Many of us love to get away from it all with a ski or snowboard trip. However, transporting this awkwardly shaped equipment from A to B isn’t always easy – that’s where ski racks come in. These handy racks are specifically designed to handle winter sports equipment and allow you to slide skis and snowboards into place with ease – ready and waiting for your next adventure on the slopes. Ski racks can be installed on your car’s roof, but hitch ski racks also exist. This guide looks at roof racks. With so many options even in this small category, however, choosing a rack that meets your needs can be tricky. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve tracked down the best ski racks on the market.
The Best Ski Racks for Your Car
The first roof rack on our list is Yakima’s FatCat model. The two bars fit onto Yakima crossbars whether they feature a square, round, factory, or aerodynamic design. This fit makes them a great option if need ski racks for SUVs.
The racks are really easy to install – no expertise or tools are required – so you can get on with your trip sooner. Once in place, they stay securely locked in, thanks to Yakima’s integrated SKS locking system.
They also feature a sleek, low profile that’s designed for excellent aerodynamic performance and minimising drag. They look good too, thanks to a mirror-black finish that stands up well against chips. Finally, Yakima’s patented DoubleJoint hinge system means the racks can accommodate modern ‘fat’ skis and boards as well as their slimmer traditional counterparts.
- Easy to install with most Yakima crossbars
- Feature an integrated SKS locking system
- Sleek, low-profile design improves aerodynamic performance
- Racks can accommodate modern ‘fat’ skis and snowboards thanks to their DoubleJoint hinge system
- Brand Yakima
- Model 8003096
- Weight 14 pounds
If you’re working with a smaller budget, you can still get hold of quality ski racks, and TMS proves it. Its multi-purpose roof rack can carry almost any type of sporting equipment – a kayak, canoe, skis, or snowboard. The carrier is designed so that it can be mounted on pretty much any type of crossbars, and it can securely hold up to 75 pounds worth of equipment. The steel frame with adjustable padding keeps equipment out of harm’s way, while the wide mouth ‘J’ bar makes for quick and easy loading and unloading.
The rack also comes with a lifetime warranty, demonstrating the faith that TMS has in its products. It’s also straightforward to install, and comes with its own set of four long straps for additional security.
- Multi-purpose roof racks can accommodate canoes and kayaks as well as skis or snowboards
- Capable of carrying up to 75 pounds
- Made from durable steel
- Adjustable padding offers protection for your equipment
- Includes four long straps for extra security during packing
- Comes with a lifetime warranty
- Brand TMS
- Model =%KAYAK-RK-J(2SET)
- Weight 16 pounds
This Thule ski rack offers users a low, aerodynamic profile, great protection for equipment, and easy loading and unloading. The soft rubber coating on the inside of the carrier protects skis and snowboards of all thicknesses, while the aluminum construction of the rest of the arms ensure the ski carrier holds up against the corrosion of salted roads.
The rack is designed to fit most round bars and factory racks, offering both T-Track and SpeedLink mounting systems. It also allows for adjustable clearance, facilitated by extension feet. Users say they fit perfectly, look good, and offer a really solid hold.
- Compatible with most round bars
- Offers both T-Track and SpeedLink mounting systems
- Rubber coating protects skis and snowboards
- Aluminum design holds up against salt and rain
- Low aerodynamic profile for good fuel efficiency
- Great fit and a solid hold
- Brand Thule
This compact rack from Apex can carry up to four pairs of skis or two snowboards conveniently on the roof of your vehicle. The soft rubber grips securely hold your equipment in place, while large release buttons make it easy to load and unload without having to take off your ski gloves.
Made from heavy-duty plastic and aluminum with a wide 22” carrying space, the racks easily attach to rectangular crossbars up to 5.5” wide and 1” high. Overall, Apex offers a great quality rack that will keep your sports gear safe and sound wherever you roam. Users say the rack is a great value for the money.
