For frequent travelers, wheeled luggage is the greatest invention since the airplane. Once you've tried a good, wheeled duffel (or jealously watched someone zip through the airport using one), there is no way you'll ever go back to carrying stuff.
Yet for some unfathomable reason, much of the ski luggage on the market is from the Stone Age: burly and primitive, with the wheels added as an afterthought. Not so with the new Salomon Pilot 2 Ski Bag, which sets a new standard in design.
The Pilot is the obvious result of lots of suffering while schlepping heaps of ski gear around the globe. It holds two pairs of skis (190 cm or less), poles and a pair of boots very securely while providing ample protection. Unlike some ski bags, the Pilot works just fine if you're traveling with only one pair of skis. The boot section accommodates a pair of size 12 high-end telemark boots (something some bags struggle to fit) in a padded section at the base.
Access to the entire bag is super fast with a single heavy-duty coil zipper that has locking sliders. Inside, the bag is lined with a tough Tyvek-like material that is easy to clean if wet skis and muddy boots are stowed. A zippered pocket on the lid holds tuning tools, waxes or travel documents.
Underneath the skis, there is enough room to carry most of your ski clothes. In fact, you could do an entire weekend ski trip with just this bag as long as you don't need a helmet (won't fit).
Once loaded and zipped up, the Pilot is further secured by two compression straps. And here is where the true beauty of this bag is revealed -- it rolls like a dream. Unlike some wheeled ski bags, this one has a wide base (wheels are 9.5 inches apart versus the more common 6 inches) so it is stable when dashing over cobblestone streets. The pulling handle is very comfortable, something you'll appreciate after a mile or so.
The Pilot comes with a detachable padded shoulder strap and actually balances well (unlike some ski bags), but you'll rarely use it. There is a basic handle on one side, but you won't want to use it for more than just moving the bag a short distance.
The one oversight, and it's a fairly major one, is the lack of a handle at the wheel end of the bag. When traveling on buses, skis are shoved into a cargo compartment but the lack of a handle at the end makes it harder to retrieve. Adding your own handle is prudent.
Despite this, the Pilot 2 Ski Bag should be on the wish list of any serious skier. Considering that you can easily be carrying $2,000 to $4,000 of equipment that weigh 40 to 50 pounds, a good ski bag is a wise investment. For the fashion conscious, the Pilot Truck 1000 wheeled duffle and the Pilot Gear Case use a complementary color scheme; a nice, unassuming gray and black that doesn't shout "Steal me!" the way some luggage does.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $150
For more information:www.salomon-sports.com