Best Ski Rack for Subaru Outback

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The Subaru Outback is a consummate outdoor car. Go to any hiking trail, ski resort, or mountain biking center and you’ll see a car park full of Subarus. 

One good thing about the abundance of Subaru Outbacks is that there’s a lot of kit around. Whether you need a bike rack, a ski rack, or a roof box for all your stuff, you’ll have plenty of options. 

Let’s focus on ski racks. Some would argue that with the length of the Subaru Outback, a ski rack is redundant. I mean sure you can fit your skis in the car, but then you have to deal with the snow and melt. 

Also, if you have passengers you’re going to lose your ski room inside. So without a ski rack, you can’t make skiing a family affair. 

The thing is, as long as you have a roof rack on your Outback, you can easily attach a ski rack without any tools. Even if you don’t have a roof rack, there are hitch mount ski racks available. 

So, let’s get ready to hit the slopes! Here are our top five ski racks for Subaru Outbacks. 

In a hurry? Here’s our top pick:

Thule SnowPack Extender Ski/Snowboard Rack
Thule SnowPack Extender Ski/Snowboard Rack
9.5/10
  • Durable, high-quality construction.
  • Pull out for easy access.
  • Available in 3 sizes and two colors.
Car Rack & Carrier Ski Car Rack
Car Rack & Carrier Ski Car Rack
8.9/10
  • Low cost.
  • Fits most car bars.
  • Strong grip.
YAKIMA - PowderHound 6 Ski & Snowboard Mount
YAKIMA – PowderHound 6 Ski & Snowboard Mount
8.3/10
  • Simple installation.
  • Durable and sturdy construction.
  • Decent price.

1. Thule SnowPack Extender Ski/Snowboard Rack

No. 1
1. Thule SnowPack Extender Ski/Snowboard Rack
9.4/10 Our Score

This is an expensive option. There’s no denying that fact. However, Thule is an incredibly highly rated brand. You are paying for their name but that also buys quality. 


Available in three size options, you can reduce the cost slightly by going for a smaller rack. 


The extender rack is their priciest option but it does add a bit of height to the bars. This means bulkier boot bindings won’t scrape against your roof. 


Thule market the rack as having ultra-soft rubber grips that prevent scratching. It is a claim that seems to be backed up by customers. 


Another thing the customers love is the pull-out access. The whole rack slides towards you when you load or unload your skis. This makes it so much easier to reach the skis. It also helps avoid any scrapes or bumps that might be sustained when stretching and reaching for the skis in the middle. 


In terms of security, there is a key lock system for the rack as a whole and the individual bars. These five locks all use the same key. This significantly reduces the stress of packing up!


Supplied with a universal mounting system, this rack will fit most car racks. The mounts can be fitted without tools. According to customers, they fitted and filled the racks in about 30 minutes. 

 

Pros
  • Durable, high-quality construction.
  • Pull out for easy access.
  • Available in 3 sizes and two colors.
  • Quick installation.
  • Well reviewed brand.
  • Same key locking system.
Cons
  • More expensive than competitors.

2. Car Rack & Carrier Ski Car Rack

No. 2
2. Car Rack & Carrier Ski Car Rack
9.4/10 Our Score

This ski rack is a fraction of the price of its branded competitors and yet it performs almost as well. 


The main function, that is holding your skis as you drive, is performed perfectly. The racks have good grip thanks to the rubber clamp system. The locking mechanism holds fast even when you reach higher speeds. 


The issues arise with the smaller features that make life easier. The locks have reportedly frozen for some customers. This is not ideal but it’s also not devastating. As long as you heat the key you can still get to your skis. 


Another issue with the locks is that you can’t remove the key if the lock is unlocked. Again, this doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience, but it does mean you can’t really use the rack unless it’s locked. If you needed to move the car quickly, you’d have to go round each lock and use the key just to move a few feet. 


Other than the locks, most customers are very happy with these racks. A number compare the quality to big-name brands like Thule or YAKIMA. They find that the overall construction is durable and high quality. 


For the price, you sort of expect a few annoying features here and there. It’s not super slick but it does the job.

 

Pros
  • Low cost.
  • Fits most car bars.
  • Strong grip.
  • Easy-to-use release button.
  • Easy to install. 
Cons
  • Locks can freeze.
  • Locks are a bit fiddly to use.
  • Secured to the car with hex bolts but no lock.

3. YAKIMA – PowderHound

No. 3
3. YAKIMA - PowderHound
9.4/10 Our Score

This ski rack is mid-range in terms of price but offers mostly high quality. 