- Compact design
- Can carry up to four pairs of skis or two snowboards
- Soft rubber grips hold equipment safely in place
- Easy release mechanism
- Made from heavy duty plastic and aluminum
- Wide 22” carrying space
- Great value for money
- Compatible with most rectangular crossbars
- Brand Apex
- Model 14.9 pounds
- Weight SKI-4
This one’s a little different to your standard ski rack for car – it’s inflatable! Designed to fit the roof of practically any car, the carrier can hold up to 180 pounds of equipment. It’s easy to install, inflates with the included handpump in seconds, and will carry along everything from kayaks to snowboards and skis.
It also comes with its own carry bag for easy portability, making it easy to install and uninstall conveniently. Because of the soft inflatable material, it won’t scratch even soft-top vehicles. Although the nylon is soft, it’s also durable, and sure to last for years to come. Customers say it works perfectly, making it an effective and convenient solution.
- Inflatable ski rack capable of carrying up to 180 pounds of equipment
- Suitable for use with skis and snowboards
- Comes with its own carry bag for excellent portability
- Soft nylon won’t scratch soft top vehicles
- Durable design
- Easy to install and effective
- Customer favorite
- Brand Rakapak
Inno’s lightweight ski and snowboard roof rack can accommodate up to six pairs of skis, or four snowboards at once, making it ideal for transporting gear for the whole party. The newly updated design features wide cradle jaws that can hold even the thickest skis. However, this capacity doesn’t compromise its aerodynamic function; the low profile means that it offers great fuel economy compared to other models.
It’s easy to install too, thanks to its universal roof mounting system. Inno test their racks to extreme conditions, with UV-rays and salt sprays, designed to simulate the potentially harsh conditions of the real world. The rack easily opens up so you can grab your skis or board without even taking off your gloves, and the soft rubber padding will protect your equipment.
- Lightweight ski and snowboard roof racks
- Can accommodate six pairs of skis or four snowboards
- Wide cradle jaws can hold even thicker, modern skis
- Low profile doesn’t compromise aerodynamic function and fuel efficiency
- Easy to install with a universal mounting system
- Tested to resist UV rays and salt
- Easy release mechanism
- Soft rubber padding protects your equipment
- Brand Inno
- Model INA927
- Weight 8.58 pounds
Last but certainly not least is SportRack’s deluxe but affordable ski carrier for cars. The large push button release system makes loading and unloading your gear really easy, while the grippy rubber arms offer great protection against scratches on the go, as well as keeping things firmly in place. It can hold up to four snowboards or six pairs of skis, so it’s ideal for carrying equipment for all the family.
Suitable for SportRack roof rack systems, square, round, and most factory crossbars, the rack will fit the vast majority of vehicles. Customers say it’s easy to install, locks securely, and loads easily.
- Push button release system for easy loading and unloading
- Grippy rubber arms hold equipment in place securely
- Compatible with SportRack roof rack systems, square, round, and most factory crossbars
- Fits the majority of vehicles
- Capable of carrying up to four snowboards of six pairs of skis
- Brand SportRack
- Model SR6466
- Weight 7.5 pounds
The second item to make our list is this thule roof rack. Capable of carrying up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards, the carrier can accommodate alpine and Nordic skis, bagged skis, and even water skis.
It’s suitable for all types of factory-installed and aftermarket roof racks, and features locking hoods with large push buttons to facilitate easy access to your snowboards and skis. The racks are tough too, made from lightweight but sturdy aluminum with a clear anodized coating. Customers say that installation can be done in as little as 20 minutes, and report that the rack is durable and simple to use. Finally, Thule offer a limited lifetime warranty, so you know they have a lot of faith in their US-made product.
- Compatible with the vast majority of factory-installed and aftermarket roof racks
- Capable of carrying up to six pairs of skis or four snowboard
- Made from tough but lightweight anodized aluminum
- Can be installed in as little as 20 minutes
- Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- Made in the USA
- Brand Thule
- Model 91725
- Weight 6.5 pounds
These eight ski racks represent what we believe are the best around right now, and we hope when you see what they can do you’ll agree. With so many great options about, though, it’s important that you have enough information to make the right decision for you.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions people have about this handy piece of kit, so you can be sure you’ll end up with a rack that works for you.
