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With the ski season approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, you are likely starting to plan some of your ski trips for the coming months (if you have not already planned them). If you are traveling by car or bus, getting your equipment to your destination is fairly easy.
However, if you are planning to travel by air, it might get a bit confusing. After all, nowadays, airline baggage policies can get confusing even when traveling with just a simple suitcase.
As such, I decided to take a look at the issue and report back to you. Keep on reading to learn more about what the best ski bags for air travel are (sneak preview – my favorite’s the Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag), what the rules are when flying with skis, and how to pack your skis before heading to the airport.
If you are a snowboarder, you can check my article about flying with snowboards here.
4 Best Ski Bags for Air Travel
No matter what airline you are flying with, one thing you will definitely need before going to the airport with a pair of skis is a ski bag to pack it in. Since there are many products on the market – some suitable for flying, others not – below I take a look at what I consider to be the four best ski bags for air travel.
1. Athletico Padded Two-Piece Ski and Boot Bag Combo
If you are on a budget and are looking for something to transport your ski equipment including ski boots in, then the Athletico Padded Two-Piece Ski and Boot Bag Combo is ideal for you.
Both the ski bag and the ski boot bag are made out of 600D water-resistant polyester. Also, as the product’s name suggests, both of the bags are padded which makes them ideal for air travel. The padding is made out of a 5 mm thick dense foam.
The ski bag, which comes in four different color variations, will fit most skis that are up to 200 cm long and has a roll-top design which lets you adjust the bags length to the length of your skis. There is also enough space in the bag for clothes, accessories, etc. As for the boot bag, it will fit most ski boots up to size 13.
Overall, if you do not mind the slight inconvenience of having to carry your skis and ski boots separately, this is a solution that will do the job perfectly fine for an affordable price without the need to shop for a ski bag and a ski boot bag separately.
2. Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag
If you plan to fly with your skis fairly frequently and are looking for something convenient and durable, you might want to start by looking at the Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag.
You can fit two pairs of skis and some clothes or a single pair of skis with a pair of boots in the bag. It’s got padded ski sleeves, reinforced top and bottom to prevent sagging, and a couple of zippered pockets to put your accessories in. Carrying it around the airport is a breeze as it’s equipped with a pair of wheels.
The bag is made out of 600D polyester and comes in two colors – the pictured black and blue. It also comes in two sizes – one that fits skis up to 192 cm long and another one that fits skis up to 175 cm long.
Overall, while this bag would likely be an overkill if you go skiing once every year or two or even less frequently, it might be a good investment if you tend to go on a couple of ski trips a year.
3. AmazonBasics Double Padded Ski Bag
Similar to the first item on this list, the AmazonBasics Double Padded Ski Bag is ideal if you are looking for an affordable way to fly with your skis.
Even though it is an entry-level budget bag, its quality is – to an extent – guaranteed by the AmazonBasics brand. The bag is made out of high-density 1680D denier dual weave polyester, is lined with waterproof material, and is padded on all sides. The bag fits a pair of skis and also comes with a small side pocket for gloves or other small accessories. It comes in single color and four different sizes – small (for skis up to 150 cm long), medium (up to 170 cm), large (up to 184 cm), and extra large (two pairs up to 184 cm each).
The bag does not fit ski boots and does not come with a separate ski boot bag included. As such, I only recommend getting this bag if you plan to put your ski boots in your suitcase together with your clothes, etc. Otherwise, while you could get a separate boot bag, you might be better off getting the Athletico set mentioned earlier.
4. Sportube Series 1 Single Ski Case
While the first three items on this list were soft cases, if you prefer maximum possible protection, you should take a look at the Sportube Series 1 Single Ski Case.
It’s made in the United States out of high density polyethylene plastic and is designed to fit a single set of alpine skis and poles or two sets of cross-country skis and poles. The maximum width of skis it can fit is 168 mm and it can fit skis up to is 212 cm long. It is perfectly suitable for shorter skis as well given that the case is telescopic and suitable for skis 122 cm long on the shorter end.
Quite obviously, the Sportube case does not fit ski boots, and so you will have to get a ski boot bag separately or put your boots in your suitcase. I also recommend getting a TSA-approved lock to secure the case before checking it in.
The case is equipped with wheels on one end and a removable handle on the other, making it easy to lug around an airport.
