6 Best Roof Racks for Skis and Snowboards
Skiing and snowboarding gear takes up a considerable amount of cargo space. Whether you have a full car with kids or need extra space for your other belongings, skis and snowboards can be cumbersome to pack inside your car. So, we’ve put together a list of the best roof racks for skis and snowboards to help you safely transport your gear up to the ski hill.
Ski and snowboard racks mount to a base roof rack system on your car. If you don’t have roof rails and/or crossbars, make sure to look into buying those first. Otherwise, you will need to purchase a rack that is designed for bare roof installation.
Most newer ski racks also come in two main sizes. A “small” size can fit up to four pairs of skis or two snowboards, while “large” sizes fit up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards. Our list of the best ski and snowboard roof racks mainly contains “large” size racks. However, these models also come in smaller sizes if you don’t need that much storage.
Roof Racks for Skis and Snowboards: Product Overview
Best Roof Racks for Skis & Snowboards
The Thule SnowPack is a leader in the roof rack space because of its durability and ease of use. This high-quality roof rack is designed to securely hold up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards. With soft rubber on the interior of the arms for grips, you won’t need to worry about your skis or snowboards getting scratched.
The SnowPack rack is also great because of its versatility. Built with a smart vertical spring system, it can be adjusted to accommodate skis and boards of varying thickness. This also allows you to reduce the rack’s height when it’s not being used. Another helpful feature is the included extension feet that allow you to raise the rack for skis with taller bindings, giving you additional roof clearance.
Not only is the SnowPack easy to install without any tools, but it’s also easy to use. It has a one-key system that locks the rack to your car and your skis and boards to the rack. The large push button to open and close the carrier is clutch on those extra cold days when you can’t fathom taking your gloves off.
It also has a universal mounting system that’s compatible with round, square, and factory installed crossbar systems. With all these features, it’s easy to see why the Thule SnowPack ranks first on our list for the best roof racks for skis and snowboards.
With a sleek, low profile design, the Yakima FatCat EVO is another great roof rack choice. As indicated in the name, this rack can carry some fat skis, up to 136mm at the tip to be exact. The FatCat is designed to hold up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards.
Similar to the Thule SnowPack, this rack has a DoubleJoint™ Hinge that can be expanded to accommodate skis and boards of varying thickness. It also has an Integrated SkiLift system that provides additional clearance for taller bindings. Another great feature is the HangOver™ Clamp attachment point, which shifts the mount further on your car’s roof rack to make it easier for you to reach your skis or boards.
One of the best looking racks on the list, the FatCat has a mirror black finish and aerodynamic design, which should limit noise from the wind when driving on the highway. Not only is this rack stylish, but it’s also extremely functional. Equipped with large push buttons, the FatCat is easy to open and close, even with gloves on. It’s also designed with a single key system (SKS) to lock your skis or snowboards to the rack and your rack to the car.
The FatCat can quickly be installed without any tools and is compatible with T-slot crossbars if you also purchase Yakima’s Smart-Slot Kit 5 separately. It also has a universal mounting system that’s compatible with round, square, factory installed, and most aerodynamic crossbar systems.
The Rhino-Rack 576 may not be a household name, but this ski and snowboard carrier has a good quality design to hold six pairs of skis or four snowboards. Made from heavy-duty aluminum, it is also durable and has a rust-resistant coating.
The mount stands about six inches tall and is not adjustable. This may create slightly more wind noise but is useful for taller bindings. The brackets screw to the bottom of the mounts to secure to the crossbars, which works well on square-shaped crossbars. However, the racks may slide and rotate on round crossbars, especially when they are not loaded with skis or snowboards.
The Rhino-Rack comes with two sets of keys for security and features an easy release and lock mechanism for when you’re wearing gloves. It is both easy to use and comes in a sleek, black design that keeps your car looking stylish in the winter. The Rhino-Rack also has a universal mounting system that’s compatible with almost any crossbar system and doesn’t require any extra tools to install.
The Yakima Big PowderHound Mount is a reasonably priced rack for the value it provides. It holds up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards, however, some customers have found that it is a tight fit for thicker skis and snowboards.
