Whether you’re road-tripping for a ski vacation or only heading to your local hill, you need a way to properly transport your skis and snowboards. Throwing them in the backseat is rarely the best option — they take up space, melt snow on the seats and force the person sitting in the back to contort their body into yoga-like poses to accommodate the pile of gear.

Instead, opting for a reliable set of ski racks is the best way to safely and conveniently haul your gear. To help wade through the sea of available options, we compiled a list of the best ski racks on the market (these work for snowboards, too), as well as a few extra things to keep in mind when shopping.

Thule Snowpack Extender

Thule Snowpack Extender

With a load capacity for up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards, Thule’s Snowpack Extender is equipped with a useful slide-out feature that allows you to access it from both sides of your car. This means you won’t have to stretch over the car or run back and forth from one side to the other while loading your gear. Plus, it extends away from the vehicle so you’ll never get hosed with a spray of rooftop snow when removing your skis.

Each rack arm is covered in soft scratch-free rubber grips that hold your gear firmly in place without leaving any marks. Best of all, Thule’s One-Key system allows you to swap out the lock cores and use a single universal key for all accessories, meaning if you ski in the winter and surf or kayak in the summer, you won’t have to juggle separate sets of keys.

Yakima Skybox Carbonite 21

Yakima Skybox Carbonite 21

A cargo box is a fantastic alternative to a standard rack if you want to have extra space outside your rig to throw in boots, jackets, helmets, or other gear. Yakima’s Skybox Carbonite 21 is the largest of the series, accommodating a whopping 10 sets of skis in its 21 cubic feet of space. It has a dual-sided opening and an ultra-strong SuperLatch to guarantee the lid won’t fly open, sending your gear flying across the highway.

The shape of the box is also highly aerodynamic with a shape that minimizes its impact and reduces the sound of wind whipping through the sides. If the 21 seems a bit on the large side, the Carbonite is also available in smaller sizes.

RockyMounts LiftOp

RockyMounts LiftOp Smalls

More petite than the full-width roof racks that stretch across the car, RockyMount’s LiftOp is a great choice if you want to keep part of your roof free for bikes, kayaks, or other sporting goods. This compact rack fits two snowboards or up to three pairs of fat skis, perfect for folks who venture out in smaller crews.

With a sleek tubular design around the edges, the LiftOp Smalls is quiet and aerodynamic, keeping your gas mileage high and reducing the need to shout over music due to a noisy roof. It has an easy-click operation so you can add or remove skis with minimal effort and also features secure, durable locks. The soft padding not only protects your gear from getting scratched but also prevents skis from wobbling around.

SportRack Groomer Deluxe Ski Carrier

best ski and snowboard racks sportrack groomer deluxe carrier

Looking to save a little money over all the big-name racks, yet not be able to tell the difference? We think the SportRack Groomer Deluxe Ski Carrier is a great option. For a fraction of the price, you get all the functionality in a large rack that can safely transport up to four snowboards or up to six skis. A large push button on the side of the rack allows you to open it up even with gloves on, and a lock and padded arms ensure that your equipment stays both secure and undamaged during transport and while at the hill.

The rack works with many factory bars and third-party manufacturers, and users report installation is fast and easy, with minimal noise while transporting on the road. One word of caution: you must lock the carrier every time you plan to transport your equipment: the carrier does not stay closed unless the lock is engaged.

Buzzrack Buzzski Hitch-Mounted Rack

best ski and snowboard racks buzzrack buzzski hitch mounted rack

Don’t want to use a roof-mounted rack, but have a hitch on the back of your car? Buzzrack’s Buzzski can carry up to four snowboards or six skis, and uses your receiver hitch to secure them to your car. For aerodynamics reasons, we’d only recommend this hitch for SUVs, but if you have the equipment, and hate the idea of a roof-mounted rack, the Buzzski seems to be a solid option. It even tilts down to allow easy access to your trunk without having to remove the rack itself.

Buzzrack has also made the rack adjustable to carry different length skis and snowboards securely, and the entire rack is foldable to allow for easier storage when not in use. While a hitch-mounted rack might not be an option for everyone, its unique design and good reviews from buyers earn it a spot on our list of the best ski racks available right now.

Inno Gravity

best ski and snowboard racks inno gravity

The Inno Gravity rack is a rack that’s different from just about any other rack on our list thanks to its split design. Instead of a single bar to secure your stuff, two independent bars allow you to remove equipment separately, and from both sides of the car — lessening the chance that your equipment on the opposite side of the rack might slide out when you’re not parked on level ground.

You can also spread the two sides out along the support bar, which makes access much easier from either side of your car. There is one downside to this design, however. When using this rack, you’ll want to carry equipment on both sides to lessen the effects on your car’s aerodynamics. You can’t put your equipment in the center of the rack due to the split design, which may not make this the best choice for skiers and riders that normally hit the slopes solo unless you like to bring more than one board or skis.

How to pick the right ski or snowboard rack

There are plenty of options to consider when shopping for a ski or snowboard rack. First, you want to make sure the rack itself is quiet and doesn’t make a lot of noise while driving. Listening to wind whistle loudly through your crossbars gets annoying fast — trust us. You also want to make sure the bars are aerodynamic, so any extra bulk on the roof doesn’t significantly hinder your gas mileage when not in use.

The bars should be sturdy and durable to last a long time and should also support a lot of weight. Finally, any rack should be easy to use — accessible from the side of your car, effortless to open and close, and smooth to lock and unlock.

Crossbar types

One of the main decisions you need to make when buying a ski rack concerns the kind of bars you want to use. There are three main categories: Round, square, and aero. Round options are commonly associated with Yakima brand racks, are moderately priced, and tend to be relatively quiet and aerodynamic. Square racks, most associated with Thule, make more noise but are much cheaper. Then there are aero style bars. These are often found in factory racks, are the quietest, and most aerodynamic but are also the most expensive.

Installation options

There are endless options for installing your new racks, but each depends on what type of car you have and what your roof looks like. Maybe your roof has raised sidewalls built-in or smooth factory tracks. Perhaps there’s an entirely bare surface, or you’re using a truck-top canopy. Options range from attaching side brackets and clipping on mounts to drilling holes in the top of your roof to permanently mount them.

Most rack manufacturers offer adapter kits, so after picking out your bars and mounting them, you can choose from a variety of compatible racks. That said, if you have a specific rack in mind before you buy your crossbars, it’s a good idea to double-check their compatibility.

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