The first rule is that baggage rules vary among airlines. While it's true that traveling skiers seem to be getting dinged more often these days, knowing an airline's policy in advance (it can be found on most major carriers' websites) can help you plan. Still, some general rules seem to apply universally, and here's the skinny: Most airlines we checked with told us that an entire set of ski equipment — one pair of skis, one pair of boots and a set of poles — qualifies as one piece of checked luggage. That's true even if you carry all the gear in separate bags, such as, say, a ski bag with skis and poles and a separate boot bag. So you can still check one bag full of clothing without exceeding your luggage limit. (Some carriers make a distinction between boot bags that are also duffle bags and boot bags that are just boot bags. The former will count as your second piece of checked luggage.) That said, you will get hit with an excess baggage charge — usually $50 per bag — if you stuff your ski or boot bags so they weigh more than the allotted 50 pounds combined (yes, combined). Another point to keep in mind is that some airlines limit each passenger to one set of ski equipment, so if you're traveling alone with two pairs of skis in that same ski bag, you may get charged. If you're with a companion, using a double bag for both skis should be fine. You can always skip the hassle altogether and use an equipment-delivery service such as Sports Express. It's about $80, one way, to ship a pair of skis and poles from New York to Salt Lake City.
Travel Question: Flying the Friendly Skies