Ski jackets have become popular with people who love doing snow sports like snowboarding and skiing. It has even been widely used over time because it serves very well its purpose of protecting snow sports lovers from the heavy cold winds and steep mountains.
Ski Jackets buying guide: How to choose the best one for your next ski trip?
Choosing the perfect ski jacket will seem like an easy task. You probably think that it’s as simple as getting the thickest jacket on the rack and you’re set to go. However, before you dismiss ski shopping as an unnecessary activity, you first have to understand how your jacket falls on you and how your body receives it spells everything in your entire ski experience. Bad and inappropriate skiing wear can break your trip’s jovial mood, if not your bones.
Here are some tips on choosing the best and most appropriate ski jacket for your needs.
#1 – Types of Jackets
When shopping for a ski jacket you are going to find two available different types. One is an insulated jacket and the other is a soft-shell jacket. The most common question that people have is, “Which one should I buy?”
The answer to this question is that there is no right answer for this. The reason for this is that each person has a different body temperature regulation.
Some skiers will get hot very fast and thus having an insulated jacket would cause them perfect discomfort. Others, however, are routinely cold, and having an insulated jacket only makes sense because a soft-shell jacket would leave them even colder.
With this being said, the first step to selecting the jacket that is best for you is by determining if you are a warmer or colder person by nature. Once this is determined, you can then move forward in the process of choosing your ski jacket.
#2 – Insulated Jackets
The construction characteristics of an insulated jacket include an outer layer that is water-resistant and windproof, along with an insulated layer that is built directly into the jacket. The insulating inner layer is likely to be made of fleece, down, or a synthetic fabric such as PrimaLoft. Also, many insulated jackets will contain an additional insulator piece that can be removed. These types of insulated jackets are sometimes referred to as system jackets or 3-in-1 jackets.
The insulation that is found in insulated jackets is most commonly measured in grams. The greater the weight in grams, the warmer the jacket will be. Insulation types can range as low as 30 grams and go as high as 800 grams, which is most commonly found with Down material. For those who are colder by nature, an insulated ski jacket is the most suitable choice.
#3 – Soft Shell Jackets
Softshell jackets are windproof, waterproof jackets that have no internal insulation and are highly breathable. Now, you might wonder why anyone would choose a jacket that contains no internal insulation. The reasons for this are several, one of which has already been identified; being a warmer person by nature. Another reason that one may choose this type of jacket is that they prefer to have added mobility that is not available with an insulated jacket.
As Softshell jackets are usually worn over a base layer and a Mid layer, soft shell jackets do not have the added bulkiness of an insulated jacket. This means that you can contain the warmth of your body via your base layer and mid-layer, but have added a range of motion.
A softshell jacket can be worn on its own on warmer days or layered with base and mid-layers for colder days. However, for extremely cold temperatures and extended periods of time outdoors, a softshell jacket is probably not the best option, but the final decision is ultimately up to you. For more information on base and mid-layers, please review our article on the importance of layering.
#4 – Waterproof Rating
Probably the most important characteristic of any ski jacket is the waterproof rating. This rating shows you how quickly your ski jacket will become saturated and begin allowing water to penetrate to the layers below.
Waterproof ratings are measured and indicated in millimeters(mm). The level is determined by placing a tube filled on the fabric and filling it with water. The level at which the water begins to penetrate through the fabric is the waterproof rating. The higher the number, the more waterproof the jacket is, and the longer it will withstand snow and rain. For a jacket to be deemed legally water-resistant, it must achieve at least a 1,500mm rating. Jackets can be rated as high as 20,000mm, but the average rating is typically between 5,000 and 10,000mm. you must consider that as the rating goes higher, so too will the price.
Many different types of waterproof fabrics are used on the market today. Among the more popular materials that are used are Gore-Tex, Hyvent, and Event. What makes materials such as these so effective is that they contain pores that are larger than a molecule of sweat, but smaller than a molecule of water. This means that not only is the material waterproof, but also very breathable.
#5 – Breathability Rating
Just like the waterproof rating measures how effective a jacket is at keeping water outside, the breathability rating of a jacket measures how effective a jacket is at transferring moisture from inside to the outside. The same fabric pores that help prevent water from penetrating inside a jacket, allow sweat molecules to escape and ultimately keep you warmer.
