. 40% of skiers and snowboarders surveyed received informal training from friends or family the first time they went skiing or snowboarding. Of these, the vast bulk - 61% - had only 1-4 hours of informal tuition.

Surprisingly, the small number of older skiers and snowboarders (aged 65+) are least likely to be formally trained, with a third of them taking to the slopes without being professionally taught. Overall, women are slightly better at signing up for lessons than men, with an average of 5.3 hours of professional training against men's 4.7 hours, when they were novices.

Perry Wilson, Managing Director of InsureandGo (www.insureandgo.com), said: "Based on this research we have to expect that there will, unfortunately, be a lot of accidents on the slopes this winter. It goes without saying that untrained skiers and snowboarders are a real danger and are more likely to cause injury to themselves and others. Anyone tackling a slope - even if they think they are experienced - should be professionally trained and insured."

Roz McDonald from the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) commented: "These findings are shocking. A proper series of 10 two-hour sessions with a qualified ski or snowboard instructor costs from £30-£65 and is invaluable in preparing people for their time on the piste. Mountain slopes are dangerous places and need to be treated with respect. No one should tackle them without full professional training beforehand."