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The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024

Whether you’re riding solo or bringing along the whole crew, these are the best ski and snowboard racks for your hitch or roof to haul skis and snowboards to the mountain.
woman grabbing snowboard from rackWe tested a range of ski and snowboard racks to find the best options; (photo/Eric Phillips)
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The hardest part of any ski day is getting your gear and friends to the hill.  We’ve all got fond memories of being jammed in the back of a car with skis poking around your head on the annual pilgrimage to the mountains. 

Luckily, a sweep of convenient options is available for safely transporting skis and snowboards to the ski area or backcountry trailhead without needing to sardine them inside your vehicle. From hitch racks to roof rack designs, it’s easy to find the best accessory for your vehicle. With the right fit, you can quickly load/unload the hardgoods, keep your sticks (and noggins) safe, and hit the highway without worry. 

We looked around for the best ski and snowboard racks, tested the most competitive designs, and found some very solid contenders at a wide range of price points.

At the end of our list, be sure to check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide, FAQ, and comparison chart. Otherwise, scroll through to see all of our recommended buys.

The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024

Best Overall Ski and Snowboard Rack

Küat Switch 6


  • Type Roof
  • Weight 14 lbs.
  • Carrying Capacity 6 skis or 4 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski and crossbar lock
  • Ease of Install Easy
Product Badge The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Straightforward to use and install
  • Folds to a low-profile, aerodynamic orientation
  • Budget-friendly


  • Can be hard to close
  • One tester's rack wouldn't stay upright when unloaded
Best Budget Ski and Snowboard Rack

Rhino-Rack Ski and Snowboard Carrier #576


  • Type Roof
  • Weight 8 lbs., 12.8 oz.
  • Carrying Capacity 6 skis or 4 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock
  • Ease of Install Moderate
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Gentle on the pocketbook
  • Comes with locks


  • Flimsy materials 
  • Locking mechanism hard to engage when fully loaded
Best Rack for Wide Skis and Snowboards

Yakima FatCat EVO 6


  • Weight 12 lbs., 12 oz.
  • Carrying Capacity 6 Skis or 4 Snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski and crossbar lock
  • Ease of Install Moderate
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Aerodynamic design helps with air sound and looks sharp
  • Double-joint hinge expands for thicker or stacked skis and boards


  • Hard to close when fully loaded
  • Locking mechanism is a challenge to fully engage
  • Keys don't come on a ring like others do
Best Swing-Away Hitch Rack for Families

Yakima EXO SnowBank Exo System Snow Mount


  • Type Swing arm hitch
  • Weight 143.3 lbs — 68.5 lbs (EXO SwingBase), 33.5 lbs (EXO TopShelf), 27.8 lbs (EXO GearLocker), 13.5 lbs (EXO SnowBank)
  • Carrying Capacity 5 skis or 4 Snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock, rack lock, box lock, hitch lock
  • Ease of Install Difficult
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • 90-degree arm-swing for full use of the back of the rig even with a stuffed rack
  • Modular accessories install in seconds using the tool-free EXO Cleat system and locking SpeedKnobs
  • Heavy-duty, longstanding materials
  • Year-round use with bike carrier (separate purchase)


  • Hefty so the rack is tough to install and remove alone
  • Security concerns where EXO SwingBase mounts to hitch receiver
  • Without SKS upgrade, system requires four sets of keys
  • Hit to the wallet
Best Slide-Out Roof Rack 

Küat Grip 4


  • Type Roof rack
  • Weight 18 lbs.
  • Carrying Capacity 4 skis or 2 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock and crossbar lock
  • Ease of Install Easy
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Convenient slide-out loading system
  • Clear locking and unlocking mechanism with large handle
  • Grippy GripLock rubber securely, gently holds both skis and snowboards


  • Pricey
Best of the Rest

Thule SnowPack Extender


  • Type Roof 
  • Weight 12 lbs
  • Carrying Capacity 6 skis or 4 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock and crossbar lock
  • Ease of Install Difficult
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Extendable for painless loading and unloading, eliminates stretching over the body shell
  • Low profile


  • Instructions for installation are visual only — no captions puzzles the setup
  • Locking mechanism feels flimsy when fully loaded

