Skier enjoys open groomer during ski trip

Essential Ski Travel Hacks

With an above average snow year underway at our destination and a place booked to stay at the base of the resort, I had high hopes of skiing champagne powder and exploring new terrain the first time I flew with skis in tow. Naturally, I had packed my fattest powder skis, a more reasonable pair of midfat all-mountain boards, and all the ski gear I thought I might need for the week. What I had failed to consider was how I was going to get all that gear through baggage check without incurring some additional fees.

Luckily, the friend I was flying with at the time was an experienced ski traveler, so when my bag weighed ten pounds over the limit, I was able to frantically stash all that excess gear between his ski bag and my carry-on to avoid any additional charges. With some quick thinking and total disregard towards my fellow travelers waiting in line behind me, I was able to avoid some hefty airline charges that day, but I’ve since learned it’s easy to avoid those type of ski travel hiccups with a modicum of planning and preparation. Here are a few of the essential ski travel hacks I’ve learned through years—hopefully they can save you some hassle during your travels this ski season.

Invest in a Multi-Resort Season Pass

The advent of multi-resort season passes has undoubtedly changed ski travel. Some ski town locals might argue these changes are mostly negative, but you can’t argue with the fact that they’ve made destination skiing a whole lot easier and cost-effective. By investing in the Ikon Pass or Epic Pass, you can save the money you’d otherwise spend on individual day passes and visit ski resorts you might not have previously considered. Each pass has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s worth doing your homework to see which pass—and its respective blackout dates and resort offerings—will work best with your individual needs. If you do plan on doing most of your skiing during major holidays, then you’ll want to pay a little extra money on a multi-resort resort pass without blackout dates.

Know the Airline’s Ski Equipment Policy

Before you book that cheap flight and learn you’ll need to shell out a bunch of extra cash to get your skis to your destination, you’ll want to look into whichever airline you’re considering’s ski equipment policy. Most (if not all) airlines have a 50-pound weight limit for checked baggage. However, some airlines do have limitations on dimensions or the number of skis you can check. The table below will give you an idea of what some of the more popular airlines’ policies are regarding ski equipment.



 AmericanUnitedDeltaFrontierSouthwest
Checked Ski Equipment PolicyOne pair of skis/snowboard and one equipment/boot bag count as one checked item.Up to two pairs of skis and associated equipment in one bag and one ski boot bag count as one item. A boot bag without an accompanied ski bag is considered one bag.A ski bag or one snowboard bag and one boot bag is accepted per person and counts as one checked bag.One item which may include skis, ski poles, and ski boots. One pair of boots (in a boot bag) may be checked separately from the ski bag, but still count as one item.Up to two bags (containing one set of skis, ski poles, and ski boots) count as one item, even if they are packed and tagged separately.
Weight PolicyStandard checked baggage fees apply to items under 50 lbsStandard fees apply to items under 50 lbsStandard fees apply to items under 50 lbsStandard fees apply to items under 50 lbs. Boot bag may not exceed 25 lbsStandard fees apply to items under 50 lbs
Size LimitationsChecked bag may not exceed 126 inches in lengthStandard size limits do not apply to ski equipmentOutside dimensions cannot exceed 115 linear inches (length + width + height)Standard size limits do not apply to ski equipmentStandard size limits do not apply to ski equipment

Pack Light, Save Space

With mountain weather being notoriously difficult to predict, it can be easy to think you need to pack for any type of weather scenario you might encounter. I quickly realized after my first few ski trips that most of the clothes and additional layers I packed never left my luggage. The best strategy is to bring the tried-and-true essentials, leave the extras behind, and remember laundry services are readily available in most ski towns.

