Whether you’re looking for the best ski jacket for men or the best ski jacket for women here are some details to look out for when making your next purchase. We will cover insulation types, the difference between hardshell and soft, what style fits best, what features should it have and what is the best type for skiing or snowboarding.
What type of ski jacket should I get?
This is your typical all round ski jacket that is great for resorts like Morzine or Les Gets in France. It will consist of a waterproof outer shell and an insulated inner. The insulation can be down or a synthetic material, with the synthetic, usually being the cheaper option. Down is great for really cold temps, but also note that when down gets wet it loses its thermal capabilities.
A popular insulated ski jacket is Helly Hansen alpha which comes in a variety of colours.
Hardshell made with gore tex are waterproof and windproof outer shell jackets that are versatile. They are uninsulated, keeping them thin and lightweight. Great for spring skiing for ski resorts like St Johann Austria, as you can remove layers and store them in your backpack.
A softshell jacket is just that, meaning they are quite comfortable and can be worn as a mid-layer as well. The only downfall is they are not waterproof, although they are usually treated with a water-repellent coating. They offer superior breathability so have their place with active skiers and the fabric tends to be soft.
I tend to wear my softshell underneath my hardshell in Sring and under my insulated jacket when it is really cold. Having that extra bit of warmth can make the world of difference especially when it is extremely cold. Some skiers like to use a North face thermoball that varies in price depending upon what you want.
What style of ski jacket is best?
This generally applies to hardshell and softshell jackets as they don’t contain bulky insulation. They also provide good movement and flexibility for technical skiers, who normally go off-piste or do telemark skiing. As they are moving a lot more they tend to don’t need the heaviness of a bulker ski jacket. Some brands that are great for ski activities are Peak Performance, Norrøna’s and Mammut.
This is probably the most popular as it’s between slim fit and loose fit and allows room for layers underneath, like a softshell vest. Also, look for a longer hem so your backside is covered on those icy chairlift seats and for a ski pass pocket to easily get through the barriers.
Some of the best ski jacket brands that specialise outdoors are Helly Hanson, North Face and Salomon.
Loosely fitted jackets are usually best for snowboarders and freestyle skiers as they’re comfy and also allow mobility for pulling off tricks. They give them flexibility when they are on their behinds. Some popular brands snowboarding brands are Burton, DC and O’Neill’s.
What features should a ski jacket have?
These are elastic inner cuffs which prevent snow from getting up your ski jacket sleeve in the case of a fall. They can also be material that covers your hand and has a thumb hole. Which type of wrist gaiter is up to you, try them both and decide which you prefer and what feel is more comfortable.
This is an inner piece of material attached just above the hem of the jacket that connects around your waist. It’s designed to prevent snow from entering the jacket when skiing in deep powder. It also keeps the wind from getting in, especially up your back when on the chairlift.
Most ski jackets should have these but it is not essential and some ski jackets have removable powder skirts. If you don’t have one and want to keep snow out, then look at getting ski trousers with straps that go over your shoulds.
Most ski jackets have hoods and are great protection from the elements, especially when sitting on an exposed chairlift! Make sure it fits well as you don’t want it blowing off and that it is helmet compatible. Some ski jackets have removable hoods if you prefer not to use one skiing.
A lift pass pocket in the forearm is a great design which makes it much easier to zap through lift barriers. Storage space is a personal decision but look for secure hand pockets for keys, wallets, sunscreen and also pockets that provide easy access.
Underarm vents or pit zips are easily unzipped to allow cooling. Usually backed with mesh to prevent snow intrusion. Though vents are not a necessity they are a great feature especially for spring skiing when the weather is getting warmer. It is amazing that just by unzipping the vents how quickly you become cooler.
You can also get vents on your ski trousers, I have them on my pair of Burtons and I tend to unzip them more than my jacket. Snow and Ski Sports offer a good range of ski clothing with vents.
There are generally two types of zips on ski jackets, waterproof zips and normal zips. Waterproof zips are found on higher-end jackets like Peak Performance or Berghaus that sit flush with the outer layer. ‘Normal’ zips will have a flap that usually Velcro’s over the top to keep the weather out.
Recco tag is built into clothing to aid rescue teams to locate people buried in an avalanche or lost outdoors. A great ‘just in case’ feature on a ski jacket. A Recco tag should be written somewhere on the ski jacket, usually on the arm, where it is placed. If you are unsure, ask a shop assistant in-store, if you are buying online type it in as a feature.
Having a Recco tag is great for ski resorts like Oz en Oisans, Vaujany and Val Thorens where off-piste is popular.
Although this might not sound like an important feature, a brightly coloured jacket will help your friends locate you on a crowded ski field…or bar area! A bright ski jacket will also help the rescue team locate you if you end up needing them. If you do decide to go with a black jacket, then I suggest wearing coloured ski trousers, like the guys below in Tignes.
What is the best skiing jacket?
What is the best ski jacket for you will depend on what type of skiing you intend on doing and the time of the season. Are you a Spring skier, will you be out in all weather, will be staying in a resort or going backcountry? The most important features are going to be being comfortable and keeping warm and dry.
If you’re in a resort mostly a warm all-round jacket might be best as you want to be protected on exposed chairlifts like in Chatel France. Whereas a backcountry skier might like a breathable more flexible jacket. I like to wear an Arcteryx ski jacket for spring skiing and either my Northface or Helly Hanson during the colder months of December, January and February.
What is the best jacket for snowboarding?
Snowboarders tend to spend a fair amount of time sitting on snow and ice, whether it’s adjusting their bindings or on a lift. A long jacket or one that is longer at the back is best for snowboarding. As it will protect you from a wet backside and make your time much more enjoyable.
It will also keep you warmer when sitting down on the snow and ice. Some of the popular snowboarding jacket brands are California-based Volcom, Burton and O’Neill. Snow and Ski Sports offers a good price on those brands and any other ski wear.
Do ski jackets have to be waterproof?
Strictly speaking, a ski jacket doesn’t need to be waterproof, however, even in perfect weather you would want some sort of water-repellent coating. When the snow on your jacket melts you don’t want it seeping through and making you cold. Also, the weather can change quickly in the mountains, so it is highly recommended to have a jacket that can protect you from all types of situations.
Some of the best brands that offer waterproof ski jackets for both women and men are Northface, Helly Hansen and Salomon.
Here are some great skiing articles.
Here is a collection of articles related to skiing worth a read. If you want any more ideas or where to ski this season, head over to my adventure page
- What to know about skiing with a Pacemaker or an ICD
- 12 of The Best Ski Resorts in the World 2022/2023
- Top Tips for Saving Money for a Ski Vacation
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Disclaimer: All views are my own and based on my own experience and knowledge of ski jackets.