A ski jacket is an absolute necessity if you’re planning to throw yourself down some alpine mountains this winter. They offer complete protection when you’re carving down the mountains, keep you warm and prevent snow from leaking in, causing you to become wet and weighed down.
With snowsports becoming ever more popular, there’s no shortage of brands producing some great quality ski jackets, and ones that look good too. You could always opt for an all-black number, but where’s the fun in that?
We’re not saying you need to bring back the 80s trend of retro-looking jumpsuits (but if you want to, have at it), but injecting a bit of colour on the snow and mountains not only gives you a unique look but will make it easier for your fellow group members to spot you.
Ski Jacket vs Snowboard Jacket
While you may think that skiing and snowboarding make do with the same clothing, there are actually a few differences between the look and style of clothing you need to be aware of.
The main difference between a ski jacket and a snowboard jacket is their fit. Ski jackets tend to offer a more snug fit, at least compared to snowboard jackets, which tend to be a lot looser. Snowboard jackets are also longer at the back to protect your behind from getting cold and wet when you fall off the board.
However, since both are designed to protect against wind, rain, snow and whatever else the mountain can throw at you, you’re safe to wear a snowboard jacket for skiing, or vice versa. More importantly, ski jackets (like all technical outerwear) can feature a range of various fabric technologies, all with a similar aim of keeping you warm and dry.
How to choose the right ski jacket for you
Ski jackets can come in various styles. The main three you’re going to see when searching are shell, insulated or 3-in-1. Each offers something different so determining which ski jacket style is best for you will come down to personal preference – if you already have a good mid-layer, you may just want to invest in a shell, for example – and cost.
Shell jackets literally provide a shell outer layer. They usually come without any real insulation, instead, offering a solid outer layer to protect you from wind, rain and snow. You will, however, need to source base and mid-layers to provide extra warmth. Within shell jackets, you can get hard and softshell, which have varying levels of breathability.
The former is better for backcountry skiing while the latter soft-shell is more appropriate for resort skiing. If a shell jacket is the style you choose, be sure to dig a little deeper into what’s around.
Insulated jackets are the style we suspect most skiers and snowboarders will choose. They offer the best of both worlds: a tough outer layer that protects from the elements, with a warm inner layer that’s breathable and comfortable. The insulation material can range from jacket to jacket, with some manufacturers continuing to use down, while others have chosen to go down more sustainable routes by developing their own synthetic fabrics.
3-in-1 jackets provide a solid outer layer, with a removable warm inner layer. This gives you versatility, meaning you can wear the full package on particularly cold days, just the shell on days that just require some protection from a bit of rain or just the inner layer to accompany you on chilly but dry winter evenings.
Ski Jacket Fabrics
Once you’ve decided which ski jacket style is best for you, you then need to look carefully at which fabric technologies, if any, it has. Whilst whichever ski jacket you choose is going to built specifically to keep you warm and dry, some jackets have that extra special touch to make your skiing experience a whole lot more comfortable.
One of the most common you’re going to see is Gore-Tex. This is a brand of weatherproof fabric technologies that signifies something you can trust to provide the best protection. However, within the Gore-Tex range are multiple different variations.
Gore-Tex Pro is the creme de la creme, the fabric that even comes with a “guaranteed to keep you dry” promise, no matter how harsh the downpour you find yourself in. It also provides superior breathability to keep you sweat-free, yet warm at the same time.
Gore-Tex Paclite jackets are, as their name implies, packable. This means they’re more shell-like jackets that offer a protective layer, requiring you to layer up underneath, as opposed to do-it-all jackets that will protect you from everything. Gore-Tex Paclite jackets are still breathable, windproof and waterproof, they’re just perhaps less rugged.
Gore-Thermium hails from the same umbrella company as Gore-Tex, but relates more to an internal insulation layer, as opposed to offering outer protection. It still has waterproof qualities, keeping rain and snow at bay from seeping inside a jacket, while offering a soft and cosy fabric to keep you warm and comfortable.
