Those with a multi-jacket quiver typically have at least one softshell at their disposal. Best Seller Newest Relevance Name: Choices in insulation come down to the classic debate: Rather than incorporating a few stretch panels into the jacket, Helly Hansen uses the 4-way stretch throughout.
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Jacket Waterproof Rating Waterproof fabric is a key component of all ski jackets. Here is a quick reference guide: As backcountry skiing grows in popularity, so too does the prevalence of these stretchy jackets. Their main downside is weather resistance, or lack thereof. For the right use and the right conditions, however, a softshell can be a fantastic performance piece.
Those with a multi-jacket quiver typically have at least one softshell at their disposal. The main advantage is cost savings: And unlike insulated models, you can leave behind the warming layer simply by unzipping it. Also, you often end up with an inferior product as the price would suggest. These jackets are far from the best performers in high exertion activities—opting for one with pit zips is suggested. Nonetheless, for the budget seeker or skier that only makes it to the mountain a couple times a year, a 3-in-1 like the Columbia Bugaboo Interchange is a good way to get kitted out for a reasonable price.
Comfort ranks highly for resort-goers, and to help make cold chairlift rides more tolerable, many skiers opt for a hardshell jacket with insulation. Choices in insulation come down to the classic debate: Down will give you premium warmth with less bulk, while synthetic is cheaper and will outperform down should moisture make its way through the lining. Insulated jackets add a little bulk and they impact range of motion more than when layering with a separate midlayer beneath a shell.
But for those that run a little cold or ski in frigid climates on-piste, an insulated jacket is a popular way to go. The vast majority of skiers spend at least a little time on a chairlift, and as a result, most ski jackets accommodate those needs. Specifically, a resort shell should be durable, at least partially wind and water proof, and have a fit that can accommodate layers of varying sizes underneath. Insulation is optional for resort-goers but a bad idea for backcountry use.
For ski touring, mountaineering, or sidecountry hikes, a non-insulated and lightweight design takes precedence. The fabrics need to be thin and packable, which impacts durability, and there is a high priority on technology.
Fit does vary by use—freeride shells are roomy while touring-specific designs fit more snugly—but all designs focus on mobility. The jackets that toe the line of backcountry and resort use have a great fit, good enough durability, and fabrics that are impervious to the wind and wet but still ventilate. Finally, look for a jacket with a DWR durable water repellent coating, which helps shed wet snow to keep moisture from sitting on your jacket and wetting through the outer fabric.
Breathability ranks as a top priority for backcountry use, and a little less so with downhill skiing. Softshells are the all-around leaders because they don't have to deal with the waterproofing layer, but the clear downside is wind and water resistance. On average, cheaper jackets compensate for their less advanced fabrics by using more of it, making for thicker, durable shells.
This is when a dedicated, lightweight hardshell may be the ideal choice for your skiing needs. Standouts in this category include the Arc'teryx Beta AR 1 lb. For those particularly nasty days, make sure to get a hood that is large enough to fit over your ski helmet.
A properly adjusted hood should not interfere with your field of vision as a good safety measure. Pockets Unless you ski with a backpack, a jacket with multiple pockets is important.
Most ski jackets include a couple of hand pockets and at least one zippered napoleon pocket at the chest. That napoleon pocket is great for stashing smaller items like a phone, camera, or wallet.
If you listen to music while on the mountain, look for a napoleon pocket with an interior opening to feed your headphone cord for a clutter-free set-up. Mesh hanging pockets sometimes are built into the inner lining of ski jackets.
Elasticized fabric is built into the lining of the jacket around the waist, and will typically secure to your ski pants near the front zipper. Some manufacturers make the snow skirts removable should you want to use the jacket around town. Pit Zips Skiing can be a high exertion activity, and waterproof jackets, no matter the quality, restrict airflow. Enter the pit zip.
Open them all the way, extending from approximately the middle of your ribcage to just above your elbow, and you can release a whole lot of hot air. These are for skiers that make their way out of bounds or into areas prone to avalanches. They lack the technology and strong signal of a dedicated search and rescue beacon, but they do provide an additional safety measure should you venture off-trail.
In general, the fit of a ski jacket will correspond with its intended use. In addition, they have a long cut with a drop hem to provide protection from frozen chairlift seats.
On the other end of the spectrum are backcountry-specific builds like the Outdoor Research Skyward II, which are trimmed down to minimize bulk and improve range of motion. The amount of insulation can vary dramatically, from a thin fleece to a puffy down jacket. Down is the pricey option but is unmatched in lightweight compressible warmth just make sure to keep it dry because it will stop insulating when wet , and synthetic fill splits the difference. It has a fairly good warmth-to-weight ratio and retains its insulating properties when wet.
For more on midlayers along with our top picks, see our article on the best midlayers. Baselayers and their next-to-skin warmth are important in keeping you toasty and dry. Synthetics, like those made by Patagonia or Helly Hansen, are comfortable and breathe well at a reasonable cost. The downside is they are less soft and more prone to retaining unpleasant odors. Merino wool is expensive, but excels in temperature regulation and odor prevention.
From breathable and bombproof shells to warm and affordable 3-in-1s, we break down this season's top ski jackets. Best Overall Ski Jacket 1. Helly Hansen Alpha 3. Flylow Gear Higgins 2. Yes Helly Hansen Alpha 3. Yes Flylow Gear Higgins 2. Arc'teryx hardshells are hard to beat in the backcountry Price varies widely within this category. Outdoor Research's Skyward mixes the stretchiness of a softshell with hardshell-like weather protection 3-in-1 Jackets With an outer shell and zip-in insulated layer, 3-in-1 jackets are extremely popular for casual skiers.
Fit, comfort, and weather protection are all important considerations for a resort shell For ski touring, mountaineering, or sidecountry hikes, a non-insulated and lightweight design takes precedence. Gore-Tex Pro and a DWR coating combine for nearly impenetrable protection Breathability Breathability ranks as a top priority for backcountry use, and a little less so with downhill skiing. Helmet-compatible hoods offer additional protection in a storm Pockets Unless you ski with a backpack, a jacket with multiple pockets is important.
Feature-rich shells include pockets dedicated for goggles and other small gear Mesh hanging pockets sometimes are built into the inner lining of ski jackets.
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