For the first 15 years or so of adult skiing, I had small cars and always used ski racks. Around here, there is always salt and dirt on the hwys during ski season, and I tried every sort of protection from simple binding covers to custom made zipperless bags (end loaders) made of cordura.
I never was happy with the results using binding covers. You have not lived until you try skiing on skis whose bottoms are coated with road grime and the corrosive salt went after the edges like nitric acid.
OTOH, putting the skis in the rack in bags kept them clean, but then you had to go through the hassle of dealing with a sopping wet and filthy bag, loading and unloading it, etc.
Next, I moved up to a bunch of Subaru's and SUV's which were large enough to keep the skis inside. This kept them clean, but was absolutely no fun because the skis always wound up buried under everything else, the skis wet the luggage and clothing, wet the interior of the car, yada, yada.
Finally, last year after about 30 yrs of such nonsense, I bit the bullet & bought a nice spacious roof-top box, a Thule "Mountaineer".
I could not be more pleased. I should have done it years ago.
You will occasionally run into someone who says that they do just fine with an external rack, but then, you usually find out that (a) they live close to the ski area; (b) live in a place where the roads are not salted; (c) never drive in bad weather (yes, really!); etc. etc.
My very strong recommendation is to spend a bit more money up front and save yourself a HUGE ammt of hassle.
Tom / PM
[ May 31, 2002, 08:00 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]