Bogner Luka Ski Jacket
Price: From $490
If the most luxurious brands are important to you when out on the slopes, you can’t skip past Bogner. The German ski and snow brand has been at the height of luxury athletic wear for over 85 years, thanks to a combination of iconic designs, exceptional quality and some of the finest materials around. The company has two ranges: Bogner Sport and Bogner Fire + Ice. The former is highly functional, while Fire + Ice is designed to be a little more fashion-focused.
The Boxer Luka Ski jacket is part of the brand’s Fire + Ice collection, offering urban looks but with a whole lot of performance to boot. It’s made from a recycled nylon fabric, so is a great option for eco-warriors, and Thermore Ecodown padding serves up plenty of warmth for winter.
The North Face Ceptor Jacket
Price: From $400
Being named after one of the demanding sides of any mountain, The North Face knows how combat the climatic conditions you’re likely to face when shredding powder.
The Ceptor jacket is a shell jacket style that is perfect for both skiing and snowboarding. Because it’s a shell, you’ll want to make sure you have a good base and/or mid-layer, but get those, and you can be guaranteed of staying dry. The Ceptor jacket benefits from DryVent 3L waterproofing and has a long powder skirt at the rear to keep you extra dry.
You’ll find pockets all over, including inside and a wrist pocket with a goggle wipe included. Protection and comfort guaranteed, plus, it looks fantastic.
Patagonia Untracked Jacket
Price: From $649
Patagonia is a brand closely associated with outdoor clothing, and clothing made in sustainable ways at that. Not just a company to provide you with clothing for hiking adventures, Patagonia also has a range of ski apparel that is well-suited to protecting you from the coldest of temperatures.
Patagonia’s Untracked ski jacket is a versatile little number that is prepared for anything the mountain can throw at you. It is a shell jacket, but with a padded back panel a 3-layer Gore-Tex build, you remain high and dry no matter how much snowfall you experience.
A helmet-compatible hood adds extra protection and an adjustable powder skirt ensures you don’t get any seepage into your ski pants when the powder gets deep. An array of pockets and a mesh lining to help regulate your body temperature make this the perfect all-rounder.
Black Diamond Helio Active Shell Jacket
Price: From $400
Black Diamond was founded in 1989, although its extended history can be traced back to the late 1950s. At that time its offices were moved from California to Utah, so it could surround itself with climbing and skiing culture.
The Helio Active shell jacket offers exceptional protection against water and wind thanks to Gore-Tex 3L Active technology, while a separate Gore-Tex C-Knit panel in the back offers up extra breathability to “prevent that clammy plastic bag feeling.”
Harness compatible hand pockets also mean you can wear this Black Diamond jacket to go climbing, if you’re so inclined to venture off the slopes and into backcountry territory.
Columbia Powder 8s Insulated Jacket
Price: From $160
Columbia has been in the outerwear game for more than 80 years. Founded in Portland, Oregon, the brand quite literally has a playground within which to try, test and use everything it creates on its doorstep, so you can be sure clothing can withstand harsh conditions.
Columbia has a great range of ski jackets on offer, but we love the Powder 8s Insulated Jacket. Firstly, we love how it looks (we’d choose the nimbus grey colour way any day of the week) but we also love its virtually endless list of features.
Omni-Tech fabric technology provides waterproofing and breathability, while Omni-Heat works to keep you warm and cosy on the inside. You also get pockets galore, on the front, sides and inside, a removable, helmet-compatible hood and adjustable points to find the perfect fit. Plus, it’s bloody affordable!
Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 Ski Jacket
Price: From $475
Norwegian brand Helly Hansen has its mitts in apparel for use on the mountain and out at sea, and has been producing gear since 1877. It’s fair to say the company has amassed some serious knowledge in the 140+ years since.
Helly Hansen’s years of expertise have allowed the company to develop ski jackets such as the Alpha 3.0, which is the latest iteration of the company’s best-seller. You can be assured of staying warm and dry thanks to the proprietary Helly Tech Professional 3-layer system, while H2Flow lets you retain or release trapped heat whenever you want and PrimaLoft Black Eco insulation is on-hand to keep you toasty when the temperature plummets.