When it comes to saving space and packing light, the good news is technical outerwear continues to get lighter and more packable each season. When packing for a big trip, I’ll roll up each piece of gear while taking the time to press the excess air out. Another good option is investing in a few compression sacks to pack down apparel and gear you aren’t worried about getting wrinkled. Doing so frees up space for those smaller items that don’t weigh a whole lot but are great to have on long ski trips (i.e. extra ski socks, liner gloves, extra goggle lenses). Another great way to save luggage space is by wearing your down puffy jacket while travelling. Not only does this free up space in your luggage, but it also doubles as a pillow during long flights.

Carry on Your Ski Boots

Traveler attaches ski boots to carry-on luggage
Dakine makes specialized luggage that makes travelling with ski gear easier. Photo courtesy of Dakine.

The most essential component of your ski gear is your boots, especially if you’ve made the wise investment of having custom boot work done. To mitigate the risk of this essential piece of gear not showing up at your destination, I recommend bringing your ski boots as a carry-on. I’ve seen this accomplished two ways—one being in a traditional boot bag and a second with boots simply strapped over a traditional carry-on or backpack. I’ve personally had luck with the latter option, but you should always check with the airline you’re flying with beforehand to verify they allow this, as some airlines (i.e. Air Canada) require ski boots be packed away in their own bag or even hardshell case.

If you do have supreme trust in the airline’s baggage check system, or you just don’t want to subject your fellow passengers to the smell of your well-used liners, then checking your boots is always an option. If you do go this route, you should know that most airlines consider a boot bag and ski bag as one piece of luggage. And while some airlines do have a strict policy of only ski boots being in a boot bag, this may give you the option to stash small accessories like your goggles, extras socks, gloves, etc. in your boot bag, freeing up room in your carry-on and ski bag for additional gear.

Consider Renting

If the prospect of lost luggage and hauling heavy ski equipment through the airport sounds like more hassle than it’s worth, then there’s certainly a case to be made for renting ski equipment once you reach your destination. Besides not having to deal with the headache of having to haul ski gear around, the advantage to renting equipment is you can rent the right skis for the current conditions at your destination. Even better, renting is a great way to try those new skis you’ve had your eyes on. If you’re in the Park City area, I humbly suggest you stop by Jans’ Park Avenue location to get your rental package. We keep a top-off-the-line fleet of skis from Atomic, Fischer, Head, K2, and Kastle on hand and a variety of rental packages to suit every level of skier.

Take a Road Trip

If driving is an option for you, it can be a lot easier to just take a road trip and not deal with the added stress of air travel. If you’re able to get a group together to split fuel and lodging expenses, this can be a cost-effective way to travel to your ski destination. In fact, there’s even more of a case to be made for carpooling now that more and more major ski resorts are charging for parking as a way to incentive carpooling—just check out Solitude’s new parking policy. Should you opt for the road trip route, you should consider a few things before you simply load up your rear-wheel-drive sedan with ski gear and head to the mountains.

At a minimum, you’ll want a front-wheel-drive car with good snow tires or snow chains to reach your destination. Best practice, though, is to have a four- or all-wheel-drive vehicle with either all-terrain or snow tires. The last thing you want to deal with is a stuck vehicle during the best powder day of your ski trip. It’s also worth doing a bit of research to see what kind of public transportation options are available in the area you’ll be travelling to. Utilizing public transit is a great way to eliminate the stress of driving in a blizzard when powder panic is at an all-time high in the ski town you’re visiting.

Expect the Unexpected

The important thing to keep in mind is things inevitably go wrong when traveling, especially when you’re travelling to snow-covered mountains. Staying flexible and positive is key and can even lead to a few perks. I’ve learned a smile and bit of friendly conversation can be the difference between paying extra for a ski bag that weighs 55 pounds and having the baggage attendant let it slide, or even getting a sweet deal on a four-wheel drive SUV when the all-wheel drive sedan I reserved wasn’t available at the rental agency. And when that two-foot storm that’s forecasted to hit during your trip doesn’t blow in until the day after you’ve left? Well, then, I’d say you’re completely justified in being a bit salty.

By: Jeff Sorenson, Senior Editor & Content Manager

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