How to Choose a Ski Bag for FlyingPublished on 05/01/2023 · 14 min readExpand your possibilities of where you can ski this season by ensuring you have the right gear to travel with your skis! Read on for more information about ski bags!
Photo by Peter Burdon
TL;DR: When buying a ski bag, consider bag type (hard or soft case), padding, dimensions (to fit your skis and airline requirements), weight (for airline baggage limits), wheels (for easy transport), and durable materials. Check airline policies for ski baggage fees and requirements to avoid surprises at the airport.
As a skier, one of the biggest headaches is figuring out how to transport skis. After spending a large chunk of change for the perfect setup, ensuring your new skis are transported safely is critical. However, as someone who drives with skis frequently and flies with them every season, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I pull out my skis and find them to be in perfect condition (perfect is relative, given how much use they see on the mountain)! Finding the right bag for your needs can be difficult, but hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will know exactly what you need!
How Do I Travel?
Since I ski 70+ days a year and use a variety of transportation methods, I have more bags than a typical person or family may need! When I ski, I (almost) always go with just my husband. When we travel via car, our skis go in a hard-shelled Thule roof box that has an internal ski rack. We have one heated boot bag that fits our pairs of boots. Our other gear (helmets, ski pants, etc.) goes in a standard duffle bag. When we fly, we each have our own padded ski travel bag with wheels. Although we could pack our skis together, we find it safer to pack them separately and use our clothing as extra padding around the skis and ski poles. We each have a backpack-style boot bag with a helmet compartment that we bring as carry-ons.
What Is a Ski Bag?
A ski bag is a specialized travel bag designed to protect and transport your skis and related gear during travel. These bags come in various styles, such as hard or soft cases, and often have padding and compartments for added protection and organization. Ski bags come in options suitable for car and/or air travel. Ski bags aim to comply with airline baggage regulations and make it easier to transport your equipment between destinations.
What to Consider When Buying a Ski Bag
Do You Need a Hard or Soft Case?
Consider whether you need a hard or soft case. Hard cases offer superior protection and durability but can be heavier and more expensive. Soft cases are generally lighter and more affordable but may provide less protection. Evaluate your travel frequency, storage needs, and budget to determine the right type for you.
What Size and Weight Should Your Ski Bag Be?
Ensure the bag fits your skis and adheres to airline baggage requirements. Longer bags accommodate longer skis but may incur oversized baggage fees. In addition, consider the bag's weight, as it impacts the total weight when filled and could lead to excess baggage fees. Balancing size, weight, and capacity is crucial for convenience and cost efficiency.
Is the Ski Bag Easy to Transport?
Wheeled ski bags make transportation significantly easier, especially in airports. Look for smooth rolling, durable wheels, and a comfortable handle. If you opt for a non-wheeled bag, ensure it has a comfortable shoulder strap for easier carrying.
How Much Should a Ski Bag Cost?
Ski bag prices vary based on materials, features, and brand. Basic soft cases start around $50, offering minimal padding and limited features. Mid-range bags ($100-$200) typically have better padding, more compartments, and wheels for easier transport. High-end bags ($200+) often boast premium materials, additional padding, superior wheels, and extra features like compression straps and lockable zippers. Choose a price point that aligns with your needs, travel frequency, and budget.
What Are the Different Types of Ski Bags?
There are several types of ski bags to accommodate varying needs and preferences. The main types include:
Soft Ski Bags
These bags are made of durable fabric materials and usually offer padding to protect skis from damage. They are lightweight and more affordable than hard cases but may provide less protection.
- Lightweight and easier to transport
- More affordable than hard cases
- Flexible, allowing for easier storage when not in use
- Offers less protection than hard cases
- May wear out more quickly, especially with frequent travel
Hard Ski Cases
Since these cases are constructed with hard-shell materials, they provide superior protection and durability. As a result, they are ideal for frequent travelers or those transporting high-end skis. However, hard cases are generally heavier and more expensive than soft bags.
- Provides superior protection for skis and gear
- Highly durable and longer-lasting
- Ideal for frequent travelers or high-end skis
- Heavier and less convenient to transport
- More expensive than soft bags
- Bulky and harder to store when not in use
Padded Ski Bags
Both soft bags and hard cases can have padding, but some bags emphasize extra padding for enhanced protection. Padded bags safeguard skis from impacts and abrasions during transit but may be bulkier and slightly heavier.
