Original Post

MSNBC: Best North American airports for skiers

December 19, 2011

By Harriet Baskas, msnbc.com contributor

Some airports are kid-friendly; others seem made for the business traveler.

But as winter approaches, it may be helpful to know which airports savvy skiers and snowboarders seek out — and where a boarding pass may be exchanged for a free lift ticket.

Grab ‘n’ go No one wants to spend the first hours of a ski vacation hanging around the baggage claim area waiting for their gear to arrive.

That’s why John Hanna, CEO of NimbleTravel.com, recommends Denver International Airport for its “wonderful, dedicated ski baggage return” and “easy transport to the slopes on the Colorado Mountain Express.”

Michael Bociurkiw, founder and editor of My Savvy Traveller, gives props to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and any airport in a city that’s hosted a Winter Olympics. “You can be sure they are well set up to handle winter sports baggage,” said Bociurkiw. “YVR, for example, has a dedicated pickup area in international arrivals for oversized items, including skis.”

Another perk for skiers at YVR is the frequent bus service to Whistler Village, B.C., via Pacific Coach’s YVR Whistler SkyLynx.

Ski-friendly airlines When it comes to ski-friendly airlines, Bociurkiw gives a nod to Alaska Airlines. “They fly to many ski destinations and, like Air Canada, know how to handle checked skis and boards, including special packaging, handling, tagging and dedicated drop-off and pickup stations. Air Canada gives you the option of declaring oversized baggage during online check-in.”

Travelzoo's senior editor Gabe Saglie notes that while most airlines impose strict dimension restrictions on ski equipment, a handful stand out for making it easier to take along skis and boots. “Delta and JetBlue allow skis to go on simply as checked baggage, with standard weight limits,” said Saglie. “And skis are free if they are your first — or only — checked piece of baggage on JetBlue.”

Liftopia co-founder and CEO Evan Reece ranks Southwest Airlines as particularly ski-friendly. “The airline considers a ski bag or snowboard bag, plus your boot bag, an equal trade for a single piece of luggage,” said Reece. “So with a ski bag/boot bag and one other piece of checked baggage, there are no fees on Southwest.”

Fly in. Ski free. The special section for ski and snowboard bags at baggage claim gets high marks at Salt Lake City International Airport, as does a program that allows arriving passengers to ski for free. Via the Park City Quick START (Ski Today and Ride Today) Vacation program, travelers may convert their airline boarding pass into a same-day lift ticket at Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley Resort.

Skiers arriving at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport can also swap their boarding passes for free ski-lift tickets at Squaw Valley, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, and at its sister resort, Alpine Meadows, just north of Tahoe City.