Winter sports equipment, including skis, snowboards and ski poles, is generally treated differently from standard baggage. Indeed, their long and thin dimensions are radically different from the average suitcase and therefore require special handling and care. Today, let’s take a look at what you need to know when transporting this type of equipment.
Allowances and fees vary by airline
As we noted in our guide to transporting musical instruments, policies vary from airline to airline. The overwhelming majority of airlines will treat winter sports equipment as one piece of checked baggage. However, it is what counts as “one” checked bag that varies the most. Some specify the weight while others do not, some airlines allow the inclusion of a helmet while others make no mention of it.
Here are some examples:
- Air Transat: A pair of skis, a pair of boots, two poles, a helmet OR a snowboard, a pair of snowboard boots and a helmet.
- Delta Airlines: One ski bag/poles or one snowboard bag and one boot bag are accepted per person.
- Quantities: A pair of skis, a pair of sticks/poles and a pair of ski boots.
- Ryanair: Unspecified. Airline policies only mention skis and snowboards as sporting equipment requiring an additional charge.
- South West Airlines: A pair of skis or a snowboard, a set of poles and a pair of ski/snowboard boots packed in one or more containers.
In the case of Southwest Airlines, the carrier notes that if the traveler replaces the ski equipment with a free bag, the airline will allow up to two bags (containing a set of snow skis, ski poles and boots ski boots) to count as one item, even if packaged and labeled separately.
Most airlines stipulate that a bag containing winter sports equipment must remain within the standard weight limits of checked baggage. Indeed, it will be something you will definitely want to pay close attention to when planning your trip and choosing your carrier.
In a video about traveling with a snowboard, snowboarder and YouTuber Kevin Pearce notes:
“You definitely want to check in advance how much weight you can take on the plane. I’ve been burned several times going over the weight limit and sometimes having to pay hundreds of dollars in surcharges. Definitely check the weight, pack as little as possible.”
Compulsory protective bag
You will probably need to enclose your winter sports equipment in a protective bag. Some airlines make no mention of this, while carriers like Qantas are explicitly clear that skis and snowboards should be protected in a ski bag.
The need for a protective bag probably goes without saying, as almost any traveler traveling with winter sports equipment will want to ensure that their expensive skis or snowboard remain intact.
Pre-booking sometimes available
Finally, be aware that some airlines will allow you to pre-register your equipment. This helps the airline manage the space in the hold. Still, for some carriers, pre-registration isn’t a guarantee that your gear can travel, which is a pretty unfortunate warning. Here is what Air Transat says:
Pre-registration or pre-payment for sports equipment does not guarantee that it will be accepted on board. It is subject to available space. Please confirm with an agent when checking in at the airport. Even if your sports equipment is included in your checked baggage allowance, we still recommend that you pre-check it (if this option is available for your item) as space is limited.
Ryanair allows you to pre-pay for skis as checked baggage, even having a special category (and special price) for this type of baggage. The budget carrier, however, does not specify the inclusion of boots or a helmet.
Have you ever traveled with winter sports equipment? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.
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