Packing for a ski trip can be an intimidating experience. You’ll find yourself packing a lot of bulky items that will take up a bunch of space in your luggage. But, how do you travel with your skis and ski boots? Those items are just as important as everything else. If you’re driving to the mountain, a ski bag and boot bag aren’t as important, but when it comes to flying with skis, you’ll want to make sure you’re packing accordingly.
This ski gear packing guide details how to fly with skis and ski boots – one of the most perplexing questions you might have before a ski trip.
There’s no hiding how big skis and ski boots are, and how awkward they are to pack. Your skis are big and your boots are stiff. Naturally, flying with skis or ski equipment can be a little tricky. The good news is that there are many great ways to pack these items and the airlines are making it easier for you to check them.
Our personal experience flying with skis
We live in Oklahoma City, and if you’ve ever visited the Sooner State, you’ll realize there are 2 major components needed to ski that Oklahoma lacks – mountains and snow.
As a family who skis multiple times a year and even taught our daughter to ski as a toddler, we have to fly to places like Big Sky, Montana; Park City, Utah; Jackson Hole, Wyoming or one of the many ski resorts in Colorado if we want to hit the slopes.
Over the years, we have learned a few things about how to fly with skis and other skiing equipment.
For those entering a new level of commitment with this winter sport and are a little anxious about how to fly with skis, we’re making the process easy for you by laying out all the things you need to know before you take to the skies with your skis.
How to Fly with Skis – A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’ve decided you love skiing enough to invest in your own gear rather than renting equipment, you no longer just have to worry about what to wear skiing, you’re now full on having to worry about how to fly with skis – at least if you don’t live within reasonable driving distance from a mountain town.
Baggage you need to invest in if flying with skis
Before you can fly with skis, you’ll first need to invest in a proper bag to transport skis. There are several options to choose from. Keep in mind, if you snowboard that you will need a snowboard bag instead. While we may all be friends on the mountain, ski gear and snowboarding gear doesn’t mingle together well in transit.
Let’s start with the less expensive ski and boot bags that you can buy.
Ski sleeves are soft bags that can typically handle one pair of skis and poles. They usually come with a shoulder strap for easier carrying. These are typically the cheapest bags to transport your skis and are fine for packing your skis and poles.
The benefits to using a ski sleeve when flying with skis is that they are lightweight and easy to check in. The cons are that they don’t have a ton of space for anything else. So, if you want to add something inside the bag, like a second pair of skis for your spouse or child, you won’t have much space.
Rolling Ski Bag
The more expensive ski bags are usually padded and slightly roomier for adding things like helmets, a burly ski jacket, or a second pair of skis. Some ski bags come with wheels, which make it much easier to navigate through the airport parking lot and ticketing.
We strongly recommend a rolling ski bag, particularly if you are traveling with more than one pair of skis.
Tips and something to consider when investing in a ski bag: Soft ski bags allow you to stuff them with added clothing. Hard ski bags and hard ski tubes aren’t as flexible, so you can’t add many extra things in there.
Boot bags are pretty simple and are designed to pack your ski boots separately when flying. Most boot bags are made for carrying a pair of boots and you can pack a helmet in some of them, if there’s room. Newer boot bags are now coming with a dedicated helmet area for you to put your ski helmet in when traveling.
Our boot bag can actually hold two pairs of ski boots (1 pair of men’s and 1 pair of women’s), and we pack our helmets in the pockets in the ski bag.
A few things to consider when buying a boot bag: What is your comfort level? Some boot bags have wheels and can be pulled, some are carried like a backpack and some are carried with handles.
Also, ski boots will usually have snow on them when you take them off. Look for a ski boot bag that has extra waterproofing or even vents to allow water to drain out of the bag. You don’t want your boots sitting in water for too long.
Checking in when flying with skis and ski gear
Because skis are considered specialty items, you’ll have to check in at the airline counter and have an associate help you check them. You can check in on the app or at the self check-in kiosk, but you’ll need to know how to check specialty items.
A ski bag and a boot bag, although two separate pieces of luggage, count as one bag as long as the combined weight is under 50 pounds.
