Updated: Sep 25, 2020
These days travel options abound and so do considerations:
Are you comfortable with low-cost carriers or low fare tickets with high baggage fees?
A rental car may be cost effective but are you ready to drive to the mountains in white out conditions?
Will you need a car once you get there? Is the village walkable? Are ride shares easy and inexpensive?
It is hard to have it down to a science with so many variables. But fear not, we’ve been there - the tips below help breakdown the obvious (did you consider checked bag fees when booking the flight) and the not so obvious questions (do I accept the damage waiver for my rentals?).
Planning ahead. Clearly, book early for the best fares. We get it though, when following the powder, this can be hard. It then becomes extra important to avoid extra fees.
The airfare may be relatively inexpensive, but the “full” costs of hauling your gear can mount quickly. Does your airline charge for checked baggage? Most airline's baggage fees for equipment are the same as any other baggage (but make sure you don’t exceed the 50 lbs limit). Here are some pro tips:
Take advantage of frequent flier status, first/business class, or airline credit cards to have baggage fees waived
Southwest does not have baggage fees and they have direct flights to ski hubs - Salt Lake City and Denver
Delta recently eliminated its $150 specialty sports bag fee, though standard baggage fees still apply
Wear your gear and distribute weight amongst checked bags. Most airlines will allow up to two checked bags before the fees start piling up. Consider wearing mountain gear on the plane, this can also be nice when landing in cooler climates. Wearing your goggles on the plane is a power move and will clearly communicate your awesomeness to fellow passengers.
Pack clothing around skis/snowboards to avoid extra fees. Verify that your edges will not slice through clothes (pro-tip)! Old shower towels work well to clean and dry equipment before heading to the airport (prevents rusting on the edges) and they also provide an additional layer of protection from airline ground crews.
Stay hydrated to seamlessly move to higher elevations. Higher elevations have less air, are drier, and require your body to work harder. Consider this in flight and maybe pass on the alcohol in favor of water. It’s never too early to hydrate. Many symptoms of altitude sickness (fatigue, headaches, etc.) can be avoided by drinking water on the trip to the mountains. Make sure to keep hydrating at altitude. For those interested in a few "adult Gatorades" at the après, there are plenty of articles about whether you get inebriated faster at higher altitudes. Bottom-line, after a day on the mountain, you will be tired and water is usually better than another beer.
Ski or board rentals are a great option to maximize performance and minimize hassle. Rentals shops, on average, charge ~$50 per day for skis and poles or snowboards. Christy Sports is a reliable, convenient option at many resorts in the West. Book online, in advance, for the best rates. Many rental shops and resorts offer door delivery and overnight equipment storage near the lifts to ensure après ski is more enjoyable and free up arms to carry little ones.
The rental package, explained. Most packages include skis or snowboard, poles, boots and even helmets. Paying for the damage waiver can be a good investment. Generally only a couple of bucks and you are covered if the snow is thinner than advertised. Be sure to give your rentals a look over, check for damage, and even ask for a name sticker (this is pretty common). Many skis look the same and I had a pair of rentals walk off a few years back.
Boots only - our preferred option. Many bring their own boots and have the rental shops tune bindings to them. While not a huge cost saving (generally ~$5/day), having the right boots is key. Boots and helmets are easily carried on planes. During peak season, it is not uncommon to see boots slung over shoulders and helmets snapped to backpacks in the gate area. Boots fit in the overheads and are often appreciated by those that lack spatial awareness when it comes to bulky roll-aboards.