Thule Tram and Apex XT Swing


  • Type Hitch swing-arm
  • Weight 68 lbs., 12 oz. — 42 lbs (Apex XT Swing), 25 lbs., 9.6 oz. (Tram)
  • Carrying Capacity 6 skis or 4 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock and hitch lock
  • Ease of Install Difficult
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Buttery swing-arm function even when mounted to a car hitch
  • Multi-function rack from bike to ski for year-round use


  • Must have a compatible bike rack to mount the ski rack to — will not work on its own
  • Hard install, extra tools needed: a T20 hex key and Phillips Head screwdriver
  • Ski and snowboard rack feels cheaply made compared to the base hitch rack
  • Took a few tries to learn to load and lock-in skis in an apex

Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack


  • Type Hitch 
  • Weight 65 lbs.
  • Carrying Capacity 4 skis
  • Locks None
  • Ease of Install Easy
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Uncomplicated loading and unloading
  • Rock-solid durability
  • Olympic-quick, obvious assembly and installation


  • Doesn’t fit snowboards
  • No ability to lock skis to rack

Yakima FreshTrack 4 Ski/Snowboard Rack


  • Type Roof
  • Weight 7 lbs., 15 oz.
  • Carrying Capacity 4 skis or 2 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock
  • Ease of Install Easy
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Affordable 
  • Smooth install
  • Includes lean-to add-on arm for greater clearance


  • While you can lock your skis to the rack, there's no lock from the rack to the crossbars 
  • Feels a bit feeble
  • Hard to fit wide skis or snowboards

INNO Ski/Snowboard Rack L INA951


  • Type Roof
  • Weight 20 lbs.
  • Carrying Capacity 6 skis or 4 snowboards
  • Locks Integrated ski lock and crossbar lock
  • Ease of Install Difficult
The Best Ski and Snowboard Racks of 2024


  • Innovative design positions rack closer to edges of vehicle for easier loading and unloading
  • Universal mounting system for crossbars


  • Feels like budget materials
  • Stripped bolts when installing hardware
  • Pensive install
Thule Tram and Apex XT Swing combo
The Thule Tram and Apex XT Swing combo makes a great hitch-mounted ski and snowboard rack for winter and bike rack in the summer; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Ski and Snowboard Racks Comparison Chart

Scroll right to view all of the columns: Price, Carry Capacity, Ease of Install, Rack Type, and Locks.

Ski and Snowboard RacksPriceCarry CapacityEase of InstallRack TypeLocks
Küat Switch 6$2496 skis / 4 snowboardsEasyRoofIntegrated ski and crossbar locks
Rhino-Rack Ski and Snowboard Carrier #576 – 6 skis $2026 skis / 4 snowboardsModerateRoofIntegrated ski locks
Yakima FatCat EVO 6$3796 skis / 4 snowboardsModerateRoofIntegrated ski and crossbar locks
Yakima EXO SnowBank Exo System Snow Mount$1,9265 skis / 4 snowboardsDifficult Hitch swing-armIntegrated ski, box, and hitch lock
Küat Grip 4$4294 skis / 2 snowboardsEasyRoofIntegrated ski and crossbar lock
Thule SnowPack Extender Ski/Snowboard Rack$4506 skis / 4 snowboardsDifficult RoofIntegrated ski and crossbar lock
Thule Tram$1,0806 skis / 4 snowboardsDifficult Hitch swing-armSki and hitch locks
Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack$8994 skisEasyHitch None
Yakima FreshTrack 4 Ski/Snowboard Rack$2494 skis / 2 snowboardsEasyRoofIntegrated ski lock
INNO Ski/Snowboard Rack L INA951$2996 skis / 4 snowboardsDifficult RoofIntegrated ski and crossbar locks
Küat Grip 4 birds-eye view
The Küat Grip 4 is one of the steeziest roof racks — we like the look and ergonomics; (photo/Eric Phillips)

How We Tested Ski and Snowboard Racks

The folks behind GearJunkie spend a lot of time in the mountains. From daily resort rips to cross-country ski laps, we love taking our skis and snowboards to the corduroy. Like most skiers and snowboarders, we often use our vehicles to get to the start point. We’ve mounted our roof and hitch racks onto sedans, SUVs, trucks, and everything in between. 

