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Each of The Best Ways To Transport Skis With Your Car Explained


Article Categories: Gear | Skiing
Article Tags: Skiing | Skiing Gear

If you have your own skis, you need to be able to transport them to and from the mountain, often times with other people, and other gear. Skis are long and cumbersome, and their awkward shape makes them difficult to pack. So how do people get their skis to the slopes? Here are some of the best ways to transport your skis to the backcountry, a ski resort, or wherever your adventures may take you.


Just Laying Them In The Car

Depending on what you drive, you might be able to just lay your skis in the car and drive away. This is by far the easiest method of ski transportation, although it’s not ideal for everyone. If your skis are loose in the car, they may become a serious hazard if you have to brake suddenly.

To avoid damage to both you and your skis, here are some tips for traveling with your skis laid in the car.

  • Regardless of the type of skis you have, use a ski bag. This will stop your car from getting dirty and reduce dings to the interior… and dings to the skis. Keeping the skis in a bag also reduces the risk of the skis injuring someone during an accident or sudden stop.
  • Use a towel to cover the ends of skis and poles.
  • Use caps to cover the spikes on the ends of your ski poles.
  • Try to put the skis in the trunk and through the center of the car. You will have to put down a back seat to do this, but it means that the skis sit between people and not on anybody’s lap.
  • Secure the skis by strapping them down or using a cargo net if possible.
  • Pack items like helmets and clothing on top of the skis to help hold them in place.
  • Use rubber floor mats, or even a moving blanket as a way to prevent melting snow from causing smells and damage.

If you have a full car or a lot of gear, this can be challenging. This is also tricky if you drive a compact car or a crossover. A full size SUV or pickup truck makes it much easier to transport skis– although if you are transporting skis in the bed of a pickup truck, you will likely want cargo straps to keep them from sliding around and potentially getting damaged. Fortunately, there are lots of strap and tie down options available for pickup trucks, so it won’t be hard to find an easy, cheap solution.


Pros of Laying Your Skis in The Car

So why would you want to lay your skis in the car to travel? Here are some of the reasons to transport them this way:

  • No need for extra equipment
  • Free
  • Don’t have to lift anything on top of the car
  • MInimizes chance of theft
  • No road salt or grime will get on the skis


Cons of Laying Your Skis in The Car

  • Awkward fit
  • Potential hazard during a sudden stop
  • Might not fit in smaller cars
  • Snow and mud will likely melt off of your skis and get in your car
  • Skies in the car will reduce the number of people that can stay in the vehicle


Best Equipment for Laying Your Skis In The Car

You don’t really need any special equipment to throw your skis in the car– but a ski bag will help keep them nice and tidy, and most importantly will reduce the chances of turning them into missiles if you have to stop suddenly or swerve. For ski bags, your options are basically padded or unpadded– these are very simple and don’t have a lot of features that make one brand stand out over another.

  • The Athletico Ski and Boot Bag combo is a basic, no-frills adjustable roll-top ski bag that can fit skis up to 200 cm– and comes with a bag for your wet ski boots. (If you plan on using a bag for air travel, and not just car travel, we recommend getting something more durable and rollable like this.
  • Athletico also makes a padded version of this bag if you’re worried about rougher roads.


Roof Cargo Box

Rooftop Ski Cargo BoxA roof cargo box for skis is an external storage container that attaches to the roof of your car. They’re great for transporting all kinds of gear, including snowboards, skis, and other bulky winter or summer sports equipment. The cargo box is designed to keep the equipment secure and protected from the elements during transit.

Another design feature of cargo boxes is a streamlined front that cuts down on wind resistance. This is related to a major disadvantage of this type of ski transportation: the loss of fuel economy. When compared to options like a rooftop ski rack, a cargo box will decrease your fuel economy significantly. It may also increase road noise and make driving more difficult in high winds.

To use a roof cargo box for skis, it is typically necessary to have a roof rack installed on the vehicle. Some vehicles come preinstalled with bars for a roof rack; others don’t, and you’ll have to get them installed.

Once you have a roof rack installed, using a cargo box is relatively easy. You do have to get it up on top of the car, which can be a little challenging if you’re by yourself– so get a buddy to help out if you have a crossover or anything taller. The best roof cargo boxes open and close easily, and come with locks for extra security.


Pros of a Roof Cargo Box

Roof cargo boxes are popular, and there are many reasons why that is so. Here are some of the key features that people point to when asked why they like using a roof cargo box for their skis:

  • Keeps skis clean and secure
  • Increases available space in the car
  • Increased storage capacity for other gear
  • MInimizes chance of theft
  • No road salt or grime will get on the skis


Cons of a Roof Cargo Box

  • Expensive (sometimes more than $1500)
  • Requires a roof rack
  • Reduces fuel economy
  • Bulky- you have to consider storage when not in use
  • May run into height issues with parking garages


Best Rooftop Cargo Boxes

You have lots of options for cargo boxes, but two brands that are well-loved by adventure enthusiasts are Thule and Yakima. Both of these brands are known for their ease of use, durability, and great design.

