Flying with Skis and Snowboards: The Ultimate GuideHow to travel with your beloved gear in tow

Anna Ross


2 years ago in Travel

It comes with the territory of running ski trips all around the world, that one of the most common questions we get asked at Ticket To Ride is “which airline is best to fly with skis or a snowboard, and how is best to pack my gear?”. Having flown around the world myself with skis and/ or a snowboard in tow, I know how tricky it can be. For shorter trips I’m often tempted not even to bother, and to hire when I’m there it is such a pain! But nothing really beats travelling with your own gear, so here is our guide to flying with skis and snowboards!

Packing

So first comes the packing! It is so important to try and keep weight and luggage to the minimum possible. Easier said than done when you are heading out for a whole season, I know! But actually, a season is not a fashion show, and I’ve refined my season gear into one medium holdall (North Face Duffel which I love!) and a pretty big wheelie board bag, but both kept under the max weight of most airlines, and often with skis and a snowboard in together, so if you do one or the other you should have no problem!

It is important to pack your equipment in carefully to protect anything delicate such as your board, bindings or helmet. I use all my clothes as padding around my equipment, and roll tshirts, pants and socks into every small gap possible around larger items. No space goes wasted! Put socks and sunglasses in your boots, goggles inside your helmet and wrap soft items like hoodies and tshirts around other things and poked into gaps.

If you are in any doubt about whether you need an item, leave it behind! I only take one or two pairs of casual trousers, one pair of shoes and one pair of winter/ walking boots (which I wear on the flight) and a couple of t shirts. It makes clothing selection easier each day and even if I have more options available I generally stick to a couple of key outfits anyway!

Airlines

Choosing an airline to go with can be hard! It obviously will depend on the destination, and some have more options that others, so I’ll run through briefly the main Ticket To Ride Snow destinations, and which airlines I’ve had the most (and least) success with!

Europe

Easyjet

Most people flying out to France with us each year will probably head first to Easyjet for generally the lowest cost and biggest choice of flights from the UK to Geneva, Grenoble or Lyon. These days though I always look and then have to basically double the price I can find by the time I’ve added on luggage! Their requirements are quite lenient though, and you can pool weight between bags and also across a booking, so good to fly with friends who have light bags!

Skis and snowboards count as small sports equipment (20kg allowance) so they are £37 (per flight) if booked online but £47 if you pay at the airport. So for a return journey which I assume most people would do it is £72 to take your own equipment!

Swiss Air

So, if you can find a flight with Swiss which is less than £72 more than an equivalent Easyjet flight, GO FOR IT! As the top selling point of Swiss flights are that they include ski equipment as a checked bag, and the first piece of checked baggage is included in the price of the flight. So if you can pack all your gear into one bag weighing 23kg max then Swiss could be the best value!

Flybe

Another good option from regional airports in the UK to Geneva or Grenoble is Flybe. There is a big limit on the numbers of sports equipment they can carry on a flight, so you need to check with them whether there is space on the flight for your skis in the first place. On smaller aeroplanes the max length of a ski bag is only 1.67m long too, which is shorter than lots of bigger bags (mine included). The charge is £30 per flight, so a little less than Easyjet but still quite a lot.

Canada

Air Canada

Air Canada include one piece of checked luggage as standard (23kg), and this can include ski or snowboard equipment. If you have skis you can have a separate boot bag too, as long as it only contains ski boots. For a full list of requirements check here, and it is always good to double check with the airline themselves about specific requirements and capacity available on the plane.

An additional bag is $100 CAD extra per flight (around £57) so that is pricey if you need two bags if heading out for a long time.

British Airways

British Airways is similar to Air Canada in that your first bag of 23kg is included in your airfare, so you can have that as a ski or snowboard bag, or pay extra to include that in addition to a normal bag. A second bag of 23kg is an extra £60 per flight so again A LOT.

Westjet

Westjet is my new favourite airline to travel to Canada. They have really friendly customer services (classic Canadians) and very comfortable new planes. One thing to note is that instead of having TVs on the back of your seat to watch in-flight entertainment, you need a phone, tablet or computer with the Westjet app downloaded, and you can watch through that. You can also hire tablets on the plane to do the same.

