Main photo credit: Cory Woodruff via Shutterstock
Choosing the best ski and snowboard racks for cars is not easy if you are making your first purchase. You might even be overwhelmed by all the available options on the market. But all you really need to know is the type of car you want to mount them on and the number of skis or boards you want to carry since they can be mounted on the same rack. This is why it is important to look at the compatibility first and then choose the options that suit your preferences the most. Here are the 10 best ski and snowboard racks to consider.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box
- 2. Best Value: Rage Powersports Apex SKI-4
- 3. Best for SUVs: Yakima HitchSki
- 4. Inno Racks Gravity Snow Rack
- 5. Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 Ski and Snowboard Carrier
- 6. Thule Motion XT Rooftop Alpine Cargo Carrier
- 7. Thule Snowpack Extender
- 8. Thule Project Tram Hitch Ski/Snowboard Carrier
- 9. Thule 612 Hyper Rack
- 10. Yakima FatCat 6 EVO Ski Mounts
- Ski Racks for Cars: Everything You Need to Know
- Are ski racks and snowboard racks the same?
- What types of ski and snowboard racks can I choose from?
- Roof Bar Racks
- Hitch Ski and Snowboard Racks
- 4x4 Ski and Snowboard Racks (spare tire-mounted rack)
- Cargo Boxes
- Why should I get a ski/snowboard rack instead of transporting them in the car?
- How do I mount a ski rack?
- How often will I use the snowboard rack?
- Can I leave the skis and snowboard on the rack overnight?
- Does a rack affect car maneuverability?
- What mileage can I expect with a ski rack?
- Can I reach my skis?
- Do I need a professional to install the ski racks?
- I have nothing on my car’s roof, can I still get a roof rack?
- Can I go through a car wash with my ski rack mounted on the car?
- Can I install a hitch mount on my leased car?
- What tools do I need to mount a ski or snowboard rack?
- Did you know...?
- Which are the best brands for ski racks?
- Inno Racks
- Rhino Rack
1. Editor's Pick: Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box
Yakima’s Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box is among the leaders in this segment. Available in different sizes (12, 15, 16, 18 and 21 cubic feet), the box is recommended when you want to protect your skis or when you want to have a versatile option that can carry other sports gear as well. The Skybox is mounted on the roof, as its name suggests. The best part is that it can be mounted on most cars as well. You can easily mount it on square or round crossbars. But apart from the fit, why would you choose the Skybox?
One of the main advantages of this ski and snowboard carrier comes with its aerodynamic design. Of course, at higher speeds, it will represent a problem in terms of air resistance. But at lower speeds, while cruising around town, it proves to be a solid design. Another important feature that makes it highly appealing for some skiers is that it comes with locking capacity. It is also slightly more durable than some other more affordable options in its class. This can be seen in the small design details such as the internal lid stiffeners.
2. Best Value: Rage Powersports Apex SKI-4
This ski rack is not made from metal, instead using durable plastic. Plastic might be a smart option if you often drive through areas that use road salt. It can hold a few pairs of skis without scratching them. With the rubberized arms, it does the job as well as any other type of rack.
But you should not expect to use this rack for the rest of your life, as it comes with a limited 1-year warranty. This is why it is a recommended solution as a first purchase, but not a long-term solution. While it may be cheaper than other options, it works the same and installs the same way.
3. Best for SUVs: Yakima HitchSki
Yakima HitchSki is a good option for people active in all seasons. If you cycle during the summer, you can also convert it to carry bikes then change it back to a ski and snowboard carrier during wintertime. As its name suggests, the carrier is hitch mounted, which means it’s a good pick for shorter skiers or those who do not want to load their gear on top of their cars.
Of course, it has its downsides. It is worth mentioning that it obstructs access to the rear of the car. But the rack also has its own unique features that might make it the right option for you. It is made with soft rubberized arms and it protects your skis against scratches. It can also carry up to 6 pairs of skis or 4 snowboards, just like the largest roof-mounted racks. The rack is also practical when it comes to quick loading and unloading, but you also have to keep in mind that your skis are also closer to the ground when you drive, which means your equipment night get dirty. For short drives, it is certainly a solution to consider. This rack is specifically useful if you have a hitch receiver already mounted on your car.
4. Inno Racks Gravity Snow Rack
Smaller manufacturers also come with interesting designs for the modern skier. With an affordable price, the Inno Racks Gravity Snow Rack is among the options that can be considered for roof-mounted ski carrying needs. It holds up to 6 pairs of skis and 4 snowboards with its rubberized arms, which are gentle yet firm enough to hold the skis in position.
