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Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to Pack for a Ski Trip When You Fly and Other Ski Planning Tips

*This is part of a series on Keystone in winter. For more posts in the series, see links at the bottom.*

Normally when we go skiing, we drive. We don't have to worry about what to pack, because we have a minivan. We bring everything. But we recently flew to Colorado for a ski trip at Keystone. My goal was to bring carry on, partly to save the bag check fee, and partly because of fear of them losing our bags. And I can't believe it, but we actually did it.

Here's how to pack for a ski trip when you fly.

I have one word for you: Space Bags. Okay, that's two words.

Space Bags help you vacuum out the air and condense your bulky clothes into smaller packages.
Carry on or checked luggage?

We carried our luggage on to save money and to make sure our things weren't lost. That meant we had to choose which bulky things we were bringing. We left behind our ski boots and helmets, though saw many people bringing those as carry on (outside their suitcase), or strapping the helmet onto the suitcase as an add-on.

Does your lodging have laundry facilities? If so, you can bring fewer clothes. Will you actually wear everything you bring? I had three sweaters, and ended up wearing only two of them. Somehow when you're skiing, and you're beyond a certain age, you just don't care if someone sees you in the same sweater three days in a row. What you will want extra of: socks and gloves, in case they get wet. Bring spares means you don't have to buy extra ones when you get there, or spend time trying to blow dry the interior glove fingers.

We used Space Bags to help condense our clothes, so the air was squeezed out. This makes a big difference for ski bibs, which are fluffy. The weight was still there in each package, but we could fit more in. We also wrapped goggles in socks so they didn't break of get scratched.

To bring or rent skis?
Bringing your own skis can save you money in rentals. Our Keystone rentals were $45 a day. Checking them on the plane would have been $50-70 round trip. Your ski and boot bag (or snowboard and boot bag) together should count as one item. Fees are usually (but not always) the same as the first or second checked bag item, or roughly $25-35 one way. Here's a list of checked bag costs for skis and snowboards.

Some people we met only brought their boots and helmets with them, renting skis and poles only, which is cheaper. In the future I'll bring my helmet too, because helmet rental is $10/day, and my helmet only cost me $30 at Costco. You can try demo skis and check out different styles if you rent on site.

One advantage to renting is dumping them at the end of the trip. We literally brought the wagon of skis, boots and helmets into the rental shop and left them there without even checking them in. That's what they told us to do. Everything is bar coded, so they just scanned it as we left, and we were done.
Pulling the skis and poles in a wagon was much easier than carrying them!
To rent a car or take a shuttle?
Again, this totally depends on costs, how many people are traveling, whether you want to be responsible for a car, and if you're comfortable driving in snowy conditions.

We took the Colorado Mountain Express shuttle, which cost $400 round trip for the four of us, for the two hour (without traffic) trip. We were in a shuttle with other people. The shuttles have free wi-fi, though it wasn't working on our trip back to Denver. It was nice not to worry about the driving, but we did have to stop on the way back to Denver to pick up another group of people, who were being dropped off at a shopping plaza parking lot from Copper Mountain Resort. Their driver was apparently late, which meant we waited around for them for 30 minutes. Fortunately there was a cafe nearby, so we grabbed some food and coffee to go. But that set us back in time. We were supposed to have 3 hours at the airport before our flight. Between that delay, and another delay at the Eisenhower Tunnel (accident on the other side), we got to the gate as they were boarding. If that other family hadn't been late, we would have missed the accident and gotten there early.

The bad part of having no car was that we had to rely on the resort for food. Even if we wanted to shop at the stores there and cook at our condo, they were incredibly expensive. We could probably get a taxi or find some resort transportation to take us to another store, but we had most of our meals planned already on site. But it's something to think about.

We did bring some oatmeal packets and ski snacks in the suitcase, which gave us extra time in the morning, and something guaranteed healthy to eat.

Breakfast and snacks
More tips:

Tip: wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane, like your snow boots and winter coat.
Tip: If your hotel/condo won't have shampoo/lotion, you can buy a bottle on site - it's cheaper than checking it with luggage.

Here are some other ski planning tips:
How to plan a ski trip on a budget - a round-up of great links from fellow family travel bloggers, via The Q Family Adventures.

Here's another great round of up travel bloggers on planning the perfect ski trip with kids, from

And another round up from travel bloggers on 30 Skiing Tips for Beginners, by RWeThereYetMom.

Also in the series:
Kidtopia at Keystone
Keystone for nonskiers
Review of the Springs condos at Keystone Resort and River Run Village
Camp Keystone - Ski Lessons for all

Disclosure: Keystone hosted us on this trip. As always, all opinions are my own.

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