When you’re up in the mountains you want to be focused on the pistes, the powder and the perfect pop; you don’t want to worry about being too cold or too hot. Making sure you invest in the best ski jacket will not only eliminate your temperature troubles, but it’ll also accommodate a good range of motion, keep the snow out and keep your snacks safe.

Snow sports are tough on the body and tough on your equipment. A ski jacket has a variety of tasks and one that’s not up to the job will quickly become the bane of your time in the mountains. With a few crucial points to understand, read on and you’ll soon be able to identify the ski jacket of your dreams.

 

THE BEST SKI JACKET – QUICK ANSWER

  1. North Face Initiator ThermoBall Triclimate
  2. Marmot Whitecliff Shell
  3. Armada Aspect
  4. Arc’teryx Sabre
  5. Black Diamond Helio
  6. VOLCOM L
  7. Salomon Fantasy
  8. Columbia In Bounds 650
  9. Columbia Bugaboo Interchange
  10. Under Armour Storm Hillcrest

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide To Snow Sports

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST SKI JACKET

PICTURE
SKI JACKET
BEST USE
INSULATION
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
SKI JACKET
BEST USE
INSULATION
PRICE
RATING
North Face Initiator ThermoBall Triclimate
Overall
Yes
$$
4.3
Marmot Whitecliff Shell
Overall
No
$$
5
Armada Aspect
Overall
No
$
5
Arc'teryx Sabre
Backcountry
Yes
$$$
4.5
Black Diamond Helio
Backcountry
No
$$$
5
VOLCOM L
Backcountry
No
$$
4.5
Salomon Fantasy
Downhill/Alpine
Yes
$$
4.3
Columbia In Bounds 650
Downhill/Alpine
Yes
$$
4.3
Columbia Bugaboo Interchange
Budget
Yes
$
4.1
Under Armour Storm Hillcrest
Budget
No
$
5

 

 

SKI JACKETS 101

 

7 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST SKI JACKET

 

1. INSULATION

Unless skiing on a particularly warm day or ski touring, chances are you’ll need some kind of insulation. Many people choose insulated ski jackets with insulation built in, but you can also choose a shell jacket and add insulation yourself in the form of a fleece or lightweight down jacket underneath.

 

SYNTHETIC

Synthetic insulation is much cheaper than down and has some interesting and useful capabilities. It works well when damp, is washable and the top of the range stuff has properties like odor-control and super softness.

The downside of synthetic insulation is weight and size. Synthetic insulations don’t pack down as easily as down and more material is needed to provide the same level of warmth. However, some companies, like PrimaLoft, are creating down-like synthetic insulation.

 

DOWN

Very lightweight and highly compressible, down is from ducks or geese and is the warmest type of insulation. More expensive than synthetic, down comes in specific fill grades; the higher the fill number (i.e. 800) the less down the jacket needs to keep you warm.

The negatives of down are price and its generally poor performance and recoverability after getting wet (it cannot be washed with water either). There are some ethical concerns regarding down as well, however, many companies are now using responsibly sourced and cruelty-free down.

 

SHELL (NO INSULATION)

Shell jackets are very popular because you can wear them for any kind of skiing or mountain activities. Waterproof and often very breathable, shells are great for warm weather as they lack insulation but are often designed with room underneath for a thin down jacket, fleece or other mid-layers.

 

2. WATERPROOFING AND BREATHABILITY

Ski jackets have two main jobs. Job A) Stop water getting in and Job B) Allow water vapor (including sweat) to get out. GORE-TEX is commonly used and is roughly equivalent to 20K/20K waterproofing and breathability.

 

WATERPROOFING

Ski jacket (and tent) waterproofing is measured in millimeters of water. For instance, if a jacket has 5K written on the label, that means that a square inch of the fabric (I know, mixed unit systems) could hold 5000mm (16.4 feet) of water before leaking.

That actually only equates to a rain shower and possibly not a sustained one. When it comes to choosing a ski jacket, you’ll have a choice from 1K to 20K waterproofing; the higher the number, the more expensive the jacket will likely be.