Put simply, the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 really is one of the best ski jackets money can buy right now. If you head to the snow regularly, this will be your best friend.
Salomon Untracked Insulated Jacket
Price: From $350
French-based Salomon was founded in heart of the Alps in 1947 and has since cemented itself as the European leader in outdoor sports equipment. Not only does the brand have a complete range of outdoor apparel, but also produced all manner of Alpine ski, Nordic ski and snowboard equipment.
The Untracked Insulated jacket offers everything you need for a comfortable jaunt on the slopes, including Salomon’s AdvancedSkin Dry 10k/10k fabric, which provides 10,000mm waterproofness and breathability of 10,000g/m2/24h, making it perfect for resort skiing. If you do your skiing further afield in backcountry, you may find you’ll start to overheat.
But, as an affordable ski resort jacket that’s a bit of a looker too, you can’t really go wrong with Salomon.
Spyder Leader Jacket
Price: From $500
Colorado-based Spyder confidently claims it is the world’s largest ski specialty brand. Founded by David Jacobs, a member of the Canadian National Ski team, Spyder initially sold race sweaters specifically for skiing, before expanding into other areas. Today, Spyder is the official supplier of teh US Ski Team, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team and the Jamaica Ski Team.
The Leader Gore-Tex ski jacket benefits from myriad fabric technologies to provide ultimate performance. You’ve got stretch Gore-Tex, PrimaLoft Eco Insulation and Aquaguard waterproof zippers. Continuing with the “go all out” method of design, Spyder has given the Leader GTX interior stretch panels for added mobility when making turns down the mountain, underarm vents for increased airflow and cuffs with thumb holes to keep your hands extra warm.
Outdoor Research Carbide Jacket
Price: From $299
Outdoor Research thrives on creating products designed to help you tackle the great outdoors. Founded by adventurer Ron Gregg in 1981 after a glacier ascent went sour, Outdoor Research is committed to making the best gear around.
The Carbide shell jacket, which is available in a range of eye-catching colours, uses Pertex Shield 3L technology to keep you dry, both inside and out, thanks to exceptional breathability. Outdoor Research has also employed a 40D nylon material for improved durability. Other features include fully taped seams and waterproof zippers further help to banish water and melted snow away.
Arc'teryx Macai Jacket
Price: From $999
Arc’teryx was born in the Canadian mountains, so it’s safe to say it knows how to make ski jackets that combat the cold weather elements, but still offer performance when you’re bombing down a run.
The Macai is just that, offering a combination of incredible warmth thanks to RDS-certified European goose down insulation, while the use of Gore-Tex makes sure you’re protected from wind, rain and snow. The hood can be removed in a jiffy and, since the Macai was designed for skiing and snowboarding, you can be guaranteed of free and easy movement.
Price: From $270
Burton Snowboards is, by and large, a snowboard-focused brand that can be thanked for bringing snowboarding to the masses in the late 1970s.
The Dunmore ski jacket is, therefore, designed for snowboarding, but skiers want to look good too, so we’re championing it for the dual-gliders out there as well. The Dunmore rocks lightweight insulation, in a silhouette that could easily be worn off the mountain too. The tough exterior provides protection against water and snow, while an inner Thermolite insulation layer, coupled with Burton’s Living Liner, regulate airflow to keep your body breathing. It’s essentially a three-in-one jacket without having separate pieces. Pockets for your goggles and phone keep them well-protected and microfibre pockets keep your hands warm when at the bar for some Après ski action.
Backcountry Cottonwoods Jacket
Price: From $399
Outdoor gear specialist Backcountry has gotten in on men’s skiwear too with its own range. After gaining the knowledge and expertise of distributing other world-renowned brands, Backcountry has learned what men want from a ski jacket, and applied that to one of its own.
The result is the Cottonwoods Gore-Tex jacket, which Backcountry promises will be more than capable of lasting for a 100-day season. A revised fit and profile guarantee easy movement, while Gore-Tex provides protection against water. It’s available in a range of cool-looking colours and above all else, offers a performance that belies its price tag.