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How to carry skis and not look like a gaper

A woman carries her skis
We break down how to carry skis effortlessly so you don't have a breakdown on the long walk to the chairlift (Image credit: Tetra Images - Erik Isakson)

There’s a lot to learn when you’re first starting out with skiing, from how to choose the right ski length to how to get up after falling on skis, but what nobody tells you is that your humiliation as a new skier actually begins on the interminable trudge from the car to the gondola. Knowing how to carry skis doesn’t seem like it’s a point much worth laboring until you find yourself grappling with your skis on the three-mile trek to the base of the hill, alternately tripping, sideswiping the odd parked car and leaving a few concussed skiers in your destructive wake. You’ve spent hours mastering the snowplough in your ski lessons so you don’t wipe out under the chairlift and a small mortgage gearing up with the best ski goggles and ski gloves so you can fit in with the pros, but nothing identifies you as a novice faster than doing the death march through the resort holding your skis out in front of you. 

Skier smiles while a man carrying her skis looks annoyed

Not knowing how to carry skis can end a relationship (Image credit: Chase Jarvis)

Maybe you’ve decided to just carry your skis in one hand like a briefcase, only to drop one with a head-turning clatter each time you swing your arm. Perhaps you’re carrying them single handedly parallel with your body, slightly out in front of you and your arm is starting to ache before you’ve even got out of the parking lot. It could be you’ve gone with the baby cradle approach, carrying your skis horizontally across your body with both hands. Great for social distancing, but not ideal for any small children or private property that dares to enter your orbit. And god forbid you’ve given up carrying your skis altogether and have decided to ski the slushy road back to your car.

A child hugs her skis

It's nice to give your skis a hug, but don't try to carry them like this if you're not 10 years old (Image credit: Maskot)

Whether you’re worried about being called a gaper, or you just want a more efficient way to carry your skis without being on the sharp end of a personal injury lawsuit, knowing how to carry skis makes that journey to the gondola painless, it’s refreshingly easy once you know how, and it doesn’t require you to buy a special carrying strap. In this article, we break down how to carry skis so you don't have a breakdown on your way to the chairlift.

How to carry skis 

A skier in a red jacket carries his ski gear uphill

With a few small refinements, the over-the-shoulder method is  the least burdensome for you, and probably the least dangerous for those around you (Image credit: Westend61)

You’ve no doubt looked on with envy at the locals sauntering breezily around the resort with their skis slung over their shoulders. In fact, on your first day you probably gave it a go, squealed in pain as the bindings cut into your shoulder and quickly went back to the Texas suitcase carrying method. But rest assured, with a few small refinements, the over-the-shoulder method is still the least burdensome for you, and probably the least dangerous for those around you, so let’s break down how to do it properly. We suggest you practice this at home a few times before setting off. 

1. Ready your skis 

Once you’ve got your boots buckled and your gloves on, set your poles aside and get your skis ready for carrying. You’re going to place your skis together with the tips down on the ground so that the bottoms (the part that touches the snow when you’re skiing) touch. With regular bindings, your skis will have brakes on them, which are the two little arms that stick out on either side of the bindings. These stop your skis from disappearing down the hill when you eject, so they’ll come in handy. For now, the only way to get the bottoms of your skis to touch is to lift one a little higher then slide it down so the brakes lock together loosely, keeping the skis touching. 

2. Pick up your skis 

Now, if you try to pick up your skis using the one with the brakes on top, you’ll end up holding that one ski while the other ski clatters loudly to the ground. People will stare. Instead, pick up your skis by the binding of the one that has the brakes on the bottom, closest to the ground. Not only will you get both skis, but thanks to the brakes interlocking, they’ll stay together. 

Best ski goggles

The tips of your skis will be pointing down towards the ground and the tails up towards the sky behind you, so the skis are at a diagonal and angle rather than parallel with the ground (Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Sling your skis nonchalantly over your shoulder 

Keeping your ski tips pointing down, lift the skis by the binding of the one with the brakes on the bottom and place the skis over one shoulder, so that the bindings are just behind your shoulder. Don’t place the bindings on your shoulder as this will hurt – a lot. Make sure the flat, top part of the ski is touching your shoulder and not the edges, which are sharp. 

When you put your skis over your shoulder, make sure that the ski with the brakes on the bottom is the one touching your shoulder. If you get this wrong, then the ski that isn’t touching your shoulder will just slide off with a clatter. People will stare. 

If you get all of this right, the bindings will keep the skis from sliding off your shoulder and the interlocking brakes will keep the ski that’s not touching you from sliding down. The tips of your skis will be pointing down towards the ground and the tails up towards the sky behind you, so the skis are at a diagonal and angle rather than parallel with the ground. You barely need to do anything with your hand other than rest it lightly on your skis. You look cool.

Three skiers walking through a resort with skis over their shoulders

Two of these skiers know what's up (Image credit: Maskot)

4. Walk coolly to the gondola 

It’s time to make your debut. Grab your poles with your other, free hand and get walking. You can carry your poles like a briefcase if you’re pretty confident walking in ski boots, or use them like a walking stick to prevent you from falling but pretend that it’s just how you carry them. No one will know.  Once you get confident, you can even carry your poles in the same hand as your skis and keep the other hand free for high fives.

Remember, ski boots are tricky to walk in and slippery on wet ground, which can be a whole other source of humiliation, so go slow. Don’t make any big, sudden turns and swing your skis around or you could take someone out. If you need to go down stairs, pass the poles into the hand that’s carrying the skis and for the love of god use the handrail. If you need to push your way through a door, it’s best to slide your skis down for a moment and hold them in one hand by the bottom binding, then just hike them back up over your shoulder when you’re through. When you get to the lift line, take them off your shoulder or you’ll be the least popular person in the queue. 

And you’ve made it! You head over to how to stop on skis for some tips on getting back down the hill unscathed.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.