Whether you’re looking for a ski jacket to accompany you in the backcountry or the resort, finding the perfect one can be challenging. Altitude Sports has you covered though, with this list of the best ski jackets for this winter season and an insightful buying guide on what to look for when buying a ski jacket.
Included are two-layer and three-layer models (2L and 3L), insulated jackets with real and synthetic insulation, and hard shells. The best ski jackets on this list strike a balance between warmth, ventilation, waterproofing, and breathability.
The Top Ski Jackets Reviewed
1. Best All-Around Ski Jacket
When considering the best alpine men’s ski jackets, the Arc’teryx Sabre AR won’t disappoint. The low profile, soft shell construction makes the material softer than regular GORE-TEX® jackets. It also features WaterTight zippers on the exterior and armpit vents to allow air-flow.
For women, the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Jacket keeps big mountain skiers dry and warm. On both jackets, the patterning is flexible, allowing greater movement. The longer fit and advanced tech make them ideal for freeride touring in the backcountry, skiing, or snowboarding.
- Helmet-compatible StormHood
- Technical fabric that keeps users dry and warm
- Powder skirt for extra security
- Not as useful for city wear
2. Best Budget Ski Jacket
At this price point, it’d be hard to find a better technical skiing jacket than the Last Trackers Jacket by Columbia. The shell has a seam-sealed, Omni-heat reflective lining to trap body heat. It’s insulated with a 650-fill power down liner that can be removed according to the weather conditions.
- Removable down lining
- Zippered hand and chest pockets
- Omni-Heat lining on the shell
- Sleeves run a bit long
3. Best Ski Jacket for Extreme Cold
The Spirit Down Jacket from Descente is a welded-seam down jacket featuring Lightweight 4way Stretch fabric. The welded seam construction effectively stops the down from getting wet and heavy due to snow or rain. It also features a powder skirt and pit zips.
- A breathable, waterproof down jacket
- Seam-sealed construction
- Flexible hood offering mobility and vision
- Luxury price point may not be for everyone
4. Most Versatile Ski Jacket
For skiers looking for a jacket that performs just as well at the resort as it does in the backcountry, look no further than Helly Hansen's Powderqueen (and its Garibaldi version for men). Made from a specially designed material called Helly Tech, this jacket is breathable, windproof and waterproof. It also features lightweight PrimaLoft synthetic insulation to keep you warm on the slopes without being too heavy.
- Loose fit for layering
- Lightweight synthetic insulation
- AquaGuard® zippers
- Not as technical as other jackets
5. Best Resort Ski Jacket
For a stylish, comfortable, warm and waterproof jacket, the Fonction Insulated Jacket from Rossignol won't disappoint. Its 20k/20k waterproof/breathable rating means you can count on it being fully waterproof in the snow, while the inner mesh lining keeps it very breathable. The jacket remains lightweight despite the generous layer of synthetic PrimaLoft insulation.
- Tailored fit
- Lightweight PrimaLoft insulation
- Highly breathable and waterproof
- Runs a little small
6. Best Backcountry Ski Jacket
Blackyak's Kostroma coat is the best performing coat in our list. It is extremely durable and functional. The outer shell is lightweight, highly weather resistant, and not at all bulky. Plus, it has a removable ClimaShield liner. It is designed to be used as a durable outer shell with insulating layers underneath.
- Highly weather-resistant
- Excellent GORE-TEX® fabric
- Tailored fit
7. Other Favourites
The solid, very waterproof Gravity Jacket from Peak Performance is designed for serious freeride skiers and is fully weatherproof. It’s made with durable 3L GORE-TEX® fabric paired with zippered sleeve ventilations for optimal breathability. It's also outfitted with a RECCO® Rescue System Reflector for safe outings in the deep backcountry.
Made with 100% recycled polyester 2L GORE-TEX face fabric, the Powder Bowl Jacket from Patagonia provides durable waterproof, breathable and windproof protection so you can ride in all conditions. Mesh lining wicks away moisture and slips on easily while the helmet-compatible, two-way adjustable hood features a laminated visor for optimal visibility in challenging conditions.
This 3-in-1 jacket is as suitable for everyday life as it is for resort and ski touring. Its removable mid-layer can be worn alone or under the 2-layer DryVent shell. Available in several colors for men and women, the ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate will keep you warm and dry with PrimaLoft Silver and ThermoBall insulation. Plus, it's made of recycled materials!
The Lofoten Gore-Tex Insulated Jacket offers enough warmth for skiing at the resort in the coldest weather. Its robust and flexible 2-layer GORE-TEX® fabric is fully waterproof and windproof, and also offers great air circulation. Its insulation is made of recycled PrimaLoft fabric. The adjustable StormHood and the fabrics under the snow skirt offer perfect freedom of movement.