Even if it is not made with premium materials, this ski and snowboard rack is up to date in terms of features. It comes with a built-in lock that keeps your expensive gear away from people with bad intentions. The three main reasons to consider this rack are the price, the simple, tool-free installation, and the handling. You can wear your gloves and still be able to open and close it with ease, as it comes with the large push-to-release button. Made by a company that has a history going back to 1966, the rack is the affordable alternative to some of the premium designs in this class. But it is also smaller and this can make it a better option if you don’t have too much storage space.
5. Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 Ski and Snowboard Carrier
If you need a compact roof rack carrier, the RocketBox Pro 14 from Yakima is among the most interesting options. It comes to meet your needs with skis and snowboards up to 170 cm and it can be a great solution for kids learning how to ski. The box does not require complex installation and can be used for different outdoor gear as well.
Its versatility is impressive as well. The RocketBox can be opened in both directions. It represents one of the leading options when it comes to practicality, even if you have to park your car in tight places. This versatility is backed by the fit as well. It can be fitted on round, square or factory bars, which is the reason it works on most cars.
One of the most important aspects to remember about the RocketBox Pro 14 is the fact that it is truly versatile and that you can use it long after ski season is over. This is why you will be glad to know that you do not need any extra racks for your summertime camping. With 14 cubic feet of storage capacity, it can turn from a ski rack into a camp gear carrier.
6. Thule Motion XT Rooftop Alpine Cargo Carrier
With a capacity of 16 cubic feet, the Cargo Carrier is among the most interesting choices for many people. Besides being functional, it’s probably one of the most stylish carriers in its class. Depending on the size of your skis, you will be able to load between 5 and 7 pairs of skis in the carrier or 3 to 4 snowboards. The rack can hold skis of up to 215 cm. With a weight of 55 lbs, it is, of course, on the heavier side in the Thule Motion family.
There are many features that make the ski rack great. A few of them are worth mentioning, such as the sliding locking mechanism. The SlideLock design is among the fastest and durable options to work with and it can be among the best when it comes to the needs of skilled skiers. What’s even more interesting is the ability to open the lid of the carrier on either side. Using the PowerClick design, the rack is also easy to mount. If the rack is too small for you, there are a number of options in the Motion range that go up to 22 cu-ft in capacity, such as the Motion XT-XXL.
7. Thule Snowpack Extender
Thule’s Snowpack Extender comes with a loading width of 29.5 inches. It allows it to hold up to 6 pairs of skis or 4 boards. This is one of the options to be considered for your entire family or a group of friends. With high-quality materials, the rack is among the most durable options as well. There are many benefits to choosing this modern design. Among them is the extendable design. This allows you to focus on simple loading and unloading of the skis without having to stretch over the roof.
The practical design can be seen throughout the whole product. It doesn’t come with any small bits, which means that you can operate it even with your gloves on. Most importantly, it is able to hold all types of skis as it is made with decent clearance from the roof of the car. It also takes skis with tall bindings. At the same time, it will also protect your expensive skis with its ultra-soft rubber arms that don’t scratch the gear, either. With a lifetime warranty, it is one of the products that can be seen as a benchmark in the industry.
8. Thule Project Tram Hitch Ski/Snowboard Carrier
Made to be mounted on hitch receivers, the ski and snowboard rack is one of the interesting designs in this class. Mounting the skis on the rear of the car is not as popular as mounting it on the roof of the car, but the rack is a great asset for shorter people or those who already carry other equipment on the roof of their cars. It also has a certain appeal if you already have a hitch receiver in your car, which might be the case with some SUVs.
The carrier can be easily fitted on 1.25” or 2” receivers. Even with its vertical carrying, it can still hold up to 6 pairs of skis and 4 snowboards, so you can’t really say it’s not as good as roof racks from this perspective. The ski and snowboard rack also comes with standard anti-theft protection. It uses the key-locking mechanism similar to the systems seen on other Thule racks. It also features the oversized push button popular with Thule fans. If you don’t mind its extra weight and the fact that it can’t be folded for storage purposes, it can certainly represent an option for shorter drives.
