Roof Box vs Ski Rack: Which Will Work Better for You?

So you've just got a fancy new pair of skis that you're eager to try out on the slopes. The only problem is that you're clueless about how to transport them. They won't fit in the trunk or on the seats, so you'll have to use your roof for transport.

When it comes to skis, you have two options for roof cargo; a ski rack or a roof box. 

How do you know which one is right for your needs? That's the exact question that we're here to answer, so stay tuned to learn more. 

I'm here to see who wins in the matchup: roof box vs ski rack. Along the way, I'll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about ski racks and cargo boxes.

An Introduction to Ski Racks

If you aren't familiar with ski racks, then there's a lot that you need to know before buying one. First, a ski rack will attach to the existing crossbars on your vehicle.

That means you'll need to do a little research to make sure the ski rack you want fits your crossbars. 

In general, a ski rack can carry 6 pairs of skis or 4 snowboards. For this reason, they're very economical. You can take your entire family skiing and snowboarding while only having to use one rack.

Do You Need a Roof Rack for a Ski Rack?

You'll need to get one first if you currently don't have crossbars or a roof rack. The same is true for cargo boxes, so roof racks are a must for transporting skis. The good news is that there are a lot of affordable roof racks and crossbars out there.

For example, here's one of the top-rated roof ski racks on Amazon at the moment. 

It's the Thule SnowPack Ski/Snowboard Rack ON AMAZON. It quickly and easily mounts to just about any car, SUV, or crossover.

At just $299.95, it's a high-quality and affordable roof rack option.

It comes with:

  • An aerodynamic design to eliminate noise
  • Heavy-duty aluminum crossbars that are strong and durable
  • A built-in locking system to prevent it from being stolen

Just remember that you will need a roof rack in place if you want to transport your skis. We recommend checking out Amazon to find high-quality roof racks like the one listed above.

Are Roof Racks Bad for Skis?

There's a bit of a negative stigma out there surrounding roof racks. There's a commonly held belief that a roof rack will ruin your skis.

That couldn't be further from the truth. As long as you have a high-quality roof rack, you won't see any damage to your skis.

Granted, you will see a build-up of grime from the road after long trips. Make sure to clean your skis once you return home. As long as you properly clean and maintain your skis, your roof rack won't cause issues.

Benefits of Using Ski Racks

  • Cost-effective. Ski racks are enormously popular due to their relative inexpensiveness. A typical ski rack will cost anywhere from $70 to $250. Going with a ski rack is a great way to get the cargo space you need without going broke.
  • Aerodynamic design. A thick, bulky cargo box on your roof will slow you down. Conversely, a ski rack is lightweight and aerodynamic. It will eliminate wind resistance as well as unwanted road noise. So if you want to enjoy a quiet trip without losing any speed, a ski rack is the way to go.
  • Effortless to use. You won't have any trouble loading your skis onto the ski rack. They open from the side, and all you have to do is slide them in. Once you fasten them shut, your skis are good to go for the entire trip. That's a lot easier than messing with a cumbersome cargo box.
Roof Box vs Ski Rack: Which Will Work Better for You?

Drawbacks of Ski Racks

  • Road grime. Since your skis are exposed to the elements in a ski rack, dirt can accumulate. Dust, dirt, and grime from the road will find their way to your roof and eventually onto your skis. Not only does this look bad, but it can permanently damage your skis if you aren't careful. In particular, road salt from snowy areas can begin to deteriorate your skis.
  • Possibility of damages. Another drawback to having your skis exposed is the risk of damage. In a ski rack, your skis are open to the air. That means rocks, debris, tree branches, and more can make contact with your skis. If you aren't careful when driving, you could ruin your skis without even realizing it.
  • Not as safe. The final con for ski racks has to do with the fact that the skis are exposed again. Since they're out in the open, anyone can see them, and that includes criminals. If you have a costly pair of skis, a cargo box is the safer option. While some ski racks do lock, the fact that they're visible is the real security issue.

