6 min read

How to ship winter sports equipment to your customers

Doug Pohl

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Shipping winter sports equipment can be a pain. Things like skis and snowboards are big, bulky, and heavy—aka, they’re expensive to ship.

You want customers to smile when they open the box, but the packing requirements and shipping costs can quickly erode your bottom line.

Thankfully, there are some simple ways to get your gear safely where it needs to be without destroying your margins. The first step is choosing the right shipping carrier.

Choose the right shipping carrier

On the surface, it’s easy to think that shipping carriers are all pretty similar. UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL—they’re all the same, right? Wrong. 

When we look beneath the surface, we see that each one is different, with a unique set of strengths that may or may not fit your needs. That’s why it’s important to do your homework before starting a relationship with a carrier.

At the most basic level, you need to consider your budget, shipping volume, and the types of products you sell. But that’s all table stakes. To find the perfect fit, you need to dig deeper. 

Take time to consider your internal operations and how they impact your perceived options. For example, total up your warehousing and labor costs, along with the packaging materials you use to keep products safe.

Once you know the numbers, take a step back to evaluate your options. Talk with each potential carrier to find out how they will classify and handle your products and the price they’ll charge you for the service.

For instance, the dimensional threshold of an irregular package varies between carriers. Coming in under that number can translate into huge cost savings and be a major factor in which carrier you decide to work with.

Bonus tip: You might also consider working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) to help manage your fulfillment and shipping. Carriers give 3PLs volume-based discounts, and there’s a decent chance they can get a lower price than you.

Pack your equipment carefully

If your team handles fulfillment in-house, make sure each order is packed carefully to limit the risk of damaged products getting returned, while also protecting your customers’ experience and your bottom line.

General tips for shipping winter sports equipment

The best packaging methods will depend on your products, but check out these general tips for shipping your gear.

  • Don’t skimp on the packing materials.
    Use ample bubble wrap, foam padding, air cushioning, etc. A little extra protection is better (and cheaper) than a damaged product getting returned. Make sure to use high-quality, durable packing tape, as well.
  • Pick the right box.
    Choose a box that’s strong enough to take a hit (think, 200-pound burst strength). It’s also smart to work with your carrier or 3PL shipping partner to find the ideal dimensions that will limit your shipping costs while still protecting each product.
  • Consider your brand.
    Remember, the moment customers receive their product is a part of their journey with your brand. Find ways to keep their experience consistent throughout the buying process, like branded packaging, engaging inserts, and included “freebies.”

How to pack snow skis for shipping

  • Remove brakes and/or bindings.
    Detaching the brakes (or the entire bindings) can reduce the chances they’ll get damaged in transit. If that’s not an option, consider ways to secure the brakes in the “up position” so they can’t slip down and potentially puncture the packaging.
  • Join skis together.
    Place the skis base-to-base and tip-to-tail, and secure them together with zip ties or adhesive tape that won’t leave a residue on the product. Place a thin piece of paper or soft material between the skis to limit the chance of scratching.
  • Protect the skis.
    Wrap skis securely in bubble wrap. Make it tight and tape it off to make sure the wrap won’t come loose. Don’t forget to protect the tips and tails, too.
  • Use a right-sized box.
    Place skis in a box that’s appropriate for their size. You need a “Goldilocks box”—not too big, not too small. You can also work with your carrier to understand the costs of more durable shapes, like shipping tubes or triangular boxes.
  • Fill the empty space.
    Leaving wiggle room in boxes creates more opportunity for damage. Limit the chance of skis moving around by filling gaps with foam or air cushioning.

A note on bindings: Bindings might fit inside the same box as the skis or snowboards, but not necessarily. Explore your options and crunch the numbers to see what will give customers the best experience while keeping your costs down.

How to pack snowboards for shipping

  • Remove the bindings.
    Shipping a snowboard without the bindings will reduce the size of the box you need and limit your shipping costs. It also helps make sure the bindings aren’t damaged in transit.
  • Protect the snowboard.
    Wrap your product with bubble wrap from tip to tail. It’s better to have too much than too little. Don’t forget to cover the ends and tape it all off so the wrap won’t budge.
  • Use a box that fits.
    The box you use should fit the snowboard that’s shipped. It needs to be “just right”—not too big, not too small. Your carrier can also help you explore the costs of customized packaging.
  • Get rid of the wiggle room.
    Leaving gaps in boxes increases the odds that your product will get damaged. Reduce the risk by filling gaps with air cushioning or foam.

Deliver a great customer experience

Yes, customers expect to get their gear quickly and safely. And following the tips above can go a long way toward meeting their expectations. But there’s a much bigger opportunity here. 

Think of order fulfillment and shipping as an extension of your brand. Everything you do—or don’t do—will be judged, so it’s important to uncover and maximize every opportunity.

Consider these tips for enhancing your customers’ purchasing experience:

  • Find the right shipping partner.
    Work with a 3PL who understands what fast, reliable delivery means for your business and cares about your customers as much as you do.
  • Keep customers excited.
    People are pumped to get their new gear, right? Support that feeling with real-time tracking and shipping updates. With a little creativity, these touchpoints can also be great opportunities to reinforce your brand.
  • Get feedback.
    Include a packing insert with a QR code that links to a feedback survey or to your Google page so they can leave a review. This lets customers know you care about their experience and want to continually improve.

Shipping winter sports equipment can be tricky, especially when fulfillment and delivery have such a big impact on your customers’ experience. For many businesses like yours, it’s nice to have some help.

Red Stag Fulfillment is a third-party logistics provider specializing in big, bulky products that are generally tough to ship, including winter sports equipment.

We offer a variety of services, like warehousing, inventory management, omnichannel shipping, and Amazon’s Seller-fulfilled Prime. We’ll work closely with you to understand your business and customize our services to meet your needs.

We were founded by ecommerce business owners who were sick of 3PLs who didn’t deliver the right experience for their clients. We’re rooted in that drive for great service, and we have the guarantees to back it up.

Reach out to learn how Red Stag Fulfillment can help your winter sports ecommerce business.

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Red Stag Fulfillment is a 3PL founded by ecommerce operators, and built for scaling businesses.

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