Breathability rating is measured and specified in grams. The measurement is determined by finding the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR). The MVTR determines how many grams of sweat per 1 square meter can escape a jacket in a 24-hour period. The higher the amount, the more moistness escapes and the more breathable it is. Entry-level breathable materials will have MVTR ratings in the range of 2,000-3000g. Fabrics at the high end of the breathability scale will have an MVTR of around 25,000g.
#6 – Fabric Durability
Contrary to what many people believe, ski jackets are unlike your everyday winter jacket. Yes, you can wear your jacket as your ordinary jacket, but if you haven’t bought a jacket definitely for skiing trips, you’re best not to wear the everyday winter jacket that you purchase at the department store to the slopes. The reasons for this are numerous, but one of the most vital ones is that the ski jacket is going to be far more durable.
Ski jackets are made of tightly woven nylon or polyester. Materials that are designed for high-performance use in the elements of winter. Extended exposure to high winds and the wet elements of the winter is what makes the building of a ski jacket different from your everyday winter jacket. This is also why you’ll find that ski jackets will cost more than a jacket you’d buy from the department store.
#7 – Seams
o Fully Taped
Fully taped seams are exactly what it sounds like. All of the stitched seams have been taped for waterproofing. This is done with a waterproof tape that is glued on the interior and exterior of the seam.
Fully taped seams are the best option if you want to be waterproof in these important areas that are prone to moisture. They will, however, cost more than jackets with critically taped seams. As an additional note, higher-end garments will offer Welded Seams, which are even more effective at protecting against moisture penetration at the seams.
o Critically Taped
A less expensive option than Welded or Fully taped seams is Critically taped seams. Critically taped seams mean that only some of the seams are taped and protected against moisture penetration.
On a jacket this is not necessarily a bad thing, so don’t be scared off by the fact that not all seams are covered. As long as you don’t spend long periods of time in wet weather, or spend a lot of time falling in the snow, critically taped seams will offer the protection you need.
#8 – Features
When shopping for ski jackets it is important to know that beyond how waterproof and breathable a jacket is, there are several features that you can expect to find available to you.
In the following sections, we’ll cover many of these features so you will know what to expect when shopping from one model to the next.
o Front Zipper Cover
This feature is sometimes referred to as a storm flap. The purpose of this feature is to cover the front zipper of your jacket to prevent the wind and moisture from penetrating inside. As the zipper can be a highly prone area for moisture, this is considered by many as a must-have feature.
o Powder Skirt
A powder skirt is an elastic band that is located inside of a jacket at the waist. It provides a snap closure in the front and is intended to keep snow from going up the front or back of your jacket.
Additionally, it helps retain heat and keep you warmer when you’re out on the slopes. This also means that if you’re starting to feel a bit warm, you can unsnap the skirt for a moment to allow heat to escape and cool you down, then snap it back up to protect against the snow.
This feature is considered by many as a must-have, and it is highly recommended for maximum comfort when out on the snow.
While not all jackets offer a hood, those that do will offer a hood in one of several options: attached (non-removable), detachable, or stowaway. The attached hoods are fixed to the jacket and cannot be removed.
Detachable hoods offer the luxury of protection on windy or snowy days, while also offering the versatility to be removed on warmer or fair weather ski days. Stowaway hoods offer the same luxuries as a detachable hood with the difference being that stowaway hoods do not need to be removed from the jacket. Instead, they will tuck into a designated area of the jacket.
As your hood is intended to protect the head and neck from the elements, you want to ensure that your hood can fit over your helmet. Your hood should have enough room so you can look from side to side, and it should also adjust for your helmet size so it isn’t too large or too small.
The bill of your hood should be generous enough in size to shed rain from your goggles and eyes. Hoods, regardless of their style, are highly recommended for protection against the elements.
o Wrist Closure
Wrist closures are one of the common adjustability features you can expect to find on jackets. Wrist closures will be present as an elastic, Velcro, snap, or thumbhole adjustment.
The purpose of such an adjustment is to help keep cold air and snow from going up your arms. You will want to make sure that the wrist adjustment will work in tandem with your gloves.
o Cinch Cord
Another adjustment feature that you can expect to find is a Cinch Cord adjustment. This is located at the bottom of the jacket and can be tightened so your jacket and pants are positioned closely together. This will help keep snow and wind from creeping up inside your jacket.
o Pit Zips
Underarm zippers, or Pit Zips, are temperature regulating features that are present on many ski jackets. Pit Zips are zippers located under the arm that can be adjusted on the fly to help retain or release heat that builds up inside a jacket. If you’re cold, or the temperate starts to drop, you can close them up to help keep heat close to the body. On warmer days these can be opened up fully to allow heat to escape while you remain fully protected from the elements everywhere else. While not considered a must-have, they are certainly suggested if you want the luxury of regulating your core temperature easily.