What to Consider When Buying a Ski Rack
Exactly which ski and snowboard rack you need will depend upon a few key factors, which we discuss below:
- Your Car’s Compatibility
One of the first things to consider when purchasing your roof rack is whether it will work with your car. It might sound obvious, but this is definitely worth double checking to avoid disappointment since some racks are designed specifically for use with certain cross bars.
- How much Equipment you’ll be carrying
Not all racks can handle the same amount of equipment, so it’s important to check your new carrier can hold as much as you need. Most racks can comfortably hold around four snowboards or six pairs of skis – if you’re unsure it can hold as much as you need, the best course of action is to check the customer reviews or ask the manufacturer.
- Your Budget
Ski and snowboard racks can range in price from around $70 to $400, so you’re likely to find something that works for you no matter your budget. More expensive racks can differ from their budget-friendly counterparts in a few different ways; they’re likely to have more features, and often a more attractive appearance. They may also be made from superior quality materials, making them more durable. As a rule of thumb, the more frequently you expect to use the ski rack, the more it’s worth investing.
- Fuel Efficiency
Any type of roof rack is likely to reduce your car’s fuel efficiency. This is because, being mounted on the roof, it increases your car’s overall air resistance, meaning more energy is needed to move through the air at high speeds. If you need to use your ski rack for long journeys, look out for a model that features a low, aerodynamic design to minimise fuel wastage.
- Loading and Unloading
Another factor to bear in mind is how easy your rack is to load and unload. To make things easier in cold conditions, it’s worth looking out for large release buttons on the rack – this means you don’t need to take off your gloves to get at your skis or board, which is obviously a bonus in the snowy conditions these sports require.
How to Install a Ski Rack
Installing a ski rack is typically an easy task that you can do at home without any DIY credentials or tools. The exact process will vary depending on the manufacturer, but when installing a rack on existing crossbars you can expect to follow these steps:
- Decide on Positioning
Before mounting your ski rack, work out where you would like it to be positioned on your crossbars. You might want to install it symmetrically in the middle of the roof, or off to one side for easier access.
- Snap the Mounts onto the Crossbar
Attach the supplied mounts onto the crossbars in your desired locations, starting from the rear of your car and working forward. Each mount should snap into place easily.
- Attach the Rack
Set the rack on top of the mounts and move it into position – the hole in the mount should line up with a corresponding hole in the rack. Next, slide the bolts provided through the two holes, from back to front.
- Bolt it in Place
Open the ski rack before you thread the supplied wingnuts onto the bolts – the top half of the rack acts to lock the wingnuts in place. Make sure the rack is tightly in place.
Finally, repeat the bolting process with the other rack.
To make the process a little easier, consider following some of our top tips:
- Be sure not to over or under tighten the bolts, as this can risk damaging your car
- Use a little copper grease on the mounting bolt threads to make removing them in the future a lot easier
- Remove the roof rack when you’re not using it. Not only will this improve your overall fuel economy, it will also keep the rack away from damaging weather as much as possible
- Measure the height of your car with the roof rack installed; this will save you from potentially embarrassing situations such as trying to enter a parking garage.
- Check to see if the rack’s manufacturer recommends a speed limit for when the item is in use, to ensure you’re driving as safely as possibly
- Check your car’s weight limits. The vehicle handbook should let you know exactly how much weight your car is capable of carrying on its roof – do not exceed this, and remember to take into account the weight of the rack itself
Cargo Boxes vs. Ski Racks
Roof-mounted cargo boxes are another way to transport skis and snowboards. As the name suggests, cargo boxes are a type of luggage solution, attached to the roof of your car via its crossbars. Many cargo boxes are long enough to accommodate skis and snowboards, making them a viable alternative to travelling with a roof rack.
To help you decide if a cargo box could be a better option for you, we outline the pros and cons of each option.
