How to Choose the Best Ski or Snowboard Travel Bag
Travel Smart With Your Ski Gear
Entering Whistler’s white room, slaying Park City pow, and rocking Aspen’s après—this is the stuff that skiers and snowboarders fantasize about. Getting to these iconic winter destinations often involves navigating busy airports with bulky ski gear travel bags. But don’t let the challenges of travel deter you from taking your dream ski trip. A carefully packed ski or snowboard travel bag will have you arriving in style.
Ski and Snowboard Bag Options
If you don’t anticipate flying with your skis or snowboard, a simple ski bag without wheels may be all you need. But as soon as you take to the skies, it’s infinitely easier to have a bag that rolls, ideally with some serious protection. A hard-case bag provides peace of mind from gaper baggage handlers or TSA agents that may not adequately re-secure your precious planks after luggage inspection.
Non-Wheeled Ski/Snowboard Travel Bag
Simple, lightweight, and cost effective, non-wheeled bags offer a utilitarian solution for everything from weekend trips to month-long road trips. Because non-wheeled luggage is cumbersome, it’s ideal for trips where you’ll only move your skis a short distance, like from your trunk to the condo.
Rolling Ski Travel Bag/Snowboard Travel Bag
A ski or snowboard travel bag with wheels is like the Swiss army knife of a skier’s luggage. The best packed ski/snowboard bags are able to hold all the tools you need on the road—skis, board, poles, helmet, goggles, and clothes, included. Meanwhile, wheels ensure easy transportation across vast airport terminals, snow-covered streets, and busy hotel lobbies.
Double Travel Bags With Wheels
The pinnacle of ski luggage are double roller ski bags like the Backcountry Double Ski & Snowboard Rolling Bag. Double ski/snowboard bags are the best way to travel with ski gear, as they allow you to pack multiple pairs of skis or boards (like a pair of carving skis for groomers and a set of powder boards in the event of an epic storm).
If you’re bringing just one set of skis or a single board, there’s even more space for stashing your gear. And if you’re traveling with a friend or significant other but only have one pair of skis or one board each, this means you only need one bag to wrangle between the two of you.
Hard Ski/Snowboard Cases
Perfect for travelers who consider their board(s) precious cargo, a hard ski/snowboard case ensures your skis arrive at their destination safe and sound. The benefit of a hard case is obvious: maximum protection. This security, however, comes at a cost: hard shell bags are difficult to maneuver into tight spaces like the trunk of a car. They can also weigh twice as much as soft ski travel bags, cutting into the amount of extra gear you can pack inside for a flight.
No Padding vs. Padding
Ski tips, tails, and bindings are all vulnerable to damage during travel, making fully padded ski bags optimal for most ski travelers. However, many skiers still choose partially padded and unpadded ski/snowboard travel bags. Partially padded bags are great for car travel, where the major concern is harming the tips and tails when trying to make them fit in tight trunks.
Non-padded bags are popular with skiers simply looking to keep snow from melting inside their vehicle or road salt off skis tossed in a truck bed. If you choose a non-padded bag, it’s wise to use mittens, a scarf, and other soft accessories to protect the tips and bindings during travel.
Straps and Handles
You want to be on edge while skiing—not while traveling. A ski travel bag with a padded, sling-style shoulder strap takes the discomfort and stress out of carrying a ski bag. Similarly, a bag with a variety of grab handles makes snatching ski luggage easy and offers a variety of carrying positions.
Gear and Compression Straps
A ski/snowboard travel bag with interior gear straps ensures your equipment doesn’t ragdoll en route to its destination, preventing skis, snowboards, and equipment from getting scratched, chipped, and damaged during travel. Exterior compression straps are also a great way to guarantee your gear stays in its proper place.
There’s a seemingly endless amount of uses for Voile ski straps (here are 20 uses to start), and packing for your next ski trip is no exception. Strap your skis together to keep them from moving around inside your ski travel bag during transit and to protect their bases from jostling. Strapping your poles to your skis is also a smart strategy to keep them safe from overzealous baggage handlers.
If you’re planning to use your bag for more than just skis and snowboards (and you should), a few well-placed pockets can mean the difference between traveling smoothly or arriving like a Jerry. Some boot bags like the Backcountry Ski Boot Bag even feature special pockets for holding goggles, gloves, or neck gaiters.
A Few Other Considerations
It’s easy to overlook something obvious like length. Be sure the bag you select is as long, if not longer, than the longest set of skis or board you’ll travel with.
Oftentimes, the more bells and whistles a ski bag has, the more it weighs. Wheels, padding, zippers, and pockets all add weight—this is of particular importance if you’re flying and unwilling to pay for an extra or oversized bag.
Most airlines consider snowboard gear travel bags/ski gear travel bags and snowboard/ski boot travel bags as a single item, although their combined weight must typically be under 50 lbs.
A luggage scale helps you avoid any unwanted surprises at the airport and, if you’re a frequent traveler, will likely pay for itself—if not in avoiding extra baggage fees, then in peace of mind. Even the best travelers occasionally go over their allotted weight. While there are a handful of weight tricks fellow skiers have used with some success, a smile and a positive attitude goes a long way with airline employees, who will ultimately decide to let your 53 lb. bag slide or not.
The Ski Boot Conundrum
The golden rule of ski travel is to never check your boots; instead, carry them on the plane with you, preferably in a dedicated snowboard/ski boot travel bag.
One reason to carry on your boots is that they’re heavy. By removing them from your checked luggage, you can pack more bulky clothing into your ski bag and avoid the extra baggage fee. Another reason? If your boots go missing in transit, it’s easier to rent skis or a board at your destination than boots. This is especially true for skiers/boarders with sensitive feet, special orthotics, or custom modified boots. Carrying your boots with their power straps Velcroed or laces tied together over your shoulder is an option, but a good ski boot travel bag is a more efficient alternative.
Fill the boot bag’s empty space—including the inside of the boots themselves—with other essentials like ski socks, goggles, or an avalanche beacon. A great tip is to include all of the basics you need for a day on the snow in your boot bag—boots, socks, gloves, face mask, and a baselayer. This way, in the event your luggage doesn’t make it to your destination, you can just borrow outerwear from a buddy and rent a board or skis.
Traveling with ski gear shouldn’t mean you’re hosting a sloppy yard sale at the airport bag drop, shuffling items to get weight down. Dial in your travel setup with the right gear before you leave home. With smart preparation and the perfect ski travel bag, you’ll be sliding through security, onto your flight, and into your hotel just as smoothly as you do on the mountain. Most importantly, you’ll save the bumps for the slopes.
A fan of all things sliding on snow, Tim is constantly toggling between alpine and tele skis while occasionally flirting with his snowboard. In the winter, you’ll likely find Tim on the lift or in the skin track pondering whether he should buy a monoboard, how much extra insulation the dog fur stuck to his coat provides, and how to ski all 12 months of the year. Follow Tim on Instagram here.