A Guide To Traveling With Winter Recreational Equipment

When taking a winter vacation, how do you ensure that your snow sports equipment arrives safely at your destination?  It may seem ideal to take your skis, snowboards, ice skates, snow shoes, or hockey sticks with you.  However, there is also the hassle of checking your equipment at the airport, along with the risk of damage or loss. 

Here is a basic guide to what you should know, along with some alternatives, such as shipping your gear or renting at your destination. 

Air Travel

Skis, snowboards, hockey sticks and other equipment may be checked as baggage at the airport.  However:
  • There are usually limits on the amount and weight or size of items.
  • Airlines may charge additional fees for equipment, on top of standard baggage charges, so it’s important to check with the carrier on specifics, as policies differ from airline to airline. 
  • Be aware, too, that some airlines may not accept responsibility for damage.

Car Rental

If you’re renting a car and driving to your destination with your equipment:
  • Ask in advance for a four-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires and also a ski rack if you’re carrying downhill or cross country skis.  Even though most roads and major highways are plowed regularly, sudden storms, extreme cold, or icy conditions can make roads slippery and driving hazardous.  Reserve your car well in advance, since there may be a limited number of winterized vehicles at some rental locations
  • Keep in mind that while driving to some areas may require you to carry tire chains, many car rental locations prohibit the use of snow chains on their vehicles.

Alternatives To Carrying Your Equipment

To avoid the hassles of traveling with your own equipment, consider renting or storing your skis and boards at your destination or shipping them ahead.

Equipment Rental:  Most ski resorts have rental equipment – from snow shoes to skis -- that you can reserve in advance.  Some ski areas even have valet services that will deliver rental equipment to your door.  Check ahead with the resort to find out what equipment is available, particularly if you prefer certain brands and models.  Also, note that advance reservations may be required, especially during holidays and peak season.

Long Term Storage: If you’re planning a repeat visit; or own a condominium or time share at a resort, consider long-term storage.  Contact your resort or hotel for availability and prices.

Shipping Services:  A number of companies will ship your sports equipment to your destination. Shipping costs are based on the package’s bulk or weight, whichever costs more, as well as distance. Some tips on shipping:

  • Check to be sure the shipper has the proper packaging for your equipment.
  • Put the destination and return address on the inside of the package in the event of damage to the outside.
  • Call the hotel or other lodging where you’ll be staying in advance for a correct shipping address. According to UPS, hotels sometimes use different shipping addresses for receiving packages.
  • Plan ahead and ship a few days in advance by ground service, which will help you realize savings over next-day air delivery, suggests UPS. 
  • Keep the tracking number handy for tracking your gear on mobile apps or online. 
  • For international shipping from the U.S., list your equipment as “used personal effects” to qualify for duty-free status. Otherwise, the destination country may view the items as new and try to levy an import charge. If items are shipped back home, note them as “American goods returned” on the green customs sticker, so they’re not counted as part of the U.S. Customs duty-free allowance.
Among the companies that will ship for you:


US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.