Greg Morrill

Greg Morrill

I’ve noticed an increase in popularity of the old-style ski rack on cars. That is, the kind that clamps skis either in a single layer or in pairs. In recent years ski boxes seemed to have taken over that market with at least one on most vehicles in ski area parking lots and two boxes on some.

But this year all the cars on my road with racks have gone old-style.

Except me, that is. I just put our skis in the back of my hatchback. I do have a ski box, which we have used on our Utah trips, but locally it’s more convenient to just load the skis in the back.

Back in the Retro-Ski days almost everyone had a roof rack. A contributing factor was that cars were different. There were no SUVs or hatchbacks. There were station wagons, but they made up a small percentage of cars on the road. Roof racks were the way to go.

Which brings us to last week’s trivia question. In loading a roof rack, should the ski tips point to the front of the car or the rear?

RQ Mason answered “Tips in the rear. Am I the only one who knows this? I just threw out my Barrecrafters rack a year ago!”

Gretchen Besser remembered a convenient poem: “The old way of positioning skis atop, let’s say, a 1972 Chrysler, driving north up Route 17 from NYC to Belleayre, for instance, is this: Ski tips to the rear. Will prevent wind shear.”

R. Rafael also agreed that tips go to the rear. He says, “Still using my dad’s old A&T carrier bolted to Saab roof rack mounts. They are a little too wide because they were meant for a 1970s station wagon and six pairs of skis.” He did add that the tips should also be pointed down. In other words, ski bottoms up. That introduces another whole controversy that I’m not going to get into.

The only dissenting position was from Norma Stancliffe, who said she used to load her roof rack tips forward. She does say she now carries her skis in the back of her car.

I was always a tips-to-the-rear adherent, but I’m not going to offer any technical analysis of why that is the correct answer. No, I’m going to use it as an example of how certain things become cool or in.

By the way, I did come across an internet discussion on the technical aspects of the topic, which went into more details than I could stand. It could have been the basis for a master’s dissertation. It compared all the possible combinations of skis flat or paired, tips forward or rear, bottoms up or down.

As I was saying, loading your skis into the roof rack with the tips to the rear was the in thing to do. Putting the tips forward labeled you as a tourist or even a turkey. This is just one example of the arbitrary criteria we humans introduce to judge others. Skiers aren’t immune from this practice.

What made you a turkey in Retro-Ski days? The group I skied with always looked down at anyone with Cubco bindings. A skier could have had top-of-the-line Head skis, but if they had Cubcos, they were still turkeys. I actually have a greater appreciation for Cubcos today as they were ahead of their time, but oh, those metal attachments on your boots.

Other perceived transgressions of the cool skier’s code included wearing socks over stretch pants and skiing in jeans, although my wife claims that was cool in New Jersey. Then there were those awful full-face masks with the shiny silver outside. Well, at least you could use it on Halloween.

Today I’m not sure anyone cares about how you put your skis in the roof rack, but there is one differentiator that’s common between today and the Retro-Ski era: how you carry your skis. A few years back Teton Gravity Research shared a video called “Guide to International Ski Carrying.” It’s a riot. There’s the “bazooka,” the “hobo,” the “Oklahoma suitcase” and, of course, the “local.” If you watch that video before the next busy day at the mountain, you can see how many of those carries you witness.

At this point I should point out that throughout this column I’ve used the very dated term turkey to describe someone who may not have a good understanding of their sport. Today they are called Jerrys. I felt I had better mention that lest I be labeled one!


This week’s trivia question: Who invented Lange-flo? Post your answer at

Greg Morrill is a retired computer programmer and college professor. Post trivia question responses at

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