After years of regular use and testing, we’ve identified the best ski and snowboard racks on the market. We thoroughly assess every ski and snowboard rack that we test, down to the last screw. A ski and snowboard rack should be easy to use, ergonomic, durable for the long run, secure, and versatile.

We deep-dive into the installation, opening and closure systems, materials, locks, and more so that you don’t have to mess around. We’ve weighed dozens of racks against these standards.

The models on this list are as good as it gets. These ski and snowboard racks offer a variety of styles from hitch to roof mounts, compact or extended in size, modularity for 12-month use, and a variety of price points so you can find the perfect rack for your crew and wagon.

Why You Should Trust Us

Our lead tester and photographer is Eric Phillips, an avid skier and snowboarder based in Crested Butte, Colorado. Phillips — who’s also an automotive enthusiast and specializes in our motors content — has used a plethora of vehicles and racks to get his gear to the snow in all types of weather. That includes short ticks to his local hill and multi-day powder missions. Tinkering on vehicles is one of his favorite hobbies, and ski racks are the perfect accessory for life in a ski town and for a powder hound.

Many of the ski and snowboard racks featured here have been with us for many seasons. Even after regular exposure to the elements and racking up miles on rough roads, they’re still going strong. Whether you’re a downhill skier, snowboarder, Nordic skier, or somewhere in between, we’re confident you’ll find a rack to help get your gear to the mountains. As new racks roll out, we’ll be sure to keep testing and update our list to reflect the current market.

Side view of Thule Tram and Apex XT Swing
The Thule Tram and Apex XT Swing is the only vertical hitch-mounted ski and snowboard rack that converts to a bike rack on our list; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Ski and Snowboard Rack

All styles of ski and snowboard racks provide the benefit of keeping your sharp edges away from the car’s interior while keeping the seats open for passengers.

Two primary styles of ski and snowboard racks dominate the field. The first is roof racks, which mount on the roof of your vehicle using factory or aftermarket crossbars. The second is a hitch rack, which connects to your rig with the hitch receiver.

If you can’t or don’t want to lift gear overhead, and price is no object, choose a hitch ski and snowboard rack. If you want to save money and aren’t concerned about lifting your gear or potentially getting sullied by the car’s dirty body, then a roof rack is for you. 

Read more of the pros and cons below, as well as the style differences within each category.

Types of Ski and Snowboard Racks

Roof Racks: Pros

Roof racks have the benefit of nestling your gear lengthwise along the pinnacle of your vehicle, keeping them away from road grime. The list of contaminants is pretty extensive, spanning unburnt fuel, tar, salt, grease, and cement dust, to name a few.

Another advantage of roof racks is that they don’t comprise access to the primary cargo storage.

Roof racks are generally less expensive and weigh far less than hitch racks since they require fewer materials.

Roof Racks: Cons

Depending on the height of your vehicle, one downside is that roof racks can be a physical stretch to load and unload. Loading often involves lifting skis or snowboards above your head and then fully extending your arms to place the gear on the rack.

Certain conventional designs offer a sliding feature to bring the loading zone further to the edge of the vehicle. But in general, hitch racks are considerably easier to load. 

They are often single-purpose, whereas hitch racks are more often modular, so you can convert the base to hold bikes in the summer with additional accessories.

Some roof racks with skis loaded can hinder the hatch from opening, depending on the length of the vehicle and the gear.

While one of our favorite ski and snowboard roof racks can flip down for aerodynamics — the Küat Switch 6 — and a quieter ride, most roof racks stick up and dock fuel efficiency. Like wind blowing through sails, some can add noise to your car ride, such as a mild whistle.

Küat Switch 6 open and unloaded
Küat Switch 6 is one of our favorite and most aerodynamic roof racks we’ve tested; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Hitch Racks

Hitch racks for your skis and snowboards attach to the vehicle beneath the back bumper using a factory or aftermarket hitch. Our consensus is that hitch racks are much easier to load and unload, as they are much closer to the ground and don’t involve lifting your snow equipment overhead. 

