Girl snowboarder holding a case with her snowboard

How To Travel with Skis and Snowboards

A few simple strategies for packing your favorite skiing and riding goods can ease the home-to-mountain transit of your next ski trip.

Whether you’re chasing storms alone at a moment’s notice or pre-booking flights for the entire family a year in advance, your ski vacation plans will boil down to an inevitable choice: Rent gear upon arrival, or travel with your skis or snowboard in tow. For the sake of familiarity with equipment, it can often be easier to deal with the logistics of the latter, carrying your packed-up ride and, thus, handling the gear-hauling headaches before getting to the ski hill. That way, upon arrival, you can get the ski-hill goods sooner. But that choice to bring your own gear also means carrying your own gear—and a lot of it, factoring other compatible hard goods like boots, poles, and helmets—while you’re in transit. Fortunately, a few of the following tips can make the travel process of flights and shuttle transportation a lot easier, and help you save your energy for the mountain. 

Consider renting

Forewarning: Don’t make that initial choice to travel with your skis and snowboards if your gear is old and suspect, or if it’s cost-prohibitive to pay airlines’ extra baggage fees. Consider the cost of renting once you arrive. When you weigh it all in, and count airline fees and travel hassle, sometimes it can be worth it. And you’ll often end up on better, more current gear than your own. Check with the resort, local shops at your destination and even such services as Black Tie Ski Rental and Ski Butler, which deliver right to your accommodations. Hint: Consider just bringing your own boots (and helmet), and picking up skis and poles and/or board once you arrive.  

Get a ski or snowboard bag

If you are bringing your equipment, you’ll need a ski or snowboard bag, which makes traveling and checking your gear much easier. Most airlines let you check a ski or snowboard bag as one normal-sized piece of luggage (though, some airlines have specific rules). The good news: Generally, most airlines consider a ski bag and a boot bag together to be one item (as long as they don’t weigh more than 50 pounds total). Check your airline’s policy beforehand. 

Types of ski/snowboard bags

Ski and snowboard bags range from basic, nylon zip-up bags to padded, elongated duffels with extra pockets, to hard-shell cases. Most have evolved from the long, skinny non-padded bags of yesteryear to shorter, wider bags that can also fit such other gear as ski outerwear, helmets and accessories. Snowboard bags are generally shorter and wider—capable of even fitting boots and clothes for your trip. Hint: Get a wheeled ski or snowboard bag; they’re easier to lug through airports and hotels and have more room for other gear. Double ski-roller bags let you carry two pairs of skis and even more gear. Roller bags for snowboards are generally larger and even more convenient (at least to pack and hold all your stuff).  

Ski bag, ski boots and backpack

Boot bags

These vary from simple bags that just hold boots, to higher-end “half” duffels that also fit your helmet and other gear. Most come with additional side pockets and carry straps. Many airlines let you check a ski or snowboard bag and a boot bag as one checked item; check with your airline’s policy. However, since boots are more personal and are more difficult to rent (at least for that perfect pair, or with a custom-molded liner) than skis or a snowboard, many travelers opt to carry their boots onto the plane to eliminate the risk of losing them as baggage. Just don’t forget them in the overhead compartment! And if you carry your boots on, take them off your backpack when walking down the aisle.  

Baggage cost

Airline baggage policies, credit card benefits, travel dates and your status with specific mileage reward programs all affect the cost of flying with your ski or snowboard bag. Research this before you select an airline. Some airlines also offer cheaper baggage prices for reserving ahead of time. Note: Oftentimes you can fit more than one pair of skis in a bag (just keep it under the 50-lb. weight limit), and/or include your boot bag as its one piece of paired luggage. 


Packing correctly will help you maximize space, minimize luggage and save money. Stuff everything you can into your ski or snowboard bag. Roll up your ski clothes (pants, jacket, etc.) and pack them deep, evenly distributed in your bag (try not to stress the bag’s zipper). Also, use stuff sacks or lightweight dry bags for items like socks and underwear or casual clothes so they’re easy to locate. Hint No. 1: Put hard goods like skis, poles and backcountry-safety gear on one side, and clothes on the other (so you can find off-mountain casual wear); or even take it a step further by putting ski-wear on one end and après-clothes on the other. Hint No. 2: See if the tails of your skis can fit inside your helmet.  

After your ski bag is filled, weigh it on your bathroom scale at home to make sure it’s under 50 pounds. Your ski bag also works well for wet gear on the return flight home Hint No. 3: Pack a small towel to dry your skis off beforehand. If they don’t go in the ski bag, stuff socks and other lightweight items like gloves and goggles into your boot bag. Snowboard bag tip: Flatten your bindings to make more room. 

Claiming your bags

Once you land, head to baggage claim, where you’ll usually find your skis and snowboards in the oversize luggage claim area (note: ski equipment usually arrives later than conventional luggage, so don’t fret). And make sure you grab the right bag. Last Hint: If you have a lot of gear (and/or kids), grab a luggage cart and take mercy on your legs and back for the next trip.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.