9. Thule 612 Hyper Rack
Do you want to access your trunk when you go skiing? Then the 612 Hyper Rack is among the recommended solutions. It is one of the best options when it comes to aerodynamics. With 17 cu-ft of storage capacity, it is pretty huge. Apart from its stylish looks, its practicality is not bad either. You will be glad to know that it also comes with Thule’s DualSide opening design.
Made with the SecureLock design, the carrier is easy to lock. It keeps your skis and boards safe. The durability of the 612 Hyper Rack is not bad either. It is made with the ultra-thick lid and is a great solution when it comes to warranty coverage as well. Thule covers it with an impressive lifetime warranty.
10. Yakima FatCat 6 EVO Ski Mounts
The quality FatCat 6 EVO from Yakima is among one of the best options when it comes to premium designs. Made for maximum aerodynamics, it has the lowest noise levels from all similar products made by Yakima. This makes the ski rack great for long highway drives when wind noise can be a major issue. But the ski and snowboard rack is practical as well. It carries up to 6 pairs of skis.
Versatility is among its strengths as well. This is why the rack has been made to fit all types of mounts. It works on round, square and factory mounts, which gives you the freedom to attach it to the roof of your car as well. Once you mount it on the roof of your car, you will see that it sits in a lifted position that allows you to carry all types of skis and snowboards. It is thus recommended for tall bindings as well. The HangOver design of the rack is made for added practicality. This is why you will be able to shift the rack further onto the roof of your car as needed.
Ski Racks for Cars: Everything You Need to Know
Photo Credit: Sergey Novikov via Shutterstock
Transporting your skis or your snowboard is easier than it used to be. With the help of dedicated car racks, you can be ready for your next adventure on the slopes. There are many types of racks for your winter gear. Most racks can fit both skis and snowboards. Some can carry just your gear while others are solutions for the entire family. Mounting a dedicated rack for winter sports is possible on most cars. Even more, you should be able to mount a ski rack yourself.
Are ski racks and snowboard racks the same?
Since skis and snowboards have a similar profile in thickness, many racks can accommodate both. In some cases, you will either be able to carry a pair of skis or a single snowboard. In essence, the versatile design of the ski rack allows them to be a solution for other types of equipment as well. So yes, most racks can accommodate both skis and snowboards.
However, they are far from being similar to bike racks. This is why many manufacturers include ski racks and snowboard racks in the broad category of winter-oriented racks, which can work for multiple types of snow sports gear.
What types of ski and snowboard racks can I choose from?
There are a few main types of racks to choose from. They are the roof bar ski/snowboards racks, the hitch racks, the 4×4 racks, cargo boxes, and the magnetic racks. Each of these categories of racks has its own advantages and disadvantages. While ski racks are limited to the type of car you have, many of them have the versatility to fit multiple types of cars.
Roof Bar Racks
Roof bar ski racks are the most popular choice due to their simplicity. They can be mounted on most cars and they work well with other sports gear such as snowboards. Ski racks are mounted on the roofs of hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs, 4×4 vehicles and even vans. A rack set comes with two load bars that are mounted on top of the crossbars.
Many cars come with standard crossbars and mounting the racks is easy. Other cars require drivers to purchase the crossbars and install them as well. But the simplicity of the ski racks allows you to install them quickly.
- A roof bar ski rack is quick to install
- The rack doesn’t obstruct front or rear window visibility from the car
- Roof racks are affordable
- Roof racks protect the skis from the salt of the winter roads
- Roof racks can be locked to prevent theft
- Skis are easily accessible with ski racks which are expandable
- You can easily lock your snowboard inside the rack as well
- Reduced overhead clearance
- Not made to be mounted frequently as they stay on the car for longer
- A roof rack is exposed to different weather conditions
- Increased wind drag
- Increased noise at higher speeds on the highway
Mounted on: hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs, 4×4 vehicles, minivans, coupe cars, pickup trucks, and crossovers
Hitch Ski and Snowboard Racks
Hitch ski racks are easy to use. They are mounted on the hitch receiver of your car. Some cars come with such a receiver as standard, as most SUVs. Other cars might need you to install a receiver if you want to use such a ski rack. Many cars come with the standard 1.25” or the 2” receiver. In some cases, the ski rack manufacturer also offers an adapter to fit the rack on both types of receivers.
Of course, there are certain pros and cons to this type of rack as well. Many skiers are happy to use such racks as they provide quick access to the skis, which are transported in a vertical position. A hitch-mounted ski rack does not require you to lift the skis as high as with a roof rack. But on the other hand, being closer to the ground, your skis are prone to getting dirtier.