Under the umbrella are two styles of hitch racks: swing-arm or swing-away and tilt. The subcategory refers to how the rack can be repositioned so that you can access your cargo space in the vehicle.

Tilt Hitch Rack

Tilt racks like the Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack can allow the rack to lean back at an angle, enabling you to open a hatchback or drop down a tailgate. This makes it possible to lean in and grab a backpack, parking lot grill, cooler, or let your dog hop out. Tilt racks are often more lightweight and less expensive than swing-arm racks.

While they are dipped away, they don’t offer completely unrestricted access to the rear of the vehicle.

Swing-Away Hitch Rack

Swing-arm or swing-away racks utilize a heavy-duty arm that can be locked into a fixed position behind the vehicle while you’re driving. But it offers the ability to unlock and swing the rack away from the rear of the vehicle to get to all your luggage.

Generally, a swing-away operation tends to move the rack further from your ride than a tilt hitch rack. This yields greater access to the primary storage space of the vehicle. It also moves the rack out of the way, so that you can more easily pull out heavy or cumbersome items.

loaded Küat Switch 6
Küat Switch 6 can carry 6 skis or 4 snowboards; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Our favorite swing-away rack is the Yakima EXO SnowBank Exo System Snow Mount. The excellent structure swings a full 180 degrees away from your vehicle, giving you unobstructed access to whatever’s back there.

Hitch Rack: Pros

Hitch racks are heavier-duty and have more moving parts than roof racks. The benefit? They can hold considerably more weight than roof racks and offer more versatility. Most swing-away ski and snowboard hitch racks can be converted for summer use, including the ability to carry bikes, cargo boxes, and more.

While many hitch racks and roof racks can hold around 4 snowboards or skis, some hitch orientations can bring more along. The Gravirax GR-4 Adjustable Ski Rack has a 10-ski model. But hitch racks usually max out at 2 snowboards whereas roof racks can fit up to 4 snowboards.

Most importantly, hitch racks are much easier to load, unload, and generally operate compared to roof racks. You don’t need to lift your skis or snowboard overhead or, for some, climb onto a tire or seat to reach the locking mechanisms. 

INNO Ski/Snowboard Rack L INA951 without gear
INNO Ski/Snowboard Rack L INA951 is a unique double-clamshell design that allows more reachable access from each side of the vehicle; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Hitch Rack: Cons

Broadly speaking, hitch racks for skis and snowboards come with bigger price tags than roof racks. Robust and more materials come at a cost.

Additionally, hitch racks are often heavy and can be hard to install or move alone. 

Otherwise, the downside of hitch racks is that dirt, muck, salt, and other road grime can build up excessively along the back of a vehicle (and your gear) compared to the roof, especially if a rack is low to the ground. This is due to the air vortex that occurs behind a vehicle as it moves through the air, sucking grime from the road and swirling it behind the vehicle. Greater clout leads to the issue being exacerbated for vans, trucks, and SUVs.

Hitch-mounted racks hold your cargo directly in this vortex, which leads to dirty skis and snowboards after driving at highway speeds. If you live or drive somewhere where they salt the roads, this could lead to rust forming on the metal ski edges. 

That’s one reason why we suggest configuring the Yakima EXO SnowBank Exo System Snow Mount with the EXO TopShelf, so that the skis and snowboards can be more elevated above the ground.

loaded and closed INNO Ski/Snowboard Rack L INA951
Two people can simultaneously load their gear on each side of the car with the INNO Ski/Snowboard Rack L INA951; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Rack Capacity

One of the first things to consider when choosing a winter gear rack is how many skis or snowboards you typically take with you. Racks generally carry anywhere from four to six skis or two to four snowboards, so you have some options. Some designs carry even more. The max quantity we’ve found is 10 skis (in the 10-ski model of the Gravirax GR-4 Adjustable Ski Rack) plus two snowboards with the aftermarket sleeves.

Generally, a snowboard takes up the same room as 1.5 pairs of skis, meaning a rack that can hold 6 pairs of skis can only hold 4 snowboards. You can mix and match both skis and snowboards on one rack, but your carrying capacity will go down. 

Remember, you can always carry fewer skis than a rack’s capacity, but never more than a rack’s capacity. And you never know when you’re going to pick up a few more buddies to ride with.

