ski-air travel stories


Active member
In another thread James mentioned that he obtained a better outcome in a baggage dispute at an Austrian airport because he knew how to cuss in German :mrgreen:

What are some of your better/worse/most memorable air travel stories while on ski trips?

I probably have more ski-road trip stories than air travel stories, but there is one airline situation I take tightwad pride in... about five years ago I flew Frontier for a ten-day ski trip from the East Coast to Utah. My skis, poles, and a few personal items were already in Utah and I was determined to avoid baggage fees. I made everything else for a ten day ski trip fit into a smallish backpack (at no charge) OR I wore it on my body. I carried my ski helmet in my hand and was ready to put it on my head if questioned. Had a good time on that trip. :ski:
My ski boots took up most of the small backpack!
Here's another travel story that I'd mentally blocked out, similar to the Lufthansa/Austrian Airlines baggage-fee surprise mentioned in the Euro forum. Jason thoughtfully reminded me.

Late January 2017: I'd booked a FF-award flight to Zurich for a week in the eastern Swiss cantons of Glarus and Graubünden. While checking in for my flight, the machine kept giving me a "please see a United Airlines customer service representative" error message when I scanned in my passport, so I tried a different kiosk but got the same result. I collared a rep who tried with her magic employee card (which usually bypasses all sorts of issues); however, she couldn't get it to work either.

Finally, she turns to me and say, "ah, now I see -- you're not allowed to travel to Europe. Your passport expires soon." I showed her that the passport expired in a little less than three months, 88 days to be exact; however, she pointed out that to be admitted through an airport into any Schengen country, you need at least 90 days on your passport (apparently a 9/11-related regulation that I wasn't aware of). She convened with colleagues and all three of them came over and advised me on my options:

1. They couldn't stop me from flying to Zurich on my existing itinerary; however, Swiss customs wouldn't allow me through and I'd have to take the next flight back to the States.
2. I could hurry over to the nearby full-service passport office in Newark and try to get an ultra-expedited passport, which would cost several hundred dollars; however, the office had already closed for the day.
3. I could be re-routed to England -- which isn't part of the Schengen countries and doesn't have the 90-day rule -- and take a train (approx. nine hours) to my target region.

None of those were appealing and given that the forecast for the coming week was dry and overcast, I decided to pack it in and head home. To United's credit, they didn't charge me the $150 fee to put the miles back on my account.

Since you have to enter your passport number into the airline interface when booking a flight, I asked why it didn't immediately reject my departure date due to the 90-day requirement. They explained that the passport info you provide goes directly to Customs and Border Protection, which doesn't interact with the airline. That seemed preposterous to me but what could I do?

I immediately got a new passport and flew to Switzerland five weeks later on my Valais visit; however, I still remember that odd feeling riding home in the Uber car -- I was all mentally and physically prepared to fly overseas for an Alps visit, had been looking forward to it for weeks, and suddenly the whole thing went poof.
Ouch James. For reference there are some countries that you must have a minimum of 6 months left on your passport to be allowed into the country. Not that I've tried, but it has come up as a reference point when booking certain business trips over the years.

I have relatively few Ski related air-travel stories of my own. There were a couple of times that I ended up in big arguments at check-in that the boot bag was part of the ski/boot bag combo that you only paid for as if a single item (Yes I did check my boot bag sometimes - especially on the way home).

I know of several stories for others though. My brother for example has had a couple of issues.

He ran into the 1 hour international rule once and had to fly in a day late. EG he showed up for an international flight (to Canada) to check in with less than an hour before the official flight time. That's controlled by the computers so even though he was only like 2 literal minutes late from that metric, the computers would not let him check-in and no override allowed by ground personnel.

Flying to Europe to meet up with me in the French Alps to hit Chamonix and LaGrave, Delta lost his bags. We both flew into Geneva, though I was a couple days earlier than he (I wasn't messing around and planned a full 2 week trip). Anyway we had to rent him skis (he had his boot bag as a carry on), buy some soft gear and normal clothes and he borrowed a couple of my items to get on the hill for the first two days. By the time the airline found his stuff we were in LaGrave and the airline had to hire a taxi to drive 3+ hours to deliver it.