- Offers additional protection against impacts and abrasions
- Can be found in both soft and hard cases
- Better safeguard for ski bindings and other delicate components
- Bulkier and potentially heavier than non-padded bags
- May cost more than non-padded alternatives
Wheeled Ski Bags
These bags feature wheels and a handle for easier transportation, especially in airports. Wheeled bags can be either soft or hard cases and are highly convenient for those who travel frequently or have multiple bags to manage.
- Easy to transport, especially in airports
- Reduces strain on arms and shoulders
- Available in both soft and hard cases
- Generally more expensive than non-wheeled bags
- Wheels can add weight to the bag
- Wheels may require maintenance or replacement over time
Ski and Snowboard Combo Bags
These versatile bags accommodate skis and snowboards, making them ideal for travelers who participate in sports or those traveling in a group with mixed gear.
- Accommodates both skis and snowboards
- Convenient for mixed gear or group travel
- Reduces the need for multiple bags
- Typically larger and heavier than single-sport bags
- May be more difficult to find a bag with the perfect fit for both types of equipment
Single Ski Bags
These bags are compact and lightweight, designed to hold one pair of skis and poles, and are suitable for solo travelers or those with minimal gear.
- Compact and lightweight
- Ideal for solo travelers or those with minimal gear
- Easier to manage and store
- Limited capacity, only holds one pair of skis and poles
- May not be suitable for group or family travel
Double Ski Bags
These bags can hold two pairs of skis and poles, providing convenience for those traveling with multiple sets or in pairs. Double ski bags are typically larger and heavier but offer increased capacity.
- Holds two pairs of skis and poles
- Convenient for pairs or those with multiple sets of skis
- Reduces the number of bags needed for travel
- Larger and heavier than single ski bags
- May be more cumbersome to transport and store
Features to Look for When Buying Ski Bags
When selecting a ski bag for travel, consider the following features and technologies to ensure your skis and gear are well-protected and easy to transport:
- Padding: Adequate padding helps protect your skis, bindings, and poles from damage during transit. Look for bags with padding throughout or reinforced padding in critical areas, such as around the bindings.
- Durable Materials: Choose a ski bag made from high-quality, durable materials like ripstop nylon or polyester. These materials are resistant to wear and tear and can withstand the rigors of air travel.
- Wheels: Wheeled ski bags make transportation significantly easier, especially in airports. Opt for bags with sturdy, smooth-rolling wheels and a comfortable, ergonomic handle for pulling the bag.
- Compression Straps: Internal and external compression straps help secure your skis and gear, reducing movement and the risk of damage. They also help compress the bag for easier handling and storage.
- Ventilation: Look for ski bags with ventilation features, such as mesh panels or vents, to allow moisture and odors to escape. This helps keep your gear dry and prevents the growth of mold and mildew.
- Pockets and Compartments: Additional pockets and compartments can help you organize your gear, making it easier to access and store items like ski boots, goggles, gloves, and other accessories.
- Heavy-Duty Zippers: High-quality, durable zippers are essential for keeping your gear secure and protected. Look for lockable zippers or those with a loop for adding a padlock for added security.
- Adjustable Shoulder Strap: If you choose a non-wheeled bag, an adjustable, padded shoulder strap can provide added comfort and make carrying the bag easier.
- Reflective Accents: Reflective accents on the bag improve visibility, especially when traveling at night or in low-light conditions.
- Water-Resistant or Waterproof Material: Ski bags with water-resistant or waterproof material will help protect your gear from moisture, which is especially important if you're traveling to snowy destinations or in unpredictable weather.
- Expandable Design: Some ski bags feature an expandable design, allowing you to adjust the bag's length to accommodate different ski sizes or additional gear.
Consider your specific travel needs and preferences when choosing a ski bag with the right features and technologies for a seamless experience.
Features to Avoid in Ski Bags
There are certain features or aspects you may want to avoid when selecting a ski bag, as they can negatively impact the bag's functionality, durability, or your overall travel experience:
- Insufficient Padding: Avoid bags with minimal or no padding, as they may not provide adequate protection for your skis and gear during transit.
- Poor-Quality Materials: Low-quality materials can wear out quickly and may not withstand the rigors of air travel. Avoid ski bags made from thin, easily damaged fabrics or weak plastics.
- Flimsy Wheels: Low-quality or flimsy wheels can break or malfunction, making transportation difficult. Avoid bags with small, fragile wheels that may not support the bag's weight or roll smoothly.
- Weak Zippers: Weak or poor-quality zippers can break or malfunction, compromising the security of your gear. Avoid bags with flimsy zippers, poor stitching, or lack durability.