Some hitch racks have optional add-ons that will add more ski or snowboard capacity to the rack. Roof racks do not have aftermarket add-ons for capacity.

loaded and closed Küat Switch 6
Roof racks can carry a mix of skis and snowboards; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Vehicle and Travel Compatibility 

Both types of ski and snowboard racks in our guide require certain criteria from your vehicle to securely mount the racks.


Roof racks require factory or aftermarket crossbars to be on or installed onto your vehicle’s roof prior to rack installation.

Crossbars usually come in square or round shapes. They extend from the driver’s side across the roof to the passenger side and are what a ski rack mounts to. Don’t let that confuse you with roof rails, which are standard on most vehicles. Roof rails reach vertically, toward each bumper, and perpendicular to the crossbars. Roof rails are what crossbars mount to.  

Most racks offer universal crossbar compatibility, but some, like the Yakima FatCat EVO 6, are designed to work with Yakima-specific crossbars.

If your car doesn’t have crossbars, don’t worry. They are fairly easy to install yourself like in our DIY guide, or have your local auto shop install them for you.

tilted Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack
Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack is a tilt rack; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Hitch Receiver

Hitch racks require your car to have a hitch receiver on your vehicle, which is where the hitch rack can bolt into place. Vehicles usually come with a hitch receiver, which is a metal tube that is mounted to the frame. But don’t worry, aftermarket hitches are very common, and you can find one for almost every make and model. Most are DIY installs, but a reputable auto shop can help you install one properly.  

Hitches generally come in 1.25-inch and 2-inch sizing. It’s important that you verify the size of your vehicle hitch receiver prior to purchasing a rack. A larger, 2-inch hitch can carry heavier loads, which is great if you plan to carry a swing-away hitch rack. It’s also worth noting that some racks come with an adapter to fit either size.

One thing to note is that even with a hitch installed on your vehicle, the rack might not always function perfectly. For example, the Yakima EXO SwingBase hitch rack would not open on our tester’s Subaru Outback with an aftermarket hitch installed because it was too close to the bumper, but the rack worked just fine on our testers’ Ford F-150 and Toyota Tacoma. 

tubes of the Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack with skis inside
Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack has robust, open tubes to hold sets of skis; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Ease of Use

Most of the ski and snowboard racks in our guide are relatively easy to use, but each has tradeoffs.

Hitch racks are often easier overall as they don’t involve lifting skis or snowboards above your head and then fully extending your arms to place them on the rack. You don’t need to risk getting filth on your clothes, which can sometimes happen with a roof rack.

Locking a roof rack involves reaching even higher or potentially stepping on the tire or a seat with the door open to reach the rack, so that you can pull down with enough force to engage the locking mechanism. 

Some smart racks now offer a sliding feature to bring the loading zone beyond the edge of the vehicle and above the ground. However, operating a roof rack always involves some level of reaching up.

Hitch racks bring the loading zone from the top of the vehicle down to chest height or lower, meaning you won’t have to get on your tippy toes or climb your vehicle to reach the rack with your equipment. They also can swing open to allow complete use of your rear hatch. Some roof racks with skis loaded can hinder the hatch from opening. 

Certain roof rack release buttons are larger or more ergonomic than others, which we find are easier to operate with gloved hands.

Release buttons vary in size and some are easier to operate with gloves on; (photo/Eric Phillips)


Pads are the rubber material that comes into contact with your skis or snowboards along the base and top sheet. Nearly all the racks in our guide use a rubber pad to secure your skis in place, whether that’s on the hitch or roof.

Most of the pads are either curved or rectangular in shape, and a single strip stretches from one side of the arm to the other. The rubber compresses around your skis to grip them and prevent movement once the arm is shut.

Our testers were impressed with the GripLock rubber on the Küat Grip 4. The GripLock rubber uses a zipper-like layout with alternating rubber teeth that fit together flush when the rack is closed. We found the grip to be superb, and it gripped skis and snowboards tighter than other designs, no matter how wide or narrow.

close up of Yakima lock on roof rack
Yakima offers an upgrade for personalized key-lock integration called Same Key System (SKS); (photo/Eric Phillips)


There are two main types of locks when it comes to ski and snowboard racks. Locks that secure the entire rack system to your vehicle, known as crossbar or hitch locks, and locks that secure your equipment to the rack, known as ski locks. 

