As I see it, some people are roof-box people, and others are not. Non-enthusiasts might be surprised to find that the addition of a roof or ski box—those somewhat-aerodynamic, reinforced plastic containers you can find mounted to a vehicle’s load bars—is a topic rife with strong opinions. I, for one, applaud the efforts of the Jon Olssons of the world, modifying their cars to include that extra bit of storage, while others see it as sacrilege.
The logic, as I see it, is simple: increase your vehicle’s storage capacity, while improving visuals for the “adventure” aesthetic. It’s a functional “modification” that almost always becomes my first addition to any new car. While I was not able to get my roof box on the MINI this past winter, my family’s rooftop ski-hauler of nearly fifteen years has made an appearance on every car I’ve owned.
To me, the roof box means more than practicality. Growing up, my family and I collected stickers of every new place we visited. Many were from around New England, Canada, and down the East Coast, but wherever they were found, they resided on the roof box, not the tailgate. As we collected, we found new spots across the seemingly-endless surface area for them to live. Some peel, and new ones take their place. Like any museum, a range of rotating exhibits is always critical.
Over the years, our ski box has become a passport of sorts, acting as a shrine to epic adventures past, each sticker a reminder of an unforgettable road trip.
Our roof box is a story to which I’ve added my own chapters, too. After buying my E46 Touring in 2018, I promptly drove it home to mount our stickered-up ski box atop its long roof. While it dramatically improved the already-stately aesthetics of the E46, it also proved necessary in transporting my legion of ski-bum friends to the hill. In the two winters I used the wagon as my daily, I was able to haul myself and four other friends to the hill without trouble: Simply toss the skis, camping grill, shovels, and bags up top, while keeping the boots warm in the car. It was a perfect recipe.
Well, almost perfect. I can affectionately recall one of these college ski trips in particular: After an incredible day of storm-skiing in the bitter cold, we returned to the car to find the ski box frozen shut. After years of abuse, the once well-lubricated locking mechanism was less than cooperative. As the light faded, we did our best to warm the locking mechanism. Nearly an hour later we forced it loose, finally gaining access to that critical storage. Never give up on old faithful!
In warmer seasons, the same accessory offers even more utility. In summer, it stores camping tents, sleeping bags, and all of the other fireside necessities. If it wasn’t for the box’s other minor shortcoming (drastically eating away at my already-dubious fuel economy), I would have the box on full-time—although with gas prices dropping, it might be making an earlier seasonal appearance than usual.
Since adopting the box in high school, I have continued my family’s tradition of collecting stickers with my friends. These days, it feels like part of a long tradition to slap on memories one ski hill, or one bistro, or one brewery at a time.
So continues the life of the humble ski box. For me, it’s not just a utility piece, or staple of my love of skiing. The box is a daily reminder to plan the next road trip—and add new stories to that ever-rotating rooftop passport.—Tucker Beatty
[Photos courtesy Tucker Beatty.]