A version of this story appeared in the winter 2020 issue of Uncommon Path.
Skis and snowboards are big. The decision about which car-top carrier is right for the job doesn’t have to be.
The simplest way to get your skis and boards from the garage to the hill is with a dedicated ski rack. It’s far and away the least expensive option, and even a wide one such as the FreshTrack 6 (which holds up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards) tips the scales at just 8 pounds. That makes it light enough to mount without the help of a buddy. The FreshTrack 6 also boasts the closest thing to universal mounting in this lineup: You can affix it to round, square, factory or aerodynamic crossbars without any tools.
If you have a big SUV or just have trouble reaching high places, consider a ski rack like the Grip 6 that slides away from the roof to make loading and unloading less clumsy. To do it, you just push a large, glove-friendly button inside the rack, then easily slide the bottom tray out. For the price, it also has an easy-to-grab handle that can’t ice up—a common problem with the buttons on basic racks. The interlocking rubber pads keep skis and boards more secure than a basic rack (and therefore more aerodynamic). Like the Yakima, the Grip 6 can be mounted to most crossbars.
Not only are hard-sided cargo boxes the most durable and protective option for car-top gear storage, they can also double as a second garage for your gear. But they get expensive, quick. That makes bare-bones options like the Pulse series great for folks who are just looking for a simple way to shield their gear from weather, road spray, flung rocks and thieves. Plus, the Alpine model can fit up to six sets of skis, and it mounts to aero, square and round crossbars with ease.
Length 7′ 4.5″
With even the more affordable boxes out there flirting with $500, it’s understandable if spending more is out of the question. But the extra money you’d drop on a box like the Wedge Plus nets you features like dual-side opening for (much) easier loading and unloading, a more aerodynamic design for better fuel efficiency and less wind noise, room for up to eight pairs of skis and a universal mounting system that fits aero, square, round and most factory crossbars.
Length 6′ 8″