Overall, locks play an important role in deciding which rack is best for your needs. Do you plan on living on the road or keeping your skis and snowboards on your vehicle for extended periods of time? Go with a roof rack that has an integrated crossbar lock. If you’re just doing day trips to the ski resort and won’t have gear camping overnight on the rack, you may not need to invest in a rack with integrated locks. 

Rack Ski Lock

Being able to lock the rack when your skis or snowboard are inside is an important component. Not only does it prevent your skis or snowboards from being stolen, but it can also make sure the rack doesn’t pop open when you’re zooming down the highway.

Most racks in our guide integrate the lock into the closure function, essentially requiring the rack to be locked before you drive away. The only rack without a ski lock is the Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack.  

Küat Switch 6 lock and unlock function near the arm closure
Some rack locks have visual aids to confirm when the arm is fully locked or unlocked; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Crossbar or Hitch Lock

After spending your hard-earned bread on a ski roof rack, the last thing you want is your rack to get stolen from your vehicle. That’s why integrated crossbar locks are an important aspect of a ski rack.

The racks we’ve tested without these locks are the Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack (which attaches via hitch receiver), and the Yakima FreshTrack 4 and Rhino-Rack Ski and Snowboard Carrier #576, which affix to a crossbar. Even with the ski lock engaged, anyone with a simple set of tools, a few minutes, and muscle would be able to remove the entire rack from the vehicle. 

Integrated Aftermarket Locks

Several brands offer aftermarket upgrades to unify and customize the key cores between your equipment. We recommend the investment for ease of use and not needing to manage as many keys, especially if you have a collection of racks or accessories.

Brands with universal key-and-lock-core upgrades include:

We liked that the Yakima FreshTrack 4, Yakima FatCat 6, and Yakima EXO System all have the SKS upgrade option. As does the Rhino-Rack Ski and Snowboard Carrier #576.

Keys and Key Rings

Our testers were most impressed with the locks and keys on the Küat Grip 4 and Küat Switch 6, which came on a sturdy key ring and with sturdy plastic-coated heads for easier grip with gloves on and in the cold. 

Most other racks offered rather meager metal keys with no reinforcement or key ring.

man turning key in lock on roof rack for skis and snowboards on top of car
We appreciate the plastic-coated heads on Küat rack keys; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Open and Closure

One of the biggest pains with ski and snowboard roof racks is opening and closing them in cold and snowy conditions.

Release Button

Opening the rack with gloves involves first unlocking the ski lock, then pressing the release button or pulling the release handle.

Our favorite design was on the Küat Grip 4, which uses a handle to open the rack as opposed to a button. We never had problems opening this rack, even with heavy-duty mittens in freezing conditions. 

Closure Latch

Closing the rack, on the other hand, takes a lot more effort and usually involves stepping up — for shorties, maybe onto the tire or running board of the vehicle — to be able to reach the open rack’s arm and fasten it down.

When fully loaded, certain roof racks can take a bit more grit to clamp down. Most roof racks have a multi-stage closure mechanism, meaning you’ll need to firmly press until you hear two or three clicks.

Functionality: Open and Closure

We found that with the ski and snowboard hitch racks being closer to the ground, they were much easier to close and lock into place than any of the roof racks.

The easiest rack to open and close overall was the EXO TopShelf, which are the arms that secure skis and snowboards on the Yakima EXO SnowBank Exo System Snow Mount. This was because the orientation of the rack was horizontal, and we could easily reach it while standing in our winter boots.

Locking Mechanism

It’s worth mentioning that the Gravirax GR-4 Hitch Mounted Ski Rack has no locking, opening, or closing mechanism. Skis rest vertically inside the tubes like bats hanging in a cave. Also, we were disappointed with how hard it was to close and lock the Yakima FatCat EVO 6 and the Küat Switch 6 when those two roof racks were loaded to their scripted volume. 

woman shutting roof rack with skis and snowboards
Ski racks are cold to the touch, so it’s good to wear glove liners or fully insulated winter gloves while you operate them; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Extender Bars

Extender bars are a more modern feature emerging in the ski and snowboard roof rack space. These inserts are like stilts, extending the vertical space between the car’s roof and the rack.