We should get one thing out of the way. Although listed as capable of holding 6 skis or 4 snowboards, the rack is much smaller than competitors. 


Some customers have found that getting near this capacity is a struggle. We’re not sure whether it’s an error with the listing or a deliberate missell. All I would say is lower your capacity expectations. 


Other than that, this is a sturdy and durable piece of equipment. The rubber area of the clamps grips securely without scratching or damaging your kit. They have a windproof design that reduces noise during travel. 


In terms of installation, you don’t need anything other than the supplied hex wrench. The racks attach to the bars using clamps. This does mean that the rack is not locked to the car. 


One thing customers find odd is that the clamps are only rubberized on the top. This means that the bottom part of the clamp is bare plastic against your roof bars. It’s not a major issue, but you do need to make sure you tighten the clamps to avoid slips.


The rack uses a same-key-locking system for easy access. It also has a one-button opening system that can be operated while wearing gloves. 

 

Pros
  • Simple installation.
  • Durable and sturdy construction.
  • Decent price.
  • Windproof design.
  • Same key locking system
Cons
  • Smaller capacity than advertised.
  • Not locked to the car. 

4. BUZZRACK BUZZSKI – Hitch Mounted ski & Snowboard Rack

No. 4
4. BUZZRACK BUZZSKI - Hitch Mounted ski & Snowboard Rack
9.4/10 Our Score

If you need a hitch mount ski rack, this is a solid option. It’s safe, secure, and easy to use.


Fitting 1 ¼ inch and 2-inch hitch receivers, it is simple to install. The hitch pin lock is included so no need to buy one separately. It will secure your rack easily and give you peace of mind while you’re on the slopes. 


Two trays hold up to 6 sets of skis or 4 snowboards in place. You can adjust the height of the trays to handle the longest and shortest skis. The plates have two clamps each meaning you can fit three pairs of skis on each side. 


The rubber tubing around the clamps is soft enough to prevent scratching. They do have a nice firm grip to hold your skis in place but enough give to accommodate thicker boards. The two different sides actually come in handy when you want to take skis and snowboards. 


By separating the two, you won’t have to worry about slimmer boards or skis slipping around. 


When not in use, the trays do fold in towards the center making it less bulky. However, I would recommend removing the rack when you’re not using it. The folded trays do obstruct the rearview mirror when folded. 


You can tilt the rack down for easy access however, you have to unscrew a pin to do so. It’s not the easiest thing to do. However, the twist handle is big enough that you can feasibly manage it in gloves. 

 

Pros
  • Durable, quality construction.
  • Locks on trays and hitch pin.
  • Two independent racks for skis and snowboards.
  • Tilts forward for access to tailgate and skis.
Cons
  • Obstructs rearview.
  • Screw to tilt is a bit frustrating.

5. YAKIMA – HitchSki Ski & Board Conversion Mount

No. 5
5. YAKIMA - HitchSki Ski & Board Conversion Mount
9.4/10 Our Score

This is something quite different. It can convert a mast-style hitch rack into a ski rack. The duality of the rack means that you can ski in winter and bike in the summer. 


The issue is that it is designed for use with the YAKIMA bike rack. YAKIMA is a well-known brand with a solid reputation. If you have a YAKIMA bike rack you’re golden. If you’re thinking of getting a bike rack and a ski rack, this is a great option. 


That being said, there are customer reviews that show the rack fitted to other brand bike racks. Read the specifications carefully and check your bike rack measurements carefully if you want to use it with a different rack. 


The ski rack has adjustable arms so you can fit skis of any length. The clamps are soft flexible rubber and give a really solid grip for your skis. Again, the two-sided design means you can store your boards and skis separately. 


The same key system means you can unlock all four arms using just the one key. This will save you an awful lot of time and fiddling around. The locks themselves are sturdy and work well. 


You will need to buy a deadlock to prevent the ski rack from being pinched from your car. However, the fairly easy installation means that you can just take it off quickly when you don’t need it. 


Some customers have found that lining the rack up with the straps on the bike rack can be a bit difficult. They suggest having another person around to help hold the rack in place. 

 

Pros
  • Converts a bike rack into a ski rack.
  • Adjustable arms to fit all skis.
  • Double-sided construction.
  • Durable and sturdy.
  • Same key system for easy access.
Cons
  • Designed for use with a particular bike rack.
  • Fiddly to line up correctly.
  • Needs a separate deadbolt to lock it to the car.

Best Ski Rack for Subaru Outback – Buyer’s Guide

Ski racks are fairly simple pieces of kit. The rooftop ski racks work by simply holding your skis between two clamps. They have a rubber or foam surface that is designed to protect your skis or snowboard. 

