Planning on taking your skis with you on your holiday this winter? With a few notable exceptions, the cost now kicks ownership into touch.
The harsh fact is that, unless you choose to drive to the Alps or the Pyrenees, go by train and take your hardware with you, skiers and snowboarders will be punished financially this season more than ever.
The return price for ski carriage in Europe – if you book in advance online – now ranges from around £40 (57€) with Thomson to a chilling £80 (114€) with Ryanair. Pay at the airport and you’ll suffer at least a £10 (14€) penalty charge.
Wholesale charter carriers do not normally charge tour operators for ski carriage. But tour operators see fit to charge their customers. It is another way of making money and also shortens check-in and aircraft loading time.
A lot of old ski and snowboards that will fill the holds of aircraft bound for Geneva and other skiing hubs this winter will have a lower market value than the cost of their carriage. Frankly, you’d do better to invest the money in ski rental.
However, some people hate renting skis and I have to confess I am one of them. Yes, I’m well aware that the standard of hire equipment in all major resorts is usually excellent – if expensive. But that doesn’t help me. I want the continuity of being mounted on a pair of skis that I know and like – my own.
If I’ve got rental skis, I tend to spend the whole day grumbling about the heavy, bulky bindings and often – probably quite wrongly – blaming what’s underfoot for how I am performing. Yes, I know about bad workmen, but the point is why should I be penalised for taking my own with me?
Fortunately, a little careful research shows you that there are alternatives to airline ransom, along with a few handy tricks of the trade that can reduce the fee you are required to pay:
Holiday with YSE Ski. Ok, your choice of destination is limited to Val d’Isere because the long-established chalet specialist only goes to the one resort. But there’s nothing wrong with Val d’Isere and your skis – and boots – are carried free of charge.
Send your skis (and luggage) in advance and enjoy a hassle-free journey: Piste of Mind picks up from your home and delivers to your hotel, chalet, or apartment. At the end of your holiday the operation happens in reverse.
I used it last winter to take skis to and from Valmorel and the service was faultless. For 2015-16 they’ve added delivery/collections point for an express last-minute service. The company covers all the main Alpine countries, plus Andorra and Bulgaria. Standard pricing per item is no less expensive. However, substantial discounts apply for volume of items from one address and can bring the cost down dramatically.
Ski Carriage will look after your skis and boots year round, deliver to your chosen resort, and arrange a ski service before you arrive.
Weight-sharing is one of the most cost-efficient ways of carrying your gear. Airlines that allow this don’t actually explain in their baggage details what it involves – the exception is easyJet
Firstly, you need to buy one of the huge double wheelie ski bags made by Thule and Ellis Brigham. You take this as a piece of sporting equipment instead of a hold bag and carry your skis or snowboard and all your clothing in one bag. (The Thule version has separate inner bags to keep clothing clean and dry.) With easyJet this works best if two of you are travelling on the same flight because you are allowed to weight-share.
Rules vary from airline to airline. For example, BA does not allow weight-sharing between passengers. However, you can take your double ski bag as part of your free hold allowance provided it does not exceed 23kgs.
But the harsh truth is that if you want to take your gear with you this winter, the cheapest and most hassle-free option is to go by car – or let the train take the strain.