How to Install Ski Racks

Here’s a video generalized installation guideline:

An Introduction to Cargo Boxes

Moving on, let's look at cargo boxes and what they can do for you. Much like ski racks, you'll need a roof rack to use a cargo box.

Cargo boxes are more open-ended than ski racks. While ski racks have specific items intended for storage, you can put anything in a cargo box. 

Can You Put Skis in a Roof Box?

Skis are a prevalent item that people transport in cargo boxes. As long as your cargo box is long enough, you can easily transport your skis in one. Not only that, but since you can carry anything in them, you can have additional items with your skis. Why not pack your coat, snow pants, and snowshoes in the same box? The versatility is a big reason why some consumers choose cargo boxes over ski racks.

On Amazon, the Thule Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box is one of the highest-rated boxes. The large version provides a stunning 16 cubic feet of storage space. That's more than enough to pack skis as well as a myriad of other items.

Its essential features include:

  • Durable design with rugged materials to protect your skis
  • Convenient passenger-side opening for easy loading and unloading
  • A unique Comfort Key that only removes when all locking points are secure
  • Can fit 3-5 snowboards
  • The affordable price of $499.95

As you can see, this cargo box is durable, spacious, and very safe. This cargo box is ideal if you have expensive skis and snow gear that you need to keep clean and protected.

While cargo boxes are a great deal more expensive than ski racks, they offer more protection. Yet, this choice from Amazon is considerably affordable at only $499.95. An average cargo box, by comparison, usually runs at $650+.

Three Pairs of Skis in a roof cargo box

Benefits of Cargo Boxes

  • Superior protection. A cargo box will keep your skis wholly protected. They won't be exposed to the elements, saving them from getting dirty. The rugged design of cargo boxes will also protect your skis from unwanted damage.

  • Carry more things. Cargo boxes tend to outsize ski racks by a significant margin. A cargo box is also a multipurpose storage item so that you can carry all sorts of things in it. Ski racks are pretty limited when it comes to what you can take on them.
  • Excellent safety features. A locking cargo box will keep your skis much safer than an exposed ski rack. A huge plus is that your skis will stay hidden from the public eye. That way, nobody will know what you have stored inside your cargo box.

Cons of Cargo Boxes

  • Expensive. As we said before, a cargo box will be considerably more expensive than a ski rack. That's due to the extra materials, safety features, and size of the box. If you're transporting standard skis in generally safe areas, a ski rack can save you a lot of money.
  • Cumbersome. Cargo boxes are harder to store when you're at home. Since they're so large, you'll need a pretty big area to keep your cargo box. Also, the design is not aerodynamic. It's very blocky and bulky, which will slow your car down. Also, cargo boxes are notorious for making road noise.

How to Install roof cargo boxes

  • Install anchor points inside your roof box (could be U-brackets/bolts). Push the sliding block screws from the bottom of the roof box and thread the clamp plates from the top. Screw the bolts loosely. Repeat for each of the 4 anchor points.
  • Place the roof box on the roof rails (PS: It’s advisable to find help).
  • Slide the roof box to the left of the carrier rails and the sliding blocks into the roof bar carrier. Repeat for the right side.
  • Align the roof box centrally and tighten all clamping bolts on the sliding blocks.
  • Done! Pack your luggage and drive off.

Here’s a video generalized installation guideline:

Roof Box vs Ski Rack: The Final Verdict

All right, now that you've seen the pros and cons of both options, it's time to declare a winner. Here's our choice:

  • Winner: Ski Rack 

You can't beat the affordability and versatility of a ski rack. They're effortless to use, easy to store and are very affordable. A quality ski rack is usually more than enough for most winter sports enthusiasts. 

That's not to say that there's never a time that you won't need a cargo box. In fact, we recommend that you go for a cargo box over skis if you have costly gear. Cargo boxes are also great if you can spare the money and need to store additional items. 

We hope that you can use this guide to make the right purchase for your needs. To learn more about everything skiing, don't wait to join us at The Ski Diva.

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