Ski Weather Flying Tips: How to Prepare for the Unpredictable

Ski Weather Flying Tips: How to Prepare for the Unpredictable

The holidays are the busiest time of year for traveling, many are heading to snow, sun, or to visit family. Flying privately gets you the closest to your ski destination in the shortest amount of time. While still giving a considerable advantage over commercial flying, it does come with the most restrictions and likelihood for delays compared to flying private to other destinations.

Having accurate expectations and understanding the limitations will help make the overall experience more seamless and stress free. To help you be prepared we’ve compiled a list of top winter travel trips from Schubach Aviation’s pilots and charter coordinators.

Strategic Scheduling

Avoid the Busiest Days.

When possible, it’s best to avoid flying on the busiest travel days such as the weekend after Christmas and New Year’s. These weekend days bring the greatest volume of traffic to and from ski airports. Last year, for example, there were 4-6 hour delays in Aspen and Vail, with jets waiting in line for hours before departure. If you absolutely must fly during this time, we recommend an early morning departure since delays tend to build up as the day continues.

Know Your Window for Departure Times.

It’s also important to note that most charter companies adhere to daylight-only operations rules when flying into mountainous airports. Make sure to plan your arrival and departure accordingly, you’ll need to land about half an hour earlier than sunset when flying into these mountainous airports.This will give pilots enough time to depart back out before sunset. Your charter company should always advise in advance on operational time restrictions like this.

Book SUV Rentals in Advance.

Make sure to book SUV rentals in advance as they tend to book up early around the holidays, and always confirm the rate if your charter company is arranging the rental for you. Exorbitant holiday price increases are not uncommon at these airports and sometimes simply switching rental car agencies can make a big difference in cost.

Pack Accordingly

Ensure the Aircraft is Equipped For Your Equipment.

Make sure your charter company clearly communicates luggage restrictions before the day of the flight. Some private airplanes are equipped to carry ski equipment while others are not. Even the jets that are equipped with room for skis have limitations on how many sets they can fit. We recommend that you remove skis and snowboards from carrying cases and removing the bindings when possible.

Packing Considerations.

More passengers and more ski equipment also mean less room for luggage. Soft, duffel-style bags are recommended since they’re easier to work around skis and snowboards in the baggage compartment than hard suitcases. It’s also recommended that you wear or carry your warm, bulky jackets and boots instead of packing them away in your bags. Not only does this open up more space in the baggage compartment, you’ll have immediate access to them when you step out into colder temperatures.

Weather Considerations

Stay Open-Minded about Departure Times.

Unpredictable winter weather can affect your travel schedule. Try to stay open-minded about your departure times as they can easily change on the day of departure. A good charter company will be in constant communication with you to let you know about possible weather-related delays. If weather systems are moving in and out, it could be best to be standing by at the airport so you can depart the moment a window of opportunity opens. Either way, your charter operator should be infrequent and clear communication to make sure you understand your options.

Have a Plan in Advance for Alternate Airports.

Unfavorable weather conditions may necessitate the need to use a backup airport. At times pilots will not know if an airport is clear to land until they are mid-flight. If the airport is not clear an alternate airport will need to be used. If this is a possibility, your charter company should work with you in advance to identify the best alternate airport in terms of safety and proximity to your intended destination. They should also work with you to develop an alternate plan for transportation. Your charter operator can arrange to have backup transportation standing by at the alternate airport to make your transition to your destination as seamless as possible.

Expect to See De-icing Bills After a Flight.

Anytime you are traveling in an area with freezing temperatures, de-icing may be necessary. It is an essential safety measure that should never be overlooked by your pilots. Since it’s tough to predict when it will be needed and how much will be necessary it isn’t billed until after the flight. The cost can range from a few hundred dollars for light jets up to a couple thousand for heavy jets. This is an added cost you should be prepared for when flying into snowy regions during the winter time.

Safety Should Always be Paramount, Even When Under Time Constraints.

As winter weather and unfavorable conditions place demands on the aircraft and crew,  it’s important to accept the decision of the pilots to delay or divert. Many travelers mistakenly believe that snow is the determining factor in whether or not it’s safe to land or depart, but visibility in combination with snow, ice, and runway surface conditions are all factors the pilots must weigh.

The most important safety component in any aircraft is a well-trained and safe pilot. Only fly with experienced operators that have an in-house Safety Management System (SMS) and strictly adhere to FAA Part 135 guidelines whom you trust to make these important decisions. This is the most important advice we can offer. Schubach Aviation pilots are trained in flight simulators for the worst weather situations, and this training helps them to develop a threshold of safety that we must adhere to.

Please let us know if there are any other flight-related questions we can answer!

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Kimberly Herrell
Kimberly Herrell