Skiing tends to be an expensive sport, and many of the airlines do their best to add to the already hefty costs of a ski trip. Until last year many of the so-called “traditional” airlines used to let passengers take skis and boards for free, but times are tough, and so many are now trying to recoup money where they can – and alpine enthusiasts are on their hit list.
The rules are various and complicated regarding ski and snowboarding gear. Some airlines include it as part of your luggage allowance, whilst others will charge extra. If the airline offers an inclusive weight of 20kg for example, then skis and bindings will take up about 7kg of that.
Ski or snowboard boots will add another 2-3kg and suddenly half your allowance is gone. Throw in all the other necessary winter sports garb, and if you don’t pack cunningly, then your evening outfit will bear a remarkable resemblance to the one in the morning.
There’s another potential pit-fall as well. Ski boots tend not to fit into a single ski bag, so they have to go on as hand luggage, but added to that it’s possible to find all sorts of stories of people whose boots have been refused carriage in hand luggage and been destroyed (the boots not the people). And don’t think that using a double ski bag for one set of skis and all your other stuff will work either. Airlines have got wise to this, and companies like British Airways, specify the maximum dimensions of the ski bag you can check in.
The table below shows the cost of taking skis/snowboard with some major carriers out of the UK for a week in February 2010.
From this table we can see who charges for ski and snowboard gear varies dramatically, from nothing at all, to a whopping £80 (or £100 if booked at the airport) with Ryanair.
The ideal scenario is to pick an airline with free ski carriage like Swiss, which allows you a standard baggage allowance, plus ski or snowboard carriage – but these are increasingly few and far between.
The next best option is to go for an airline like British Airways (the price above is anything over the initial baggage allowance) who allow ski gear to be included as part of your baggage allowance of 23kg.
This is where snowboarders can have an advantage. The standard snowboard wheelie bag will accommodate not only a snowboard, boots and bindings, but a whole week’s worth of clothes too.
There is therefore no need for a second piece of luggage at all. As long as this one bag you check in falls within the airline’s weight and size limits, you should be able to bring your gear without incurring any extra charges.
This arrangement won’t work with Ryanair – who specify that “sporting equipment including snowboards and skis are inherently unsuitable for carriage by Ryanair”” – though they may be carried in the hold of the aircraft in addition to your personal checked baggage allowance upon payment of an additional fee. Read from Ryanair's baggage queries here.
More Tips when packing ski and snowboard equipment
Wear as much of your bulky gear as you can for flying. Ski jackets to the airport since they tend to be bulky, and pack your ski-boots and valuables as hand luggage.
As always, individual airlines have different rules and regulations regarding the carriage of winter sports gear, so check on the website to see what they arrangements are – and if you’re still not clear, then give them a bell.