Ski jackets may be dime a dozen, but they cost a lot more than that! As such you can't afford to make the wrong choice. So dig into our guide to the best ski jackets around below.
Well, heck. You don’t make this easy, do you? When the question of the ‘best’ ski jacket crops up, it’s very difficult to answer. Some jackets are the best for specific things, some jackets are good at all things, and then some jackets are just… yikes. But luckily we’ll have plenty of the first, plenty of the second, and none of the last, so let’s get down to business!
Below, we’ve rounded up our top picks for men and women, along with their intended uses, and why we love them. The features that make a ski jacket great are pretty simple. Does it look good? Does it perform? Do you feel freaking rad when you’re wearing it? If it has a big thumbs up for all those, then you’re on to a winner. But fear not, because you can keep your thumbs firmly in your pockets for the duration — we’ve done all the hard work for you.
When it comes to choosing the best ski jacket (if you’re not going off our list) then it’s good to know how they’re made, what they’re made for, and what you’re going to need out there on the slopes.
Our top picks will fit most skiers’s needs. Still, everyone is different and has different criteria for what makes the perfect ski jacket. Stuff like how warm you’ll be, how active of a skiing style you have, or where you do most of your skiing will affect what decides the best jacket for you. So keep reading to see how you can choose the perfect ski jacket for you.
To begin with, it’s probably good to go over the types of ski jackets available.
There are a few common ones, and choosing between them will depend on what kind of riding you do, where you’re doing it, and the location/time of year. As you can imagine, someone skiing in the article circle or the far north will need a different sort of ski jacket from someone cruising around the parks in SoCal.
So let’s lay them out.
A hardshell or shell ski jacket is one that doesn’t have any insulation. Shell jackets can either be hardshells (just one thin outer layer that provides waterproofing) or a lined shell (which has a lining, pockets, and is more comfortable). Why anyone would want a jacket with no insulation may sound strange, but they’re actually super versatile!
If you get too warm in an insulated ski jacket, you can’t take the insulation out. But with a shell jacket, you can strip right down to a base layer if need be in order to stay cool. As such, shells can be useful as they’re more versatile. And during backcountry hikes or warmer conditions, could be a better choice for you. This is added to by their usually high waterproofing and breathability ratings, which are designed to tackle the tougher conditions you’ll find outside the bounds of the ski resort.
Softshells are generally made from polyester, and are laminated or bonded fabrics consisting of an outer ‘shell’ layer which is often DWR coated for waterproofness, followed by a middle ‘insulating’ layer and an inner ‘fleece’ layer for comfort.
They’re often not as waterproof as a true jacket, but they’re super cosy and warm. This makes these jackets suitable for resort riding primarily, but they’re also versatile off the mountain as well as they feel like a regular hoodie for the most part! Definitely something useful to have in your wardrobe, but not suitable for riding everywhere, softshell ski jackets are more niche and focused on casual riding than all-mountain adventures.
The most common type of ski jacket is the insulated jacket, which consists of an outer shell (like a hardshell), an insulation layer, and then the liner, which has your pockets, etc.
These jackets can vary from resort-focused to backcountry ready, but generally they fall in the middle, designed as ‘all rounders’. They’ll often have 10-15k of waterproofing, 40-80gsm of insulation, and will be good to wear everywhere, featuring things like vents to help you cool off on the slopes when it gets warm.
You can wear these ski jackets over midlayers or just your baselayer, and generally, they’ll be a good, solid choice for any resort holiday. Though you may get a bit toasty on backcountry hikes, so beware!
Learn more about ratings and what they mean in the waterproofing and breathability section.
Would any list of the best skiing jackets be complete without the Montec Fawk? This jacket has spearheaded the charge for Montec for the last few years and isn’t set to let off the gas yet. With some slick updates for the 2020/21 season, the Fawk remains the king of the Montec range, and of ski jackets everywhere.
Let’s talk tech specs. With a super solid 20k/20k split in waterproofing and breathability, and a premium-grade DWR coating, the Fawk is set to weather any storm. Add in a 40gsm layer of all-over compact insulation, and you’ve got a jacket that’s a cold-weather cruiser, too. Now, the eagle-eyed among you may notice that the Fawk has come down from last-years 25k/25k split, but that’s because Montec have upgraded the outer shell material. It’s now much more durable, has a more moisture-resistant construction, and takes the DWR coating better, too. So that loss of waterproofing actually results in a more versatile and water-resistant fabric, generally. Which, in our experience, had more than made up for it. If anything, this year’s model is more waterproof than before.