The higher gap allows room for bulkier ski or snowboard bindings. One rack we tested, the Yakima FreshTrack 4, has an optional extender bar that places the rack at an angle, taking a triangular form, to create more space for bindings. 

If you plan on stacking snowboards — one facing up and the other facing down — you’ll need enough ceiling for the bindings. When bindings rub the roof, that can cause excess wear, scratches, or dents on both.

If you have low-hanging crossbars or large bindings, we recommend going with a rack that has extender bars. 

loaded ski roof rack on Subaru Outback
Some roof rack designs offer optional or aftermarket extender bars to increase the roof’s hover height, accommodating bigger bindings and lower crossbars; (photo/Eric Phillips)


Assembly refers to the time from opening your package to having the rack ready to install. Some racks in our guide like the Küat Switch 6 come ready-to-go straight out of the box with no assembly required! You gotta love time-savers. Most other racks require some sort of assembly, though, so grab your mocha.

Certain designs, like the Thule SnowPack Extender, required 30 minutes of assembly before the rack was ready to install. That’s on the higher end of a build. If you do plan on storing your rack in the original box during the off-season, keep in mind the assembly times. You’d need to disassemble the rack to fit it back into the original box. 

loaded and closed yakima ski roof rack
Most rubber pads are singular pieces that line the entire length of an arm on a roof rack; (photo/Eric Phillips)


Installation comes after the rack assembly. This step refers to the time needed to mount your ski rack on your vehicle.

We rated the installation of each ski and snowboard rack between easy, moderate, and difficult based on how long it took to install the rack. The other factor was the comprehensiveness of the tools provided. If we needed to hunt down tools, that was a shortfall.

Difficulty Ratings

Easy installs took 15 minutes or less, from the unboxing to having the rack fully mounted — including the assembly. Now, that’s pretty good. A moderately challenging installation lasted anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. Difficult installs were 30 minutes or more. Ouch.  

While some installations took more elbow grease, all the racks in our guide can be assembled and installed at home without the help of a professional. Just make sure to read the instructions thoroughly before you start and follow each step. Also, install your ski rack before it starts snowing, or do it in a garage to avoid making your install harder. 

exterior hinge on the arm of a roof rack
The elbow is the hinge on the exterior of the arm on a roof rack; (photo/Eric Phillips)


Of all the installation tools included with racks, the Küat Switch 6 and Küat Grip 4 had the best quality. On the other hand, the INNO L INA951 tools felt very economically made. They flexed when tightening, causing our tester to have one go flying. This was also the only rack where we experienced a bolt stripping during the install. 

Our longest installation time was 46 minutes for the Thule SnowPack Extender, partly due to the absence of the required tools. A T20 bit and Phillips-head screwdriver were needed per the instructions but not provided. Keep this in mind if ordering this rack. The instructions were also not the most clear, because they lacked text.

release button on roof rack
A variety of release buttons or handles exist across roof rack designs, and we like the wide ones the most for gloved hands; (photo/Eric Phillips)


For those who want the best gas mileage, this section is for you!

Generally, hitch racks are more aerodynamic than roof racks, which means they support better gas mileage. Even the most aerodynamic roof racks get worse gas mileage than hitch racks. Roof racks lead to drag caused by wind hitting the rack as it flows over your vehicle.

Hitch racks have less drag because they sit behind the vehicle in a pocket of reduced wind and drag. The more you can get your gear behind your vehicle and out of the wind, the better aerodynamics your rig will sport. 

profile view of the Küat Switch 6 loaded
Make sure the ski and snowboard bindings have enough clearance not to scrape or dent the roof of your car; (photo/Eric Phillips)

To help increase your gas mileage while hauling gear, you could travel slower, but obviously, we recommend going the speed limit for safety. Highway speeds above 50 mph drastically reduce gas mileage, reports the U.S. Department of Energy.

You could remove your roof rack when it’s not in use, but that would also be time-consuming. and get hitch racks as low as possible on your vehicle.