Both of these are fairly expensive, however. The major downside to roof cargo boxes is that even “budget” options like the Yakima Rocketbox are still going to be in the $500+ price range because smaller boxes will not fit skis. Consider looking for a used cargo box if budget is a serious concern.


Rooftop Ski Rack

If you don’t want to use a whole cargo box, a rooftop ski rack might be the best way to transport skis for you. There are several types of rooftop ski racks available, including models that hold the skis flat against the roof or on the edge, and models that can hold multiple skis and snowboards at once.

In addition to an actual rack, you could also tie down your skis to the top of the car with rope, or with ratchets. This is not a recommended approach, but can be done relatively safely and effectively with proper securing.


Pros of a Rooftop Ski Rack

Why do people recommend a rooftop ski rack for transporting their skis? Here are a few of the benefits these racks can provide:

  • Increases available space in the car
  • Keeps skis secure on the road
  • Less expensive than roof cargo boxes
  • Easier storage than roof cargo boxes


Cons of a Rooftop Ski Rack

  • Exposes your skis to the elements
  • Requires roof crossbars
  • Exposes your gear to thieves
  • Increases wind resistance and road noise
  • May run into height issues with parking garages
  • Limited space can be a problem if you have multiple skiers


Best Rooftop Ski Racks

  • The Thule Snowpack is a nice option that can hold four to six pairs of skis, and there is an extender that can double the carrying capacity.
  • The Yakima Powder Hound can hold six pairs of skis or four snowboards.
  • If you don’t have crossbars, the SeaSucker Classic Ski Rack is a safe option with strong suction cups.


Hitch Rack

Hitch Ski RackHitch racks require a hitch hookup on the back of your vehicle, but if it doesn’t already come with one, they aren’t too difficult or expensive to install. (Here is a video showing you how to install a trailer hitch on your vehicle.) Hitch racks typically have a platform or tray on which skis and snowboards can be placed, and can hold multiple pairs of skis and snowboards at once. They’re great if you’re taking your whole family or a large group of people.

Hitch racks have all the benefits of a roof rack, but are typically easier to use. Some of them can even convert from a bike rack in summer to a ski rack in winter.


Pros of a Hitch Rack

Here’s what people say about the advantages and disadvantages of hitch racks for skis:

  • Increases available space in the car
  • Keeps skis secure on the road
  • Less expensive than roof cargo boxes
  • Easier storage than roof cargo boxes
  • Easier to use than roof racks because they are at eye level
  • Large capacity
  • Easy to load and unload
  • Keeps skis out of the wind


Cons of a Hitch Rack

  • Exposes your skis to the elements
  • Requires a trailer hitch
  • Exposes your gear to thieves
  • Decreased fuel economy
  • Adds length to the vehicle, which can make parking and maneuvering more difficult
  • Can obstruct rear view or make it more difficult to back up.
  • May make trunk access difficult or impossible


Best Hitch Racks

If you’re looking for the best hitch rack, you have many options.

  • The Yakima HitchSki takes you from a bike rack in the summer to a ski rack in the winter, and it’s both affordable and easy to use.
  • The Thule Tram Hitch Ski Carrier requires the Thule hanging bike rack for use, so this is a good option if you’ve already invested in Thule for your vehicle. The ski-carrying arms are extremely soft and protective.
  • The Tyger Auto Hitch Mounted Ski Rack is a nice, stable rack that tilts 120 degrees, making it easy for you to access your trunk. This rack is adjustable and can be extended to hold longer skis or snowboards.


Window Mount

Window mounts are an inexpensive and easy option for transporting your skis. This type of ski rack attaches to the side windows of a vehicle using vacuum cups or suction cups. The skis are held parallel to the vehicle and suspended above the roof, creating a streamlined and aerodynamic profile. They attach immediately to the window and don’t cause damage, which means they’re great to use for rentals. Just be careful when getting in or out of the car, since some of these mounts need to be removed before you open the rear doors!


Pros of a Window Mount

What are people saying about window-mounted racks? Here are the pros and cons of this type of ski rack.

  • Inexpensive
  • Requires virtually no installation
  • Versatile
  • Aerodynamic
  • Lightweight


Cons of a Window Mount

  • Road noise
  • Might not be able to open your door with the rack on
  • Exposes skis to the elements
  • Exposes gear to thieves
  • Some have a small capacity
  • May not work with all vehicles
  • Can damage your vehicle or window tinting if used incorrectly or left on for a long period of time
  • Can be harder to find than other types of racks


Best Window Mounts

Window mounts can be challenging to find; right now, there’s really only one easily available option.

  • The Ski-Hiker 2 is easy to use and very budget-friendly.


What’s The Best Way To Transport Skis?

The best way to transport skis is the way that works for you. The weather and the road conditions can make some methods safer than others– so find out what works for other people in your area and see if their decisions apply to you.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about