It took its time to get here, but winter has well and truly arrived in Australia’s south-east.

Not everyone in our sun-kissed country welcomes this time of year when the days are short and the early morning air starts to bite. But for thousands of wiser Aussies, there’s no time like snow time!

Whether you’re a seasoned ice maiden or novice ski bunny, a trip to the New South Wales or Victorian snowfields is a magical experience at any age. But the very conditions that make Australia’s high country so special in winter also bring risks – and it’s important to make sure you have the right protection before you hit the slopes or head out for a mountain hike.

That doesn’t just mean thermal underwear, snow chains for the car and a first aid kit. Travel insurance should be one of your key considerations when booking a trip to the snow this winter. Many Australians disregard the need for insurance when taking a domestic trip, but here’s why you should think again.

Skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports activities can be dangerous

Most winter sports participants return home with little more than sore muscles (and perhaps an aching backside if they fell over a lot), but a small number will injure themselves, sometimes quite seriously. Torn tendons, dislocated knees and fractured forearms are among the most common forms of ski and snowboard suffering.

As in so many areas of life, young men are most at risk. Monash University research has found that two out of three snow sports-related hospitalisations are for male patients. Half of all snow sports-related hospitalisations are for patients aged 15 to 29.

Medicare won’t necessarily cover all of your medical expenses

One key reason domestic travellers often dismiss the need for travel insurance is the belief that the government will pick up any medical expenses incurred. But if you’re severely injured out on slopes, you may require medical evacuation to hospital. You and your family could be left with a bill amounting to thousands of dollars. Thankfully there are many travel insurance policies on the market designed precisely to protect against this type of scenario.

What about the rest of your holiday expenses?

As you’re dragged slowly down the mountain by a snow-ski, securely strapped into a stretcher, don’t let the pain of your busted knee be worsened by the knowledge that your entire holiday outlay has just been wasted.

Travel insurance will often cover the cost of your unused accommodation, lift tickets, equipment hire, and even damage to your skis or snowboard. You may also be covered for rental vehicle insurance excess for unexpected scrapes in rental cars and emergency accommodation if your injury means you can’t get home.

What sort of policy should I look for?

Coverage for winter sports isn’t included as standard in most domestic or international travel insurance policies, given it’s considered a risky activity. It’s important to specifically check the product disclosure statement (PDS) to make sure the activities you want to engage in on your trip are covered.

New research carried out for the website Understand Insurance found 6 per cent of survey respondents undertook winter sports on their last overseas trips, and about 40 per cent of them didn’t check their policy to see if those activities were covered.

Many insurers will be willing to provide cover for winter sports for the payment of an additional premium, although some activities such as racing or riding snowmobiles may be excluded.

There are also several travel insurance companies who specialise in coverage for winter and adventure sports. Select the best policy for you based on features, not just price. And if you’re using a comparison website, just be mindful they typically don’t include all products available on the market.

If you’re more interested in apres ski activities, just remember that claims arising from the consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs are typically not covered by any travel insurance policy.

Australians are almost certainly more familiar with a sunburnt country than a frostbitten one. But with the help of appropriate equipment, proper planning and the right travel insurance policy, you can hopefully enjoy our country’s alpine beauty, while steering well clear of her terror.