For those looking for a stylish performance ski jacket, the Whirlibird IV from Columbia is the best in its class. Omni-Heat synthetic insulation adds minimal bulk and maximum warmth. The shell is fully waterproof and breathes to let loose excess moisture.
What to Look for in a Ski Jacket
Whether you’re riding up a chair lift or speeding down the trail, you need a ski jacket to protect you from the harsh elements. Consider the usage, weather protection, ventilation, and other features like pockets and zips. Ideally, you’ll find a ski jacket to last you winter after winter.
1. Use: Resort or Backcountry?
Backcountry and resort ski jackets usually have specific features for the intended activity. For instance, backcountry jackets will have a thicker outer shell to protect from sharp rocks. On the other hand, resort ski jackets will have more pockets and zips for added convenience.
2. Shell Layers: 2L vs 3L
A three-layer laminate shell will provide the ultimate wind- and waterproofing, as well as breathability. Though a 3L model is more durable and rugged than a 2L, they both provide protection against the elements.
Since skiing takes place in colder weather, warmth is an essential consideration. There are some jackets with synthetic insulation, some with natural down insulation, and some with both.
Many people say that there’s nothing warmer than real goose down. Though it will keep you warmer than other jackets, it’s also usually expensive. In addition, if it gets wet, it no longer retains heat.
On the other hand, synthetic insulation such as Primaloft mimics the heat-trapping properties of down. It’s usually more affordable and still keeps you warm if it gets wet.
In this list, several jackets have thick waterproof shells. GORE-TEX is one of the most reliable and popular waterproof fabrics. It’s also breathable, which is vital since skiing is an aerobic exercise. Some other waterproofing methods are a Durable-Water-Repellent (DWR) coating and different variations of waterproof fabrics.
One thing to keep in mind is cleaning your GORE-TEX jacket as needed. Contrary to the myths, this will enhance, not diminish, waterproofing.
Most people want their clothes to be comfortable, and ski jackets are no exception. Since we’re continually moving when we ski, we want a jacket that moves with us. Some jackets fit more loosely, while others contour to the body’s curves. We recommend reading the description of each jacket carefully to find the fit you prefer. Look for things like ergonomic tailoring and body-mapped insulation.
When skiing, your body temperature is continuously changing: frigid mornings walking to the chair lift; working up a sweat skiing downhill; warm afternoons gliding through slush. A great ski jacket provides the ventilation to adjust the warmth as you go. That’s why many jackets have massive vents and pit zips that allow heat to escape. Keep in mind that insulated jackets will be harder to cool off since they trap heat.
7. Other Features
Certain features make your long days on the slopes more convenient. Ski-specific features can make an already-good jacket perfect for you.
Finding a hood that fits over your helmet is a must. Some hoods reduce visibility, while others rotate with your head. You want the hood to be well-fitting and snug, designed to fit over your helmet.
Pockets are essential for spending full days on the slopes. If you mostly do resort skiing, you’ll want to find a jacket with an RFID pass pocket. Some jackets also have big pockets to hold snacks, extra gloves, hand warmers, and trail maps.
Powder skirts help keep the snow out when it’s piled up high. If the snow keeps coming up through your waist, you’re going to have to leave the slopes early. That’s why a powder skirt, removable or attached, is an essential part of the best ski jackets.
FAQs for Ski Jackets
Q: Why are ski jackets so expensive?
A: Ski jackets can be expensive due to insulation, waterproofing, breathability, and other technological features. Having a warm but breathable jacket often comes at a high price.
Q: Should a ski jacket be tight or loose?
A: The fit of a jacket depends a lot on personal preference! Some like baggy jackets for layering, while others prefer garments that stay tight to their bodies. This will also depend on conditions—you might need to layer under a hard shell, or be fine with just an insulated shell.
Q: Can you ski in a down jacket?
A: While you can technically ski in a regular down jacket, it won’t be as practical. Ski jackets have specially made features for skiing like zips for thermoregulation, pockets, and higher breathability. It also runs a high risk of getting very damp, as it won’t be built to factor more sweat from an aerobic activity.
Q: Can you wear a snowboard jacket for skiing?
A: Ski and snowboarding jackets are interchangeable. There’s no reason you can’t wear a ski jacket for snowboarding and vice versa. Be aware that snowboarding jackets are often made far bulkier and with lots more room than ski jackets.
We hope this guide to the best ski jackets of the season helps you find the perfect fit. We carefully looked at aspects like warmth, breathability, and special features to put together this list.
Although finding the right jacket can be challenging, remember that gear shopping should be fun! Feel free to consult this in-depth review at any time while shopping.