Women's Ski & Snowboard Jackets: How to Choose the Right One for YouPublished on 07/10/2023 · 15 min readStay warm and stylish on the slopes with our expert guide to women's ski & snowboard jackets. Find the perfect fit and features for your winter adventures!
Photo by Wlad Go
When buying a women's ski or snowboard jacket, there are many things to take into consideration, including insulation, waterproofing, breathability, wind resistance, fit, and adjustability. The jacket you choose should be not only functional for winter sports but also comfortable and stylish.
My name is Kat Smith, and I’ve been skiing for 32 years. As someone who runs super cold, people are often surprised that I love winter sports so much (I’m literally ALWAYS cold!). But if you have the right ski jacket, the weather will never be a reason not to enjoy the outdoors. So what is the “right” ski jacket? Well, that will differ for each person because ski jackets are not “one type fits all.”
While some people may run cold like me, others run warm and constantly sweat. Some people like to cruise and have more casual days out on the slopes, while others exert tons of energy boot-packing or navigating through mogul fields. Some people ski primarily in the notoriously frigid Northeast, while others spend a lot of time in the mild temperatures in the Rockies. And while some prefer a looser or longer fit, others may prefer a jacket with a slimmer, more form-fitting style. Features such as packability or a removable hood may be priorities for one person and an afterthought for another.
When recommending jackets to friends, family, and customers, I always consider their skiing style, skiing location, personal preferences, and budget to make sure they are finding the best balance of function and comfort when out on the slopes!
What is a Women’s Ski & Snowboard Jacket?
A women's ski/snowboard jacket differs from other outerwear or commuter jackets in that they are specifically designed for skiing/snowboarding, balancing function with comfort. This means they have specific features that make them ideal for these activities. This includes more general features such as insulation and breathability that are appropriate for protection from the elements encountered on the slopes, such as wind, snow, and even rain.
They also have more specific features, such as removable powder skirts, helmet-compatible hoods, and plenty of side, sleeve, and chest pockets designed to hold ski passes, sunglasses, goggles, etc. In addition to these features, women’s ski jackets are crafted for women and often come in women-specific sizes and styles.
What to Consider When Buying a Women’s Ski Jacket
1. What Type of Insulation Do You Need?
Synthetic insulation, such as PrimaLoft, is the most common type of insulation in ski jackets. While down insulation can also be found, synthetic insulation performs better in wet conditions than down, making it the more popular choice for skiing since being out on the slopes often involves a little moisture — sometimes, the best powder days are storm days!
The other thing to consider regarding insulation is if you want it at all! While those who tend to run cold (like me!), ski in areas with colder climates, or enjoy more casual days on the slopes and aren’t necessarily working their heart rate up may choose an insulated ski jacket. Meanwhile, others may opt for a shell jacket.
While a shell provides far less warmth than an insulated jacket, there’s always the option to add layers underneath, so on warmer days, it is easier to regulate your body temperature. More on shell versus insulated jackets later!
2. How Important are Waterproofing and Breathability?
Waterproofing and breathability are not features to overlook when shopping for a ski jacket. While we all love those sunny, bluebird days out on the slopes, sometimes heavy snowfall, sleet, and even rain are unavoidable, so waterproofing is essential. And don’t forget — skiing is physical exertion!
While the level of exertion varies from skier to skier, the last thing you want is to sweat because sweat and moisture lead to cold, so breathable materials and features such as underarm vents are vital for regulating body temperature.
Keep in mind that your ski style and typical ski locations may play a role in just how many water-resistant and breathability features you need. If you ski primarily in clear, cold conditions, waterproofing may be less important than if you are chasing powder and frequently heading out on a stormy day.
While opting for the most waterproof and most breathable jacket you can find will offer protection in all conditions, it may also be the most expensive jacket on the market! It’s important to prioritize features based on your specific needs.
3. What Fit and Adjustability Features Do You Need?
Keeping you warm and dry may be a jacket’s primary job, but it’s also important that the jacket is comfortable (especially when you’re planning to do something active in it!) and stylish! Everybody’s taste varies, but luckily ski jackets come in a wide array of colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes. Look for a jacket that suits your personal style! Adjustable features like velcro cuffs, cinch hems, and removable or adjustable hoods help to create a customized, comfortable fit.
4. Do You Want a Snowboard-Specific Jacket?
Are you a snowboarder? If so, you may want to look at snowboarder-specific jackets. While the primary features like insulation, waterproofing, and breathability won’t be much different than a ski jacket, the fit is tailored to the movements done while snowboarding. For example, snowboard jackets tend to have a slightly baggier fit than ski jackets, partly because that’s the preferred style for riders but also for function. Ski jackets have more of a focus on aerodynamics and speed. Snowboard jackets also tend to be longer than ski jackets since snowboarders spend more time sitting on their bums.