With an integrated binding lift, you will have plenty of clearance between the car roof and your skis or boards. This Yakima mount also features a single key system (SKS) to lock both the rack and skis/boards. Instead of a large round button, the release button on these mounts is a large piece of molded plastic with an ergonomic design. This makes it easier to operate when wearing thick gloves as compared to some of the other mounts.
Another great feature is the anti-theft mechanism that prevents the mounts from being removed from your crossbars when they’re closed and locked. The Yakima Big PowderHound also has a universal mounting system that’s compatible with almost any crossbar system. It is easy to install and should only take a few minutes. The only tool needed is a hex wrench, which comes with the mounts.
At a Glance
- Ski Load Capacity: 6
- Snowboard Capacity: 4
- Weight: 7.46 lbs.
- Lock System: One-key system for gear only
- Mounts easily to almost any type of crossbar
- Includes an oversized push button that is easy to use with gloves on
- Constructed from durable material that keeps ski and boards secure
The Thule Universal Flat Top is one of the more affordable choices on this list. An older Thule model, this rack is still large enough to hold up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards. The wide, somewhat stiff rubber on the interior of the arms provides a snug fit for skis or boards.
The mount is raised about five inches from the top of the crossbars and is not adjustable. Although this clearance is good for taller bindings, you may notice additional wind noise on the road. The Thule Universal Flat Top comes with a set of keys to lock your skis or boards to the rack but does not have a mechanism to lock the rack to your car.
Similar to the racks above, the rack has oversized push buttons to make it easy to open and close the carrier with your gloves on. As indicated in the name, the Thule Universal Flat Top also has a universal mounting system that’s compatible with almost any crossbar system. The rack is easy to install and doesn’t require any additional tools.
The Inno Gravity Universal Mount has a simplistic design to securely carry your skis or snowboards to the slopes. This rack provides less capacity with space for 3 fat skis or 2 snowboards, which makes it a great option for couples, solo adventurers, or small families.
Built with a wide cradle jaw, it accommodates the thickest ski and snowboard binding systems. The carrier opens easily and is padded nicely to secure your skis or boards while you drive. The Inno Gravity also comes with locks and keys to keep your gear secure.
This rack has a universal mounting system and is compatible with round, square, factory installed, and aerodynamic crossbar systems. The Inno Gravity can quickly be installed so you can be heading to the mountains within minutes.
More Ski & Snowboard Roof Racks
What to Consider Before Buying a Roof Rack for Skis & Snowboards
Racks come in a variety of sizes and styles to accommodate different vehicles and gear. To find the best roof rack for skis and snowboards for you, we have compiled a list of key features and considerations to help with your decision.
You first need to ensure that the ski rack is compatible with your car and its rack system. Most ski racks are designed to mount to crossbars, and most crossbars are designed to mount roof rails. Many SUVs have roof rails, so the only addition you will need to consider is crossbars.
However, if your car doesn’t have either, you’ll likely need to purchase a roof rack kit. Roof rack kits typically include three main components, a mount, crossbars, and a tower. If that seems like too big of an investment, you can also find ski racks that come with everything necessary for installation on a bare roof.
Once you have your roof rack system in place, you’ll want to be sure the ski and snowboard rack you choose is compatible. Most new, modern ski racks, including all the ones listed in this post, have universal mounting hardware that will fit any type of crossbars.
However, older systems may only fit a certain kind, so be sure to check before purchasing. For example, some racks only work on rounded crossbars while others are designed to mount on square-shaped crossbars. There are also roof racks designed specifically for cross-country skis while others are intended for all types of skis and snowboards.
The size ski and snowboard rack you need will vary depending on your lifestyle. Are you typically going up to the mountains with just your partner or a bunch of your buddies? This will help you decide how many skis or snowboards you need to be able to fit in your rack.
Ski and snowboard racks come in a variety of sizes with different carrying capacities. However, as mentioned at the beginning of the post, most racks come in two standard sizes, small and large. Small racks can usually fit up to four pairs of skis or two snowboards. Large racks can typically hold up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards.
The best roof racks for skis and snowboards include locks to secure gear and prevent theft. However, some of the cheaper options may not include this feature.
If security is your top concern, look for racks that include a one-key, or same key system (SKS). With SKS, both bar mounts use the same key, which makes it more convenient to lock and unlock your gear. Make sure to store your keys carefully in a place that’s easily accessible to you!