Overall, the case offers an elegant and relatively lightweight solution to fly with your skis. The downsides are, though, its fairly steep price and the inability to fit boots into the case.
5. Dakine Fall Line Double Ski Bag
The Dakine Fall Line Double Ski bag has almost everything you could need in a ski bag. It has the right amount of space, a tough and durable exterior, and can be rolled around easily.
This bag will accommodate two pairs of skis, poles, and boots in the main internal compartment, as well as various accessories in the external zippered pouch. You can stow your boots in the included removable boot bag, great for keeping smelly boots separate.
Constructed from tear-resistant Cordura nylon, this bag is fully padded for additional protection for your valued skis. The large, rugged wheels are great for hauling the bag around the airport or on the streets. The bag comes in two sizes, 175 cm and 190 cm, as well as in multiple different designs.
Things I Like About This Product: This bag has enough space for all the equipment and clothes you’ll need for a week-long ski trip. The lockable zippers are also great for additional security. The bag is durable and will provide good protection for ski equipment through the rigors of air travel.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: One quibble which users have with this bag is the lack of internal straps or webbing to hold skis in place. However, this can be overcome by packing clothes or jackets along with the skis.
6. Sportube Series 3 Multi-Ski Travel Case
The Sportube Series 3 Travel Case is a great choice for safely and securely transporting your ski equipment on your next trip. It is made from high-density polyethylene and is lightweight and durable enough for air travel.
While it offers enough room to fit 3 pairs of skis, it is highly portable and easy to roll around on its heavy-duty rubber wheels. The case is closed with the help of a TSA-compliant wire case pin, which allows the case to be locked for security. The tube-shaped case can easily be strapped to a vehicle’s roof rack.
One useful feature of the case is that it collapses to less than 4 feet when not being used, and you can expand it to fit your ski equipment as needed. This Sportube case comes with a 5-year limited warranty for added peace of mind.
Things I Like About This Product: This is a thoughtfully designed hard case that doesn’t have external straps, buckles or zippers that could snag or get broken during transit. It offers plenty of protection to the contents from the elements or rough usage by baggage handlers.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The case, at 14 pounds, is quite heavy – so keep your airline’s baggage guidelines in mind when packing.
How to Pack Skis for Air Travel
With ski equipment being expensive, fairly easy to break, and able to damage your other baggage, it is important that you pack it properly before heading to the airport.
When it comes to packing skis and ski poles for air travel, basically the only reasonable option is to use a ski bag. As far as ski boots and other equipment such as helmet or gloves are concerned, you have a couple of options.
The easiest is to get a ski bag (such as the Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag) that is large enough to fit not only your skis and ski poles, but also your ski boots and other miscellaneous equipment – or even your clothes. Alternatively, you can get a dedicated ski boots bag (such as the Athletico Weekend Ski Boot Bag) or pack your boots and other equipment into a regular suitcase. If you decide to go with the last option, make sure to check some of the luggage sets I recommend.
Some of the things to keep in mind before heading to the airport with your skis include:
- Make sure you know your airline’s policy as things such as whether or not ski boot bags count as a separate piece of luggage will affect how you will pack your ski equipment
- Get an appropriate bag since airlines won’t transfer your skis without them being packed properly, and even if they would, they would likely get damaged (or damage other baggage) along the way
- Put covers on the tips of your ski poles or wrap them in something to prevent any damage they could do to your other items
- Pack some clothes around the skis if your airline allows it to give your bag additional padding
- Put a name/address tag on your ski bag just in case it gets lost along the way
- Lock your bag with a TSA-approved luggage lock to prevent it from being opened by anyone but the security staff while in transit
Before continuing, you might also want to check out this video to get some inspiration about how to pack for your next ski trip:
Flying with Skis: What Are the Rules?
When it comes to flying with skis – unless you are flying private, of course – you will generally encounter either of the following two cases:
- Ski equipment counts within your standard luggage allowance – In this case, you will be able to check your ski bag in as a normal piece of luggage. Oftentimes, a combination of a ski bag and a boot bag counts as one piece of luggage. If that’s the case and your fare allows one free checked bag, you might need to pay for second one should you wish to take a suitcase with you as well. If you can have two free checked bags, you will be able to take both your ski bag and your suitcase without having to pay extra.
