It’s the heart of winter, and anticipation is high.
Packed in your bag is all the gear you need for your dream winter ski vacation – skis, snowboard, boots, and a warm winter wardrobe. You revel in your Tetris-like packing skills and can’t wait to hit the slopes. But as you navigate the airport, the excitement you felt at the start of your journey begins to wane.
The challenge of flying with skis that you forgot in your excitement comes flooding back.
The airline’s baggage fees hit, chilling your wallet and adding to your swollen travel budget. Your bag is overweight, and you have to sheepishly re-pack all your ski gear under the accusing glare of the check-in attendant. And then, security demands to inspect your bag.
As the plane takes off, you wonder whether this adventure is worth the mounting hassle. What was once a journey filled with enthusiasm now feels like a travel nightmare. Retrieving your equipment after touching down feels like a mixed blessing.
You yearn for a simpler way to enjoy your ski trip, as flying with your gear has become an ordeal you’re determined to avoid.
While I can’t fix all of life’s problems, I can give you some tips that make flying with skis and snowboards easier.
Tips for Flying with Skis
As the saying goes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” And this couldn’t be more true than when it comes to flying with skis. Here are my 5 expert tips to help you avoid the hassle and make your ski-flying experience a breeze.
- Choose The Right Airline
- Invest in a Ski Bag or Case
- Pack Wisely
- Check Your Baggage Allowance
- Ship Your Skis Instead
1 – Choose The Right Airline
Gone are the days when ski equipment was included in your baggage allowance. Nowadays, airlines often charge an additional fee for transporting ski gear. Therefore, it’s essential to research and compare different airlines’ policies before booking your flight.
Some budget airlines may have a lower fare but also strict weight limits and high fees for oversized or overweight luggage. On the other hand, some major airlines may allow free or discounted transportation of ski equipment. It’s worth considering these factors when deciding which airline to fly with.
The best airlines for traveling with skis can vary depending on factors such as cost, baggage policies, and customer service. Here are some of the top airlines for flying with skis:
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest is one of the best airlines for flying with skis. They allow you to bring your skis for free, and their baggage policy for skis remains the same.
- Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines is another top choice for skiers. They accept skis in place of other luggage, and the standard checked baggage fee is $30 (or $40 if it is your second bag).
- United Airlines: United Airlines is the only legacy carrier that has made the list of top ski-friendly airlines. They allow up to two pairs of skis, whereas many airlines limit you to a single pair in a bag.
- Qantas: Qantas is a strong contender for one of the best airlines for flying with skis, but their ticket prices can be pricey.
- Asiana Airlines, EL AL Israel Airlines, and Swiss Air: These airlines provide a generous allowance for skis and snowboards, so they are worth considering for international travel.
- Emirates: Emirates is another good option for international travel. They include ski and snowboard equipment as part of their standard baggage allowance, 32kg over two bags.
Pro Tip: It may be worth looking into airline-branded credit cards that offer free checked bags, as this can result in significant savings for family ski trips.
2 – Invest in a Ski Bag or Case
Investing in a proper ski bag or case can save you time, money, and hassle when flying with skis. It protects your precious gear from potential damage during transit and makes it easier for baggage handlers to identify and handle your skis as a single unit.
Different types of ski bags are available, from padded soft bags to hard cases with wheels. Soft bags are usually cheaper and more flexible, while hard cases provide better protection but may be heavier and more expensive. Choose one that best suits your needs and budget. Check out my review of the best ski & snowboard bags to find the best one for you.
3 – Pack Wisely
It may seem obvious, but you can protect your ski and snowboard gear by packing other items in and around your gear. When packing for a ski trip, rolling up your Ski pants, jacket, and thermals is a great way to save space and keep your equipment secure during transport.
Bubble wrap or wrap foam pipe insulation around your skis to fill empty spaces. Just be sure to weigh your bag and double-check that you are within your allowances for your flight.
4 – Check Your Baggage Allowance
Double-check the weight limit for your airline and make sure your skis are within the allowed weight. Also, consider packing any heavy items, such as ski or snowboard boots and outerwear, in your carry-on to help balance out the weight of your checked bag. Consider using a ski boot bag as your carry-on. If packed well, you can often get a lot of gear into the bag.
5 – Ship Your Skis Instead
If you don’t want to risk flying with your skis, consider shipping them separately. Avoid the whole mess by sending your skis directly to your destination. Several ski and snowboard shipping companies specialize in snow gear. They provide door-to-door delivery and include insurance for your skis. While this option may be more expensive than checking your skis as baggage, it may be worth the extra cost for added convenience and peace of mind.
Packing Your Skis or Snowboard for Travel
Packing your skis can seem like a puzzle when traveling with ski equipment. But fear not. You can load your gear effectively with a good strategy and careful thought.
Properly Securing Your Skis
With skis, you will want to strap them together. A good velcro ski strap will do the trick. For a snowboard, remove the bindings so the board will sit flat.
When you put your skis or board into the bag, use the straps to tie them down so they won’t shift.
I also like to snug down and tie off the external straps once the bag is closed.
You may or may not be able to get your ski boots into one bag, depending on weight restrictions. Boarders usually have the weight advantage here.
I like to put my ski boots at the base of the bag because it’s lighter when rolling it.
I roll my clothes and stuff them alongside to secure the equipment in the bag. It secures your skis or board and will stop it from shifting.
If you carry multiple boards, you can stack them with the bindings off on each other. Ski bindings can get in the way, and you may have to put in one pair upside down or offset vertically.
When traveling with ski equipment, being aware of the TSA security requirements is essential. Here are some key points to consider:
Ski Poles: Ski poles are not allowed in carry-on bags and must be packed in checked bags. (No collapsable poles in your carry-on.)
Ski bags and boot bag: Many airlines will allow you to check skis and a ski boot bag together, charged as a single piece of luggage. However, some airlines may require skis, poles, and snowboard bags to be packed in a hard-shell case.
Avy Gear: Avalanche airbag compressed air canisters are not allowed on planes. You can fly with an empty air canister but be prepared to prove the tank is empty with a test deployment.
Flying with skis is like forcing a square peg into a round hole – it’s not the most straightforward task, but it can be done with proper planning and research.
Check airline regulations, pack your equipment correctly, and consider enrolling in frequent flyer programs or getting sports equipment insurance for added peace of mind.
Remember, maximizing your ski trip experience goes beyond just getting there – it’s about making every moment count on and off the slopes.
See you on the slopes!
What do I need to know about flying with skis?
You should understand how to pack your gear, navigate airport security, and know airline regulations for ski equipment.
Is it safe to fly with skis?
Yes, as long as you properly secure and pack your skis. Using a padded ski bag can offer extra protection.
What is the best way to fly with skis?
The best approach involves:
- Packing in a sturdy ski ski or snowboard bag
- Adhering to airline rules
- Preparing for airport security checks
- Put your boots in a carry-on boot bag
Do skis count as checked baggage on United?
Yes, skis are considered one piece of checked baggage, packed in an appropriate case along with poles and boots.