Most have buttons that open up the clamps and a key and lock for security. The majority of these ski racks are universal. They will attach to pretty much any roof rack with a few screw clamps. 

Let’s take a look at some of these features in a bit of detail. 

Roof rack vs hitch mount.

The major deciding factor here is going to be whether or not you have a roof rack and/or a tow hitch. 

Personally, I prefer roof racks. They are simpler to mount, don’t impair your vision, and your skis are nowhere near the road surface. 

There are some benefits to hitch mounted ski racks, however. First and foremost, if you don’t have roof bars they are lifesavers.

Also, for the, uh, vertically challenged, hitch mounts are much easier to access. Most hitch mounts have an axle which allows them to lower towards you for easy access. 

Clamps

Both hitch and roof racks use clamps to hold the nose and tail of your skis. These clamps should be made from a soft, non-scratch material that will protect your skis. Foam or rubber is ideal for this. 

The other thing you need to consider is the width of the clamps. This will ultimately determine how many skis you can fit on the rack. 

Most racks can accommodate 6 pairs of skis, 4 snowboards, or a mix of both. Overfilling the racks can push them past their maximum weight capacity which can cause breakages. 

Security Options 

Keeping your skis safe is probably your primary concern. They need to be safe during transport and safe when you leave them to check-in or get your ski pass.

In terms of securing your skis for the journey, you want to look for bars that have a tight grip on your skis. You do not want them sliding out when you brake sharply. Of course, the boot binding will probably stop sliding initially but this will end with the bindings breaking away. 

When you leave your skis on the car, you want to know that they won’t be stolen. To prevent theft, look for a ski rack with a lock and key. 

This might be a bit of a hassle wearing gloves or mittens, but ultimately a few seconds of cold fumbling for the key is better than having to replace your skis! 

All locks are not created equal, however. Look for a quality lock that has a metal barrel and mechanism. Many ski racks have plastic latches, which are adequate when paired with metal locks. 

Easy Operation

Some ski racks have a one-handed operation system. Essentially, it’s a big button that can be pushed with one gloved hand. 

It might not seem like a necessity, but when you’re trying to get your car keys out, wrangling the kids, and holding onto your skis, you will appreciate it.

Again, you’re looking for quality buttons and latches. Plastic is fine, it won’t rust. However, you need to make sure it’s a heavy-duty plastic that can take some wear and tear. 

The other thing you want to think about in terms of operation is how easy the rack is to mount and remove. 

Rooftop racks are very easy to install. Most of them you can install with a simple hex tool. This is usually supplied. You simply need to attach the clamps to your roof bars. 

Of course, they are pretty easy to remove when you need to. The thing is, they are so unobtrusive that you don’t really need to remove them. If you want to put something else on your roof bars, it will be an easy switch. 

Hitch mounts are also fairly easy to install. You do need to make sure that you have the right size hitch to work with the ski rack. I’ve made that mistake so you don’t have to! 

Essentially, it is a case of using a screw to attach the rack to the tow hitch. There may be some assembly required of the actual rack depending on the rack. Check the reviews to see how easy the assembly is.

Hitch mounts do usually fold down smaller when not in use. However, they do still obstruct the view through your rear window. This means you should remove the rack when not in use. It can get a bit annoying removing the hitch mount but shouldn’t be too arduous. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need roof bars for a ski rack?

If you want a roof-mounted ski rack then you need roof bars. The racks attach horizontally across your roof to the bars on either side. 

If you don’t have roof bars you can go for a tow hitch ski rack. 

Strapping your skis to the roof without bars is not a good idea. You’ll end up with a scratched car and scratched skis. They will probably also come flying off at the first sharp break.

Do skis fit in a car?

I mean, yes depending on the car. You’ll struggle to fit them in a Prius but you can fit them in a limo. 

You will be able to fit most skis into your Subaru. However, as already mentioned, if you want passengers, you’ll have to choose between the skis or the kids. 

Is it bad to leave skis in the car?

The first thing you should know about storing your skis is that they should never be stored wet. 

Whether you take them into the house or leave them in the car, you need to wipe down your skis. The wet residue will cause rust and damage to your edges if left wet. 

In the same vein, keeping your skis in the car means they are not protected from the elements. If you live in a cold area your car won’t protect the skis from condensation and damp.

The other thing you need to think about is security. Leaving expensive kit in your car will tempt thieves. You should always remove valuables from your car, even if you keep the car in the garage.

Having your car pinched is bad enough. Losing your skis too is just devastating.

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