Flying with Snowboards and Skis
With the winter season swiftly coming to a close, it may be time for an emergency trip out west to hit some fresh powder before the ice thaws. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere surrounded by mountains, then you may just want to try something new. Either way, this means you’ll have to pack up your gear and hit the skies — but there is a lot to know before you start flying across the country (or globe) with your snowboard and skis on hand. Whether you’re flying with snowboards or skis, below we’ll cover everything you need to know from choosing the right luggage to packing your gear and selecting the right airline.
Choosing the Best Ski and Snowboard Luggage
Ski and Snowboard Bag
When flying with snowboards or skis, the first and most important component of your set-up is the ski and snowboard bag. Snowboard and skis can be very heavy and are awkward to carry and store. Having the right bag can help mediate some of the frustrations of transporting your gear. Firstly, we recommend going with a wheeled bag as they will make moving things much easier and smoother, and tend to have extra pockets and room for more than just your snowboard or skis.
Generally, we like to say the bigger the better with these bags. Having the extra room will let you pack in outerwear, protective gear and clothing so you can save room in your backpack and cut down on unnecessary luggage. A two+ pair ski bag will work great for skis as well as a multi-board snowboard bag. The Burton Wheelie Board Case Snowboard Bag and Dynastar Speed 2/3 Pair Wheeled Ski Bag are two excellent options with plenty of room to store everything you’ll need to hit the slopes.
Not every airline will check your snowboard bag and boot bag separately. When they do, we recommend storing your boots in your wheeled bag with your skis or snowboard. If they check both your boot bag and your ski/snowboard bag as one item, then a boot bag will open tons of space for more clothes, outerwear or decks. Boot bags are fairly simple, but having one with a shoulder strap and extra room for tools, gaiters, goggles, etc. is very convenient. You can even find boot bags that offer room for your helmet as well, like this one.
A backpack is absolutely essential when you’re flying with snowboards or skis. This is where you’ll store your laptop, cameras, toiletries and other tools and electronics you’ll need for your trip. There is a lot that goes into choosing a backpack, so we wrote an entire blog about it! Check it out HERE.
Packing your Skis and Snowboard
There are plenty of tips and tricks to help you cram as much stuff as humanly possible into your ski and snowboard bags. Right off the bat, it helps to create a checklist of items you know you’ll need to bring with you. Try to keep it short as space will be limited. We’ve created this handy list to help you get started.
First things first, there are two ways to pack. One is with the snowboard bindings attached to the board, and one is without. Some don’t like to pack with the bindings attached because there is a perceived risk that they will be more easily damaged. It’s a bit of a paranoia, but I’m not going to argue with your mom about it, so we’ll talk about packing in both scenarios.
With Bindings Attached
- Step 1: For packing with the bindings attached, start by placing the board flat on the bottom of the bag. Place your gloves or mittens inside of each binding and fold the highbacks down. This will leave room for other items to go in your boots. Tighten the ankle strap over the highback to keep them in place.
- Step 2: If you don’t have any pockets on the bag, store your multi-tool and other small items in one or both of your boots. Place each of your boots on either end of the bag to create a square.
- Step 3: Roll up your snow pants and jacket and set them on either side of one of the bindings. This will add padding to the board and provide plenty of room at the other end to stuff clothes and other outerwear you might need. Place your goggles in your helmet to save space and keep them safe, then flip the helmet over and place it in the middle of the board next to the other binding.
- Step 4: Place other clothing items such as your hats, socks, base-layers and anything else at the furthest end of the bag or in your boots. There should be a fairly open cavity here to store plenty of items.
- Step 5: Zip it up and you’re good to go!
Without Bindings Attached
- Step 1: The process is very similar for when your bindings are not attached to the board, but there are a couple of differences. The first is that you should store your bindings up against one another in the center of the bag. Use this to divide the bag into two. Similar to before, store your gloves in the bindings and latch them down to save room. Place your goggles in your helmet, but this time set it to the left or right of the bindings.
- Step 2: Fold your outerwear and pack to the left or right side of the bindings. Your outerwear and casual wear should be on opposite sides of the bag. This will help keep your casual clothes clean when you re-pack your bag with dirty outerwear after your trip. Packing your snowboard without the bindings attached allows them to move around as the bag gets jostled, which may help keep them in better shape. Either way, your items should be perfectly safe if you’ve got the right bag. Boots can be placed in the same fashion as before, in a square pattern in the nose or tail of the bag
For both methods, reserve a backpack or small duffel bag for tech, tools and other small items. Flying with snowboards. Flying with snowboards.
Packing skis is a bit of a different animal. We’ll assume here that you want to bring two pairs. Fortunately, your bindings will likely always be attached, so you don’t have much latitude there.
- Step 1: Start by placing one pair of skis upright on the bottom of the bag. For the second pair, line each wall with the binding facing inwards. This creates a “skeleton” for the bag to take shape around.
- Step 2: Store socks in your boots and position them towards the bottom of the bag, interlocked to save space.
- Step 3: Similar to snowboard packing, place your goggles and gloves inside the helmet and place it at the other end of the bag. Place your neatly folded outwear towards either end of the bag next to or on top of the helmet and boots.
- Step 4: This should leave an open cavity in the middle of the bag where your ski bindings meet. There is plenty of room here for changes of clothes or any other additional items you may need to take with you.
Reserve a backpack for small tools, electronics and toiletries to take with you as carry-on luggage.
Airline Baggage Policies
Airline baggage policies are all different with regards to ski and snowboard bags. To help make it easier on you when flying with snowboards or skis, the major airline baggage policies can be found below. Note: These policies are as of February 25, 2019, and are subject to change.
Alaska Airlines – Allows one pair of skis with poles or 1 snowboard AND a boot bag as one checked piece. Standard baggage fees apply. Ski and snowboard equipment may exceed 62 inches (linear) without oversize fees.
American Airlines – Allows one pair of skis or a snowboard AND one boot bag. Cannot contain lighters or torches for applying wax. Standard baggage fees apply otherwise.
Air Canada – One snowboard bad or one ski bag AND a boot bag. Normal fees apply. Valid when flying other airlines operated by Air Canada (Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS.)
Delta Airlines – Allows one ski and one snowboard bag per person AND one boot bag. Does not specify how many skis or snowboards are allowed in each bag, but anything over 50 pounds is subject to excess weight charges. May exceed 80 inches in length without extra fees.
Frontier Airlines – Allows one snowboard bag and one ski bag, AND one boot bag as long as it weighs less than 25 pounds.
Southwest Airlines – Allows one pair of skis (with poles), one snowboard AND one boot bag.
United Airlines – Allows up to two pairs of skis and two snowboards, and includes a boot bag. Normal baggage fees apply including excess weight fees if the bag is over 50 pounds.
Once you’ve got your luggage picked out, your gear packed and your airline booked, it’s time to relax and get excited. Flying with snowboards or skis is no easy task, but when done right, it can make your trip the memory of a lifetime. Flying with snowboards.