- Cargo boxes can be used for virtually any luggage, not just sport gear
- Placing skis inside a cargo box protects them against weather and wind
- With a cargo box, your skis or snowboard are less likely to become caught on low-hanging branches and other obstacles
- Cargo boxes reduce the risk of theft, as your equipment is hidden
- Skis can be left in a cargo box overnight, whereas it’s better to take them inside when using a ski rack to prevent theft or damage
- Good cargo boxes are typically more expensive than ski racks
- You may struggle to find a cargo box long enough to hold your skis or snowboards
- Cargo boxes are often heavier than racks
- Because of their large size, cargo boxes are likely to adversely affect your fuel economy more than ski racks
- Typically more lightweight than cargo boxes
- Lower profile makes for greater fuel efficiency
- Usually less expensive than cargo boxes
- Skis and snowboards of any length will fit
- Options designed specifically skis and snowboards available
- Racks can only be used for skis and snowboards, meaning they’re less versatile than cargo boxes
- Ski racks don’t protect your equipment against the elements
- Skis and snowboards shouldn’t be left in the rack overnight
- Some racks produce a little wind noise (a sort of soft whistle) at high speeds
The Best Ski Racks for Your Car FAQ:
Q: Is there a chance that my skis could fall out of the rack?
A: Assuming you install the rack and mount the skis correctly, no.
Follow these handy tips and your skis or snowboard should remain secure throughout the journey:
- If you’re only loading one or two pairs of skies, position them in the middle of the rack to keep things properly balanced
- Don’t load the skis with their tips facing forwards – tips facing upwards will catch more air resistance, reducing fuel efficiency as well as putting unnecessary pressure on the skis
- If possible, keep your skis in their bag when transporting them on a roof rack
- Leave about an inch between each pair of skis or snowboard when loading
- Be careful not to overload your roof rack – manufacturers should provide guidance
- It’s best to carry clean gear on your rack. Keeping dirt away from the rack should improve its durability
Q: Can I use a ski rack if I don’t have roof rails?
A: In short, yes. Some racks, including option 7 on our list, do not require roof bars for installation. Instead, this particular rack can effectively be wrapped around the roof of your car, and is held in place by tight straps. This makes it quick to install and remove, and also has the advantage of being portable.
However, if you want to use your roof for luggage regularly, it could be worth installing a pair of aftermarket roof rails. These can be purchased for as little as $40, and should fit any vehicle with the proper mounting parts. Many work by gripping onto the bodywork or rain gutter of the car. If in doubt about whether a set of roof rails are compatible with your car, seek the help of a good auto shop.
Q: Can I install a ski rack if I have a sunroof?
A: Yes. Assuming there is adequate clearance between the sunroof and the rack, this is perfectly safe. Since the rack, and therefore the skis or snowboard, will be held above the sunroof and not actually make contact with it, this does not pose a problem.
Do bear in mind that most ski rack manufacturers advise against opening the sunroof while transporting skis, though. This is because the turbulence this causes can put undue pressure on your equipment, as well as increasing air resistance, thereby lowering your fuel efficiency.
With some mechanisms, opening the sunroof will also reduce the clearance between the skis and the roof, so it’s best to simply keep it closed, and use the passenger windows or air conditioning to control the temperature inside your vehicle.
Q: Can I go through a carwash with a ski rack?
A: Technically, you can – but we wouldn’t recommend it! The powerful brushes can scratch the paint on the rack, or even mangle it altogether. Since removing a rack can be done in a matter of minutes, it’s always worth taking it off before venturing into a car wash.
With this in mind, cleaning your roof rack regularly is still important to keep it in good working order. Try using a metal polish rather than conventional car cleaner, as this should provide a protective layer against dust and mean you won’t need to clean the rack as frequently.
Our Top Pick
For us, the best ski and snowboard rack has to be Yakima’s FatCat model. This versatile transportation solution is compatible with virtually all Yakima crossbars, making it ideal for SUVs and other vehicles with cross bars installed.
Thanks to its sleek, aerodynamic profile, it won’t interfere too much with your car’s fuel efficiency, and its unique DoubleJoint hinge system accommodates modern ‘fat’ skis and boards as well as their more traditional counterparts. Thanks to its ‘Love it ‘Till You Leave It’ limited lifetime warranty, you can rest assured that Yakima have a lot of confidence in their product. Users say the clever design minimizes whistling noise on the highway, and looks good doing so! Overall, this rack is a versatile and durable option for all your winter sports gear.