 

BREATHABILITY

Another weird looking number system, breathability is measured in grams per square meter (g/m2). This means that a 10,000g/m2 rating allows 10,000g of water to pass through a square meter of fabric. The high the number, the more breathable the fabric is.

Breathability is very important for skiers and all mountain lovers. Snow sports are tough and when you sweat, you need that sweat to evaporate away from your skin and out of the jacket without making anything damp on its way. The more breathable a fabric, the drier you’ll stay and the less likely the sweat is to make you freeze on the next lift.

 

3. POCKETS

A ski jacket with pockets big enough to access with gloves on is a huge plus but what might you even need to put in your pockets?

Snack bars, wallet, cell phone, keys, mp3 player, pocket suncream, lip screen and a trusty pack of tissues can usually be found in the typical downhill skiers pockets. If you love music while you’re skiing then look out for a jacket with a specific mp3 player pocket complete with hole for headphones. Goggle mesh pockets are also common.

Backcountry skiers and ski tourers wear backpacks for safety gear and water, so an abundance of pockets is less important. In fact, for backcountry skiing, you might prefer to keep your jacket fairly empty for greater range of movement.

 

4. CUFFS

This really comes down to thumbs loops or no thumb loops. For those who detest the idea of cold loops, snow creeping up cuffs in a fall or just like to be snug, tight inner cuffs with thumbs loops are a great feature.

 

5. VENTS

Vents are different from breathability and are usually under the armpits and sometimes in the chest of a jacket. Ski jacket vents can be unzipped to reveal a mesh or hole that allows much more air to get through and cool you down.

 

6. HOOD

Is the hood helmet compatible? Hoods that are big enough to fit over helmets are useful if the weather gets particularly savage but not a deal-breaker. Some people find hoods obscure their view when skiing and only need them for snowy walks around the town.

Is the hood detachable? Detachable hoods are great on bluebird days when you just don’t want or need the extra weight.

 

7. SNOW SKIRT AND PANT CONNECTION

Snow skirts, also called powder skirts or waist gaiters, secure around your lower waist to stop any powder rushing up in a fall. Some people love them, some people hate them but they’re definitely a nice option to have in your ski jacket, even if you don’t think you’ll use it.

With clips, velcro or even zips, some jackets have inbuilt capabilities for attaching to snow pants. Once attached, not only will your jacket never ride up in a tumble, but no ounce of snow will work its way up to your midriff.

 

ski jacket must-have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/anyaberkut

 

SKI JACKET REVIEWS

 

1. BEST SKI JACKETS FOR OVERALL USE

NORTH FACE INITIATOR THERMOBALL TRICLIMATE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: All-mountain downhill

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: Outer Jacket: None / Inner Jacket: Synthetic PrimaLoft

ADDED FEATURES: 3-in-1 jacket, lots of pockets, helmet-compatible hood, popper powder skirt, armpit vents

PROS: Removable internal insulated jacket means good for warm weather and cold, PrimaLoft insulation copes with dampness and remains lightweight, goggle cloth inside goggle pocket so you can clear smears on the mountain

CONS: Powder skirt only works when in shell mode, muted colors

 

 

 

MARMOT WHITECLIFF SHELL

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Downhill and all-mountain

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: None

ADDED FEATURES: Removable hood, lots of pockets, popper powder hood, armpit vents

PROS: Marmot’s own MemBrain 2-layer waterproofing, removable hood means you can choose your look, smart look, good colors

CONS: Chest pockets only have velcro fastening, lacks a truly high-quality feel, vents aren’t meshed

 

 

 

ARMADA ASPECT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: All-mountain

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: None

ADDED FEATURES: Microfiber chin lining, range of pockets, armpit vents, powder skirt can snap onto pants, fully taped seams

PROS: Jacket to pant compatibility with Armada pants, helmet-friendly hood for inclement weather, soft microfleece chin protection keeps skin irritation away, very affordable

CONS: Baggy fit might not be ideal for some, may not withstand heavy rain or wet and heavy snow

 

 

 

 

2. BEST SKI JACKET FOR BACKCOUNTRY

ARC’TERYX SABRE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Backcountry and ski-touring