Some racks like the Küat Switch 6 can be folded down flat to improve the aerodynamics and gas mileage when not in use.

Hitch racks help, because the more you can get your gear low and behind your car, the more efficient travel will be in terms of gas mileage. This can be enhanced by mounting your hitch rack on a low setting or even use a drop hitch when driving taller vehicles like 4×4 trucks. 

folded down Küat Switch 6 on car roof
We love that the Küat Switch 6 folds down for aerodynamics when we’re not lugging gear; (photo/Eric Phillips)


Can a ski rack hold a snowboard?

The short answer is, usually. The vast majority of hitch-mounted or roof rack designs can hold either skis or snowboards. The Gravirax GR-4 Adjustable Ski Rack is a more ski-centric design that does need an additional accessory to hold a snowboard: the Gravi Steel Snowboard Sleeve ($199).

Snowboards take up more space on a rack than skis, meaning a rack that can carry six pairs of skis can only hold four snowboards. Make sure to check the carrying capacity of any rack before you purchase. 

Ski roof racks mount to the crossbar, which can come on a vehicle or be an aftermarket purchase, and there are a range of shapes; (photo/Eric Phillips)
Can you stack snowboards or skis on a ski roof rack?

Yes! Both skis and snowboards can be stacked on your ski roof rack. Stacked refers to having a pair of skis or snowboards sandwiched with their bases together. Technically, that’s one single set of skis and two snowboards, for instance. This saves space on your roof rack as opposed to placing the equipment side by side.

Just make sure there is enough clearance for the binding on the bottom between the rack and the roof of your vehicle, in order to avoid unnecessary wear on both. If they do hit, you can get extender bars to raise the height of the roof rack and free up space for stacking like with the Yakima FreshTrack 4.

Keep in mind, when talking about rack capacity, manufacturers are referring to a single set of skis being stacked and snowboards being situated side by side, but it’s perfectly okay to stack snowboards.

We wouldn’t recommend having sticking two skis with a snowboard on the other side. It’s best to only stack skis with skis and snowboards with snowboards, due to the ski brakes and base compatibility.

The padding inside the arm of a roof rack is what grips, protects, and holds the gear stationary during transit; (photo/Eric Phillips)
Do you need crossbars for a roof rack?

Crossbars are the bars that run from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side, across the vehicle’s roof. They are essential for mounting a roof rack.

All roof racks require crossbars for mounting. Some cars come with crossbars. Otherwise, aftermarket crossbars are very easy to install yourself along with your ski rack. They come in a set of two, and you’ll need both to mount a ski roof rack.

You’ll also want to check that the crossbar shape is compatible with the roof rack. Each brand manufacturers their own specific shapes with particular material composites and finishes. But in general, there are oval, square, heavy-duty (HD), and aerodynamic bars. Yakima, for instance, offers four crossbar styles that they’ve labeled JetStream (aerodynamic aluminum), HD Bar (heavy-duty), CoreBar (aerodynamic steel), RoundBar (oval).

You can mix and match skis and snowboards, including stacking sets of skis and sandwiching snowboards depending on the rack arms; (photo/Eric Phillips)
Can you carry skis and snowboards together?

Yes, you can carry both skis and snowboards simultaneously on one ski and snowboard rack.

A rack that holds six skis or four snowboards can hold a mixture of both, like three skis and two snowboards. The width of a snowboard is approximately the width of 1.5 sets of skis side-by-side.

Yakima FatCat EVO 6 has a DoubleJoint hinge that pops up to accommodate fatter or stacked skis or snowboards; (photo/Eric Phillips)
Is it safe to put skis on a roof rack?

We have all seen the pictures and heard horror stories of skis being lost on the highway after someone forgot to lock their roof rack before driving off.

Ski and snowboard roof racks, when used correctly, are one of the safest ways to transport equipment to the ski resort.

The padded arms clamp down securely on your skis or snowboards without hurting them. Highway speeds won’t harm the rack or gear, either. Just make sure to follow all the instructions during the installation process and when loading the gear. Before driving, always double-check that your rack is locked, whether there’s gear inside or not.  

We love how far the Thule Tram and Apex XT Swing swing so we can fully access the hatch; (photo/Eric Phillips)

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