- Easy to mount on most hitch receivers
- The rack holds the skis in an upright position
- The skis do not have to be lifted as high as with roof racks
- Holds multiple pairs of skis
- The rack comes off easily when not in use
- Versatile for other winter sports gear
- The rack can be locked to the car
- Practical even while wearing gloves
- Can block access to the rear of the car and the trunk
- Skis and snowboards get dirtier, as they are closer to the ground
- Diminishes vehicle parking maneuverability
- Reduces visibility out the rear window
Mounted on: cars that come with a standard 1.25” or a 2” hitch receiver
4x4 Ski and Snowboard Racks (spare tire-mounted rack)
Spare tire-mounted or 4×4 ski racks are among the compact options that are easy to install. Although they are not as popular as the other types of racks, they can be an option if your car has a rear-mounted spare tire. While this solution is easy to work with, it might not be as durable as some other racks. Mostly seen on bike transportation racks, the wheel-mounted options are often unpopular, especially as they cannot be secured to the car.
- Easy to install
- Made with a lightweight frame
- Can be mounted with no tools
- Doesn’t require you to lift the skis at roof level
- Skis get dirty easily
- You can’t leave the skis on the car overnight
- Reduced rear window visibility
Mounted on: 4×4 vehicles with a rear-mounted spare tire
Cargo boxes, as the name suggests, can be used on different types of materials, luggage or gear. They are often used by people going on holiday who do not have any free space left in the car. Aerodynamics is among the most impressive benefits of these boxes for skis. Due to the enclosed design, there is improved airflow around the box. However, wind resistance and noise are issues at higher speeds. Another serious advantage to consider is that the fact that your skis and snowboard are not exposed to the elements as they can arrive clean at your skiing destination. Furthermore, you can also lock the cargo box with a key to make it less attractive for potential thieves.
- Protects skis and snowboard against the elements
- Can be locked with a key
- Versatile as it can carry other items which don’t fit in the car as well
- Can be mounted on small and large cars
- Allows full 360 visibility while driving
- Doesn’t reduce rear parking options outdoors
- Increased gas consumption
- Increased wind resistance and noise at high speeds
- Requires you to lift the skis at roof level
- Some cargo boxes are too short or too long
- Not made for frequent mounting
Mounted on: small and large cars
If you are making your first purchase, there are a few questions you need to be answered. With so many available options on the market, it can be confusing to choose a sky rack that is right for you. But your car and the number of skis you have can be a good starting point for an informed decision.
Why should I get a ski/snowboard rack instead of transporting them in the car?
Many people are wondering about the real benefits of ski racks. While some skis can fit in the car, there are a few reasons you might want to consider a dedicated rack and they include:
- Improved driving safety. It is not safe to travel with skis inside the car if they are not secured. They can cause injuries if you have to slam on the brakes
- Racks allow you to transport the skis with minimal damage until you reach your skiing destination and are on your way back home
- Ski racks can free up space in the car as is the case with cargo boxes, which can store other gear as well
- Improved practicality. You can simply access the skis or snowboards without entering the car
- The possibility of saving money. Carrying your own skis can mean that you can save more by not renting the gear
How do I mount a ski rack?
There are a few methods to mount the ski racks yourself. Most skiers use crossbars to mount the ski racks. This can be done simply by sliding and locking the rack on the crossbars. Other people use slotted bars to mount the ski racks. If this is your case, you will need the stackable spacers for the elevation on the roof.
If you want to attach the ski rack to crossbars, you will be able to do this by using the actual straps at the bottom of the racks. There are two racks that go on the front part of the crossbars and two straps which need to be secured to the rear side of the crossbars. If your ski rack comes with anti-theft protection, this is the moment when you can lock the ski rack to the crossbars and the skis within the rack as well.
How often will I use the snowboard rack?
The number of times you plan to use the ski rack is a factor needed to consider with the purchase. If you are an occasional skier or snowboarder, you might not need the most complex rack. On the other hand, if you go skiing often with your entire family, the solid racks which can hold up to 4 pairs of skis are recommended.
Can I leave the skis and snowboard on the rack overnight?
Leaving your skis on the rack overnight might not be the best idea if you do not have an anti-theft system. In this case, a lockable solution is recommended. In some situations, skiers are recommended to use cargo boxes when leaving the skis on the car overnight as it can protect the gear against frost.
Does a rack affect car maneuverability?