Adding to this, Montec have also upgraded the lining to make it more durable and moisture wicking, reinforced the stitching and have fully taped the seams. All of which adds up to one beast of a jacket that is just begging to be put through its paces. Top all that off with a stormguard hood, waterproof pockets all around, and all the resort-conveniences you could ever need, and this is a jacket that’ll go anywhere, do anything, and set the standard for all future purchases.
The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT jacket from The North Face Is a premium offering that utilises all of The North Face’s top technology. The FUTURELIGHT 3L shell provides technical prowess all over the mountain while a tried and tested design means you don’t miss out on convenience either. A relaxed cut and built in mechanical stretch mean plenty of room to move, and a lightweight shell design with comfy tricot backing ensures long days on the mountain are a walk in the park.
In terms of its features and everyday use, the A-CAD sports two high volume expandable cargo pockets, two waterproof YKK #5 zipped chest pockets, and a two-way adjustable hood to keep the snow off your back. Made for backcountry adventures, the A-CAD also benefits from pack-compatible underarm vents, as well as a jacket to pants system, and an elasticated powder skirt, all of which mean that you stay dry and powder free no matter what mountain you’re conquering.
All in all, the A-CAD is a serious piece of gear perfect for the discerning rider. All the tech and loving design adds up to a hefty price tag, but anyone who ventures beyond the bounds of the resort knows that performance is everything. And the A-CAD has that in spades.
Looking to add a little bit of laid-back style to your riding this year? Anoraks are bigger than ever, and what better way to join the movement than with Dope’s all-time favourite riding jacket. It’s baggy, its steezy, and it’s dripping with street-style without sacrificing performance. Which means you can look good and feel good this season without breaking the bank.
In terms of tech specs, the Dope range utilises the DryTech shell, which is a super durable polyester fabric dishing out 15k/15k in waterproofing and breathability, along with fully taped seams and an eco-friendly DWR coating that really puts this thing into the big leagues. Under the hood you get 60g of compact body insulation, which feels light and thin, but will keep you warm all winter long.
But this jacket is as much about day-to-day comfort and function as it is about all-weather shredding. Which is why Dope have outfitted it with plenty of awesome touches to make your life easier. You sacrifice inner pockets on the Annok what with it being an anorak and all, but fear not, because you get a big triple-pocket on the front that’s not only a spacious fleece-lined handwarmer pocket big enough to store all your stuff, but also a dedicated phone harness and valuables pocket to keep everything from moving around. Add in an upper arm pocket and lift pass pocket, and this is a jacket that’s definitely not short on storage. The perfect quiver-killing anorak? It might just be.
The Armada Bergs. What can we say about this beautiful piece of garmentry? Well, let’s start with how damn good this thing looks. But, you don’t have to sacrifice function for style here, because Armada have left no stone unturned and no feature un-featured. With everything you could need from a resort focused jacket, all wrapped up into an affordable package, the Bergs is a baggy-fitting riding jacket that delivers everything you could need for resort runs and park laps.
Getting technical, you’ll be treated to the industry standard 10k/10k split, enhanced with Armada’s awesome C6 DWR treatment, a tried and tested formula that will have you shrugging off powder shots to the face well into the spring. This is enhanced by the fully taped seams and waterproof YKK zippers, meaning the jacket performs well beyond the 10k tags. And when the temperature drops, you’ll be glad to have Armada’s 90% recycled 40gsm polyfill insulation to keep you warm.
Though they haven’t halted the innovation there. You also get Cordura reinforced shoulder and forearm panels for extra longevity, and plenty of convenience in the form of storage. This truly is a resort-killer of a jacket that’ll be at home everywhere. Go from the sidecountry to the side hits, from the peaks to the parks. The Armada is a one-jacket wrecking ball that’ll have your back well into the spring. And probably next season, too!
The Alpin Jacket from Picture Organic Clothing is an elegant addition to their lineup, and makes up for in attention to detail what it may lack in flashy design. Picture are a company known for producing amazingly accomplished ski gear and the Alpin is no exception. With Picture’s top of the line 20K/20K DRYPLAY membrane wrapped up in a tough technical shell enhanced with the Teflon Eco Elite DWR treatment, warding off even the worst winter storms will be no trouble.
The Alpin also features Picture’s CoreMax lining, a series of slim foam panels that trap heat in core areas to keep you warm on the mountain without adding the bulk and weight of traditional insulation. This is then upgraded with what Picture call their ThermalDry Panels, which wick away moisture to keep you feeling cool and fresh as well as warm.
