The 10 Best Ski JacketsPublished on 06/28/2023 · 12 min readDiscover the top 10 ski jackets for optimal warmth, comfort, and style on the slopes! Ideal picks for every skier's unique needs and preferences.
Photo by MyDa Photo
Whether this season will be your first time skiing or your millionth time on the hill, having a good ski jacket is important. With so much equipment needed for skiing, it can be easy to overlook the importance of a good jacket! We’ve all worn jackets before, whether it’s to walk the dog around the neighborhood or to go on a hike, so it seems like an easy thing just to overlook as you think, “Oh, I have a jacket that will work fine for skiing, so I don’t need a ski-specific jacket!” But that’s not always the case.
Ski jackets are specifically built for being in cold, snowy conditions all day long. Especially if you’re skiing at a resort, there is a lot of time during your ski day spent on a lift where you might be faced with high winds or heavy rain or snow as you’re sitting in the cold for extended periods. Having the proper jacket to handle these conditions is important in staying comfortable, well-protected, and happy throughout your entire day of skiing!
As a lifelong skier and someone who is pretty much always cold, I understand the importance of having the right ski jacket! It’s always a bummer when you’re prepared for a great day of skiing, only to find out that you need to go inside and get a coffee to warm up after two or three runs because you are way too cold. It really puts a damper on your ski day! But luckily, this is a super avoidable problem, as long as you have the right gear to be prepared for the cold weather.
Having had plenty of those days myself and having learned a lot through trial and error about what to look for in a ski jacket that will keep me warm enough to shred the powder all day long, I’m very passionate about making sure other skiers don’t make the same mistakes I have. So in this article, I’ll break down the different types of jackets and features to look for in ski jackets and list the top 10 men's and women’s ski jackets. Hopefully, this will help you avoid getting too cold and keep you on the hill to make the most of your ski days!
Types of Ski Jackets
Before we dive into the actual jackets, let's go over the different types of ski jackets there are to choose from:
- Hardshell Jackets: Hardshells are a lightweight option designed to shield you from wind and water. They don't have insulation, so they're perfect for those sunny, beautiful ski days or if you like layering up. They are also a great option for backcountry skiing or hiking at the resort since those types of skiing will be a little more active, and you’ll stay a little warmer.
- Insulated Jackets: Insulated jackets are built to keep you warm on the chilliest mountain days. They combine the protection of a shell with an insulating layer, so you're getting the protection of a hardshell jacket with added warmth.
- Softshell Jackets: Softshells are typically more breathable and flexible than hardshells but a bit less resistant to extreme weather. Sometimes they will have a DWR (durable water repellant) coating that can handle some light snow or rain but will soak through if it starts coming down hard. They're great for warmer conditions or high-intensity skiing, where mobility is important.
- 3-in-1 Jackets: And last are the 3-in-1 jackets. They've got a removable insulated layer inside a waterproof shell. You can wear them separately or together, making them versatile across different conditions.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Ski Jacket
Now that we've got the types down, let's talk about what you should consider when picking your jacket.
Climate and Expected Weather Conditions
Are you planning to ski on sunny spring days in California or snowy storm days in Colorado? The expected weather and temperature are key to determining what kind of jacket is right for you.
Activity Level and Intensity
Are you a casual groomer skier, or do you typically go into the backcountry? The more intense your activity, the more you'll want a breathable jacket to keep up with you. If you’re backcountry skiing primarily, you won’t want something insulated because you will overheat on the trek up. Insulation is probably a good option if you are riding lifts since there is a lot of time when you’re not actively moving.
Personal Comfort and Fit Preferences
Some skiers like a snug fit, while others prefer a bit more room to move. Make sure that when considering fit, you try your jacket on with any layers that you plan on wearing on the slopes. And remember pocket placement, hood style, and the overall cut of the jacket.
Lastly, let's talk about money. Ski jackets can range from the price of a few après-ski beers to a month's rent. But don't worry—there are great options regardless of your budget.
