The problem with Canada is that it’s really big, which means that you sometimes have to go great distances to chase powder. If you don’t live close to any ski resorts, or you are wanting to jet out to a new area for an epic ski holiday, you might need to include air travel in order to get the snow you are looking for. Navigating treacherous mountain passes in a blizzard or driving through the prairies in the dead of winter isn’t for the faint of heart!
Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to snowboard in several of Canada’s best resorts, including the epic – Whistler Blackcomb. I also boarded Cypress Mountain on the West Coast, Apex Mountain and Mount Baldy in the Okanagan, as well as my usual haunts in the Rockies; Sunshine, Kicking Horse, etc. I always have a preference to bringing my own gear, because it saves on rental costs and I’m more familiar and comfortable with my equipment (plus it’s awesome), so I had to price out and plan how to bring it with me.
Here are some tips on how to fly with snow gear in Canada:
The main Canadian domestic carriers are Air Canada or WestJet, and both allow sporting equipment as oversized checked luggage with the oversize fee waived. This is great news if you are on a budget, because if you can fit the rest of your gear in a carry-on, then you only pay the cost of a regular suitcase (your gear). Otherwise, if a carry-on is too tight for you, then you will have to pay the cost of two checked bags.
Both airlines, unfortunately, charge for checked baggage, which can add cost to your holiday. The best way I have found around this is to book using an airline-specific credit card, like the WestJet Mastercard, that allows one free checked bag (your gear) and then take the rest of your luggage as carry-on, so you can shred with your own equipment without any added cost.
Things are always changing in the airline world, however, so make sure to check out their respective websites, which detail their allowances:
One set is of equipment is accepted per guest including helmet, skis, boots and poles; or a snowboard and boots; or a pair of water skis.
All items must be packed for shipping to prevent damage. Ski wax must be non-flammable. Butane or torches used to remove ski wax are not accepted.
The oversize bag fee will be waived. Applicable extra piece and overweight fees apply.
Any sports item (including helmet, skates, slalom) that is checked in separately will count as one piece of checked baggage. Ski boots are the only exception (see details below).
If your baggage count (item of sports equipment + the number of other bags to be checked) exceeds the maximum number of items allowed by your fare type, additional checked baggage charges will apply.
Both airlines mention to package for shipping and to prevent damage, so make sure to use either a padded bag to transport your gear. One of my favourite purchases in recent years was the Burton Wheelie Gig Snowboard Bag. I’m impressed by the quality.
It’s wheeled and padded for ultimate protection of your equipment, and also comes with lockable zippers and a waterproofed interior lining. I absolutely love it and it has made travel with my board so much better. I have travelled with a thin bag for years and although it helps, it’s not always ding-free. I’ve even boxed my board, but then couldn’t get it in the taxi on the other end! If you air travel with your gear, get a proper bag.
When you arrive at the airport, check into your flight, and then head to the Oversized luggage X-ray area. You’ll have to load your equipment through and then it will be waiting on the other end for you in the over-size area of the baggage claim.
It was easier than I thought to fly with snow gear across Canada, and I’ll be adding many more destinations to my shred bucket list this year!