Another time my brother and his whole family were supposed to meet us in Steamboat just after Christmas. Due to huge wind storm running through the east his flight was cancelled out of Rochester NY. They ended up arriving 2 days late since all the flights were full.

There are other similar stories for my annual Guys trip. Cancelled flights out of JFK by our NYC contingent, so they drove north stayed with my parents and left the next morning out of Syracuse as the only flight they could substitute on short notice. They also flew into SanFran instead of the original Reno and then drove the whole way to Tahoe to get in a whopping couple of days of skiing. That's some dedication to the Guys trip!

Personally I've had to cancel a trip to back east for Christmas which did typically include some skiing, though not the primary point of the trip. That was due to DIA closing for several days due to a blizzard. I looked at driving to Cheyenne, Colo Springs, even Omaha, NE but the driving was terrible, the flights were nonsensical since everything is already so busy over the holidays, etc... I just stayed home that year and skied Breck (I have friends up there and stayed with them). Fortunately it was a good early snow year and the blizzard had also gotten some snow up in the central mtns too, so mostly open.

I'm sure James, Tony and plenty others have just as many overall flying stories as I, but certainly a large portion of the things that can go poorly or flat out wrong or etc... has happened in my flying career. Including emergency landings, tons of lost luggage stories, missed connections, diverting to other airports for destination part way through a trip, cancelled flights, and on, and on and etc...

eg I could go on and on and on about flying issues and stories outside of skiing trips.
One of my Alps stories is detailed here.

I still have not had a 100% clean airline trip to the Alps, though the glitches on the last two were trivial.
2004: Delay leaving Geneva so tight connection in Frankfurt to fly home. I made the connection but my bags didn't. It's not a big deal when it's on the way home and you get your bags in a day or two.
2008: Lyon-CDG-Cincinnati-SLC was asking for trouble. My bags were missing 3 of the 4 days I skied Utah, but fortunately admin outfitted me head to toe. This one was still the worst because I had to rent boots as well as skis.
2013: This trip was via Heathrow on my friend Richard's American FF miles. About 3 inches of snow shut down Heathrow for 24 hours, and we barely got a reservation on our connecting flight the next day by using $45 in cell phone roaming while in a holding area. We arrived at the Sandhof in Austria at 11PM, missing dinner but they put out a nice cold cut spread for us. My skis arrived 3 days later.
2014: Our skis made it to Geneva but regular suitcases did not make it to Zermatt until 30 hours later. I had learned my lesson from 2008 and had a bootbag backpack with a day's worth of ski clothing as carry-on. Liz says this one was a win as we did some shopping in Zermatt at Delta's expense.
2017: Amsterdam had fog so our takeoff from Geneva was delayed. We missed our direct flight home and were diverted via Heathrow, getting home 7 hours late and missing a Super Bowl party.
Jan. 2018: Details in link above. Bags arrived at LAX only 10 hours late but on a different airline and were put in storage. We had to make repeated phone calls and eventually drive out to LAX 4 days later for pickup.
Apr. 2018: LAX-CDG-GVA no problem. GVA-CDG-Reykyavik-Akureyri no problem. Reykyavik-Portland OR no problem. Portland-Oakland-Burbank on Southwest? Bags did not make the connection! But Southwest flies OAK-BUR every hour so we just waited for the next flight, no big deal.
2019: In bound flight to Amsterdam missed GVA connection. We arrived GVA on a 3 hour later flight, which had no real effect upon our trip.

James, please note from 2017 and 2019 examples that AMS seems comparably subject to snafus as CDG, though there's no question the physical transfer process at CDG is more of a PITA.

I guess I should mention while on the subject of Europe that I flew NONSTOP JFK-Rome in May 2004 after a Princeton reunion and arrived sans luggage. This was a potential nail biter as I was getting on a cruise ship 36 hours later. Fortunately my bag showed up the next morning so I got the port transfer driver to swing by the airport to pick it up.

I don't seem to have much difficulty going the other direction: no problems on 2 ski trips to Japan, 3 dive trips to Indonesia and Micronesia, one trip to Thailand and several to Australia/New Zealand. One of the eclipse trips to China had an unscheduled delay transferring in Shanghai on the way to Beijing and similarly there was once a 3 hour delay in Brisbane on the way to NZ.