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: None

ADDED FEATURES: Microfiber chin lining, range of pockets, armpit vents, powder skirt can snap onto pants, fully taped seams

PROS: Helmet-compatible storm hood turns with your head, brush lining offers slight insulation, RECCO avalanche reflector embedded inside, lightweight build is great for backcountry touring

CONS: Pretty pricey although Arc’Teryx tends to live up to its cost, powder skirt popper connection only works with compatible pants

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND HELIO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Expert backcountry tourers

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: None

ADDED FEATURES: Very lightweight, packs up small, armpit vents, chest pockets

PROS: Just 13oz (370g) so it won’t hold you back on backcountry ascents or sunny spring pistes, harness compatible, the extra-large chest pockets ideal for use with gloves, GORE-TEX waterproofing means no water will get through

CONS: Fairly roomy in the chest area which may annoy some users, expensive for those who aren’t regulars in the backcountry

 

 

 

VOLCOM L

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Beginner and intermediate backcountry skiers/snowboarders

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: None

ADDED FEATURES: Fully taped seams, GORE-TEX waterproofing, 8 pockets, mesh vents, VOLCOM jacket to pant zipper system

PROS: Affordable jacket with all the backcountry plus points, fully taped seams work in conjunction with GORE-TEX waterproofing for lasting dryness, emergency whistle on zipper, hems tightens from within pocket

CONS: Not a very interesting design, lacks water sealed zippers

 

 

 

 

3. BEST SKI JACKET FOR DOWNHILL/ALPINE

SALOMON FANTASY

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Resort and alpine

WOMEN’S VERSION: Salomon Women’s Fantasy

INSULATION: Synthetic 100g

ADDED FEATURES: Removable powder skirt, lots of pockets including lift pass pocket, moisture wicking cuffs, RECCO reflector, removable hood

PROS: The removable hood allows this jacket to suit you on sunny days all the way to blizzards, fully taped seams combined with 10K/10K waterproofing and breathability, 100g insulation keeps you warm on the pistes

CONS: 10K waterproofing might be on the low side for snowboarders or low valley resorts, media pocket is undersized for larger smartphones

 

 

 

COLUMBIA IN BOUNDS 650

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Any day in resort

WOMEN’S VERSION: Columbia Women’s In Bounds 650 

INSULATION: Synthetic and down mix

ADDED FEATURES: 3-in-1 jacket, lots of pockets, powder skirt, armpit vents, hood, adjustable hem

PROS: Inner jacket combines 100g synthetic insulation with 550 fill-power goose down for warmth in super low temperatures, outer shell is ideal alone on warm days, droptail hem adds protection when sitting down, really affordable

CONS: Not as breathable as some higher-end jackets, hood is fixed and not insulated, may fit too small across shoulder area for broad-shouldered users

 

 

 

 

4. BEST BUDGET SKI JACKET

COLUMBIA BUGABOO INTERCHANGE

Check out the latest price on:
REI | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Resort skiing and winter hiking

WOMEN’S VERSION: Columbia Women’s Bugaboo Interchange 

INSULATION: Removable synthetic fleece

ADDED FEATURES: Adjustable hem, good pockets, 3-in-1 jacket, removable hood

PROS: Removable inner fleece means this jacket is good for chilly days and warmer days, great for winter walks as well as alpine skiing

CONS: Not breathable enough for warm days, inner jacket cannot be affixed to outer jacket

 

 

 

UNDER ARMOUR STORM HILLCREST

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Beginner backcountry and resort holidays

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

INSULATION: None

ADDED FEATURES: Thumbhole cuffs, pockets and headphone opening, thermal lining for added warmth

PROS: Taped seams and thumb-loop cuffs help keep snow out, powder skirt and elastic hem protect you in falls, trademarked ColdGear technology coating helps retain body heat

CONS: Hood not helmet-compatible, not particularly lightweight for backcountry expeditions

Top 10 Best Ski Jackets of 2017 – Snow Clothes For Women, Men and Kids – Snow Outfits for Winter - Accessories for Ski and Snowboarding – Best Skiing and Snowboard Gear
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