Flying With Winter Sports Equipment: A Brief Guide

Flying With Winter Sports Equipment: A Brief Guide

Winter sports equipment, including skis, snowboards, and ski poles, are usually treated differently than standard baggage. Indeed, their long and thin dimensions are drastically different from the average suitcase and thus require special handling and care. Today, let’s take a look at things you need to know when transporting this type of equipment.

Allowances and fees vary between airlines

Just as we noted in our guide regarding the transport of musical instruments, policies will vary from airline to airline. The overwhelming majority of airlines will treat winter sports equipment as one piece of checked baggage. However, it’s what counts as “one” checked bag that varies the most. Some specify weight while others don’t, some airlines allow the inclusion of a helmet while others make no mention of it.


Here are a few examples:

  • Air Transat: One pair of skis, one pair of boots, two poles, one helmet OR one snowboard, one pair of snowboard boots, and one helmet.
  • Delta Air Lines: One ski/pole bag or one snowboard bag and one boot bag is accepted per person.
  • Qantas: One pair of skis, one pair of stocks/poles, and one pair of ski boots.
  • Ryanair: Unspecified. The airline’s policies only mention skies and snowboards as sporting equipment that requires extra fees.
  • Southwest Airlines: One pair of skis or one snowboard, one set of poles, and one pair of ski/snowboard boots packed in a container(s).

In the case of Southwest Airlines, the carrier notes that if the traveler is substituting ski equipment for a free bag, the airline will allow 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.

Most airlines state that a bag containing winter sports equipment must remain within the standard weight limits of a piece of checked baggage. Indeed, this will be something you definitely want to pay special attention to as you plan your trip and choose your carrier.

In a video on traveling with a snowboard, Kevin Pearce, snowboarder and YouTuber notes:

“You definitely want to check ahead of time how much weight you can bring on to the plane. I’ve been burned a few times with going over the weight limit and having to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars in overcharges. Definitely check the weight, pack as minimal as possible.”


Protective bag required

You’ll likely need to enclose your winter sports equipment in a protective bag. Some airlines make no mention of it, while carriers like Qantas are explicitly clear that snow skis and snowboards must be protected in a ski bag.

The need for a protective bag probably goes without saying, as almost all travelers flying with winter sports equipment will want to ensure that their expensive skis or snowboard remain intact.


Pre-booking sometimes available

Finally, it’s worth noting that some airlines will allow you to preregister your equipment. This helps the airline to manage space in the cargo hold. Still, for some carriers, preregistration isn’t a guarantee that your equipment can travel- which is quite the unfortunate disclaimer. This is what Air Transat states:

Preregistering or prepaying for sports equipment does not guarantee it will be accepted on board. It is subject to available space. Please confirm with an agent at airport check-in. Even if your sports equipment is included in your checked baggage allowance, we still recommend you preregister it (if that option is available for your item), as space is limited.

Ryanair allows you to prepay for skis as checked baggage, even having a particular category (and special price) for this type of baggage. The budget carrier, however, doesn’t specify the inclusion of boots or a helmet.

Have you ever traveled with winter sports equipment before? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.

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