Technically, this jacket is epic. On the style-front, it has a distinctive yet classic ski coat vibe with a slimmer cut, 90s-inspired coloured panels, and a minimalist exposed zipper look. Will this appeal to everyone? Probably not. But if it does, then you’re in luck, because these throwback looks come with future-proof tech and specs that’ll see you through every weather on the mountain, even when others are running for the [smaller] hills.
The Montec Doom is the top pick for a ski jacket this season, and for good reason, too! Not only is is very pretty to look at, but it’s also stacked with tech, as a unique and useful design that combined an anorak and a zip-through, and a couple of updates this year to put it over the top. With uprated durability, better DWR, and a reinforced lining, you can really put this thing through its paces.
But before we go any further, let’s talk tech. You get a very handy 20k/20k split with the Montec doom, which is added to by its super durable nylon construction, and an awesome eco-friendly DWR coating. All of which means you can comfortably shred everything from the park to the pow, and never be left wanting. Underneath, you get a cosy 40gsm layer of insulation which provides ample warmth without feeling bulky. The best of both worlds, really.
But the Doom really breaks away from the pack when it comes to features. With all the outer storage of an anorak, but the accessibility and inner storage of a zip-through, the Doom checks all the boxes and is perfectly at home lapping the resort as it is going on a backcountry hike. Load up, hike up, and then have fun coming down. The Doom is named as such because it blows all other jackets out of the water!
The Dope Divine slides in at number two for our top resort pick. With a more tailored fit and a snug layer of insulation, the Divine is an ideal jacket for anyone who wants that classic closer-fitting look but isn’t prepared to sacrifice any style. And with great tech specs and plenty of other features, the Divine is a solid choice all-season long.
When it comes to specs, the Divine stretches its legs. Most resort-focused jackets have the standard 10k split, but the Divine benefits from Dope’s DryTech shell, which sports a nifty 15k/15k in waterproofing and breathability, as well as their nifty eco-friendly DWR treatment. Warmth-wise, you’re treated to 40gsm in the sleeves and 60gsm in the body, which will keep you warm all winter. As such, the Divine is a great resort jacket, but isn’t afraid to get a little wet or cold in inclement conditions, either.
In terms of convenience, the Divine is well equipped and comes with the standard inner and outer pockets, lycra wrist gaiters, a powder skirt, as well as a few other nice touches. A microfleece chinguard and microfleece-lined pockets bolster this jacket’s comfort rating, and the externally accessible media pocket with internal headphone routing is just the icing on the cake. If you’re a casual rider who likes to stay within the bounds of the resort, then the Divine is heavy on coat hangar.
The Picture Famer jacket is an all-mountain focused jacket with a modern, baggy look and plenty of technical ability to back up its bold style. Picture continue to roll with an exposed zipper look made possible by its YKK waterproof zippers, and have outfitted the Famer with their 20K/20K DRYPLAY membrane to ensure weather protection all over the mountain. They gave it a super durable ripstop 2L shell and lined it with their ingenious CoreMax lining which provides warmth without the bulk of traditional insulation.
The Famer also features Picture’s Thermal Dry system, designed to wick away moisture and keep you cool. When it comes to convenience, you’re not making sacrifices either as this jacket has a variety of waterproof external pockets, as well as a few internal ones too to ensure that you’re never short on space.
Finished off with an adjustable hood to go with its lycra wrist gaiters and elasticated powder skirt, the Famer is a jacket that’ll do park laps, powdery steeps, or resort cruising all day, every day, from season open to close. The Famer is a team favourite and a jacket that really can do it all, making it an ideal choice for anyone looking for one jacket to throw on and truly forget about, regardless of the task at hand.
The Picture Season anorak is a fan favourite, and one of ours, too. It benefits from all of Picture’s tech, as well as their style experience, and delivers a handsome panelled design to go with its big-mountain performance. If you’re in the market for an awesome anorak, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Performance wise you get 10k of waterproofing, but it’s stumped up with Picture’s Teflon Eco-Elite eco DWR coating, which, as you know from their frying-pan frame, know a thing or two about ultra-low friction coefficient coatings… In laymans, water will roll of this thing like it does off a duck’s back. Underneath you get 80 grams of STD insulation as well as Picture’s Thermal Dry System, which helps regulate and disperse body head for a warmer experience overall.
In regards to its construction and features, you sacrifice internal storage for water-tightness, but don’t have to fret too hard. With waterproof belly and chest pockets, and all the other stuff you could need on the mountain, this anorak is ideal for cold weather riding, as well as all other types. An anorak that’ll work all season long, the Season is well-named and ready for anything.
