How To Carry Your Skis Like a Pro: The Definitive Guide

Struggling to carry your skis? Ski Expert Michael Dobson shares five easy ways to carry your skis and get to the slopes in one piece.

Three skiers carry their skis on their shoulders.

Photo by Matteo Agreiter for Faction Skis

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You’ve just arrived at the ski resort. Unless you’re one of the first there, you probably have a nice little walk to the lodge or lift, especially if there aren’t any shuttles. You’re looking at all of your ski gear and the hike ahead of you and you’re thinking, “How am I going to haul all of this without dropping my gear everywhere and feeling like a fool?” Or perhaps you're one of the many skiers getting into the backcountry and you’re trying to figure out how to get your skis onto your backpack neatly like you see in ski movies. No worries! We’ve all been there. With this definitive guide, we’ll help you get your ski-carrying skills dialed before you leave the house!

Carry Your Skis by Your Side

The author holds his skis at his side.

Photo by Michael Dobson

This method of carrying your skis is best used if you only have a short walk. Depending on your setup, skis can be quite heavy. Carrying them by your side over long distances can get tiring, even if you’ve been hitting the gym.

Step One

The skis have their bases against each other with their bindings interlocked.

Photo by Michael Dobson

To start, hold your skis parallel to each other with the bases facing each other. Place the bases against one another. As you place your bases together, make sure that the brakes for your bindings interlock—this will help keep your skis together. Be sure to take note of which ski’s brakes are overlapped by the other. This ski will be your “outside” ski when you carry. It should look like the photo above, with the ski on the right in the photo being your “outside” ski.

Step Two

Next, hold your skis in your hand between the toe and heel piece of your binding, feeling for the balance point. Make sure that the outside ski’s brakes are overlapped by the brakes of the inside ski. This will prevent your inside ski from sliding back and causing issues. Be careful not to pinch your hand with the edges of your ski as you compress the camber!

Step Three

The author's skis are strapped together.

Photo by Michael Dobson

Strap ’em if you got ’em! Before you head out, if you have a ski strap, feel free to add one above the toe piece of your binding where your ski’s bases naturally come together to add stability. You could also put it between the bindings to compress the camber to avoid pinching yourself. If you put a strap in the cambered portion, don’t leave it there for an extended period of time (like pre-strapping the skis before you leave the house), as this can potentially mess with your skis’ camber over time. Check the photo to see a properly placed ski strap.

Step Four

Take your poles in your free hand and get walking! There’s snow to be skied!

Over the Shoulder

The author carries his skis over his shoulder.

Photo by Michael Dobson

This one can seem tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, I’m sure you’ll agree that over the shoulder is the easiest way to carry your skis. It is great for weight distribution. After getting this method dialed, you’ll be ready to handle longer walks from the parking lot and hikes on the mountain.

Step One

This carrying technique starts just like the previous one. Hold your skis vertically and place the bases against one another. Make sure to take note of which ski’s brake is underneath the other. The ski with the brake that is underneath will be your “top” ski when you put them up on your shoulder. It should look like the earlier photo, with the ski on the right being your top ski. This will prevent the top ski from sliding forward while you’re carrying them.

Step Two

Once you’ve taken note of which ski is your top ski, hold the skis together and lift them by the portion of the skis that is in front of the toe piece and between the bindings. Then place them on your shoulder with the binding toe piece behind your shoulder.

It’s best to hold the skis with the toe behind your shoulder because there is more ski in front of your bindings than behind them, so the weight of the skis will feel balanced. Also, the toe piece of your binding will be much more friendly to your shoulder than the heel!

Now, if you’ve done everything the correct way, you can brace your skis with the same arm that your skis are on and apply light pressure on your top ski against your bottom ski, which will help keep them both secure and balanced. This frees up your other arm to carry your poles, ski boots, or other gear.

Step Three

The author's red ski strap.

Photo by Michael Dobson

Straps, straps, straps. If you have a ski strap, before you sling those sticks over your shoulder, slap a ski strap on near the tips of your skis where the ski’s bases naturally make contact with each other. If there’s anything you should take away from this guide, it’s that you can never have enough ski straps. If you don’t have any, I highly recommend you buy some. They are super versatile tools that can help with far more than holding some skis together (although they’re great at doing that too!).

Carry Your Skis With Your Poles

The author carries his skis with his poles.

Photo by Michael Dobson

This one requires a ski strap (I told you to buy some) and is a clever, intuitive way to carry both your skis and poles together in one hand. It will have your friends looking at you with jealousy for not thinking of it first! If you ever find yourself heli-skiing, this is the way you attach your skis and poles together to easily add and remove them from the heli basket.