Westjet are similar to Easyjet and other budget airlines, in that the price of the flight doesn’t include any checked in bags which is a bit unnerving for a long flight. You also can’t add them on at the time of booking, but only within 24 hours before your flight when you check in. You can then add on any items as “pieces of luggage”. Each must be 23kg but skis and snowboards can be larger in size than the standard dimensions stated. First piece is $25-30 (£15-17) and second is $35-40 (£20-22) for each flight. Westjet flights are often the cheapest around anyway, and with the lower luggage fees, they work out as the best bet in my view, especially if you have two bags.

Japan

Japan is quite a tricky one to get to, but as it becomes more and more popular with ski tourism, the flights are getting better, and not that expensive too! You would either fly into Tokyo for South Island resorts or on to Sapporo for Niseko and North Island resorts, with a stop off in Tokyo. Most flights also stop in Europe somewhere, maybe Paris or Amsterdam.

Japan Airlines

Now Japan Airlines, as well as being the cheapest flights when I last looked, dreaming of a trip to Japan, also includes two 23kg bags as standard with its economy tickets! That is just unheard of these days but means you could take your normal suitcase and a ski/ board bag with you for no extra cost!

All Nippon Airways

Just when you thought that was great, it gets better! ANA also have the same policy on two checked in bags of 23kg with economy tickets! You just need to let them know if the total dimensions of your bag exceeds 158cm, which most skis and snowboards will. These Japanese airlines know how to do ski travel!

Finnair

Finnair are another airline who crop up a lot with reasonable airfares to Tokyo. On flights to Japan only, they also include 2 bags with an economy fare, up to 23kg each and skis explicitly count as one piece.

Let’s all go to Japan now! Keep an eye out for our new ski instructor course launching in Japan soon!

New Zealand

New Zealand is the furthest from the UK of the locations we operate in and therefore is the hardest to plan and also has the most choice of routes and airlines getting you there! It can be a minefield of long and expensive looking flights so always helpful to have any sort of guidance. For our courses we fly to Auckland, so at least that cuts out having to organise a further internal flight down to Queenstown! If you need any more then you can always get in touch with our course advisors in the UK office!

Air New Zealand

I travelled with Air New Zealand last year and thought they had great service and comfort on board (and good food!). Their baggage allowances are good, with ski and snowboard equipment included as part of the included 23kg. You can pre-purchase another bag for £90 on flights to and from London. You do need to check the size of your ski or board bag as they are strict on the dimensions allowed.

Emirates

I flew with Emirates to and from Australia and New Zealand a couple of times and they were great: so easy and comfortable and seemed to include a lot more than other airlines. I flew on the massive Airbus 380 which was amazing and they included 32kg over two bags as standard. Ski and snowboard equipment counts as part of this allowance. You cannot go over this limit and it is expensive to buy more allowance, but 30-35kg in economy should be adequate for any trip.

Singapore Airlines

I have also travelled with Singapore Airlines to Australia and they were also really good. They clearly state that sports equipment counts towards your free allowance included in your ticket (30kg usually) so you can have one snowboard bag and one normal bag included in this.

Cathay Pacific

Specifically on flights from Hong Kong to Auckland, ski and snowboard equipment is counted as one “piece” of luggage and not judged by weight so it should be included if you add on an extra bag if required. You get one piece of 23kg luggage included so that can either be your skis or you can add another bag. An extra piece of luggage of another 23kg is $200 NZD (£105) per flight so loads. It does have a maximum size limit of only 158cm total dimensions which isn’t much for skis so you would need to measure the bag as you would with all the airlines. To be safe, it is good to contact the airline to double check that your bag would be allowed if in doubt.

Qantas

A very strong contender for one of the best airlines, but pricey ticket prices to match often! They include sports equipment as a checked baggage in your allowance of 30kg and you can purchase extra baggage online if needed too.

Qatar Airways

Can be checked in as part of baggage allowance (only 20kg) or purchased in advance as extra for $300 USD and be up to 300cm total dimensions and up to 32kg.

I hope this helps everyone in their search for flights for our courses and travelling the world as a ski instructor afterwards! So if you haven’t booked on yet, what are you waiting for?!