We close out this list with a new addition to Montec’s lineup this year. The Virago is their big-mountain bruiser and is designed to provide ample performance in cold weather both in and outside the resort. And with an oversized, cargo-style design, it’s got bundles of steez to go with its pedigree.
In terms of tech, Montec have made this from their nuclear-proof nylon shell which boasts an impressive 20k/20k for all-weather riding. This is bolstered by the DWR coating they’ve layered on, and complimented by a 60gsm all-over insulation weight for added protection when the temperature drops. This makes the Virago the most suited jacket in the Montec range for colder climates.
But it’s in the features and the design that the Virago really comes alive. The most noticeable thing about it is the pair of massive cargo pockets. These go hand in hand with the longer drape, and the cowl-style collar. Designed to provide better protection in the deep snow, as well as give easier-accessible storage for bigger items like gloves and beanies and the like, the Virago is focused on function, but doesn’t sacrifice on style. If you’re backcountry bound and need a little more out of your jacket this year, then the Virago is an excellent choice.
Now you know all about the common types of ski jackets there are out there. So it is time to dig even deeper and go through the most essential features, so you know how they are all connected with your skiing experience.
When you know more about the features and how they work, you can start sorting out what’s essential for you, and what’s not. And that is how you find the perfect skiing jacket for just you, by knowing what you need.
Let’s start with the basics, your number one goal with a skiing jacket is that you are kept warm and dry. But it’s not as easy as just picking the warmest jacket if you want to stay warm, a lot of factors work together to achieve the goal of being dry and warm in your jacket.
Insulation or padding is what adds warmth to your body. If your jacket is not insulated, you will need to warm up your body in other ways. Either with layers of clothing or activity.
A skiing jacket with a lot of padding or insulation can sometimes feel a bit bulky and hard to move with. Still, modern ones usually have a more compact type of padding, that warms just as good but takes less space. Either synthetic made padding or dune.
How much padding do I need in my ski jacket? If you ski in icy temperatures, just ski from the lift and not intensively, you should pick a jacket with quite a lot of insulation.
If you, however, ski very actively and sweat a lot, go for a jacket with a medium padding. Maybe a 2 on a 0-3 insulation scale. Where 0 is no insulation and 3 is max. If you ski even more active or planning to do some ski touring, you should pick a ski jacket with little or no insulation.
Keep in mind that this is a general recommendation if you get cold very quickly, you might want to have a warmer jacket even if you ski active. Also, the temperature of the place where you are skiing plays a role. If it’s usually cold, go for more insulation, if it’s generally quite warm and sunny, go for less.
This one is pretty straight forward, how waterproof is the jacket. This does not mean waterproof as in, you can go for a swim with it and except to be dry. But how much water it can resist before it starts to leak through.
You have maybe seen the 10/10K or 15/15K symbol when looking at skiing jackets, that’s the measurement of how water resistant the jacket is. You do not need to know what the number stands for, but if you want to see, you will find the answer in the bottom part of this segment. But in short, the higher the better.
A hardshell jacket or an insulated jacket should have 15K of waterproofing, that will keep you dry in most weathers you can end up in on a ski resort. A good waterproofing will also ensure that you have a good day, even if the weather is terrible. For a softshell jacket, 10K is a good number.
But eventually, if you are out for a full day of heavy rain, you will get wet. Because we do not actually want a totally waterproof jacket. More about that soon.
But first, how is waterproofing measured? (Skip if you do not care) Take 15K for example, K stands for thousand, so 15K = 15.000. And the measurement is in millimeters. So 15.000 MM is what 15K stands for. And it means that the jacket can take the pressure of 15.000 millimeters water before it starts to sip through.
Now, let’s get back to why we do not want to have a fully waterproof ski jacket. That would mean that no water can come in, great, right? But that also means that nothing can come out…
So all steam that’s generated by your body heat will stay inside, and that steam will do what? That’s right, it will become liquid, and you will get wet, soaked even if you would ski actively. And as soon as you stop, all of that wet would grow cold, and all of a sudden, you are soaking wet and cold.
So we avoid that by having a breathable ski jacket, which will lead the steam away from your body before it makes you wet. Good skiing jackets have techniques to keep the water out while allowing steam to pass through. To ensure that’s the case, make sure your jacket has both proper waterproofing and breathability.
The breathability works the same as waterproofing, you will see 10K, 15K and etc. Usually, they go hand in hand, 15/15K is first waterproofing and then breathability. So 15/15K means that the jacket has 15K in both waterproofing and breathability.