You cannot drive the car with a snowboard rack the same way you would normally do. If you use a roof ski rack, you need to consider that overhead space is limited. This is an issue with certain garage entrances both at home and in public locations. Speed limits apply to most ski racks as well. For further details about the speed limit which applies to your desired ski rack, you can read the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Some racks might also reduce rearward visibility from your car or even block reverse cameras.
What mileage can I expect with a ski rack?
Gas consumption increases when using most ski and snowboard racks. Aerodynamics play the biggest role here. The bigger the ski rack, the bigger the drag it will cause, meaning that you will have to spend more on gas. Cargo boxes tend to be the biggest issue here as they are the largest options for ski transportation.
Can I reach my skis?
If you are shorter, a ski rack on certain taller vehicles might not be the best option. This is where the hitch-mounted ski racks prove to be a better alternative.
Do I need a professional to install the ski racks?
Most modern ski racks can be installed by you. There is no need to spend money on a professional installation. Premium ski rack manufacturers offer guided step-by-step instructions on how you can install the ski rack at home. Even more, the best brands offer the possibility to install these racks with no tools at all.
I have nothing on my car’s roof, can I still get a roof rack?
Yes, you can still install a rack on your car’s roof. Even naked roofs can use different systems such as the door-mounted clip system to install racks. Alternatively, you can opt for a hitch-mounted ski rack.
Can I go through a car wash with my ski rack mounted on the car?
It is generally not recommended to go through a car wash with the ski rack mounted on the car. The height and length of the car change when you install roof racks and this is why manually washing the car is a recommended alternative.
Can I install a hitch mount on my leased car?
Most dealers accept hitch-mounted ski racks. But you need to check with your dealer if this is accepted in your case as well. For most dealers, this is not a problem. When you consider that a hitch increases the vehicle’s resale value or that it can be removed from the car at any time, it should be no major issue for you.
What tools do I need to mount a ski or snowboard rack?
You don’t need any tools to mount most modern ski racks. Most of them are pre-assembled as well. You can easily mount them yourself within minutes. If your chosen ski rack needs tools for installation, it is very likely the tools will come in the pack together with the rack as well. These tools can be similar to the classic Allen wrench. But most racks (hitch-mounts included) don’t need any tools for installation.
Did you know...?
- The first ski racks were known as luggage racks as they were multipurpose
- Galvanized steel tubing was used in the production of the first ski racks
- The rise of outdoor activities in the 60’s led to the appearance of car rack manufacturers
- Thule introduced the company’s first ski rack in 1962
- Recent roof racks are made for the best aerodynamics
- The founder of Allen Sports Racks worked on the 1967 Apollo mission before starting his own company
- The average US roof rack increases car fuel consumption by 1%
- Modern premium ski racks are tested for UV light and salt spray durability
- The best ski and snowboard racks are made to resist weather-caused corrosion
Which are the best brands for ski racks?
There are many great manufacturers for ski and snowboard racks, but not all of them manage to provide up to date products. From the names which are currently available, it’s worth having a look at the following recommendations for your next skiing season:
As one of the biggest and most popular names in the industry, Thule is among the leading options for up to date ski racks. There are currently 5 roof ski and snowboard rack solutions in production from Thule. While they cover most types of skis, the manufacturer also offers a wide selection of ski boxes that can be a versatile option for other types of winter gear as well.
Skiing enthusiasts know the role Yakima has played in this space. The manufacturer offers 10 cargo box designs, 3 roof-mounted racks, and 3 hitch-mounted ski racks. With a tradition in innovation and quality, it is considered one of the premium brands on the market. Furthermore, the Yakima ski racks also come with lifetime warranty.
With 30 years of manufacturing excellence, Inno Racks has premium solutions for your skis. Founded in 1966 in Japan, the brand offers 7 types of ski and snowboard racks that are mounted on the roof of the car. With impressive build quality, Inno Racks is among the few manufacturers testing their products with UV lights and for salt spray durability.
Often seen in the outdoor space, Rhino Rack is among the leading brands in the ski rack manufacturing category. The manufacturer’s dedication to the active lifestyle can be seen in today’s products. With a selection of roof racks and cargo boxes, it is one of the names to consider for the dedicated skiers.
If you need an affordable solution, CargoLoc offers good crossbars which can even be multi-purpose. With uses for ski and bike transportation, the crossbars can be the budget-friendly alternative for the occasional skier.
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