#9 – Pockets
o Electronics Pocket
Thanks to the influx of portable electronic devices (e.g., cell phones, personal audio players, digital cameras), having a pocket designated specifically for electronics is a must have for many.
For others, it’s not a make-or-break feature. The important thing to understand is that pockets do exist for such items and they are certainly a convenience if you own such items. For those who enjoy listening to music while on the slopes, this pocket is extremely useful because electronics pockets have openings for wires to be run for headphones. This keeps the electronic device protected and the wiring internal so it is not ruined.
o Goggle Pocket
Like an electronics pocket, the goggle pocket is designated specifically to house your goggles when you’re not wearing them. This pocket will also typically house a goggle cloth that can be used to wipe your goggles if they get foggy.
#10 – Additional Fabric Lining
On many higher-end jackets, you are likely to find an additional fabric lining the inside of the jacket. This added fabric liner starts at the wrist and extends down over the palms with holes provided to insert your thumbs. This added lining adds extra warmth to the palms and wrists.
#11 – Avalanche Rescue System
Built into a select number of jackets an avalanche rescue system can be an invaluable feature if you’re the type of skier who ventures into areas that prone to avalanches. Unlike a separate beacon system, jackets with this feature have a small, weightless transponder that is easily detected by a search rescue team.
This feature is not necessarily a must-have, but safety is recommended. If you opt against a jacket with a built-in rescue system, you can always purchase a separate rescue system at a later time.
Top 5 best ski jackets in the market
If you are interested in purchasing a ski jacket for your next ski trip here is a list of the 5 best ski jackets in the market that you can choose from.
#1 – Arc’teryx Sabre AR
- Warm and comfortable
- Phenomenal weather protection
- Extended backcountry uses at about 1.5 pounds
- Zips opened up
Arc’teryx dominates the high-end jacket market, and their men’s Sabre (and women’s Sentinel) is an all-time favorite shell for those who ski both the resort and backcountry. Lightly updated for this season, the AR (for “all-round”) has a slightly longer and modernized fit, but the rest of the proven design remains the same. Its premium 3-layer Gore-Tex construction is burly and offers phenomenal weather protection, while a soft flannel backer adds a little extra warmth and comfort.
Arc’teryx also nailed the features with easy-to-use pit zips, a highly adjustable and helmet-compatible hood, and five smartly designed pockets. All told, the Sabre AR is an extraordinarily well-rounded ski jacket that’s ready to handle anything from Arctic blasts of wind and snow on the lift to quick tours.
Where the Sabre AR comes up short is for extended backcountry use. At about 1.5 pounds, it’s fairly heavy and bulky to throw in a pack, and the liner inhibits breathability even with the pit zips opened up. Those who tour exclusively likely will want a more backcountry-specific piece like Arc’teryx’s Alpha SV or Outdoor Research’s Skyward II, but you won’t find a better all-rounder than the Sabre. It delivers an unbeatable combination of comfort, build quality, weather resistance, and mobility. It’s worth noting that Arc’teryx also makes the trimmed-down men’s Sabre LT (and women’s Sentinel LT), which has a longer cut but saves a little weight by replacing the flannel backer with Gore’s smooth C-Knit lining.
- Waterproof Build
- 100-gram synthetic insulation
- Warm and comfortable
- 3-in-1 design
- Roomy and soft
Ski jackets can get very expensive, the Arc’teryx Macai is pushing $1,000, for example, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend big to get a quality product. For resort skiers looking for a warm and well-built jacket, the Columbia Alpine Action is a great choice.
For $170, you get a waterproof build with 100-gram synthetic insulation, an Omni-Heat reflective liner on the inside, and useful features like a storm hood and powder skirt. We even like the sleek design and lack of bulk which isn’t always the case with Columbia gear, and it can be worn for both skiing and everyday winter use. What are the shortcomings of the Columbia Alpine Action?
Unlike a shell jacket or 3-in-1, the built-in insulation means that you don’t have the option of stripping down for spring skiing and warmer days (and it’s worth noting that it lacks pit zips). And with any jacket at this price point, Columbia’s proprietary waterproofing tech isn’t up to Gore-Tex standards, nor should you expect Patagonia or Arc’teryx build quality. That said, we can’t help but love the value here: The Alpine Action is everything most people need in a resort jacket and nothing they don’t.
