Traveling Stress-Free With Your Skis or Snowboards

Planning a ski and snowboard vacation that requires flying can be just as daunting as it is exciting. How do you get all your beloved (and expensive) gear out there with you? Traveling with your gear is easier, and less nerve-wracking, than you might think.

Airline Policies

First, find out your airline’s specific policy on checking skis/boards which should be available on their website. Many airlines treat ski gear the same as regular checked luggage regardless of the longer dimension, although standard weight restrictions will apply. Typically, skis and boots are considered one checked item, even if they are in separate bags. Again, check with the airline you’re flying on for their exact rules and if you have any doubts, give the airline a call.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt



Invest in a good bag or hard shell case for your skis or snowboard. It may be the biggest cost up front, but you’ll spend more to fix or replace damaged equipment. Look for ski/board bags that are padded, sturdy, has wheels, and is larger than your gear (I use a 156 cm bag for my 144 cm board). Some bags might have room for extra gear and clothing, as well as boots. If not, pack those in a separate boot bag.


Pro Tip: Make your luggage recognizable with duct tape, stickers, patches, or ribbon. If you have the same bag as another person, it will be easier for everyone to make sure they go home with the right gear.

Packing Tips

Look up suggested ski packing lists and create a thorough one for yourself. Use packing cubes, stuff sacks, or compression bags to keep items organized and separated; You can then use them for dirty laundry.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt


Begin by strapping each brake down to keep the bindings compact and make packing around them easier. Use a thick rubber band or gear tie and be sure to position it over the top of the binding, not around the ski which would create pressure on the ski’s edges.­ If you have a bag or case with room for additional gear, separate the skis in the bag to better distribute weight. Strap a pole to each ski so they don’t interfere with other items and cover the tips (wine corks work great).


Remove the bindings from the board to avoid damage while getting jostled around by handlers and in flight. Use a crayon to mark where your bindings are located before removal. It’ll stay put while traveling and riding, but can easily be removed with the rough side of a sponge or finger nail. This will make set up a breeze. Pack the binding hardware and a tool or screwdriver in a zip-lock bag.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt


While it may seem like a great idea to stuff your helmet in a checked bag and not drag it through airports, it’s recommended to carry it on the airplane with you. Although helmets are designed to withstand multiple minor bumps, they should only take one major hit and you don’t want that to be from a turbulent flight or rough baggage handling.


People are pretty divided on whether to carry-on or check boots. Carrying on can help reduce the weight of your checked luggage and ensure your boots make it to the mountain with you. However, boots are heavy, awkward, and can be a hassle in narrow airplane aisles and during layovers. Either way, stuff your boots with smaller items like socks, neck gaiters, hats and hand warmers to avoid wasted space. Sprinkle in a little baking soda or throw in a dryer sheet to keep things fresh.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt

Ski Clothes

It’s tempting to wear all your layers up on the plane in an effort to save space in your luggage…which isn’t a terrible idea if you have a short flight. But you shouldn’t need to wash all your gear by the time you land because you sweat through it already. Take one jacket on the flight, preferably a puffer since it can double as a pillow. If you choose to wear winter boots onboard, bring a pair of light slip-ons to switch into on the plane and while trekking between gates on a layover.

Street Clothes

Resist the urge to pack the same amount of street clothes you would for a non-ski trip. You’ll be spending most of your time on the slopes and in many mountain towns, ski clothes double as street threads. Remember non-ski socks and gloves, sunglasses and a swimsuit if you’ll have access to a pool or hot tub.

EMS -Winter Ski Mistaya Lodge -3760

Additional Recommendations

  • Book flights with layovers of at least one hour to give your skis/snowboard a better chance of arriving at your destination the same time you do.
  • If driving with others to the airport, have the driver drop-off all the gear and passengers at the airline’s designated entrance. The driver can then park the car and walk in bag-free. This also works on the return trip.
  • When you land at your destination and head to baggage claim, don’t panic if you don’t see your skis/boards on the carousel assigned to your flight. Most airports have a separate claim area for large and oversized baggage.
  • Research local ski shops and bookmark one or two in case you do forget something or need a tune-up or repair.
  • Worried the groomer skis you brought aren’t going to fare well after a dump fresh snow? Consider renting skis for the biggest powder day. Costs for a one-day ski rental are reasonable, and could make the difference between an okay and epic day. Be sure to get to the shop early or even the night before; They’ll be busy!
  • If you’re skiing more than a few days consider waxing your skis/board once during the trip, especially if there’s fresh snow.

Shipping Gear

An alternative to checking gear is to ship it to your destination ahead of time. Check with the resort or your accommodations to see if and how to ship it to them. You won’t need to haul your hard goods to and from the airport, but shipping gear is generally more expensive than checking it.