Some of you may recall last December we dodged a bullet when neither United not Air Canada bothered to inform me that our flight to Argentina had been cancelled.

In 2006 one of my Canadian trips Burbank - Seattle - Kamloops had multiple screwups. The Burbank flight took off late and missed the connection in Seattle. The geographically challenged Alaska Airlines agent in Seattle booked me to Vancouver, which is a 4 hour drive to Kamloops. I got her to switch me to Kelowna, which is still a 2 hour drive that cost Alaska $215CDN in taxi fare to get me to the Kamloops hotel where Mike Wiegele heliskiing was picking me up the next morning.

The return flight out of Kamloops was also delayed, so I was routed through Vancouver and Portland to LAX. :twisted: To Alaska's credit, I wrote them a letter about these flights and they gave me a voucher which I used for spring skiing at Bachelor the next season.
Tony Crocker":1h4mxpvc said:
James, please note from 2017 and 2019 examples that AMS seems comparably subject to snafus as CDG, though there's no question the physical transfer process at CDG is more of a PITA.
Not sure what to say -- I've transferred through Schiphol a number of times without incident, as well as CDG and LHR, two of the biggest PITA airports ever. My passport anecdote above ultimately wasn't airline- or airport-related so it seems like my only true ski-air war story is the baggage-fee verbal fisticuffs. That said; I just booked flights to Toulouse through LHR for my second attempt at a Pyrenees visit so let's see how that goes.
jamesdeluxe":1gzie1ot said:
my second attempt at a Pyrenees visit
I've been browsing Jimmy Petterson's Skiing Around the World this summer and he has some nice stories from the Pyrenees. Baquiera Beret is the biggest place but he was partial to Candanchu and Astun for steeper terrain. A lot of the off-piste ends at roads rather than lifts so it looks wise to find some local guides.

He visited Andorra too, said Grandvilara is mainly piste skiing and Arcalis had more variety.

He said the Pyrenees were a great value but keep in mind the book was published in 2006.
Good stuff. You guys stirred my memory.

In April 2007 I flew with wife and three teenagers from East Coast to ski several days in Colorado. Had a great and snowy visit at Keystone and Loveland. Went to catch early morning flight home and cut our arrival at airport too close, arrived about 75 minutes before flight, missed it. My fault. I didn't realize the airport was mobbed at 5:30 AM with thousands of people whose flights were canceled the day before due to a storm. Security line was horrendous. The five of us spent much of the day trying to catch another flight east out of Denver. Finally got one around 2 PM. My nephew was with us and got a free bump on that plane ride to first class. He thought the whole screw-up ended great :)

Flight bumping payments: My son moved to Utah in 2015 and I started to make a lot of flights from East Coast to SLC since then to go skiing, although most recently I am driving and staying for months instead of weeks. In the 2015-19 time frame I voluntarily took flight bumps for good remuneration several times since I was partially retired and had flexible schedules. Delta flights leaving SLC on Sunday evenings around 5-6 PM for the East Coast are particularly popular with skiers in winter with good chances for voluntary bumps. Once my wife and I took a bump for $800 each in flight credits to leave SLC at 1130PM instead of 530PM. Another time I got $600 in a gift card (could use for anything, not just flying) to take a similar bump. Used the $600 later to pay for gas when driving to/from Utah :)
jimk":122a4fme said:
Once my wife and I took a bump for $800 each in flight credits to leave SLC at 1130PM instead of 530PM. Another time I got $600 in a gift card (could use for anything, not just flying) to take a bump. Used the $600 later to pay for gas when driving to Utah :)
Wow, that's impressive compensation. This was recently?

