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A Swiss headline caught my eye: “Rega intervenes 180 times during the Christmas holiday.” I then heard Rhone FM report Air Glaciers ran 82 missions. The time period was December 23-26; four days! In case you don’t know, Rega and Air Glaciers are the two Swiss Emergency air-rescue organizations.

In Switzerland if you have had or witness a ski accident, 1) immediately secure the area by crossing skis or poles above the person and 2) if he needs medical assistance, call 144 or the local resort’s emergency number.  The dispatcher will ask several questions; most importantly, where are you and what are the extent of the injuries. Ski patrol and a sled will be dispatched, however severe injuries are helicoptered to the nearest hospital.

This past weekend I struck up a conversation with an elderly couple while enjoying the mountain sun. I learned the husband had broken his pelvis several years ago while skiing here. Someone called 144, the ski patrol arrived quickly and a helicopter was immediately dispatched. He arrived at Sion Hospital within 5 minutes from take-off.

I was curious. How much did the helicopter cost? They explained that the local resort’s emergency response cost over CHF 200, the helicopter CHF 2,700 but they couldn’t remember expense of the post-surgery medical transport to their local hospital.

With these kinds of expenses you’d better check if you’re covered by your health and/or travel insurance (Know Your Travel and Roadside Insurance Options). If not, you have three options to consider: ski ticket insurance, REGA and Air Glaciers.

Ski Ticket Insurance

Prices vary from resort to resort. My favorite ski area offers Insurance + at CHF 5 per day / CHF 98 for the season. This covers emergency transportation as well as the reimbursement of one’s ski pass and any rented equipment.

REGA  (emergency number 1414)                   

Rega is the original Swiss air-rescue organization coming to the aid of people in distress  when the Swiss started using aircraft to rescue people from the mountains back in 1946. Rega is a non-profit foundation which means your donation gives you the status of  a patron with certain advantages; most notably, if your insurance doesn’t pay for the helicopter rescue, Rega “can waive the cost of the mission carried out on the patron’s behalf.” Rega also responds to critical traffic accidents, evacuates patrons from disaster & war zones, and repatriates hospitalized citizens to Switzerland.

Rega serves all of Switzerland except the Valais because this canton gave air-rescue rights to Air Glaciers (see below) and Air Zermatt. However, Rega insists that its patrons have the same rights if rescued by one of these two companies.

Donations are as follows:  CHF 30 individual, CHF 70 family and CHF 70 livestock farmer.

Yes, you read correctly. Rega serves farmers if their cows are trapped, injured or dead.

Air Glaciers (emergency number 1415)

Air Glaciers began competing with REGA in 1967. They are based in Sion; the heart of Swiss ski resorts. Not only do they run mountain rescues, they provide charter flights and are the Swiss equivalent to American crop dusters. They will spray hard to reach mountain side vineyards and apricot orchards with helicopters. They also serve livestock farmers.

Prices are: CHF 35 individual, CHF 70 family of 2, CHF 80 family (with children under 18).

The man from Basel had none of these services however,  his medical insurance did pay for the helicopter transport to Sion Hospital but he had to pay for the local rescue and medical transport to the hospital in Basil.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at  http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/