With those basics down, let's jump into the best ski jackets!
Top 10 Ski Jackets
Men’s Ski Jackets
1. Arc’teryx Sabre
Kickstarting our men's list is the Arc’teryx Sabre jacket. This hardshell jacket offers a lightweight shield against harsh elements without any added insulation. It’s constructed with GORE-TEX fabric, known for exceptional waterproofing, breathability, and durability. It has a RECCO reflector, which can help you be found in emergency search and rescue situations, a powder skirt, waterproof zippers, a pass packet on the arm, and a helmet-compatible, adjustable hood.
Though it is pricier, it has all the features to make your day on the hill easier and is exceptionally durable. The Sabre is a great option for resort skiers who like to layer under their shells and for backcountry or sidecountry skiers who are wary of overheating as they hike but still want optimal protection for the ride down.
Well-loved by all types of skiers, The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate jacket is a 3-in-1 design. The 3-in-1 capabilities provide unparalleled versatility for fluctuating temperatures, courtesy of a detachable inner layer. The inner layer is insulated with ThermoBall Eco insulation, which simulates the warmth of down while retaining heat when damp. The outer layer is DryVent technology, which keeps you warm in heavy snow or rain.
When worn together, the inner layer zips easily into the outer layer, making it seem like one jacket instead of two. Given its ability to be worn together, as a shell or as the inner layer, it’s a fan favorite due to its versatility. It also comes with a helmet-compatible hood and a goggle wipe—built into a sleeve pocket, an internal goggle pocket—to keep your goggles safe from scratches when grabbing lunch.
The Norrøna Lofoten GORE-TEX Pro jacket pushes the boundaries of design and performance. Engineered with the resilient GORE-TEX Pro fabric, it provides unmatched water and wind resistance, meaning you can confidently conquer the slopes even on days with the roughest weather. Aside from giving great protection, the Lofoten also excels in the comfort department. With an improved under-helmet hood that shields you without restricting visibility and adjustable cuffs for a customized fit, it's designed to keep you warm and comfortable so that you can focus on what really matters, the skiing!
It’s equipped with spacious, strategically placed pockets for stashing your essentials and long underarm vents for quick temperature regulation during intense activity. The Lofoten jacket blends practicality and performance, setting a new standard for ski apparel.
The Patagonia Storm Shift jacket debuted last year and became a popular insulated jacket option for men shredders. It features Thermogreen insulation, a synthetic insulation made from recycled polyester, which keeps you warm even if you’re sweaty, which you shouldn’t be because the inner liner easily wicks moisture away from your body to keep you warm and comfortable (but still a good backup to have!). The 100% recycled polyester exterior is treated with a DWR finish which repels light rain and snow. However, it won’t keep you dry in heavy downpours.
If sustainability is an important factor in choosing your jacket, this is a great choice. The Storm Shift also has an adjustable hem with a drawstring that loops through the front pocket for easy hem adjustment without exposing your hands to the cold and a RECCO reflector to aid in search and rescue efforts if anything were to go wrong.
5. Outdoor Research Carbide
And last, we have the Outdoor Research Carbide jacket on our list of men's jackets. This jacket is another insulated option, using VerticalX ECO insulation, which is supposed to give you maximum warmth at a minimal weight. This is an excellent jacket for skiers who ski in colder conditions or want to wear a base layer under it and not mess around with the hassle of layering jackets or fleeces underneath. The exterior is treated with a DWR, ensuring you stay dry when the snow starts falling, and it has water-resistant zippers to keep the snow out if you take a fall. With added features like the helmet-compatible hood and pit zips for ventilation, the Carbide jacket makes for a great budget-friendly jacket that doesn’t compromise performance.