I've taken red-eye Delta flights from SLC a few times but obviously prefer the late-afternoon departures after skiing.
The $600-800 payments were around 2017-18. Interestingly, one of those bumps was not because of too many passengers, but because all the ski gear on the plane made it too heavy for takeoff. Also got a payment/credit at that time frame for $200 for involuntary bump when there was an ice storm in Atlanta that screwed up Delta schedules all across the country and I had to return to my son's house for one extra night. I guess the 200 was for hotel/cab.
jimk":3l32nezr said:
The $600-800 payments were around 2017-18.
That makes sense. I don't believe the airlines are being that generous these days with bump compensation.

jimk":3l32nezr said:
Interestingly, one of those bumps was not because of too many passengers, but because all the ski gear on the plane made it too heavy for takeoff.
That's been a factor on two of my Jackson Hole visits -- on the return flight, my skis arrived the next day because the commuter plane between Jackson and SLC was too heavy. I didn't care and it saved time in Newark because I could go directly home without waiting for my ski and boot bags.
jamesdeluxe":1pvglaqv said:
That makes sense. I don't believe the airlines are being that generous these days with bump compensation.
That is my view. I suspect the algorithms have been improved so that the airlines can predict occupancy more precisely. Not only have I not taken bump compensation for awhile, there just don't seem to be as many gate announcements offering it.

I would guess I've taken bump compensation 5-6 times, all in the $200-$400 range. I've occasionally heard higher offers (once over $1,000 I think) but when I've been on a tight schedule and been unable to accept. My best deal was $400 on a redeye coming home from Honolulu in August 2011. I was staying in a friend's condo so it was easy to spend an extra night. On the next morning's flight home I was bumped up to first class and I applied the $400 right away to the November 2011 trip to Argentina.
jamesdeluxe":lut132ls said:
I don't believe the airlines are being that generous these days with bump compensation.

I was offered $400 for a flight this August by the computers at check-in, then an increased amount of $600 for the flight at the airport kiosk as I printed my baggage tag. With my very ill fathers needs and crazy busy business schedule this summer, there was no option for me to actually take it and be flexible though. Although I guess a silver lining of I certainly don't have to worry about airline status through next year. Speaking of which, I'm on a plane in less than 24hrs. I'll let you know if there are any interesting tales this go-round :bow: .

But the computers clearly have a read on what it takes to get folks to take a different flight and keeps raising it until enough take the bait.
EMSC said:
With my very ill fathers needs and crazy busy business schedule this summer
Is there any option to move him to Colorado? That's what we did with my mother two years ago -- whenever I'm in Denver for my job, like right now, I stay at her place near Iliff and 225. Took her a while to get used to life out here but she's doing fine now.
I have a few road-trip stories, including sitting in SUV with two teenagers at Silver Lake, 5 miles from Kirkwood with 24" new, from early morning into early afternoon before deciding the avalanche-prone Carson Spur was not going to open, and getting to rental at Tahoe Donner while others who were a couple of hours behind never made it, but not many ski-air travel stories. My worst ski-air travel was being delayed in San Jose so I arrived Denver (due to snow) later than planned, cutting my time at A-Basin on arrival day.

I received $300 credit in Seattle for a bump on free using Alaska mile trip home from Calgary that I used to fly my wife and son to Whistler that Spring. I was only delayed about 90 minutes getting to San Jose by taking next flight so my wife still got to leave her office a mile from SJC early. They were offering $400 to take a later flight to Calgary on way up, but since I was meeting Tony Crocker there and we were driving to Banff, it wouldn't work. Both times I flew to Calgary to meet him, we were both in baggage claim at the same time.

I've probably shared this here before, but it was a very worthwhile voluntary bump so I'll do it again. My wife, son and I were returning from Spain a day or two after the 7/7/2005 London bus bombings and had two free days in London hotel courtesy of British Airways on the way home. We tried to get out of stopover and when we couldn't rented a car vs. taking train/subway to Imperial Wharf. On the last morning, between the very early Summer light and misreading my watch, we got out of hotel and to airport early. They were looking for volunteers and gave us 400 pounds cash each and put us up in airport hotel with meals. We turned it into $660 each for a total of almost $2K to spend another day and night in England. We tried to take bus to Windsor Castle, but were at wrong stop, so it passed us by so we went to pool at hotel. We got Business Class seats for long flight home the next day. Our son is still wondering about his share.
Have a few that spring to mind.