Visit your local ski shop and ask if they have any extra ski/board boxes you can snag. Have a backup plan if you make to the mountain before your skis do or your pickup location is closed because your flight was delayed and you got in late. Make arrangements or set aside time on your trip to ship the skis back before leaving. 


Don’t let the thought of flying with ski gear overwhelm you. Remember all options require some money, time and effort—whether it’s packing and checking luggage, shipping and picking up gear or visiting a shop to rent skis. But none have to be a hassle with a little planning.

Packing The Ultimate Lightweight Traveler’s Kit

As a hiker or backpacker, you know all about paring down your load to reduce weight. These same principles apply to lightweight travel. If you are ready to stop worrying about dragging around heavy luggage and paying expensive baggage fees, give these suggestions a try.


1. Bags

Just like when you’re carrying all your gear down the trail on your back, the right bag makes all the difference when you’re traveling. By packing light, you no longer need wheels and telescoping handles to transport your belongings, and as an alternative, a shoulder-carried backpack makes you more mobile and quick.

However, there is a difference between a backpacking pack and a backpack for travel. Also known as conversion packs, these streamline the bag with stowaway straps, use zippers rather than drawstrings, and have wide openings rather than a top-loading design. Check out the Osprey Porter Series or the EMS Boda Conversion Series. Typically, conversion packs under 45 liters meet carry-on restrictions, but you’ll want to check the dimensions. Also, don’t forget a rain cover if you will be out in the elements!

2. Organizers

Use stuff sacks and packing cubes to keep your bag organized and clothing compressed to save space. With the many sizes and shapes available, you can customize a system for your specific bag and travel needs. Take a picture with your phone when you finish packing, so you can easily put everything in its place for the trip home.

3. Tops

Hikers and backpackers use layered clothing to keep themselves comfortable, and that concept is just as applicable to traveling. As today’s performance clothing lends itself beautifully to traveling, start with a washable, wicking base layer, such as the Icebreaker Everyday Lightweight Crew, a mid-layer like a hoodie or fleece jacket, and a soft shell, like the EMS Techwick Active Hybrid Wind Jacket. For warmer weather, a lightweight T-shirt can be your base layer, with another layer or light jacket on top for cool mornings or evenings.

Because of their odor resistance, wool layers are ideal for multi-day wear, and lighter shirts will dry quickly when washed out mid-trip. Wear your heaviest layers while in transit, if possible: It’s always a little chilly in airports and on planes, and you’ll save room in your backpack.


4. Bottoms

Hiking pants make great travel clothes. They are lightweight and easily compressed, are hand-washable if necessary, and often have multiple pockets. Look for pants made of synthetic materials, such as the EMS Compass Line. In cold weather, consider adding a base layer below, such as midweight or heavyweight Techwick bottoms.

5. Underwear

Underwear can be a scary thing while you travel, so people tend to pack a lot of it. However, ExOfficio makes lightweight men’s and women’s styles that wash out easily in the sink or shower, so you won’t need to jam a ton into your backpack. You just need three pairs: One to wear, one to change into, and one drying after washing.

EMS - BIG SUR -014533-Mud_Hikers

6. Shoes

A good pair of sturdy lace-up hiking shoes will keep your feet comfortable all day, whether you are walking on cobblestone streets, doing some light hiking, or trekking across the airport. Merrell, Keen, and Oboz have dependable options. If you want a second pair, sport sandals, such as those offered by Merrill, Teva, and Keen, are great for warmer days or if you are near the water, and won’t take up too much room. Wear the heavier pair when traveling, and place the other in a lightweight stuff sack or plastic bag to keep your other items clean.

7. Socks

Traveling is not a time to skimp on socks, and with their breathability and odor resistance, wool styles from Smartwool, EMS, and Darn Tough can be worn for several days at a time. Wool socks are comfortable for adventures year-round and come in a variety of weights and lengths.

8. Outerwear

The options for packable outerwear have really exploded over the past few years, and they’re all ideal for traveling. Many lightweight down jackets pack into their own pockets, while feature-rich rain jackets do double duty as both a rain coat and a windbreaker. As well, don’t forget a lightweight wool or fleece beanie and gloves for colder weather.

Courtesy: Adventure Medical Kits
Courtesy: Adventure Medical Kits

9. Odds and Ends

Before you pack up, look through your hiking and backpacking gear for practical items that work just as well for travel as they do in the woods. Your Sea to Summit Lite Line Clothesline is perfect for hanging up your underwear and other items after you wash them in the sink. Don’t forget your spork for quick takeout meals. Fold-up water bottles like the Hydrapak Stash help you avoid high prices for bottled water at the airport and collapse down when you don’t need them. Finally, your AMK Ultralight First Aid Kit comes in handy for those minor injuries.

The next time you head out for a trip, simply look first to your hiking and backpacking gear to lighten your load. Happy traveling!