Women’s Ski Jackets
1. Arc'teryx Sentinel
The Arc'teryx Sentinel jacket is an excellent option for those seeking a balance between comfort and performance. The Sentinel is a hardshell jacket that will protect you well against harsh weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, or wind without the added bulk of built-in insulation. The Sentinel is made of GORE-TEX fabric. It is renowned for its superior durability and water resistance while still being breathable and letting moisture out to keep you warm and dry if you’re sweating. It also has a powder skirt to keep snow out of your jacket and pants if you take a tumble and pit zips for easy ventilation if you get too warm. This jacket is a great option for those who backcountry tour or hike at the resort, and it’s also an excellent fit for resort skiers who plan to layer underneath.
Next up is The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate jacket. This 3-in-1 jacket provides exceptional adaptability for varying climates thanks to its removable inner layer. The inner layer is a puffy insulated jacket with ThermoBall Eco insulation, mimicking the warmth and packability of down feathers but retaining warmth even when wet. The outer layer is made of DryVent technology, essentially The North Face’s version of GORE-TEX, keeping you dry and protected in wet or snowy weather. This is a well-loved jacket by all types of skiers, thanks to its versatility. You’re getting two jackets that can be worn individually if needed, but that work seamlessly together on cold ski days where you need insulation.
The Flylow Gear Lucy jacket is a fantastic blend of style and functionality. The Lucy jacket is insulated with Spaceloft synthetic down insulation. It has all the benefits of down insulation (again, packable and warm) and synthetic insulation with its ability to keep you warm even when wet. It’s made from polyester fabric with a high-performance DWR finish, ensuring you stay dry in snowy weather. Though it’s not as waterproof as a GORE-TEX option, the DWR on this jacket is unlike any other DWR in that it can still easily repel relatively heavy rain and snow. It also features a removable powder skirt, a helmet-compatible hood, and a pass pocket on the sleeve. If you get too warm, it even has underarm vents that allow you to dump some heat quickly.
For skiers who are always cold, the Patagonia Insulated Powder Town jacket will change your life. This insulated jacket is designed for ultimate warmth. It features Patagonia’s proprietary Thermogreen synthetic insulation, perfect for chillier ski conditions. The outer shell is composed of 100% recycled polyester with a DWR finish, making it sustainable without compromising performance. Though the DWR is not as water resistant as the DWR on the Lucy, it will still shed light rain or snow with no problem. The Powder Town jacket is as resilient as it is eco-friendly, a true champion of the slopes and the planet. It also includes pit zips, a helmet-friendly hood, and a powder skirt.
Last but not least, meet the Columbia Bugaboo II Fleece Interchange jacket. This 3-in-1 piece is a bit different than the 3-in-1 Thermoball we discussed above because the inside layer of this 3-in-1 is a fleece instead of an insulated layer. The fleece provides adaptable warmth based on the weather conditions, keeping you warm but dry if you get a bit sweaty. The outer layer is made of Columbia's Omni-Tech technology, which is waterproof yet breathable. It’s a bit on the cheaper end while still having a lot of great features, such as a removable zip-off hood and adjustable Velcro cuffs around the wrists, which ensures a secure seal between your gloves and jacket.
The Bugaboo II is perfect for skiers looking for something warm and reliable without breaking the bank and also want the versatility of using the jacket as a fleece, shell, or a fleece-lined shell. Though it’s not as warm as the other insulated options on this list, it’s a great starter or ski jacket for warmer climates.
Find the Right Ski Jacket for You
And that wraps up our deep dive into the top ski jackets for men and women! Finding the right ski jacket is an investment in your comfort and protection and can make your ski days much more enjoyable. Nothing is worse than spending a ton of money on a lift ticket just to be able to do a few laps before you need to go warm up. Though ski jackets can get pricey, and choosing a jacket from all the options can feel overwhelming, it’s worth investing the time and money into finding something that can keep you on the slopes all day long. It's about ensuring your ski trips are memorable for the right reasons, not because you shivered in the cold or soaked to the skin.
Hopefully, this guide has made your decision easier. If you still have questions about what jacket is right for you or need guidance choosing any other type of ski gear, reach out to a fellow Curated Skiing Expert or me. We would be more than happy to answer all your questions and help you find the right gear that works for you!