- Black insulation in the body
- Capable resort-ready design
- Non-insulation hardshell
- No Nonsense athletic fit
- Super clean
- Large selection of colors
Helly Hansen’s Alpha 3.0 has all the features we look for in a capable resort-ready design. First, you get a moderate level of PrimaLoft Black insulation in the body and sleeves for a big boost in warmth compared with a non-insulated hardshell. It’s enough to take the sting out of a chilly ride up the chairlift but won’t overwhelm you on the way down.
Second, the jacket offers really nice movement with four-way stretch fabric and a no-nonsense athletic fit. Rather than incorporating a few stretch panels into the jacket, Helly Hansen uses the four-way design throughout.
Finally, we love the styling of the Alpha 3.0, which is super clean, works well for people of all ages, and is offered in a variety of colorways.
What are the shortcomings of Alpha 3.0? Breathability lags behind the backcountry-focused shells on this list as a result of the 2-layer build an emphasis on warmth (the pit zips do help, however). The jacket does have a snap-out powder skirt and Recco reflector, not to mention the stretch mentioned, but it’s definitely most at home inside the ropes.
Lastly, we like the price of the jacket for what you get. It’s less than half the cost of the Arc’teryx Macai for example, but still covers all the bases for resort skiers.
- Warm and comfortable
- Interior and exterior pockets
- Extremely breathable
In-house fabric technologies often fall short, but Outdoor Research’s AscentShell is an exception. The Skyward is the third model we’ve tested with AscentShell—the first two being the excellent Realm and follow-up Interstellar rain jackets—and it performed flawlessly through a full season of backcountry and occasional resort use.
The fabric stretches like a softshell (it’s even more flexible for the current model), is extremely breathable with an air-permeable design, and is fully waterproof. To top it off, the Skyward has plenty of interior and exterior pockets along with a unique side zip that opens poncho-like from the hem to bicep.
You simply won’t find a better-tuned jacket for staying cool and comfortable on the mountain. What are you giving up at Skyward’s $350 price point?
Build quality is a step down from the ridiculously high attention to detail that you get from the Arc’teryx Sabre and Patagonia PowSlayer, and the OR jacket has a couple of small annoyances like the main zipper sometimes catching along the hem.
also, the AscentShell fabric doesn’t have the batten-down-the-hatches feel of the Gore-Tex options, but it didn’t let us down even in high winds and heavy snow.
- Bulky and lack any real shape
- The insulating layer at home
- Great design
- Warm and comfortable
- 3-in-1 design
You typically turn to a 3-in-1 jacket as a means to save a little cash, so the $349 price of The North Face ThermoBall Eco-Snow Triclimate may come as a bit of a surprise. But it’s a classic case of getting what you pay for.
Most 3-in-1 options are excessively bulky and lack any real shape, but The North Face is nicely fitted even if you decide to leave the insulating layer at home. And the jacket comes with premium features like pit zips for regulating your temperature.
The real savings, however, is in the ThermoBall Eco synthetic insulating piece, which we’ve found does a pretty good impression of a lofty down jacket—all while continuing to insulate when wet. If you’re set on the 3-in-1 design, the ThermoBall Snow Triclimate is our favorite option on the market, but we typically prefer the versatility of separating our jackets and mid layers.
The extra zippers and heft that come with this kind of outer layer make them not as comfortable and they provide less freedom of movement.
Further, you have to stick within The North Face ecosystem if you want to use a different insulating layer for more or less warmth (non-TNF products likely won’t zip into the shell). But the ThermoBall Snow Triclimate provides two quality jackets with relatively few compromises, making it a solid value for resort skiers.
Best Ski jackets brands
There are lots of ski jackets available nowadays in the market and this might become difficult for you to choose which brand you should buy. It would be helpful for you to look online and read some reviews about ski apparel and which brand is the best. This will help you a lot with your decision making but you also have to consider your budget and your style.
Here is a list of popular skiing brands that provides a large selection of high-quality skiing gear and equipment including ski jackets.
Patagonia ski jackets
Spyder ski jackets
North Face ski jackets
Columbia ski jackets
Burton ski jackets
Helly Hansen ski jackets
Roxy ski jackets
Arc’teryx ski jackets
Taking a vacation up to the Alps for a skiing trip can be enjoyable if you have the proper attire. Ski jackets are extremely important and are a must-have item if you are to keep warm and protect yourself from the harsh conditions.
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