Step One

Just like the previous methods, place your skis together base-to-base with the brakes interlocking.

Step Two

Next, take the wrist straps of your poles and feed the tips of your skis through the loops. This can be a little tricky with some wider, more rockered skis like the ones I use here, but as you’ll see from the photos, it can be done. Slide the loops down the skis at least a foot or two, depending on where your bindings are mounted. Keep in mind you’ll be strapping the tips of your ski poles above the baskets to your skis and holding near the middle of your poles. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure the tips of your poles go past the middle balance point of your skis.

Three photos showing: First ski with straps; Adding straps around the second ski; and Both straps around both skis.

Photos by Michael Dobson

Skis and poles ready for ski strap:

The skis are on their edge with the poles on top and strap is underneath it all.

Photo by Michael Dobson

Step Three

The skis and poles strapped together.

Photo by Michael Dobson

Strap the tips of both of your poles to both of your skis using your ski strap. Make sure to tie them down pretty tight so they don’t slip. Done correctly, it should look like the photo above.

Step Four

Grab your poles, feel for the balance point, and get your butt up to the hill!

Backpack Carry Methods

The rest of the carrying methods I’m going to describe utilize a backpack. If you’re getting into the backcountry, it goes without saying that you should already have a beacon, shovel, and probe. An additional piece of safety equipment that is designed to carry skis as well as your shovel and probe is the avalanche airbag. If you’re traveling in backcountry terrain, I strongly recommend you look into getting one. I will describe in detail how to carry skis using both a standard pack and an avalanche airbag (avy pack).

The A-Frame

The author demonstrates the A-frame method with an avy pack and standard pack.

Photo on the left is with an avy pack; the right is with a standard pack. Photo by Michael Dobson

If you’ve ever watched a ski movie that features riders bootpacking a couloir or ridgeline in the backcountry, you’ve probably seen the A-Frame in action. This is a fairly straightforward way to get your skis on your back using almost any backpack that has cinch straps on its sides. Ideally, you’ll want two sets of cinch straps on the upper and lower portions of the pack. The only downside to this carrying method is if you have skis that are more forward-mounted (like mine), you carry the risk of potentially bonking yourself in the head with your skis if your setup is loose or improper.

Step One

The author's skis in an avy pack and standard pack.

Avy pack on the left; standard pack on the right. Photos by Michael Dobson

Make sure your cinch straps are unbuckled. Place the upper cinch strap underneath the toe piece of your binding and the lower cinch strap behind the heel piece of your binding. Buckle the cinch straps and tighten ’em up. This will prevent the skis from slipping out from your pack while you’re carrying them.

Step Two

If you have a ski strap, now is a great time to attach the tips of your skis together to create the iconic A-Frame. If you forgot your ski strap, you can still carry your skis like this in an unattached fashion, but I’ve found you’ll end up hitting the back of your legs quite frequently. Not fun. Don’t forget your ski straps!

Step Three

Put on your pack as you normally would, but be mindful of not hitting the back of your head with your skis. Secure your hip belt and chest straps and you’re ready to go!

Diagonal Carry

The author demonstrating the diagonal carry with his avy pack.

Photo by Michael Dobson

Many avalanche packs (mine included) feature a diagonal carry style and will specify not to carry your skis using the A-Frame. It’s important to heed this warning because the A-Frame method will prevent the airbag feature from functioning as designed. The diagonal carry works great and is my preferred method of carrying skis on my back.

Step One

Put your skis together base-to-base, like you would if you were carrying them by hand. Slap a ski strap on top to add some stability.

Step Two

The author's skis attatched to his avy pack.

Photo by Michael Dobson

Remove the upper carrying strap from its stowaway in the pack and unbuckle it. Seat this strap underneath the toe piece of your bindings. Buckle the strap and tighten it down. Wrap the bottom cinch strap that is diagonal from the upper loop around your skis just behind the heel piece of your bindings, buckle, and tighten down. It should look like the photo above.

Step Three

Once you’ve strapped your skis, put on your backpack as you normally would with your hip belt and chest strap secure. The skis should feel balanced and comfortable and not interfere with walking.

Now you know all the secrets to carrying your gear properly! If you have any other questions or want to perfect your setup, reach out to a Ski Expert here on Curated. As Shane McConkey once said, get out on something tall, “ski down there and jump off somethin’ for cryin’ out loud!”

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Written By
Michael Dobson
Michael Dobson
Ski Expert
Ayy I'm Mike. 20 years ago I stepped into my first pair of skis in upstate New York and fell in love. These days you can find me in Colorado, skiing, hiking, and fishing among the San Juans. I'm always on the hunt to find and learn about gear. Whether it's the latest innovations in skis, new bin...
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