How to Fly with Skis, Snowboards for Cheap

Meghan Coyle
By Meghan Coyle 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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If you’ve got a faraway ski vacation in your future, you might be looking at your snow gear and wondering how in the world it’s going to get to the mountain.

Should you wear your winter jackets on board the airplane? Do skis count as oversized baggage? Should you just rent the equipment instead of flying with it?

The good news is that winter sports gear is actually one of the cheapest items to check. That makes for a big reason why, in many cases, flying versus driving to a ski trip can sometimes make more sense depending on the distance from your destination to home. It's also a huge factor in why European ski trips aren't as expensive as they might seem — particularly relative to skiing someplace closer to home.

Unlike bicycles and surfboards, skis and snowboards usually do not come with extra, oversized baggage fees. In fact, on most airlines, your snowboard or skis and your boots will both be considered one regular checked bag.

Snowboard and ski policies, broken down by airline

If you’re only checking your ski equipment and squeezing the rest of your snow gear into a carry-on, it will only cost the standard baggage fee of $35 if you prepay online (or $40 if you pay at the airport) to check your skis or snowboard. The pair of skis or snowboard can measure up to 115 inches (length + width + height). If the combined weight of all items (skis/snowboard and equipment bag) exceeds 50 pounds, they will be charged as two separate items.

The Alaska Airlines ski bag policy states that ski/snowboard equipment may exceed the typical 62 linear inches limit. Alaska charges $35 for the first checked item. As long as your bags measure no more than 115 linear inches, you won’t have to pay an oversized fee.

If you’re flying between Canada and Europe, the Middle East or Africa, skis/snowboards and boots can fly at no additional charge. Otherwise, standard baggage fees apply. Depending on what type of fare you purchased, one or two checked bags are free when flying between the U.S. and Canada.

The Delta ski bag policy is simple: The standard baggage fee of $30 for the first checked bag will apply, as long as your winter sports bags do not exceed 50 pounds.

Frontier's ski bag policy requests passengers checking ski gear allow an extra 30 minutes for check-in. As long as the boot bag does not weigh more than 25 pounds, the skis/snowboard and boot bag will count as one checked item.

Checked items usually cost between $30 and $50, depending when during the booking process you elected to check baggage and whether you've purchased a basic fare or a fare bundle that includes checked bags.

Southwest never charges for the first two pieces of checked luggage, and its baggage policy for skis remains the same — making this a great deal for travelers. When substituting ski equipment for a free bag, Southwest allows up to two bags (containing one set of snow skis, ski poles and ski boots) to count as one item, even if they are packed and tagged separately.

As long as your equipment is under 50 pounds, you won’t pay a dollar more for taking your gear to your final destination.

Spirit Airlines does subject snow sports equipment to oversized fees if the skis and snowboards weigh more than 40 pounds or measure over 62 inches. Standard checked baggage will cost you about $30-$50. It’s cheaper if you purchase earlier in the booking process.

Skis and snowboards are exempt from the standard size requirements (62 inches) but should still follow weight and other equipment guidelines. The first checked item is $35.

You can check up to two pairs of skis or two snowboards in one bag, in addition to a boot bag, for a total of $35 if paid 24 hours in advance or $40 at check-in. Bags weighing more than 50 pounds will incur an oversize fee.

Other ways to lessen the costs of flying with skis/snowboards

One of the cheapest ways to fly with your skis is to get an airline-branded credit card that comes with a free checked bag. Some cards allow free checked bags for as many as nine companions traveling with you on the same reservation, which could translate to huge savings for family ski trips.

Keep in mind that each of these checked baggage fees are one-way. If you and your friends are only planning on skiing for one day, in some cases, it might be cheaper to rent equipment once you get there.

Flying with skis and snowboards recapped

Airlines typically allow passengers one ski/snowboard bag and one boot bag per person, and both bags together are considered one checked item. Don’t try to squeeze extra items like clothing or souvenirs into your boot bag or you could get charged for two checked bags. Many airlines also have limits on the linear inches, meaning the sum of the length, height and width, of your gear bags.

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