Also, it’s usually OK to add an item or two in your bags, like a helmet, but do not add too many things in there. Some airlines will make you pay extra if you add too many items in your ski and boot bags, as technically the bag is for equipment, not clothing.
Different Airlines’ Policies
All major airlines will allow you to treat your ski and boot bag as one bag, even though they are technically 2 separate items. But, the two bags together can not weigh more than 50 lbs or else you will be charged extra checked baggage fees.
So, if you are flying with two pairs of skis in your ski bag and two pairs of boots in your boot bag, you will likely be over the 50 pound combined weight limit and they will count these items as two bags instead of one checked bag.
Keep in mind, if you are flying with skis and departing from an airport in a city where skiing is not as commonplace (I’m looking at you OKC), the ticketing agents may not know the policy allowing your ski bag and boot bag to count as one item.
For this reason, I am linking to each major US airline carrier’s policy so you can refer to it, if needed, and avoid paying for an extra checked bag.
Traveling with Skis: American Airlines
You can find American Airlines’ policy on flying with skis and sports equipment HERE.
It states: Standard checked bag fees of your destination apply up to 50 lbs / 23 kgs and 126 in / 320 cm (length + width + height) and standard overweight fee applies from 51 lbs / 23 kgs to 70 lbs / 32 kgs. If the combined weight of all items (skis / snowboard and equipment bag) exceeds 50 lbs / 23 kgs, they will be charged as two separate items.
If the equipment bag alone exceeds 50 lbs / 23 kgs and 62 in / 158 cm, it will be charged as a separate checked bag and standard overweight and oversize fees will apply.
Traveling with Skis: Delta
You can find Delta’s policy on flying with skis HERE.
It states: One item of Ski or Snowboard Equipment per person is defined as:
- One ski/pole bag
- One snowboard bag
- One boot bag is accepted per person
The combined weight of both items (ski/snowboard bag and the boot bag) may not exceed the standard baggage allowance specific to the cabin or excess weight charges will apply.
- Standard baggage allowance and fees based on cabin and travel region apply
- If the combined weight of ski/snowboard bags and boot bag weighs over 50 lbs, the applicable excess weight fee will be charged
- If the outside linear dimensions (length + width + height) exceed 115 linear inches (292 cm), the item will not be accepted
- Items in excess of baggage allowance will be subject to additional or overweight baggage fees
Traveling with Skis: United
You can find United’s policy on flying with skis HERE.
It states: You can bring one set of ski or snowboard equipment as a checked bag. The set must be in one bag and can include:
- One set of water skis
- Up to two snowboards and one snow boot bag
- Up to two pairs of snow skis and associated equipment, and one ski boot bag
If you only bring a boot bag, it’s still considered a bag of ski or snowboard equipment. Boot bags containing anything other than ski boots or equipment are subject to standard bag and weight limits. Ski equipment checked in addition to the bag allowance will be charged as an extra bag.
Traveling with Skis: Southwest
You can find Southwest’s policy on flying with skis HERE.
It states: Snow ski equipment, including skis or snowboards, ski boots, and ski poles are allowed, including one pair of skis or one snowboard, one set of poles, and one pair of ski/snowboard boots packed in a container(s) acceptable to Carrier.
When substituting ski equipment for a free bag, we allow up to two bags (containing one set of snow skis, ski poles, and ski boots) to count as one item, even if they are packed and tagged separately. Snow ski equipment packed in a plastic bag will be transported only with a limited release of liability.
Traveling internationally with skis
If your flight is on a foreign carrier, say to ski in Niseko, Japan or Zermatt, Switzerland, you will want to double check the airline’s policy regarding ski equipment. We flew a US airline to Canada, so the process of flying with skis was no different than it was to fly domestic.
Shipping your skis
There are a few companies that will allow you to ship your skis and boots ahead of your trip for a fee, so that you do not have to travel with them to the airport. Look at them as a ski delivery service (Ski Butlers). You will pay more for this service, but you’ll have much less to take to the airport, which is nice.
Ship Skis is probably the most notable of these companies.
Not sure where to go for your next ski trip? Check out some of our favorite ski resorts (that are super family friendly):
Do you have any other questions about how to fly with skis? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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