The 2014 ski season is well under way, and with the Winter Olympics currently gracing our televisions sets, excitement for snow sports couldn’t be higher! For ski fans, hiring snow gear can always look attractive – taking the hassle out of carriage charges and lugging equipment around out of the resort – but dedicated snow lovers will know that there’s nothing better than skiing or boarding with your own gear. Whether you own your own skis or snowboard already, or you’re thinking about investing in them, this guide will give you an idea of the cost and ease of taking your skis on holiday with you.
Flying with your ski gear
· Cost: Free – £50
· Stress Factor: Low/Medium
Virtually every ski or snowboard bag exceeds the checked bag limitations for airlines. However, with snow destinations making up a crucial part of the tourism industry, airlines regularly accept ski equipment on their flights at an extra charge. There are just a few things you need to think about to avoid stress at the airport:
Weight & Size
Read the small print of your airline’s ski baggage allowance as it changes for different airlines. Some airlines will accept ski gear as normal check in luggage if it’s under a certain size, for example, AirFrance luggage should not exceed 158cm else there’s an additional charge. This is useful for boot bags and bindings but this is a bit tight for some skis so expect a surcharge if you’re taking long items.
Most airlines will carry ski luggage for an extra charge but there are still length restrictions (if very generous ones), for example British Airways will accept bags up to 190cm x 75cm x 65cm and American Airlines allows bags up to 320cm in length. EasyJet accept ski bags under a Small Sports Goods carriage charge and can be any size or dimension as long as the weight isn’t over 12kg. However, for most other (non-budget) airlines the weight of your snow equipment can go up to 23kg.
Other luggage allowance
Most airlines accept ski baggage as one item of checked in luggage, providing it doesn’t exceed the set size (and as the set sizes are really for suitcases, ski gear usually always exceeds them). So buying the extra baggage is a good idea but there is sometimes confusion as to whether a ski/board bag and a boot bag are considered as one or two pieces of extra luggage.
The amount of bags you can take as part of additional ski baggage does differ from airline to airline. Most of the major airlines, including Emirates and AirFrance include two skis, two poles and a set of boots within their ski carriage surcharge. However, it’s worth double and triple checking with low-budget airlines as they can charge for each separate gear bag.
Getting to and from the airport
Struggling with long (and heavy!) equipment bags can be quite stressful on public transport. Leave plenty of time to get to the airport, allowing for the fact it will take you longer to get around the airport and longer to check in.
Driving to the airport is the simplest way to get your kit to the airport. If you’re taking a taxi, make sure they know that the vehicle needs to be long enough to fit your bags in safely.
Top Tip: If you’re self-driving, avoid the faff of getting your gear on and off a transfer shuttle bus by investing in an airport parking Meet & Greet service.
Skiing coach holidays
· Carriage cost: £10
· Stress Factor: Low
For students and groups looking to visit the Alps on a smaller budget, there are many ski companies who take you to the slopes on a coach. Typically it’s an 18-hour drive (each way!) from London to most French Alp resorts, crossing at Dover. The benefit to this though is that it’s much simpler to take your own gear with you. There’s usually a small surcharge (£10 or so) to take your ski/board bag and boot bag.
Top Tip: The best thing with coach travel is that, if you’re clever with your packing, you can wrap fill the empty space around your boots and skis with your clothes. All set for a week of skiing with just two bags!
· Carriage cost: Free (ish)
· Stress Factor: Medium/High
Driving yourself to the Alps can be very appealing, you get to travel at your own pace, you can pack whatever you want (no ski surcharge!) and you can load up on cheap French booze on the way home.
There are a few stress factors related to self-driving to your ski destination however. Firstly you’re really limited to the Alps (unless you fancy a VERY long drive!) as a ski destination and that’s still a 10-12 hour drive, which means setting off at 3am or staying on the road overnight somewhere. You also have to consider the French motorway tolls which can be up to £100-£140 for a return trip. And finally, you have to take responsibility for making sure your car meets all of France’s driving regulations as well as thoroughly preparing your car for deep snow and ice conditions.
1. Snow chains are a legal requirement on mountain roads
2. The quickest and easiest way to pay for motorway tolls is on a credit card
3. Make sure all your ski gear can fit safely in the car without obstructing your window and mirror views.
4. When parking, face downhill or facing the way you want to leave and lift your wipers away from the windscreen so they don’t freeze to it!
5. Find more self-drive ski tips and information here.