- Inadequate Handles or Straps: Bags with uncomfortable or poorly designed handles and straps can make transportation difficult and cause discomfort. Avoid bags with thin, non-adjustable, or poorly padded straps that may not provide the necessary support.
- Oversized Bags: Bags exceeding airline size restrictions may incur additional fees or complications at check-in. Ensure your chosen ski bag complies with the specific airline's baggage regulations.
- Heavy Bags: Excessively heavy bags can contribute to surpassing airline weight limits, leading to excessive weight charges. Instead, opt for a bag that balances protection, durability, and weight to avoid unnecessary expenses.
- Lack of Compartments or Organization: A bag without compartments or pockets can make organizing and accessing your gear difficult. Avoid bags that lack these features if you value easy access and organization.
While it's crucial to prioritize your specific needs and preferences, being aware of potential drawbacks can help you make a more informed decision when purchasing the best ski bags for travel.
What About Ski Boot Bags?
Ski boot bags are a little more straightforward. They typically come in a general size made to accommodate most boot sizes. Boot bags are a great option for flying and for regular car travel to ensure boots stay protected. Here are some factors to consider:
- Carrying Straps: Boot bags will either have a handheld strap, shoulder strap, or backpack-style straps. The latter is the best option for flying, as it is the easiest way to handle the bag and other baggage.
- Extra Compartments: Some boot bags will also come with a helmet compartment at the top. This compartment is beneficial for fitting bulky items together and ensuring your helmet is safe during travel.
- Heating: Some boot bags have a heating pad to plug into a car outlet. This is an excellent choice if you frequently experience cold heat, as your boots will start off much warmer!
I have one critical piece of advice for flying with ski boots: bring them as a carry-on. You can easily rent skis if your luggage is delayed, but comfortable ski boots can be harder to come by. It is always better to ensure your boots reach your destination. Having your helmet in the carry-on will also ensure that your helmet isn’t damaged in transport. Plus, you have the option for another checked bag if needed!
How to Choose the Right Ski Bag for You
Persona 1: Must Travel Out of State to Ski
Needs: This person lives in a non-skiing state (i.e., Florida) and exclusively flies to go on ski trips. Safety and comfort are their priorities for flying with ski equipment. They want to maximize space in their bag to reduce the number of needed bags.
Products to consider:
- Two-Ski Padded Roller Bag: This bag is optimal for flying. The padding will keep the skis safe, making the wheels easier to transport. In addition, there is room for soft goods since the bag can fit two skis.
- Backpack-Style Ski Boot Bag with Helmet Compartment: This bag allows them to pack their boots and helmet into one bag. The backpack straps make the bag easier to use as a carry-on, allowing them to bring one additional carry-on.
Persona 2: Visits Local Ski Resorts
Needs: This person visits their local ski resorts several times a year. They don’t fly for ski trips, and they don’t plan to do so in the future. Their skis and gear fit comfortably in the back of their car, though it is a cozy fit. They are budget-conscious but want to make sure their ski gear is safe.
Products to consider:
- Single-Ski, Non-Padded, Shoulder Bag: This bag allows quick and easy transport to and from the car. The bag will prevent scratching, and the lack of padding will allow for more space in the car.
- Boot Bag with Handheld Straps: This type of bag will keep the boots safe without taking up too much room. This bag would be completely optional if they have a place to store their boots in the car that is isolated from other gear (i.e., front seat floor).
Persona 3: Traveling Family of Mixed Skiers and Snowboarders
Needs: This family is traveling with two parents and two kids. They are a mixed group of skiers and snowboarders, but they all love the mountains and have their own gear. They have figured out how to pack everyone in the car, but flying with so much gear is chaotic.
Products to consider:
- Two Ski/Snowboard Combo Padded Roller Bags: When traveling with kids, it is often easier to pack their skis/snowboards into their parents' bags. Two bags for this family will comfortably fit all of their gear, and the lightness of the kid gear will help keep their combined weight within the limit. Since the family has a mix of skiers and snowboarders, a ski/snowboard combo bag will allow them to mix gear when packing.
- Four Backpack-Style Ski Boot Bags with Helmet Compartments: Although the kids may complain about carrying their pair of ski boots, this type of bag will allow each person to ensure their boots and helmets arrive safely.
While there is no single solution for traveling with skis, having the right bags can certainly make the process easier. Hopefully, you now know which bags are right for you and your family. Still not sure which bag to get? You can reach out to a Skiing Expert here at Curated or me, and we will help match you with the perfect bag for you!