Whether your old jacket is on its last legs, or you’re just tired of wearing the same old thing, you have a bit of a problem; you need a new ski jacket, but you don’t really know where to begin…
When it comes to ski jackets, there are a few things that will have an impact on what you choose to buy. These range from whether the jacket has insulation to the type of activity it’s best used for and the cut you go for.
An uninsulated shell jacket, referred to as a hardshell, is the most versatile type of jacket on the market. A hard shell tends to be the most water and wind resistant outer layer you can get your hands on, but the trade-off is less breathability than a softshell jacket.
The softshell jacket is easily the most versatile of the main ski jacket types. It can come in handy across a whole range of activities, and it can be used as both a mid-layer and an outer layer. Softshell jackets are treated with a DWR coating, but are generally more breathable than hard shells.
The next aspect to consider is the fit and style of the jacket, this can range from slim fitted, short cropped jackets to big and baggy cuts favoured by freestyle skiers. It is important to remember that the fit of the jacket should allow for your layers underneath. Fit can be broken down into 3 basic categories, slim, regular and loose.
A favourite amongst anyone not keen on feeling like the Michelin Man, slim fit jackets are increasingly common amongst both technical and fashionable outerwear brands.
The happy medium between slim fit, which doesn’t always have enough room for layers, and the loose fit found in freestyle skiers and snowboarders. Regular fit is the best of both worlds.
Popular amongst freestylers and snowboarders for the coverage and mobility the loose-fitting jackets give you, of the three main fitting types, this is the most obviously ‘youthful’ fit.
Ultimately, the type of jacket you buy comes down to the type of skier you are. Different skier types need different things from their jackets.
Most of the skiers you see will fall into this category. If you’re a piste skier, you’ll spend most of the day lapping the mountain, carving the piste up and occasionally going off into side country if it’s a powder day. The piste skier has a larger choice in jacket type than any other skier.
Depending on how much you feel the cold and what time of year you tend to go skiing, you may want to pick an insulation jacket to keep warm. On the other hand, if you spend all your time skiing in spring conditions then a shell may be the best choice for you, letting you layer up as needed, based on the weather.
Backcountry skiers spend their lives hunting for untracked powder, avoiding the crowds, and skinning up untouched peaks. That means as a backcountry skier your aerobic output is high and you encounter far more extreme conditions than other skiers.
While a softshell will work well to shed heat when touring, it may not be enough to protect you from the harsh conditions you’ll find on the more exposed ridges and peaks. A hardshell jacket is ideal for backcountry skiers as they’re far more weather proof than softshell jackets and make it easy to shed heat using specialised zip vents.
By wearing a softshell under a technical shell jacket, you can remain dry and protected from the harsh winter conditions, yet cool and breathable whilst hiking.
Once you’ve decided which style of jacket best suits you, you’ll need to decide which features you consider it important to have, and which you can take or leave.
Most ski jackets will have a hood, what differentiates them is the amount of adjustment of the hood, whether its helmet compatible or whether it is removable.
Wrist gaiters can come in two forms, a simple inner cuff or an over the hand with thumbholes; although the latter is warmer and adds extra coverage, some people find they get in the way.
Vents can usually be found in the underarm area or around the chest. These zip vents will allow you to cool down by promoting air circulation and are often mesh backed to stop snow from entering the jacket.
A powder skirt is a snow gaiter that goes around your waist to stop snow from getting up your back. Although it’s a fairly common feature, it can come in all shapes and sizes. A snow gaiter may have stretchy panels, ski pant loops or it might be removable.