For a hardshell skiing jacket or an insulated skiing jacket, you should look for something with 15K or more. 15K will do the job for almost every type of skier, so if you do not know why you would need more, you probably do not need it. But having more will never hurt. For a softshell, you can look for something in the 10K of breathability.
There are a few more features that will help you to not get sweaty and wet as well, more about that soon. Spoiler alert: Pit Zips.
Now that you know even more about how the above factors work together, let’s do a quick breakdown before heading on further. To keep warm, we need to stay dry. To stay dry, the jacket needs to lead water away and allow steam to come out.
That’s why a warm jacket with poor breathability will, in the long run, make you cold. Most, or, all of the steam from your body, will stay inside and make you both wet and cold.
Having a super warm jacket with decent breathability on a warm day will eventually make you cold. Most likely, if your jacket is too warm for the climate you are skiing in, you will out sweat the breathability, no matter how good it is.
If this is the case, open up the jacket in the lift to let steam out, which might save your day.
This is also a reason why most ski jackets are not super warm, like the ski jackets you see on a north pole expedition. Even if you are going skiing in super cold climates, a too warm jacket is never good in the long run.
Like magic, they help you to stay dry and warm. Ventilation zippers are an essential feature. Usually, the zips are placed under the arms of the jacket, where you can let out a lot of steam.
If you use them a lot, you can proactively avoid getting sweaty and wet. Just make sure to not use them when riding, in case you get snow in there. But using them in the lift and whenever you are not skiing is going to make your day a lot better.
Most ski jackets have this, but you should make sure before buying a jacket.
If you do not ski actively, and not get sweaty when skiing at all, you can get away without having this feature.
If you do not ski with a backpack, the pockets are your storage. So think about what you might want to bring while skiing, and make sure that your jacket has enough pockets to store it conveniently.
(Some ski jackets have a lot of pockets, so don’t go crazy and bring all you own just because you can). A ski pass pocket is also a handy feature to look for.
The snow skirt, powder skirt, or snow stop, call it whatever you want. But it’s a great feature if you are planning to go off-piste, or just where there is some fresh snow. It seals in the bottom of the jacket and makes sure that no snow will come in from underneath if you fall or just shred in the deep snow.
Park riders usually prefer to ride without it, or with a jacket that does not have this, to have as little as possible that can restrict movement.
Some ski jackets also have a removable snow stop, so you clip it off if you are going in the park or just in the groomed slopes, and clip it right back on when you need it.
This is an invisible layer of coating that goes on top of the fabric of your ski jacket. And it makes the jacket even more waterproof. It’s like magic, almost. When water or any liquid comes onto a DWR treated fabric, it pearls and falls off.
Just like a duck out in nature, water does not get the chance to soak in, because it will fall off before that. But, and a big but. Make sure that you buy something with a PFC free DWR coating (free from perfluorinated compounds).
Basically, those are chemicals that are really bad for us, the environment and the animals who live there. Choosing a jacket that has a PFC free DWR coating is more or less a must, in our opinion. Most more prominent brands use PFC free and ECO-friendly DWR coating, but double-check before buying.
Another small detail with a significant effect is if the jacket has taped seams or not. The seams on your ski jacket are actually many small holes, where water can come in.
So no matter how excellent waterproofing the fabric has, its no good if there are small holes in it. To solve this problem, the seams are taped from the inside. Which makes sure that water does not come in that way, or makes it a lot harder at least. There are three categories of taped seams:
As the name suggests, no seams are taped. Usually found on jackets with a cheaper build quality.
This means that the seams which are most likely to leak water are taped. While the seams that are less likely to let water through are not taped.
This means that every seam on the ski jacket is taped for maximum waterproofing. This is common for jackets of high quality. If you are serious about skiing, you should look for a ski jacket with all seams taped or at least taped in critical places. The exception is on softshells, where another technique is common to use for more waterproof seams.
We’re just skiers at the end of the day. Like you, we’re on the hunt for the best jacket at the best price.
To make these lists, we compared lots of jackets from the major brands and weighed up lots of pros and cons to produce recommendations that will suit everyone.
But when it comes down to it, you may agree, or disagree with our choices. And hey, that’s fine! They’re just opinions. But if you choose one from above, we know you’ll love it!
Though if not, we hope that you’re now armed with the information you need to make an informed decision either way.
Have fun out there, folks.
Winter is coming, and we’re praying for pow. And of course, a new ski jacket to go along with it!