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The Best Way To Transport Skis By Car, Truck, Or SUV. 5 Great Ways

best way to transport skis

Skis are an awkward size and shape object to transport. Most of us don’t live within walking distance of a ski resort. We all want to go skiing a lot. This means you frequently need to load up the car, truck or SUV to go skiing. What is the best way to transport skis by car? Here are 5 great options when you need to take your skis somewhere.

Things to consider when you transport skis by car

When you are heading off to ski for the weekend you need to fit people, skis, skiing gear and luggage in your car. Ski gear (boots, clothes, etc…) and your luggage are easy to just toss in the trunk. Skis can be a bit more of a challenge especially when there is more than 2 of you heading out. Here are a few things to consider.

  • How many people are going
  • Keeping skis clean
  • Keeping skis from being stolen
  • Can people get in and out of the car with skis on
  • Can you access your luggage with skis in the car
  • Can you access your skis with luggage in the car

Throw them in the back – The best way to transport skis by car

skis in car

The very best way to transport your skis if your are able to is putting them in the back of your car inside the car. This is easiest if you have a car or SUV with folding seats or a Pickup with a bed cover.

Skis stay clean when they are in your car. They don’t get road grime or salt all over them. Skis are expensive and we want them to last a while. Road salt causes ski edges and binding parts to rust.

Potential ski thiefs either can’t see your skis if you put something over top of them or have tinted windows. This is the most secure way of transporting skis by car.

There is no wind drag associated with having skis in your car so no gas mileage penalty.

This method works great if there is only 1 or 2 of you in the car. You can fold down the rear seats, toss the skis in and toss the rest of the gear and luggage in also.

This method works for more people but gets more and more crowded and difficult. If you have a split folding rear seat or center pass through, you can have 1 or 2 people sit in the back seat. More people means more gear and clothes to go with them. Which means more and more stuff to pile in on top of the skis.

If you are skiing after checking out of the hotel or before checking in you need to access your skis with everything else in the car. The more people you have, the more difficult this gets. If you have a really large SUV or full size Van this obviously gets easier for more people.

This is my preferred method of transporting skis when it’s either only 1 or 2 of us going for an overnighter or 3 to 4 of us on a day trip with no overnight stay.

Pros

  • Free – nothing to buy
  • Skis stay clean
  • Secure. The hardest option to break into
  • No gas mileage penalty
  • Most inexpensive way to transport skis in your car
  • Works for cars, SUV’s with folding rear seats and pickup beds.
  • Quick access to your skis without climbing up to the roof
  • Great for 1 or 2 people in the car

Cons

  • If more than 2 people you have to pack luggage and gear on top of skis
  • Doesn’t work for cars without folding seats or pass throughs

Cargo Box

cargo box on car

Cargo boxes are the next best method of transporting your skis if you can’t put them inside your car. Your skis will stay clean and secure.

Locked cargo boxes are secure because the potential thief can’t see if there is anything to take inside your box. Most thiefs want a quick grab. There are many easy to see grabs out there for them. The risk verse reward isn’t there when they can’t see what they are going to get for the risk of getting caught.

It’s easy to access your skis with a full load of luggage and gear in the car. You can go ahead and fill the car up with a full load of gear and people. There is no challenge to doing a several day trip with several people going to several different ski resorts/hotels.

The downsides to the cargo box. They are not cheap. Boxes from Yakima and Thule run from $450 to well over $1000. If your car doesn’t have factory roof rack bars you’ll need to add those too which can run several hundred dollars more on top of that.

They are big and awkward and can be a challenge to install on your car by yourself. I personally use a Yakima Cargo Box. I can put it on top of my Ford Escape by myself. If the car was any taller I would not be able to. It’s a much easier job for 2 people.

Because they are big and awkard they are also difficult to store. Before buying one think of where your going to put it when it’s not on your car. They take a lot of space.

Finally, they cause a very noticeable hit to your fuel economy. I personally use a Yakima Skybox12. I see about a 3mpg drop going down the highway with my Ford Escape. This adds up on a 10 hour trip up to Mount Bohemia. Because of this reason I only use it when I have 3 or more people going on the car on an overnight or longer trip.

Pros

  • Skis stay clean
  • Easy to access skis with luggage in car
  • No need to fold down rear seats
  • Secure. Theifs can’t see what you have

Cons

  • Cargo boxes are expensive
  • More difficult to put on your car than a ski rack
  • Large item to store when your not using it.
  • 2-3mpg gas mileage penalty
  • Difficult to reach inside for SUV’s and trucks

Gear Recommendation

YAKIMA – SkyBox

  • Perfect for hauling gear for up to 2 campers; Great for snowboards and skis up to 180 cm
  • SuperLatch security ensures lid is secure to its base; Fits Yakima round, factory, aerodynamic and square bars
  • No assembly required; Includes SKS Locks; Approved crossbar spread: 24-36 inches


Roof mounted ski rack

thule roof rack
Image courtesy of Thule

Roof mounted ski racks are a really popular way to transport skis by car. They are my least favorite way to do it. You see way more ski racks in use at ski resorts across the country than cargo boxes.

Tossing your skis on the roof is easy and convenient. Roof racks are easy to load and unload with a full load of people, gear and luggage in your car.

Roof racks are relatively low cost. A good rack can run between $100 and $400. Most ski roof racks require cross bars to mount too. Those can cost several hundred dollars more on top of the cost for the roof rack.

There are a couple of options available that mount by suction cups or other means that don’t require roof bars if you don’t have them. The SeaSucker racks are a good example.

