December 4, 2022
Cool Ski Jacket

The Cool Ski Jacket

Cool ski jackets have been a popular item of clothing for many years, especially amongst men. And they continue to be popular with the snow season almost upon us. Some of the best brands include Norrona, Fjallraven, Helly Hansen, Arcteryx, Haglofs, Berghaus, Patagonia, North Face, Roxy, Gore Tex, Ryders, Duke, Trespass, Burton, Puffa, Jack Wolfskin, Armani, Bardal, Regatta, Buty, Marmot, Icebreaker. There are many more, but these are some of the best-known brands.

How To Choose A Cool Ski Jacket

Cool Ski Jacket: As your outermost layer, ski jackets play a key role in keeping you comfortable and protected from the elements. The jacket market has expanded in recent years, covering everything from warm and cozy insulated resort pieces to light, breathable, and stretchy models for backcountry travel. Below we detail all the important considerations in selecting the right ski jacket for you, including types (insulated, shell, and 3-in-1), weather protection, durability, breathability, fit, where to buy online, and more. To check out our favorite designs for both men and women, see our article on the best ski jackets.

Resort And/Or Backcountry

First up in choosing a ski jacket is thinking through your planned uses. If you’ll be in bounds at the resort, your needs will be fairly simple: staying warm and dry. There certainly are other considerations like pockets and build quality, but it’s mostly about managing comfort for the cold ride up and trip down. 

On the other hand, those exploring the backcountry need a jacket that breathes well, offers good mobility without restricting movement, and is light and compressible enough to throw into a pack. Finally, a growing number of riders want something that can be used for both resort and backcountry use, mixing high levels of weather protection with freedom of movement, ventilation, and comfort. The good news is that there are lots of quality options at a range of price points that line up with these uses.

 Pick The Right Ski Jacket Type

The next step is nailing down the ideal jacket type. The four styles below vary substantially. Shell jackets are light and versatile, insulated models are cozy and warm, 3-in-1s offer a lot of bang for your buck, and softshells are stretchy and breathable. Backcountry users will want either a shell or softshell jacket in almost all situations, while the top three options are fair game among resort-goers.

Cool Ski Jacket

 3-In-1s

Cool Ski Jacket: A popular choice among budget-seekers is the 3-in-1 style, which combines both an outer shell and a zip-in insulated layer in a single package. The biggest argument here is value: you can get waterproof protection, sufficient warmth for most resort days, and the versatility to wear the insulated jacket as an around-town piece for approximately $200. Compromises include a pretty substantial jump in weight and all-around bulk, plus the budget-minded constructions aren’t impressive in terms of fit and finish. But the all-in-one solution simplifies the jacket buying process, offers nice versatility, and is a good way to save money for those just getting into the sport.

Softshells

Finally, softshells are the least common jacket type but have their place among backcountry skiers in areas known for dry snow (think Utah and Colorado). Their lack of full waterproofing drops them from consideration in rough weather or at the resort, but by removing the waterproof membrane you get a big leap in breathability. In addition, there’s a healthy portion of spandex in their constructions, which greatly increases mobility and comfort for high-output activities like touring. Again, these are niche products that lack the versatility of a standard waterproof build, but softshells serve as excellent secondary jackets for mild weather or spring missions.

Cost

Ski jacket prices vary widely, from budget-friendly options like the REI Co-op Powderbound ($199) to the eye-wateringly expensive Arc’teryx Macai ($999). And the truth is that both the REI and Arc’Teryx will keep you reasonably dry and comfortable for most days on the slopes. 

The downsides to choosing an entry-level design are that they are consistently heavier and bulkier due to the cheaper materials, won’t last as many seasons on average before starting to break down, skimp on features like pit zips, and don’t have nearly the same premium look and feel. Spending more gets you better mobility, improved weather protection, and increased breathability due to the higher-quality fabrics and waterproof constructions. 

In addition, the smaller pieces improve: zippers work more smoothly, and hoods offer superior adjustability and coverage. In the end, beginner skiers or those that don’t make it out all that often will be fine with a cheaper jacket, while more serious riders will likely appreciate the upgrades that come with increasing the budget.

Weather Protection

Cool Ski Jacket: With the exception of softshells, the vast majority of ski jackets are waterproof and offer solid protection from snow and wind. They have durable water repellent (DWR) coatings on the outer shells to shed moisture, seam sealing, and internal membranes that block water from getting through. That being said, the cheaper you go, the thicker the construction gets to compensate for the entry-level materials. This leads to a fair amount of extra weight and bulk, which can be a nuisance for skiers that prefer to keep things light and simple. In addition, budget-oriented waterproofing doesn’t hold up as well over time and will start absorbing moisture earlier than pricier alternatives. As with a lot of decisions in choosing a ski jacket, your preferences in regard to weather protection will come down to budget and how often you plan to hit the slopes.

Cool Ski Jacket Layers, 2l vs. 3l

As you dive deeper into your ski jacket hunt, you’ll invariably see references to fabric layers and “2L” or “3L.” In short, these relate to how your jacket is constructed. A 2-layer build bonds an outer face fabric to a waterproof membrane. With a separate “hanging” liner along with the interior. 3-layer constructions, on the other hand, connect three pieces together: face fabric, membrane, and a smooth fabric liner.

Cool Ski Jacket

Fit And Sizing Cool Ski Jacket

Cool Ski Jacket: Last but not least, you need to find your best fit. Most resort-specific styles are roomy enough that you can layer them, and they are long with a drop hem to protect you from cold chairlift seats. Backcountry-specific builds, on the other hand, are trimmed down to minimize bulk and improve range of motion. And a middle-of-the-road option: it’s large enough not to feel constrained when wearing a midweight down jacket but has excellent mobility for hiking and occasional uphill travel. Another consideration is whether or not a jacket is insulated. Those that are not are sized larger to accommodate more layers underneath.

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