As multi-mountain ski passes such as Epic and Ikon keep growing in popularity and domestic airfares reach all time lows, exploring different resorts has never been so affordable. At SYNC, we have a long track record of traveling between cities and continents in search of the world’s best terrain. During our adventures, we’ve learned a few things about traveling with ski gear. As you follow the snow and try out some new resorts this season, here are seven tried-and-true tips to improve your travel experience.
1. Make a list.
When it comes to packing for ski trips, the number of items to remember can be overwhelming—and there’s nothing worse than realizing you forgot gloves and scrambling to find replacements at your destination. A tried and true method is to lay everything out on the floor before the trip and do a pack test. It also makes for a cool pre-trip photo opportunity.
To make sure you don’t forget anything essential, jot down a packing checklist or print an online list to help jog your memory. The best lists include all the essential ski gear plus the small accessories that are easy to forget when you’re focused on the big picture, such as neckies or spare lenses.
2. Know the resort and the forecast.
Although this may seem obvious, it’s a good reminder if you’re traveling abroad to a mountain you haven’t visited before. Ikon and Epic passes now offer access to resorts in Japan, Chile, France, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia.
If you’re not familiar with the area and the conditions, deciding what skis to bring can be tough. Weather and conditions change in a heartbeat, and resort marketing teams have been known to over-hype conditions (gasp). A sneaky way to see what locals and tourists alike are actually skiing is to check hashtags on social media from the area.
3. Invest in some wheels.
Slinging your skis over your shoulder in the baggage check-in line or at baggage claim is just plain unnecessary. Nowadays, rolling ski bags are more compact, durable, padded, and less bulky than older parachute-esque models. In addition, rolling your bag means that you won’t be in danger of throwing out your back or your shoulder before you even reach the mountain. Running through train stations and airports to catch tight connections will be a breeze.
Some ski bags, like our Double Rolling Ski Bag, have built-in straps to secure your skis and poles in place. If your bag doesn’t have any, using a rubber ski strap to hold your skis and poles together is a simple way to keep things from sliding around.
If you’re traveling with only one pair of skis and have space left over in your ski bag, don’t be afraid to pack some clothes or toiletries on top. To prevent clothes from snagging on your gear and to keep everything from getting shuffled around, invest in some narrow zipper packing pouches. If you don’t have any on hand, the padded mailing bags sold at the post office serve as a good throwaway alternative. Whatever gear you add to your ski bag, make sure to keep the weight under 50 pounds if you plan on checking it through to your final destination. Or, if you are traveling with friends or family, combine forces to only pay for one overweight bag if necessary.
4. Always carry on our boots
All avid skiers know that carrying your boots with you is better than potentially losing them in transit. You can always demo some skis at your destination if worst comes to worst and your checked bags get lost — at least you’ll be in your own boots! That said, keeping tabs on your precious cargo no longer means draping your boots over your shoulder for the entire trip. In fact, this old ski-boot travel method has been disallowed by many airlines due to passengers getting kicked in the head or wrestling with overhead bins.
The best ski boot travel gear meets TSA guidelines for carry-on luggage and have wheels or backpack straps to make it easy to manage your gear while hustling to a connecting flight. You can also find boot luggage with a waterproof lining that’s perfect for carrying wet gear after a long day on the hill. To maximize your luggage space, use the extra pockets on your boot and ski bag to pack smaller items, including:
In-flight travel accessories
Although smaller items are fine to pack with your boots, beware of packing clothes in your boot bag. Some airlines will charge you for a separate bag if they see you have too many additional items in with your boots.
5. Consider shipping your gear.
With all the extra baggage fees these days, shipping your skis might cost the same—or less—than checking them through to your final destination. Along with saving you the hassle of check-in lines and the lottery that is baggage claim, shipping your gear ahead ensures that it’s there when you arrive. With residential luggage pick-up services and a variety of shipping options for both domestic and international travel, sending your gear on its own trip might be easier than schlepping it on yours.
First, check out your airline’s baggage weight restrictions and baggage check costs. Then compare those numbers to quotes from shipping companies such as Ship Skis or Luggage Forward. As an added bonus, most shipping companies provide real-time tracking information, so you can keep tabs on your bag the entire trip.
Before you check or ship your bag, snap a photo of the exterior and the inside in case anything gets lost or damaged en route.
6. Purchase luggage insurance.
Most airlines provide insurance of up to $3,500 per checked bag on domestic flights, but there are fine-print terms and conditions involved. For instance, the airline might deny liability for damage resulting from security checks or damage to the bag itself (such as scratches, dents, scuffs, broken wheels, torn straps, and so on). On top of that, they often don’t cover damage to items they deem to have been inappropriately packed. You can purchase additional insurance on checked bags up to $5,000 in value, but you’ll end up paying a premium for that added peace of mind.
Ski shipping companies offer a variety of insurance options and may cover up to $150,000 per package. Though insurance will cost you, the insurance and shipping rates are often comparable to (or less than) those for checking a bag. Before you decide on a shipping company, shop around to see what insurance rates they offer based on the value of the gear you’d like insured.
Unlike airlines, shipping companies will guarantee on-time delivery and typically offer a full money-back guarantee if your skis arrive late. In addition to offering a full money-back guarantee, Luggage Forward provides a $500 consolation reward if your gear isn’t there when you expect it.
7. Wear your puffy.
Puffies aren’t just top-tier ski jackets—they’re also one of the most versatile travel accessories out there. In addition to being lightweight, they’re easy to cram into tight spaces and can moonlight as the perfect neck pillow or blanket when you need some extra comfort. On top of that, wearing your jacket means one less thing to worry about getting lost in transit.
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to leave packing to the last minute, but planning ahead has significant payoffs when you’re traveling with ski gear. Getting started early will give you time to figure out the logistics of shipping your gear and give you a chance to find luggage that’s up to the task.