2002, first ever trip to Montana/Idaho/Washington that we booked ourselves. To get out of Aberdeen the previous days final KLM flight from AMS must land at 10pm for it to take off at 6am. Anyway, we were on the 9am flight out but there had been a problem the day before with a plane and the 10pm flight had not arrived. Next day we got to check-in, my dad asked if there were any issues carried over from the previous day and of course we were told "no".

Thru to departures, "ding dong" flight blah delayed 15 minutes. While later ding dong and a while after that and another after that the final ding dong was to tell us the flight had been cancelled and to go to the desk for a change of flight or refund. 200 folks in the queue we were 1/2 way back and the queue was not moving so I went for a pint and came back. I had ~6 pints before we were near the front. "Hello, we would like to get an alternative flight please", "sorry, nothing available today"... "tomorrow?" "No, nothing"... "Monday?".... "No nothing, you see it was a safety issue"... "I never mentioned safety, I've paid a lot of money for this trip and I want rerouted"... "Sorry sir, I've checked and there is nothing available to get you to Montana we will give you a refund"...

"Look it is your responsibility to get me to my end destination, I don't care a jot how you get me there"... "But it was a safety issue with the plane"... "I don't care, and I wont move a muscle til you get me on a flight to my end destination".... "tap tap tap.... here are 3 tickets, turn up for checkin tomorrow at 4am, and by the way its 1st class all the way"

It wasn't 1st class but Business class was a nice start to the trip altho it meant missing a day at Marshall Mtn which is no longer open and I'm sick that I missed it twice due to changes in itinery etc. A random woman at departures the next morning also told us it took something like 40 minutes from getting to front of the queue to us actually getting our tickets so my spiel above is very much a short version!

In 2003 I flew alone and when sitting in MSP waiting to fly to Kalispell the ding dong went again this time to tell me that our plane had arrived from Houston but we couldn't use it as the pilot had advised on landing that the "bolts securing the engine were loose". Thankfully another plane was wheeled around and we were only an hour late.

I've then had 2 passport issues. First time was mid 2000's when I renewed it and was filling in the green waver form on the plane and spotted that they had incorrectly put down 22nd May rather than 28th May as birthday. WTF do you do mid Atlantic, so I decided to just put 22nd on the forms. Worked a treat and did so for the next 10 years but then in came all your rip off online stuff that us visitors pay to get pre approval to come to the USA. So again I put 22nd and that was fine til I renewed and got my passport corrected to 28th and was crapping myself that someone would see on the system that my DOB had suddenly changed. Thankfully not but in the first couple trips some airline checkin person stuck my baggage tag onto the photo page of my passport. When it was removed it took a very small tear of 1/2 of one number out of the passport number(even still its on multiple other places)

I never though nothing of it and flew back and forth to USA and Europe for several years without incident until my hunting/skiing trip in November 2018 when I got to Amsterdam and despite having checked in at Aberdeen suddenly they were pulling me up on it. An official went to the US border control in AMS and granted me permission to fly on the understanding on my return to Aberdeen I would get it renewed. No problem.

I got into the USA, I got my buck and skied some amazing early season pow at Discovery. I checked into Bozeman of all places and the woman at Delta pulled me up and basically refused to let me travel on a damaged passport and that I would have to go to my nearest consulate in blinking New York or wherever. Shambles. After an hour of them discussing it I was allowed to travel as far as MSP with no guarantee I would get further but was pretty sure the gate attendant wouldn't give a toss about my passport which turned out to be the case thankfully. My antlers and all my smuggled meat made it back easier than I did but I did get the passport changed :lol:
jamesdeluxe said:
Is there any option to move him to Colorado?

That was offered to him and rejected by him at one point along the way. Moot now as the sad news is he passed away in August. The whole thing is a long story for sure. But I'm still flying into upstate NY pretty frequently to deal with the aftermath.

