Traveling through airports is the great equalizer. Nothing gives us more freedom, yet subjects us to cattle-like status, moving through a highly controlled environment, our fate completely in the hands of others. Airline travel is a reminder that each of us is no better nor worse than any of our fellow travelers.
And no matter how pro you are, or how rookie you are, the way you put yourself together and manage your things for airport travel says a lot about you. From baby strollers to briefcases, yoga pants to pantsuits, the athleisure girl, the cowboy, the volleyball team, the business guy…we’re all in it together folks.
Like many of you, I fly a lot. Sometimes I feel like the airport is my home away from home, especially when things go wrong and hours drag on forever. So I see a lot of things. And being a skier, and someone who travels with ski gear, I’m a keen observer of what works and what doesn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong here. Just like you, I’m trying to figure out the perfect system every time I book a flight. From the curbside drop-off to snack planning, to what gear to bring, to the shoes I’m going to wear, we’re all just trying to figure it out.
But I have seen a lot of stuff out there that doesn’t work, and I’d like to offer a few pointers to help you, and me, have a better airport experience.
Don’t be that guy, or gal, with their ski boots dangling around their neck or banging off the back of a Jansport daypack. Just like you don’t want to be the guy, or gal, with his or her Nike sneakers dangling off the backpack, screaming, “I’m a Gringo!”, while on Spring Break in Cancun, neither do you want to be the person announcing to the world that you’re going on your first-ever pilgrimage to Breckenridge.
I’m also a big believer in the fact that you don’t want your helmet hap-hazardously clicked only your backpack, banging around on the floor and others around you and eventually the overhead bin. You’re going to put that on your head later and trust your life to it, remember?
Now arguably, ski boots can be carefully and conveniently crammed into an overhead bin when nothing else will fit in those coveted cavities. And mind you there are other frequent flyers I know, some of them the editors of major skiing publications that will disagree with what I’m telling you.
Some people do like to carry their ski boots loose, dangling carelessly from hands and luggage and packs through the airport. The way to do this is to connect the powerstraps together, and buckle all the buckles tight on each boot. Hopefully the powerstrap’s Velcro won’t catch and snag on too much carpet and clothing on the way to the gate, and a buckle won’t get damaged in the process. You can also stuff loose boots underneath your seat, assuming you don’t also have a laptop bag or purse or daypack of some kind that needs to go under there.
Regarding that dangling helmet letting everyone know you are indeed a skier…that goes in your luggage. Put your goggles in their cloth bag and put them in the helmet, and stuff a few pairs of baselayers or ski socks in there too. Now everything is protected.
So, what’s the best way to fly with your ski boots? One of my most prized possessions is my rolling boot bag. It expands like other carry-on rolling bags, so I can fit a ski coat or pants in there with the boots if necessary (dirty clothes on the way home); and it has a front pocket that will hold my laptop and chargers and a few small sundries like gum or a magazine, all I need really. My boots are totally protected, others are protected from my boots, and I’ve still just got one convenient carry on.
When I am taking a larger checked bag, and for some reason I don’t want to use the wheeled boot bag, I pack the boots in my large rolling duffel. Stick your avalanche transceiver in one boot and ski socks or goggles in the other boot – no wasted space. Then I’m not carrying my boots at all, someone else is, and when I land, everything is contained and rolling.
Think of it like your climbing pack…the more stuff dangling from your pack or your neck or your body, the bigger a goober you are. Keep it tight and purposeful, and invest in that rolling boot bag. You, and everyone else in the airport, will be thanking me over Spring Break next week. And now that SIA has signed a contract for the Snow Show to be in Denver through 2030, you’ve got a decade to practice your technique.
I’m sure you can find one on sale right now.