A guide to traveling on a plane with your ski gear

When the snow doesn’t come to you, sometimes you have to go to the snow.

For skiers and boarders across North America, that often means flying, and nothing makes flying more stressful than racing to the gate with a 50-pound ski bag dangling in one hand and a checked bag full of gear in the other.

Wheels up on your next ski adventure. PHOTO: GritMuffin/Flickr.
Wheels up on your next ski adventure. Photo: Courtesy of GritMuffin/Flickr
But flying with your ski and snowboard gear doesn’t have to be a sweaty nightmare.

In fact, there are many tricks to making the whole process a whole lot easier on yourself (and your bank account).

We compiled a list of our favorite tips on flying with ski gear to make your next airline-sponsored powder quest easier than Sunday morning. Now, go and book that ticket.

Get a rollie bag for skis and boards

It seems like a no-brainer, but the rolling ski bag is a luggage option that too many of us skip out on. Despite their nerdy connotations, rollie bags were created to make the airport commute easier.

So why, then, do we insist on slinging our skis and boards over our shoulders and schlepping them through a crowded airport time and time again?

Drop that extra $30 and get a bag with some wheels. Your shoulders will thank you.

Bring your boots on with you

Throw your boots over your pack and save the hassle of paying for a boot bag. PHOTO: Kade Krichko
Throw your boots over your pack and save the hassle of paying for a boot bag. Photo: Courtesy of Kade Krichko
Maybe it’s a trust thing, but ask any skier or boarder worth his road salt, and he or she will tell you that ski and snowboard boots should always be your personal carry-on item.

Airlines lose bags all the time, and nothing derails a ski trip quicker than losing equipment. However, just about everything can be replaced at the mountain, save for a good pair of boots.

It takes a long time to make ski boots comfortable, and the only thing worse than being without them on the slopes is slipping into a new pair of hard, plastic foot binders and starting over from scratch.

Make your ski bag your travel bag

Want to avoid paying for that extra checked bag? Wrap your clothes around your skis or board and pack it all into your ski bag.

In addition to cutting your checked baggage fee in half, you are also protecting your skis or board from damaging drops or falls on the tarmac. Not a bad bit of added insurance, if you ask us.

Wear your layers

This might not be our most comfortable tip, but for those looking to consolidate for their next trip, consider using your body as a gear pony. Throw those long johns under your jeans and an extra sweater or two under your jacket to make more room in your checked baggage.

Sure, it could get a little hot in the security line, but once you’re through, it’s easy to shed the excess layers.

Don’t be afraid to rent

With newer, lighter bindings, the whole rental ski thing isn't a bad option at all. PHOTO: Outdoor Recreation Ski Rental/Flickr.
With newer, lighter bindings, the whole rental ski thing isn’t a bad option at all. Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Recreation Ski Rental/Flickr
If you’re only flying in for a weekend of skiing, consider your rental options before lugging your ski gear across the country for 36 hours of winter vacation.

Many rental shops offer skis and poles for under $50 a day, which ends up being about the price of a round trip of checked baggage.

For the ultimate bargain hunter, check out Spinlister, a sports equipment rental site that visiting skiers to locals with extra gear use to put up their equipment for rent. These rentals can go for as low as $10 a day, and usually include a little inside information on the skiing, food and nightlife in town.

Know your airline’s baggage policy

So you booked a cheap flight to Aspen. Awesome. But did you check your airline’s oversize baggage fees or if your flight will even accept a ski bag?

Suddenly, that $300 round trip turns into a $500 nightmare, and skiing is a whole lot less fun than you remember it.

Make sure you know your airline’s baggage policy before you book your ticket. Skis and boards fly free on Southwest Airlines, and some airlines, like JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, let passengers check a ski bag and boot bag as one piece of checked luggage.

In terms of avoiding the headache at the check-in counter, a little internet research goes a long way.

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