Speaking of which, Den to SYR through ORD in October; what could possibly go wrong? Close to everything actually:

Weather delays in ORD so have to have an approved time slot, wait 30 minutes for that, head to the runway just as the wind shifts and now Denver control pushes us across the entire massive airport to a different runway. Takes too long so we miss our slot and have to wait for a new one... Shut one engine down to save fuel while waiting on the tarmac. 30 min later start up the 2nd engine for new time slot. Just sit on the taxiway, then captain comes on the PA to say after restart they now have an engine anomaly that they and maint cannot get rid of and we return to the gate. Wait 2+ hours for new aircraft. Eventually make it to ORD by 11p and spend night at the ORD Hilton and make it to SYR the next day by ~10a (about 13 hours later than planned). The key was using my status with United to get hotel and food vouchers during the wait for a new plane instead of waiting till we landed in ORD. And the real miracle was having a checked bag make it to the correct SYR plane the following morning (I arranged that explicitly with cust service as well, as I was not getting and then re-checking a bag during a short night). I even got ~6 hours of sleep which is not all that bad for such a scenario.

But not a skiing story, so...
EMSC said:
Den to SYR through ORD in October; what could possibly go wrong? Close to everything actually
Ugh, that's an awful story. Doesn't United and/or Frontier have a nonstop DEN to SYR flight? Back in the 80s between those two cities, I had to change planes in ORD (United and American) or EWR (People's Express and Continental) and had minor delays but nothing like your recent experience/staying overnight in a hotel.

EMSC said:
the real miracle was having a checked bag make it to the correct SYR plane the following morning
On my almost monthly EWR to DEN trips, I usually book the cheapest flight of the day (late afternoon), but go standby on an earlier departure. Even though the planes leave virtually 100% full, I always get a seat and United puts a "status to be confirmed" coded tag on my checked-in bag so it goes on the flight I actually take. That's probably how it worked with you. Some things have actually improved in air travel!
jamesdeluxe said:
Ugh, that's an awful story. Doesn't United and/or Frontier have a nonstop DEN to SYR flight?

Frontier no longer flies direct (pandemic chopped that route), and actually lists flying through Orlando on a red eye as an option for Denver traveller's to SYR which is nuts IMO.

United does have a direct flight (which I was on for the way home). The issue is that sometimes the price for the direct is outrageous - $1K type prices to go both ways on it in economy class. Other times a bit pricy, but not horrible. So my trips have been a mix of using it or not based on price.

As to stories, I have had far more than my share this summer alone. So many delayed or changed flights, etc... I've even changed destinations mid-trip while sitting in IAD to get where I needed to, etc...
EMSC said:
pandemic chopped that route
Given that I haven't been back to the Belle Province in an astounding ten years, I was entertaining a three-day visit to Quebec's Charlevoix region to check out Le Massif's new Club Med along with a day at under-the-radar Massif du Sud but realised yesterday that the nonstops from the NYC region -- twice daily from both Newark and JFK -- were axed by the pandemic and haven't been reinstated. A shame as that 75-minute flight to Quebec City was very convenient and I don't have the time to road-trip up there/that's more than eight hours of driving.
I have been relatively lucky on my ski trips.

However, I organize my luggage in the following manner:
1. Checked ski bag on rollers. For me - it is a quite large Dakine bag that can fit 2 skis and all my street /ski clothing. I measure to around 50 lbs with an electronic scale. Sometimes I will curbside check the bag since if you tip the guy - he's not going to weigh it. It's my cheap overage fee.
2. Carry-On Ski Boot Backpack. It's another Dakine piece with 2 compartments: boots and clothing. I try to put a day of ski clothing in here.

Two ski trip snafus were the following:
1. Trip to Lake Placid / Whiteface to visit East Coast friends.
I had boots but not clothing. Under airline policy, you are entitled to spend up to $750 on equipment if the delay impairs your vacation activity. So I went shopping, got new gear/rentals, and sent in a claim for $550. Southwest wrote me a check for $550 and gave me a travel voucher since it took 2 days to deliver my ski bag (2.5 hours from Albany).

2. Trip to Portland to visit friends for skiing.
United delayed my ski bag - so I went shopping again for $600 of gear/rentals. United gave me $300 dollars and a voucher for $300. So I filed a claim with my credit card company since the airline only gave me $300 cash. Chase bank sent me a check for $300.

That's fine if you lose my luggage, but the airline is going to pay up to $750 for gear replacement/rentals. I just send in a nice note, well documented, expressing how I appreciate the airline, but there was a snafu.

That said, I generally purchase gear online so I can document each item that went missing with a receipt and I attach each one with the claim. And then document the replacement item/rental.