Even the biggest of roof rack mounted ski racks aren’t big enough to be a challenge for storage. You can stand them in the corner next to your skis.

There is some loss of mileage for a ski roof rack in the 1-2mpg range. It’s much less than the large loss you will experience with a cargo box.

Now let’s talk about the downsides. They do not keep your skis clean. Your skis will get covered with all the road salt, grime and muck that covers your car after every day driving in the winter. Salt is bad for metal edges and binding parts. It is recommended that your clean your skis and bindings after getting home if they spent a few hours on the roof rack.

Roof racks are not secure. Ski thiefs can see what is in your rack. They can get your skis out of a locked roof rack really quickly. I know this from experience after our family had 4 sets of new skis stolen off a rack overnight at a hotel in New York. The broken rack was there in the morning. The skis were not. If you use a roof rack. Do not leave your skis in it overnight at the hotel or any other long period unattended.

Pros

  • Easy to access skis with luggage in car
  • No need to fold down rear seats
  • Easy to install and remove
  • They don’t take up much space to store in your home
  • Less milage penalty than a cargo box

Cons

  • Skis get dirty with road grime and salt
  • Not secure
  • More expensive than putting skis in your car
  • Can be difficult to reach on large SUV’s and trucks

Gear Recommendation

Thule SnowPack Ski/Snowboard Rack, 4 Pair

  • Holds skis and snowboards securely with ultra-soft rubber arms that grip without scratching the surfaces
  • Easy to open and close while wearing gloves, thanks to an oversized push button
  • Added roof clearance for skis with tall bindings, thanks to included extension feet that raise the carrier


Hitch mounted ski rack

thule hitch rack
Image courtesy of Thule

Hitch mounted ski racks are very easy to load and unload since you don’t have to reach over the car or SUV’s roof. Their effect on mileage can be minimal since they are in the slipstream of the vehicle. They do not get in the way of getting into any of the passenger compartment doors when they are on the car.

Hitch mounted ski racks can run $250-350 dollars. Most are sold as adapters for hitch mounted bike racks. To use them you need to have a trailer hitch reciever installed on your car which will run $200-500. You’ll need a hitch mounted bike rack. Another $250-350. This ends up being a very expensive option by the time you are done getting everything. This option is most suitable if you already have a hitch mounted bike rack for the other half of the year.

Hitch racks get in the way of opening the liftgate or swinggate for a hatch back or SUV. You can’t open it without tilting the rack away from the car. Keep this in mind when you are parking especially if you are somewhere you need to parallel park. This can be an annoyance if you need to open the back to get your ski boots and other gear at the start and end of your ski day with the rack on the car.

Skis are out in the open on a hitch rack which leaves them easy targets for theft. Similar to a roof mounted ski rack. Don’t leave your skis on them overnight or when you gone for any extended amount of time.

Pros

  • Easy to access skis with luggage in car
  • No need to fold down rear seats
  • Easy to install and remove
  • They take up less space to store than a cargo box
  • Less milage penalty than a cargo box

Cons

  • Skis get dirty with road grime and salt
  • Not secure
  • More expensive than a roof rack. Less expensive than a cargo box.
  • Difficult to access your car trunk for SUV’s and Hatchbacks.
  • You have to have a trailer hitch reciever on your car

Gear Recommendation

YAKIMA – HitchSki Ski & Board Conversion Mount For Bike Hitch Rack

  • BIKE IN SUMMER, SKI IN WINTER: Convert your mast-style hitch rack into a ski rack and snowboard carrier with ease; Carries up to 6 pairs of skis or 4 snowboards
  • EASY-TO-USE: Features 2-position upper arms and adjustable lower arms to accommodate various skis and boards
  • PROTECTS YOUR GEAR: The soft, flexible rubber padding will cradle and protect your skis and boards for many winters to come


Window mounted ski rack

window mount ski rack on car
Photo courtesy of Ski-Hiker

Window mounted ski racks are a very inexpensive way of hanging your skis on your car. They hang on the top of your window glass and use suction cups to stay in place.

These racks are very compact and can be put in your luggage to use if your flying out somewhere. We had a set of these we used to throw in our ski bag in case the rental car didn’t have anyway to put skis inside.

They are very inexpensive compared to any other ski racks. They can be purchased for under $50.

The downside. These have all the same negatives as roof mounted racks and hitch racks. Your skis get dirty and they are out in the open as theft targets.

Because you are mounting these on your car windows, you may not be able to open the car door with these mounted. If you can open your car door, you need to be careful you’re not swinging the skis into the car parked next to you.

The main advantage of this rack type is portability and being able to use them when traveling. If you are serious about skiing and need to drive to the local ski resort you should probably invest in a better solution.

Pros

  • Easy to access skis with luggage in car
  • No need to fold down rear seats
  • Easy to install and remove
  • Very little space to store
  • Less milage penalty than a cargo box
  • Cheap
  • Can fit in luggage for trips

Cons

  • Skis get dirty with road grime and salt
  • Not secure
  • Can only hold 2 pairs of skis per rack
  • You may not be able to open car door that has rack installed

Gear Recommendation

SKI-HIKER 2

  • Safe tested at over 110mph – Easy to fit
  • No assembly required Window mount ski rack
  • Holds 2 pairs of alpine skis


I hope this helps you find the best way to transport skis from home to ski resort. I’m personally a throw it in the back or cargo box person. There are a lot of ski rack users out there that are very happy with them. Find what works best for you and enjoy your time on the slopes.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start Gear Craver as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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