6. What is Your Budget For a Women's Ski or Snowboard Jacket?
Ski and snowboard jackets can be found at a variety of price points. As with most gear, a higher cost is typically associated with a higher quality product with more durability and more features. But plenty of great, suitable options can be found at lower price points, and holiday promotions or end-of-season discounts are always a great time to shop! Set a budget that works for you and balances cost with quality, and prioritize the features that you need most.
By asking and answering these questions, you can make an informed decision when purchasing a women's ski or snowboard jacket that suits your needs, preferences, and budget.
What Are the Types of Ski & Snowboard Jackets?
There are several types of women's ski and snowboard jackets designed to cater to different preferences, weather conditions, and activity levels. Each type of women's ski and snowboard jacket comes with its benefits and downsides, depending on individual preferences and intended use:
1. Insulated Jackets
These jackets come with built-in insulation, either down or synthetic, which provides warmth. Insulated jackets are ideal for skiers and snowboarders who ski in frigid climates, have a lower level of physical exertion while skiing (i.e., skiing mostly chairlift-served groomers versus backcountry skiing), or prefer to have a single, warm layer rather than a few separate insulating layers.
- Provide built-in warmth
- Suitable for cold conditions such as frigid temperatures, high winds, snow storms
Keep in Mind:
- Less versatile than other options
- They may be too warm for mild conditions or high-intensity activities
2. Shell Jackets
Shell jackets are often the outer layer choice of backcountry skiers, as they are lightweight, waterproof, and wind-resistant but do not have built-in insulation. They are designed to be used with separate insulating layers if needed, which offers versatility for different weather conditions and activity levels.
- Lightweight and packable
- Ideal for layering
Keep in Mind:
- No built-in insulation, which requires separate insulating layers if needed
- They may not provide enough warmth in very cold conditions
3. Softshell Jackets
Softshell jackets offer exceptional breathability and comfort thanks to their stretchy fabrics. They are ideal for milder conditions and high-intensity activities where breathability and mobility are crucial but may not be able to withstand high winds and heavy precipitation like a shell or a waterproof, windproof, insulated jacket will.
- Breathable, making them ideal for high-intensity activities
- Stretchy materials provide freedom of movement and comfort
- Ideal for milder conditions
Keep in Mind:
- Less waterproof and wind-resistant compared to other options
- Not suitable for extreme weather conditions
4. Three-in-One Jackets
These jackets offer maximum versatility. They have two separate layers that can be worn separately or combined. They feature a removable inner insulating layer, usually a fleece or lightweight insulated jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. This design allows you to adapt to changing weather conditions throughout your day, trip, or the entire season.
- Highly versatile
- Adaptable to changing weather conditions
Keep in Mind:
- They can be bulkier and heavier compared to other options
- Does not always provide the same level of performance as dedicated insulated or shell jackets
Parkas are longer, insulated jackets designed to provide extra warmth and coverage. They are suitable for very cold conditions or for those who prefer more coverage and style options.
- Offer extra warmth and coverage, making them ideal for very cold conditions
- Ideal for those seeking more style options
Keep in Mind:
- They can be bulkier and heavier
- May limit mobility
- Not suitable for high-intensity activities or warmer conditions
When choosing a ski jacket type, consider the benefits and downsides of each type in relation to your skier level and style, the weather conditions you'll face, and your personal style preferences. This will help you select the most suitable option for you!
Features to Look for in Women’s Ski & Snowboard Jackets
When selecting a women's ski/snowboard jacket, there are many features to consider. You should prioritize the different features based on your needs. Consider the following specific features and technologies to ensure optimal performance and comfort:
- Insulation: Choose between an insulated jacket and a shell jacket. If you choose an insulated jacket, you should look for synthetic insulation versus down since it performs better in wet conditions.
- Waterproofing: Look for jackets with waterproof membranes or coatings, such as GORE-TEX or eVent, to keep you dry in wet and snowy conditions.
- Breathability: Opt for jackets with breathable materials and technologies to allow moisture and perspiration to escape. This will allow you to regulate your body temperature to ensure comfort during physical activity.
- Wind resistance: Select jackets with wind-resistant features to protect you from harsh winds and cold temperatures on the slopes.
- Fit and adjustability: Choose jackets tailored to fit women or with your preferred fit and style. Adjustable features like velcro cuffs, cinch hems, and removable hoods provide a customized and comfortable fit.
- Ventilation: Along with being made of breathable materials, look for jackets with zippered vents, often located under the arms or on the chest. This allows for even better temperature regulation and increased airflow when needed.
- Pockets: Gone are the days of just two hand pockets! Many ski jackets have many functional pockets, including handwarmer pockets, interior pockets for goggles or electronics, and pass pockets on the sleeves for easy access to your ski pass.
- Powder skirt: Nobody likes snow getting on their back! An integrated powder skirt helps prevent snow from getting inside your jacket from the bottom, especially during falls or deep powder runs.
- Sealed seams: In addition to waterproof materials, features such as fully taped or sealed seams and water-resistant zippers prevent water from seeping through the stitching and zips. This will come in clutch on those storm days!
