Ski and Snowboard Racks: How to Choose the Best One For Your Car


Need a ski and snowboard rack for that amazing ski trip you have planned this winter?

Choosing a ski rack is a lot easier than choosing a bike rack for your car, there are only two real choices: roof racks and hitch racks.

Roof racks attach to the top of your car on either a factory installed rack or a Yakima or Thule roof rack system, whereas hitch racks convert an existing bike hitch rack to carry skis.

There are a few things to consider when selecting your ski rack: what is your existing rack system, how many skis and/or snowboards do you need to carry, how often will you use the ski rack, how secure do you need your skis to be, and do you want your ski rack to carry other gear like poles and boots?

What is your existing rack system?
If you already have a roof rack system set up to carry your bikes and kayaks you are probably going to want to choose a roof rack system for your skis. If you have a hitch system set up for carrying bikes you may just want to adapt your bike rack to carrying skis. If this is your first rack, you will need to choose between a roof rack and a hitch rack based on the factors below.

How many skis and/or snowboards do you need to carry?
Roof racks typically carry from 4-6 pairs of skis or 2-4 snowboards, whereas hitch racks can typically accommodate 6 pairs of ski or 4 snowboards. Depending on size, cargo boxes can fit even more gear including poles, boots, and helmets.

How often will you use the ski rack?
If you plan on using the ski rack often you are going to want to choose a high-quality, durable, easy-to-use (typically more expensive) rack.

How secure do you need your skis to be?
When choosing a rack, it is important to consider the type of terrain and the distance you will be traveling. Quality and durability are more important for longer trips than it is for a short commute to the ski hill. A roof rack is going to give you more protection from the elements than a hitch rack and a cargo box will protect your skis as much as if they were inside your car. Skis on a hitch rack are at more risk for dings and scratches from kicked up ice and rock on the road.

Do you want your ski rack to carry other gear like poles and boots?
If you want to keep your wet boots and ski pants out of your car choose a cargo box. A cargo box has room for your skis, poles, boots, and other ski gear plus it can haul camping and climbing gear the rest of the year.

Based on your answers to the above questions you can find the best ski rack for your car.

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Roof Ski/Snowboard Racks

A ski roof rack attaches to your factory-installed crossbars or a roof rack system purchased separately and installed by you. Skis are placed on arms and secured with a push button fastener. The best part about choosing a roof rack system is that the crossbars can accommodate other types of gear such as bikes, kayaks, and cargo boxes.

Roof racks are versatile and offer your skis more protection from road hazards than a hitch rack. Only downsides are they can be expensive if you don’t already have a factory-installed rack and they can cause some wind drag and reduce gas mileage.

Pros

  • Can carry 4-6 skis or 2-4 snowboards
  • Skis are protected from road hazards like rock and ice
  • Lock systems available
  • Ideal for long trips

Cons

  • Need to lift skis overhead to secure
  • Wind resistance can reduce gas mileage
  • Driver needs to be away of reduced clearance in parking garages, carports, etc.

Looking to buy one? Here are some recommended racks:

Cargo Boxes

Cargo boxes are hard-sided gear boxes that can carry skis, snowboards, poles, paddles, camping equipment, climbing gear, and whatever else you can think of (except for bikes and boats). Since cargo boxes come in a variety of sizes, you can choose a narrow box and still have room on your cross bars for a bike or boat rack.

Gear fanatics love cargo boxes since they hold a ton of gear and keep gear organized and outside of the car. Only downfall, cargo boxes can create some wind resistance and reduce gas mileage. They also can create some whistling noises from the drag.

Pros

  • Can carry skis, snowboards, boots, poles, and other ski gear
  • Can be used year round to transport outdoor gear
  • Enclosed storage offers the ultimate protection

Cons

  • Can be very expensive
  • Wind resistance can reduce gas mileage
  • Noisy

Looking to buy one? Here are some recommended racks:

Hitch Ski Racks

Most cars equipped with a hitch can carry a hitch rack. You need to match the hitch size of your vehicle with the right rack and cars with a hitch size II will find plenty of compatible racks. Most ski hitch racks convert a hitch bike rack to carry skis.  That means that you can’t just buy a hitch rack for your skis, you need to buy the bike rack as well.

Hitch racks are much easier to load than roof racks, but they can make it difficult to access your trunk or hatch. They also tend to be super expensive plus they offer less protection for your skis than roof racks.

Pros

  • Can carry up to 6 pairs of skis or 4 snowboards
  • Rack is not permanently attached to vehicle
  • Some racks fold down or swing open to provide access to trunk or hatch

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can block access to trunk
  • Racks are very heavy
  • Driver needs to be away of reduced clearance in parking garages, carports, etc.

Looking to buy one? Here are some recommended racks:

[Photo courtesy of flyinace2000]