Ski & Snowboard Rack Guide
Considerations & Features
Skis and Snowboards can big large and unwieldy, making them ideal to be carried on racks. There are a few important things to consider before selecting a rack.
Like most roof accessories, be aware of hatch clearance when in use. Skis are long and on some vehicles may obstruct the rear hatch from fully opening. To avoid a nasty scratch or dent, always measure for clearances and adjust the skis, bars or racks as necessary.
Ease of Access/Vehicle Height
If you have a tall roof and a hard time getting up there, a rooftop rack might not be the best option. Consider where the skis will be placed and the ease of accessing them before buying.
With thousands of dollars of skis on your roof, you’ll want to keep them safe and secure. All racks have locks that lock the clamshells closed–making it impossible to open without a key. Many racks have locking mounts as well, so no one can take the entire rack with or without skis.
Mounting to Crossbars
With all different crossbar shapes out there, most manufactures have made their racks to be universally mountable. These are usually in the form of metal or plastic brackets on the bottom of the rack that clamp to the crossbars and higher end racks tend to have a metal band enclosed in rubber that wraps around the bar.
Ease of loading can vary widely depending on the rack. For vehicles with high roofs, loading a rooftop rack can be a challenge, usually having to step in the doorframe to reach the racks. For high roof vehicles wanting to carry roof ski racks, consider Thule’s Snowpack Extender or Kuat’s Grip 4/6. These racks slide out allowing for easier access.
Roof mounted ski racks have been the standard for decades and the clamshell design has changed very little. These are the most common and user friendly snow sport racks. Most racks come in standard 4 or 6 ski lengths–meaning a 4 ski rack is wide enough to fit 4 pairs of skis or 2 snowboards. These are rough sizes and items such as fat skis may only accommodate 2-3. Most racks will give the load length for the rack–just add the widest part of all skis/boards you plan to carry to get a rough estimate of ski rack width needed.
Hitch bike racks have grown significantly in popularity, but not so much for snow sports. Both Thule and Yakima offer a Gondola style rack which is a rack that sits on the cradles of a hitch mounted hanging bike rack.
Best Bets: Thule Tram
A hard-shell cargo box is ideal for ski, snowboards and gear. They keep wet stuff out of your car and equipment protected and secure during transport. When looking for a cargo box, make sure you know your max ski length (longest pair of skis you’ll bring). Determining max ski length with considering which size box to get is a common bullet point for most boxes. Boxes can hold boots and other gear that you may not want to carry on the inside of your vehicle.
Temporary racks are a great option for vehicles without roof racks or where installing racks may not be viable or cost prohibitive. Soft tops sit on the roof of the vehicle with a strap that runs through the inside vehicle. These types of racks are usually made of soft foam material, lightweight and can be used to carry skis, lumber, kayaks and other items. Be careful with this type of rack–they have much lower clearance than traditional roof rack mounted racks, since they sit directly on the roof. Skis and board bindings should be facing upwards as most of these types of racks don’t allow for much clearance for bindings. This means skis can’t be sandwiched, thus taking up more room on the rack and allowing for fewer skis. These racks can also be used to transport surfboards, lumber and other long items.
Best Bets: Yakima EasyTop
|Style||Cost||Pro||Not So Pro|
|Roof-Rack Mounted||$-$$||Simple, easy to use, secure||Can be difficult to load on taller vehicles|
|Cargo Box||$$-$$$||Safe, dry, secure||Can be expensive, take up a lot of space|
|Hitch-Mounted||$$||Easy access and loading||Gondolas require a hanging hitch rack|
|Soft-Tops||$||Great for sedans with bare roofs||Appearance, may not be tall enough from the car roof for bindings not to hit|
- Use ski straps on tips and tails to keep skis snug together during transport and prevent chattering
- If binding clearance is an issue, push the binding heels down to allow more clearance
- Ski poles should be loaded separately and not attached to skis
- Install racks so they open on passenger side–in case you pull to the side of the road, accessing them will be safer
If you found this content useful, consider buying your rack through us–we’re a small specialty rack shop that does not use its profits to take billion dollar 10-minuite, ego stroking trips to space! 🚀 Shop all ski racks