Each skier will have different priorities when it comes to jacket features based on their skier style, personal preferences, and locations. You don’t need to have a jacket with every single feature but decide which ones are essential for you. This will ensure that your new ski jacket meets your specific needs for optimal function and comfort!
How to Choose the Right Jacket for You
Now that you know how to sift through the many ski and snowboard jacket types and features out there, it’s time to determine which jacket is right for you. Let’s break it down with a few scenarios.
Heidi is a 65-year-old advanced skier who lives in New York but spends multiple weeks each winter at her second home in Colorado. While Heidi used to push the limits, nowadays, she likes to cruise down blues on sunny, clear days. Her current ski jacket is over ten years old, and she’s realized that it is outdated and doesn’t even fit her right anymore.
She’s looking for a ski jacket that will keep her warm and look stylish out on the slopes! Since she plans to keep this jacket for many years and ski in it many days each year, she doesn't mind splurging for a high-quality jacket that she loves.
What to Look For:
- Type: Lightly insulated or 3-in-1
- Features: Breathable, adjustable
- Style: A fit designed for women
Why? A lightly insulated jacket is ideal for Heidi’s activity level and location. Since she typically is not engaging in high-intensity activities while out on the slopes and therefore isn’t working up a sweat, insulation is appropriate. But since she is based out of an area that typically has milder weather, she likely doesn’t need a heavily insulated jacket.
I always recommend synthetic insulation for a ski jacket because it performs better in wet weather, and you just never know when a storm might roll in! But since Heidi likes to ski on sunny, clear days, down insulation would be an appropriate choice for her as well. That being said, waterproofing is not a priority feature for Heidi, but since the temperature fluctuates day to day and throughout the season, breathability and ventilation are.
Heidi may also want to consider a 3-in-1 jacket since it is so versatile and will meet a lot of her needs. Since Heidi skis many days each season, it’s important that she has a ski jacket that fits her well and she is comfortable in, so adjustability will help her dial in the right fit. And, since Heidi wants to ski in style, she should look for a women’s-specific jacket and the colors and patterns that she prefers.
Products to consider:
Sarah is a 21-year-old beginner-intermediate skier based in New Jersey. She doesn’t ski much, but she goes to upstate New York or Vermont for a ski weekend with some friends once or twice per year. She usually borrows a ski jacket from a friend, but it’s really inconvenient trying to track one down that fits her, so she wants to get one of her own. She doesn’t have much spare cash, so she just wants something that fits well and will keep her warm and dry when she’s out on the slopes.
What to Look For:
- Type: Insulated
- Features: Waterproof
- Style: A comfortable fit
Why? Since Sarah’s priorities are to stay warm and dry when skiing in the notoriously cold Northeast, an insulated jacket is the best option. Waterproof materials such as GORE-TEX tend to be a bit pricey, but there are still plenty of options for waterproof materials and features she should look for, such as sealed seams.
Having the correct fit is one of the reasons Sarah is purchasing a new jacket in the first place, so having a comfortable fit that suits her style is important, but since Sarah is on a tighter budget, she may have to sacrifice her preferences for colors and patterns to get some of the other features she really needs. The sale racks often have the less popular colors and previous years’ models at discounted prices!
Products to consider:
Michelle is a 31-year-old advanced skier based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Over the past couple of ski seasons, she has been getting out in the backcountry more often. While she’s been able to get away with using her insulated resort ski jacket in the backcountry, she’s starting to explore routes that are too challenging for her to be bringing a bulky jacket with her, and often she is way too hot for so much insulation after skinning uphill for hours, anyway!
She would like to purchase a jacket that will protect her from the elements but is also lightweight and packable. A comfortable fit is important to Michelle because she needs to be moving at her best while wearing this jacket since she will be doing long skinny ascents, boot-packing steep ridges, and skiing challenging terrain.
What to Look for:
- Type: Shell jacket
- Features: Packable, lightweight, breathable, waterproof, windproof
- Style: A comfortable fit, adjustable, provides freedom of movement
Why? A waterproof, windproof shell jacket is appropriate for Michelle since it will provide plenty of weather protection without providing too much warmth while she is exerting herself on the skin track. Breathable materials and ventilation features, such as pit zips, will also help her dump excess heat on milder days.
She should consider a jacket that fits well with just a base layer and with multiple layers underneath so that she has some versatility as the weather changes throughout the season. And she should make sure to try the jacket on before purchasing it to ensure it has the movement she needs.
Products to consider:
Choosing Your Women’s Ski and Snowboard Jacket
So next time you need a new ski jacket, don’t just choose any jacket off the shelf! Remember to prioritize your skiing style and personal preferences to narrow in on the most important features and options to find the perfect jacket for you. The right jacket will keep you protected from the elements and comfortable while out on the slopes but still allow you to show off your style!
If you need assistance prioritizing jacket features or sifting through the options, reach out to me or one of my fellow Curated Ski Experts for free, personalized advice on finding the best ski jacket for you!