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Roof-Mounted Ski and Snowboard Carriers

Ski and Snowboard Carriers

Rooftop carriers tend to be the preferred method for transporting skis and snowboards for several reasons.

Cargo Box for Skis

There are two ways that you can safely transport your skis or snowboards on the roof of your vehicle. The first - as will be discussed in this article - is to use a carrier specially designed to hold skis and snowboards. The other way is to use a rooftop cargo box. With a cargo box, your skis will be safely enclosed, keeping them secure and guarded from the elements. This would be the recommended method for transporting your skis on long trips. To learn more about rooftop cargo boxes see Roof-Mounted Cargo Boxes, Bags and Baskets

What to Consider When Choosing a Ski Rack

Design and Functionality

Most rooftop ski and snowboard carriers are similarly styled. The horizontal-mount design is the most common. With this type of ski rack, two arms are used: one clamping to the front crossbar of your roof rack and the other to the rear crossbar. Your equipment sits in the arms, across the length of your vehicle. Typically, the differences in these carriers are found in their individual features.

Carrying Capacity

The carrying capacity of these racks depends on the type of skis or snowboards you are transporting. For the most part, the average ski rack can accommodate traditional, shaped, blade-style and fat skis.

2-Ski Carrier

Carriers for 2 pairs of skis offer approximately 10" of usable interior space. These carriers can also be used along with larger models to secure your ski poles.

2-Snowboard Carrier

Carriers for 4 pairs of skis or 2 snowboards offer approximately 15" to 20" of usable interior space.

6-Ski Carrier

Carriers for 6 pairs of skis or 4 snowboards offer approximately 20" to 30" of usable interior space.

8-Ski Carrier

Carriers for 8 pairs of skis or 4 snowboards have measurements that vary based on design.

Roof-Rack Compatibility

Note: Read each product description carefully to make sure that the mounting system on the carrier is compatible with your roof-rack system.

Universal Mounts

Universal clamp-on brackets

Most ski carriers offer clamp-on mounts that accept nearly all types of crossbars: square, round, elliptical, aero or factory. Typically, these mounts require special tools - which are included with the carrier - to install. Because the supplied hardware can only be loosened with the included tool, would-be thieves won't be able to disassemble the mounts to steal your carrier.

Thule Speed-Link

Some newer attachment systems feature rubber-coated steel straps that wrap around your crossbars and secure in the integrated brackets. These mounts offer a tighter and more customizable fit. Thule's version, the Speed-Link, provides the fastest, easiest, most secure method. Just run the strap into the bracket, and lock it into place.

T-Slot Mounts

Some sport carriers mount to slotted crossbars with hardware that lets you slide the rack into each bar's top channel. Most carriers that mount like this also come with clamp-on brackets.

Thule Snowcat bracket

Mounts for Factory-Installed Side Rails

The Thule Snowcat ski carrier has integrated mounts that clamp onto the side rails of your factory-installed luggage rack. No crossbars are necessary.


oversized Push Button

Oversized Push Buttons

Easily open the ski carrier, even while wearing heavy gloves. The integrated push buttons on these carriers are accessible from the side of your vehicle, and do not require any maneuvering to get to. Just push the buttons and the carrier arms open for simple loading.

Yakima FatCat Hinge

Compact, Low-Profile Design

Some ski carriers are designed to sit low on your vehicle for an unobtrusive look and superior aerodynamic styling. If you have skis or snowboards with tall bindings, these racks offer features to better accomodate them. The Yakima FatCat, for example, sits just 3-3/4" above your crossbars and has a built-in lift bracket that boosts the carrier up a bit to better accommodate tall bindings. Rocky Mounts LiftOp carriers provide you with riser blocks that can be installed for this purpose.

Animation showing the telescoping ability of the Pull Top

Side Loading

Thule's Pull Top ski carrier telescopes out from the side of your vehicle for quick, simple loading. Just rotate the inner latch and slide the arms out toward you to easily load your skis or snowboards.

Thule Snowboard Rack

Angled Carrier

The Thule Snowboard Rack offers a space-saving alternative for carrying up to two snowboards. The sturdy bracket ensures that your boards are held at an angle to the side, making more room for other roof-mounted accessories. This rack is also great for boards with tall bindings.


Many ski and snowboard carriers have built-in features to help deter theft. These include lock systems that secure the carrier to your roof rack as well as ones that ensure your carrier locks around your skis.

Thule One Key System locking core

Keyed-Alike Options

Thule, Yakima and Rocky Mounts offer keyed-alike systems for most of their carriers. By using these lock cores in place of standard lock cylinders, you can:

Integrated Rhino-Rack ski carrier lock

Integrated Locks

Although not every manufacturer offers a method for keying your accessories alike, most still provide racks with excellent security. Integrated locks are a feature of most ski and snowboard carriers.

Durable Construction and Gear Protection

Durable, Corrosion-Resistant Materials

Internal cushioning

Because these ski and snowboard carriers are mounted to your roof, they're going to encounter weather. So tough, corrosion-resistant materials are a must-have and are available on most carriers.

Interior, Non-Scratch Cushioning

The interior of the arms on most ski and snowboard carriers is lined with a sturdy, non-scratch material. Typically some type of rubber, this material is designed to hold your equipment firmly in place - preventing sliding and shifting within the carrier - without scratching, bending or damaging your skis or snowboards.

Choosing a Ski Rack

For the most part, the roof-mounted ski and snowboard carriers on the market are very similar. The table below will help you differentiate a bit among them.

Ski RackPairs of SkisSnowboardsRoof-Rack CompatibilitySecurityEase of Loading
Yakima FatCat4
Universal clamp-on bracketsSame Key Systemoversized push buttons
Yakima PowderHound4
Universal clamp-on bracketsSame Key Systemoversized push buttons
Thule Flat Top4
Universal Speed-Link mounting systemOne-Key Systemoversized push buttons
Thule Snowcat64Clamps to factory-installed side railsOne-Key SystemLever-style buttons
Thule Snowboard Rackn/a2Universal clamp-on bracketsSecurity bolts and cable locks includedPlace boards in cradles - some adjustment may be necessary
Thule Pull Top64Universal Speed-Link mounting systemOne-Key SystemTelescoping ability for easy side-of-vehicle loading
oversized push buttons
Universal clamp-on brackets and channel-mount hardware includedIntegrated locksLarge push buttons
Rola64Universal clamp-on bracketsIntegrated locksLarge "slide" buttons
4Universal clamp-on bracketsIntegrated locksTurn key to release arms
Swagman Powder Top4
Universal clamp-on bracketsIntegrated locksLarge, lever-style buttons
Rocky Mounts LiftOp4
Universal bracket and strap systemIntegrated locks w/ keyed-alike optionLarge, lever-style buttons

Updated by: Raymond P.

Last updated: 7/5/18



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