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Airport travel with Stephan Drake

 It's hard to complain when it comes to ski travel. Sure, a lot can go wrong. Simply getting to drive or fly somewhere to follow storms in mountain ranges around the world is fortunate enough. Stephan Drake penned the following for The New York Times travel series on business travel in airports around the world  From Japan to Alaska, hear some of his experiences over the last twenty years... I am a professional skier, an athlete ambassador for Patagonia clothing, and founder and CEO of ski manufacturer, DPS Skis, which is based in Salt Lake City, UT. I have spent a good portion of my life traveling around the globe chasing snow with large bags full of ski equipment in tow. In my twenties, I basically lived out of a large duffel bag, and employed a trusty quiver of sleeping bags to lay my head down on a never-ending series of couches, floors, campers, and tents—all in the name of chasing powder. PowTime2015_blog2_image2 I like window seats. I think many people these days take for granted the artistry of the view from a plane. Being that close to clouds, the sky, and looking down on the earth is a treat. When I went into the business side of skiing, I would often feel guilty and lazy when I saw business people working away on laptops on complex spreadsheets during a flight. For me, a plane ride is a time to look out the window, dream and strategize about the big picture. Like the shower, it’s a time where ideas come, so I still keep my laptop closed. Airports can still be romantic, especially when on a grand adventure. I’ll never forget the feeling of landing in Hokkaido, Japan last year, with massive snowflakes the size of silver dollars falling quietly down outside the terminal. I had an amazing Udon Noodle soup and boarded a bus into the storm toward three of the deepest, most amazing powder days of my life. I get a similar feeling every time I land in Juneau, Alaska and pass the giant stuffed Grizzly Bear in the baggage claim before hopping onto a small puddle jumper to the skiing mecca of Haines. As a skier, oversized and overweight bags are often the biggest travel issue, especially on trips where you will be camping on glaciers and skiing for the camera. Both the cinematographers and the skiers have a ridiculous amount of gear, and I often travel with two or three pairs of skis. In the true spirit of the vagabond, the key is to avoid excess baggage charges. PowTime2015_blog2_image3 Prior to gaining mileage status on Star Alliance (luggage compassion), I used to have a few quirky strategies to mitigate the overweight and oversize charges. The first is a bit of old school psychological profiling. When I approach the check-in counter, I will quickly size up the different airline attendants. I’ll spend thirty seconds digesting who appears the happiest, coolest person of the bunch—the one you wouldn’t mind striking up a conversation with at a bar, and I will consciously shoot for their line. I walk up do my best to exude the good mountain vibe and charm and strike up a conversation about travel. In most cases, an overweight bag will be overlooked as it passes by the scale, and you will meet a good person and have a nice interaction to boot. The same psychological profiling goes for finding a taxi driver in Buenos Aires when traveling with tons of ski gear. The taxis aren’t big enough to handle the bags, so inevitably you are going to be doing some very creative rigging onto the roof, or have bags hanging out the window while being jammed into the cab like a game of Tetris—it’s important to have a driver with a good sense of humor and a similar taste for adventure. It’s the difference between a great, fun ride and or a grumpy experience with a salty man that will charge you a fortune for the hassle and bags. PowTime2015_blog2_image1 One last bag story: I remember being in the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark on the way to Greenland for a film trip and the weight restrictions and penalties for checked bags were beyond prohibitive. After learning that we could buy a cheap car with the pending baggage penalties, our crew ended up backing away from the check-in line and reorganizing our bags so that we had all of our heaviest equipment hanging off of our bodies as carry-ons. We walked through security in massive down jackets stuffed with cameras, radios, avalanche transeivers, shovel handles, climbing skins, hats and goggles. We looked like we were ready for a lunar landing or a serious costume party, but it worked! Stephan Drake is the founder of DPS Skis and a Patagonia Ambassador