Keep in mind that some racks only provide the ability to lock up your skis and snowboards and may not have the ability to lock the rack itself to the roof of your car. Some provide locking mechanisms for both, so make sure to check if that is an important feature to you.
A typical rack includes two bars connected with a hinge. Skis and snowboards are secured between the bars, which are then closed with a locking mechanism. The mechanism for securing the bars needs to be strong to keep your gear safe, which makes some of them difficult to open because of the amount of force required.
Choosing a rack with an oversized push button can make operating the locking mechanism easier. This allows you to open the rack even with your gloves or mittens on, which is a useful feature not to be overlooked. On those particularly freezing mornings, you’ll be happy to have a convenient way to access your gear without having to sacrifice warmth in your hands.
Ease of Use
Having a roof rack for skis and snowboards on a taller vehicle, such as a large SUV, may be difficult to use for shorter people. Keep this in mind as you decide what type of base rack system to use. Hitch mounted racks are easier to reach, but the downside is that they can then obstruct access to your trunk.
Another factor to consider is how often you’ll be using the rack. For example, most racks are easy to install, but what if you plan to take them each time ski season ends? If you don’t plan to use the racks in the summer, you’ll want to make sure the process to take them off is just as simple.
How to Install a Ski & Snowboard Roof Rack
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Additional Tips and FAQs
What are the different types of ski and snowboard racks?
The racks described in this post are roof bar racks. In addition, there are hitch ski racks, which are mounted to the hitch receiver of your car. These racks are easier to take on and off and are more accessible, however, they obstruct your rear view. Cargo boxes are another great option as they protect your gear from the elements and can be used for other purposes, such as camping trips. The downside is that given their larger construction, cargo boxes tend to be noisier and increase your fuel consumption.
How do you secure skis to roof racks?
Most ski racks are easy to install and come with specific instructions. They typically come with the basic tools you need, such as an allen wrench or specific screws. Once installed, simply slide your skis or snowboards in the carrier and lock it. Some racks have locking mechanisms for just your skis and snowboards, while others can also lock the rack itself to the roof of your car.
What is the difference between roof rails and roof racks?
The main difference between roof rails and racks is the direction they are mounted on top of your car. Roof rails run vertically along the length of a car, from the hood to the rear. Racks, on the other hand, run horizontally across the roof.
Can you use a ski roof rack without crossbars?
There are ski and snowboard racks that can be used without crossbars. Typically these types of racks come with brackets that can be attached near the door crevice or strong suction cups. Some popular models include the SportRack Complete Roof Rack System or the SeaSucker Monkey Bar Roof Rack System. If you don’t intend to use your ski/snowboard rack very often or don’t want to permanently attach any crossbars, these are some alternative options.
Do roof racks damage your car?
If you install and maintain your roof rack properly, it should work for years to come and should not damage your car. However, an over-torqued, under-torqued, poorly fitted or overloaded roof rack can damage your car. Your car’s manufacturer manual has a section on its maximum weight limit. Be sure to check that the rack you like is within those limits before purchasing it.
Do roof racks affect gas mileage?
Roof racks affect the amount of fuel you use because they add to the car's drag. In other words, racks slow your car down and force the engine to work harder to accelerate, even when they’re empty. So, in short, yes they will slightly increase your gas mileage.
Why should you remove a roof rack when not in use?
As stated above, roof racks increase your car's wind resistance, and therefore increase your gas mileage. You also need to occasionally clean your roof rack to keep it well maintained. While your racks are removed, go wash your car since it’s not recommended to go through the car wash with them attached. They could get snagged on the machinery. Plus, it’s an opportunity to clean out the dirt where your rack normally sits on the top of your car.
Spending a ton of time reconfiguring the back seat of your car with everyone’s gear can get tiring after awhile. Not to mention it can get your car dirty super quickly! Finding the right ski and snowboard rack mainly depends on the capacity you need and the design of your car and roof rack system.
Other features, such as security and accessibility, are also important to consider. If you’re going to spend the money to get this accessory, you want it to be convenient and easy to use. Hopefully this post on the best roof racks for skis and snowboards helped with your decision. See you on the slopes!