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Cost of flying with equipment jumps

WINTER HOLIDAYS ISSUE

December 14, 2008|Benoit Lebourgeois | Lebourgeois is a freelance writer.

When the first snow fell last season, traveling by air with skis or a snowboard to a mountain resort was mostly just burdensome.

Now it's become costlier.

The changes in baggage policies in the last year mean, at the outset, that most all but elite fliers will pay for checked bags, usually $15 for the first bag and $25 for the second.

And that's if it doesn't exceed the weight limits, which could be as little as 50 pounds. Thankfully, most airlines count a ski or snowboard bag and a separate boot bag as one piece for which you will not incur excess weight charges if they don't exceed the 50-pound limit.

So, for many skiers, the bottom line starts about $80 per round trip, besides the airfare.

Some airlines have less onerous baggage policies. Southwest accepts two pieces of baggage per passenger at no charge. JetBlue carries the first bag for free and charges $20 for the second. Alaska and Horizon (scheduled to begin nonstop service this week between LAX and Mammoth Lakes) likewise transport the first bag for free, but they just consider skis and boots two separate bags.

To figure what you will pay, check the baggage policies on your airline's website.

And if you wish to avoid the situation altogether, you can ship equipment to your lodging. That, however, is not an inexpensive option.

With UPS, weight, distance, delivery commitment and whether the skis or snowboard will be packed in a custom carton ($49.50) or accepted in a sport bag (incurring an irregular package charge of $11.75) factor in the final cost. To ship a single pair of skis or a snowboard overnight from L.A. by air to Lake Tahoe runs about $162. The same service to Aspen, Colo., is $178 and about $206 (two business days) to Whistler, British Columbia.

UPS ground options knock down the prices to about $30 to Lake Tahoe, $36 to Aspen and $53 to Whistler. Transit times run two to four business days.

For skis weighing 30 pounds in a 6-foot-8-inch-by-8-inch ski bag (no customized carton necessary) with a declared value of $500, FedEx will charge about $77 to Lake Tahoe, $174 to Aspen and $236 to Whistler for its priority overnight service (two business days for the latter). Ground shipment rates drop to about $23 for Lake Tahoe, $29 for Aspen and $92 for Whistler.

Luggage Forward, a door-to-door delivery service, selects what it considers the best combination of price and service among several shippers. It backs an on-time guarantee by a refund plus up to $500 per bag for delays. Fees to ship up to two pairs of skis or snowboards in a single bag range from $56 to $163 to Lake Tahoe from L.A. and from $62 to $168 to Aspen for deliveries that can be as fast as overnight or take as long as seven days. Whistler shipments from L.A. take four days and cost $193.

But the delivery services cannot control the fees some resorts charge to accept packages at the properties they manage. Montana's Big Sky, for instance, adds $15 to every incoming shipment; Utah's Deer Valley charges $10 for outgoing parcels.

Some skiers might be persuaded to forgo equipment ownership altogether (or, at least, lugging their equipment on a plane). "A recent trend shows that more guests are traveling with their own boots and choosing to rent at their destination," said Jennifer Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade organization of ski operators.

At Diamond Peak on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, skiers and snowboarders will receive a 50% discount on rentals upon presentation of a Reno, Nev., boarding pass. Jackson Hole, Wyo., rewards online rental reservations with a 20% discount.

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travel@latimes.com

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