- Ski equipment doesn’t count within your standard luggage allowance – If that’s the case, you will need to pay a “sports equipment fee” to fly with your skis. Usually it’s about 50 or 60 dollars. Of course, besides the skis, you can check your regular suitcase in using your standard luggage allowance as well.
Roughly speaking, many full service airlines will allow your skis to be counted as a standard piece of luggage while most low cost airlines will require you to pay a separate fee to carry your equipment.
The exact rules, however, vary from airline to airline (and can also change over time), so I recommend you to look up the rules of the airline you are flying with prior to your flight. You can do so simply by googling “[airline you are flying with] ski” and checking the relevant section on your airline’s website.
In the next section, you can find an overview of the rules of some of the major airlines out there.
Ski Equipment Policies for Major Airlines
Are you flying with one of the major US airlines or some of other large global airlines? If so, you might be able to find the rules for traveling with skis on your airline as well as a link to the appropriate page on the airline’s website in the list below.
Otherwise, as mentioned earlier in the article, search for “[your airline] ski” on Google.
A pair of skis up to 126 inches long and a boot bag containing boots, helmet and life preserver count as a single piece of luggage on American Airlines. The sum of the boot bag’s three dimensions can’t exceed 45 inches and it cannot contain anything other than the three items mentioned above – otherwise excess bag fee has to be paid.
A ski bag can be checked in as part of your standard baggage allowance on British Airways. Provided that the bag does not exceed 190 x 75 x 65 centimeters (75 x 29.5 x 25.5 inches), the bag can also contain your clothes, etc. – however, it needs to be within your weight allowance (or you will incur extra fees).
Delta Air Lines
Delta Airlines counts a pair of skis and poles in an appropriate bag and a ski boot bag as one piece of luggage. If the two bags’ combined weight exceeds 50 pounds, excess luggage fees apply. Standard baggage dimensions can be exceeded without incurring oversize luggage charges.
A pair of skis, a pair of poles, and a pair of boots are considered to be one set of ski equipment. One set of ski equipment is considered one standard piece of baggage when flyign with JetBlue. While overweight fees apply, ski equipment is exempted from size limits. Keep in mind that if you are traveling with boots packed separately from skis, they need to be in a ski boot bag (i.e. they can’t be in a suit case or a “random” duffel bag) to be considered part of the equipment.
Unless you are traveling on Economy Class Light fare which does not include checked baggage, your skis will count as a standard piece of luggage when flying with Lufthansa. Given that each bag counts as one piece of luggage, you will want to use a ski bag that has enough space for your boots (and potentially clothes, etc.) as well. Also keep in mind that while the size is not restricted, overweight baggage fees apply and the maximum allowed weight is 32 kilograms.
To fly with skis on Ryanair, you will need to pay a “ski equipment fee” of 45 EUR if paid at the time of booking or 50 EUR if paid online after booking or at the airport. Paying the fee will entitle you to carry a set of ski equipment that is up to 20 kilograms in weight.
Southwest Airlines will count appropriately packed ski equipment as part of your standard baggage allowance. A set of skis, poles, and boots is counted as one piece of luggage even if you need to split it into two bags. While oversize fees are not charged in case of ski equipment, overweight charges (above 50 pounds) apply.
Standard baggage fees apply to skis. There is no mention of a ski bag and a ski boot bag counting as one on Spirit Airlines’ website, and so, you might be better off putting your ski boots in a suitcase with the rest of your clothes or getting a bag that fits both your skis and boots.
Up to two pairs of skis in a single bag and a single boot bag are considered to be one piece of luggage and count towards your standard baggage allowance on United Airlines. Maximum combined weight of the above is 50 pounds, otherwise overweight fees apply. A boot bag without a pair of skis is considered a standard piece of luggage, and normal rules apply.
As you can see above, in many cases, you will be able to fly with skis for no extra charge or for a fairly small fee. As such, if you own a pair of skis, rather than renting them at your destination (especially if you are going for a longer trip) it is more economical to bring skis with you.
If you decide to do so, though, it is important to pack them properly before heading to the airport. The best way to do so is to use a dedicated ski bag. In case you still don’t have one, I recommend starting your search for the best ski bag for air travel for you with one of these three: