to say, ‘We need to add more value to our lift tickets and passes outside of just getting to ski.’ We think more resorts are going to want to give that value back to their customers.”

Spot, which launched one year ago, initially worked with Telluride to provide coverage for athletes involved in on-mountain running, skiing and mountain biking events. The conversations eventually progressed to covering every skier on the mountain.

Last season saw traditional season-pass perks slip as pandemic-related restrictions cut back traffic at resort restaurants, rental shops and ski schools.

“This is a really clean way for us to get back into adding value to our products,” said Carson Taylor, director of mountain sales at Telluride Ski & Golf Resort.

Matt Thomas, director of risk management at the ski area, said resorts cannot eliminate the inherent risks of skiing. People do get hurt, he said.

“But having a product like Spot helps our guests if they do get hurt ... just knowing those bills are taken care of with a zero-dollar deductible,” Thomas said.

A decade ago, a handful of resorts began offering season-pass insurance policies so skiers could be reimbursed for passes if an injury or unplanned move left them unable to use their pass. Now it’s rare to find a resort that does not offer pass insurance. Randall expects Spot accident insurance will follow that same track.

Colorado-based professional skier Julian Carr, who owns a world record for back flipping off a 210-foot cliff, is an ambassador for Spot. He used it last year to cover more than $2,000 in medical bills from a broken pinky. “It’s the real deal,” Carr said. “I think a majority of resorts will partner with Spot in the next three to five years.”

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.

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