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Buy Trip Insurance -- Just in Case

FRANCE | Sunday, 8 March 2015 | Views [603] | Comments [1]

“Just in Case”  (Val d'Isere, France -- February, 2004)

By Barbara Bellinger

I writhed on the cold, brittle snow with my right knee pointed in an impossible direction. The bitter tang of shock coated the back of my throat. “OhmygodOhmy godOhmygod,” I sobbed, hysterical with pain.

My screams drowned out the schussing of skis, the soothing croons from Mary’s mouth and the shrieking from the panicked British girl who had just slammed into my right tibia at mach-10.

I felt the reverberations emanating from the black helicopter hovering above my prone form and the distant rumbles of snowmobiles as they sped up the steep alpine slopes to my rescue. My screams subsided as the aftereffects of shock coated my senses with a cushioning layer of numbness.

Upon arrival, the French rescuers confirmed I had purchased “L’assurance,” insurance suggested to skiers by the resort as it covered the costs of rescues so the injured did not have to pay out-of-pocket. I had paid €30 for the insurance on my first day of skiing, “just in case.”

My saviors stretched out the injured limb so they could strap me into the rescue sled. I heard a faint pop. Instant relief flooded my system.

“My knee popped back into joint and the pain went away,” I told Mary. “I think I’m going to be fine.”

Sure, you are,” she said. I had met Mary for the first time in the departure lounge of the international terminal at Seattle International Airport. We had bonded over Stoli Bloody Mary’s and cranberry vodkas. Her calm response confirmed my assessment, and so I settled into the red rescue sled, pulled by my blonde, tanned rescuer with the bluest of eyes, assured that I was already on the mend.


Three and a half weeks earlier, my friend Steve surprised me with an odd request.

“Hey, you’re fun. You wanna go to France with me?” he asked as we ordered another round of Ketel One martinis with olives, light on the Vermouth.

The question came on the heels of an inebriated conversation of how his fiancé had dumped him by text, how he now had an extra ticket to France and how he needed someone “fun” to travel with him.

“If I go, I’m not going to sleep with you,” I replied.

“No, of course not,” Steve said. “Besides, I’ve already met someone whom I think I’m going to marry.”

“Then why don’t you take her?” I asked.

“It’s too soon,” he said. “Besides, she won’t go. I already asked her.”

“Won’t she mind?”

Turns out, she didn’t mind and instead told me to have fun and to take care of her Steve.

I frantically set about getting everything I needed for my free trip to Val d’Isere, a ski resort in the French Alps. My passport had expired. The Seattle Passport Agency expedited me a new one. I needed time off work. “How exciting!” my boss said. “Of course you can have the time off!”

I grumbled at having to shell out $65 to buy trip insurance, but the travel agency required it. The travel insurance would cover everything from cancelled flights and lost luggage to emergency retrieval from the country in case of illness, accident or a multitude of other circumstances listed on their website.

I procrastinated. The agent reminded me to buy it. Steve reminded me to buy it, but I wanted to save as much money as possible to spend on French food and wine. Less than 24 hours before departure, I finally caved in.

“Okay, fine. I'll buy it -- just in case,” I told the agent, as I gave her my credit card number.


“Your tibia plateau is shattered,” said the British doctor in the clinic at the base of the mountain.

“That doesn’t sound good,” I thought woozily.

“You need surgery,” he continued. “You can have the operation in France, or we can immobilize your leg and ship you back to the U.S. What do you want to do?”

“Seriously?” I thought. “He expects me to make a decision? How the heck should I know?”

Two hours had passed since the fateful collision. I lay on a cold, bare table in an antiseptic room with fluorescent lights and an antiquated, steel-gray x-ray machine looming over my body. I had just viewed an x-ray that made me question the decision of the rescuers to use the snowmobile instead of the helicopter. The film showed thousands of tiny pieces of bone where, earlier that day, resided a perfectly whole tibia that withstood the weight of the rest of my body with ease. I was cold, hungry and mad. And, I had not yet received any painkillers.

“You’re the doctor, you tell me,” I replied sarcastically.

“The doctors in the hospitals near here are experts in ski injuries,” he said. “Do you have insurance?”

Yes, I told him. I have insurance. I bought it the day before I left. So, yes, I’ll have the operation here. Please, just give me some painkillers.

Thus began the first leg of a 12-day, $30,000 journey…for which I didn’t have to pay a dime.

My “just in case” insurance purchases saved me from shelling out more money than I made in a year; paid for my mom to fly to France to be with me in the hospital; and provided me with a free trip off the mountain and a paramedic for my ride home in the plush surroundings of business class travel on British Airways.


Moral of the story: Buy trip insurance – just in case.





Tags: broken leg, france, skiing, travel insurance, val disere



;great story, bummer about your leg/knee. I was booked for Todos Santos in Baja last year, everything was closed including the international airport due to the hurricane. my world nomads travel insurance got my airfare back when United Airlines refused. It is a lot of paper work but worth it.
Used my DAN divers insurance for a medical evacuation out of Chili several years ago. That saved me about $10,000.

  Rubicon Adventures Mar 9, 2015 1:08 AM

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