Best Ski Jackets
When you’re busy hitting the slopes in the mountains, you want your attention to be directed on your skiing and not feeling like you’re too cold or too hot in your jacket. So, prior to buying one of the best ski jackets to fit your needs, you’ll want to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible in the jacket, and that you have all the features you need to keep you protected and happy while you’re active.
There are many options of ski jackets available on the market today, so to help you narrow down your search a bit, we’ve provided you with a list of the top ten best ski jackets you could purchase today. We’ll also cover some criteria points to help you evaluate your needs so you know what type of ski jacket to buy to make your experience on the slopes the best it can possibly be.
- Arc'teryx Macai
- Down insulation
- Spyder Leader
- Dries quickly
- Columbia Whirlibird
- Good design
- Great hood
10 Best Ski Jackets
Arc'teryx’s Macai Jacket is made with a waterproof Gore-Tex shell and the underarm area contains synthetic insulation to help you stay dry even when the weather gets very wet. The jacket is also designed with Down Composite Mapping which helps keep wind and wetness out in areas of the jacket that are more prone to collecting moisture.
Made with a warm and insulated DropHood that can fit over any helmet or hat, the Macai’s hood will also rotate easily with your head and is designed to be flexible. Plus, this jacket also features mesh-lined PowerGurad vents that increase breathability while still keeping the snow out of your jacket.
The Macai also comes with two zippered hand pockets, a sleeve pocket, an internal pocket, a secure zippered pocket, and one check pocket. Plus, the jacket is also made with an adjustable hem drawcord that will seal in warmth no matter how cold the weather gets.
- Made well
- Down insulation
- Can stain easily
- Velcro sleeves could function better
Spyder’s Leader Jacket works great since it has full insulation and is made with a high-end, synthetic shell that’s far better than what’s offered by most manufacturers. The jacket is designed with synthetic insulation, but that’s a benefit if you know you’re going to get wet often or sweat a lot while you’re active on the slopes.
Spyder’s Leader Jacket is also made with a removable hood that is fully compatible with a helmet or hat, and can be easily adjusted. Plus, the jacket also features a waterproof center front zipper and waterproof hand and chest pocket zippers.
Made with a core ventilation system to provide breathability and push moisture out while you sweat, Spyder’s Leader Jacket also has a removable powder skirt with a stretch panel. The jacket is also made with a snap back feature to hold the powder skirt out of the way when you don’t need it.
- Good fit
- Dries quickly
- Insulation could be more durable
- Jacket could be more durable
Columbia Whirlibird Interchange
Columbia’s Whirlibird Interchange Jacket is very warm and affordable, and made with an Omni-Heat Thermal reflective liner, which uses your own body heat to keep you well-insulated throughout the day. This jacket also features an Omni-Tech waterproof breathable outer shell, meaning it will keep the snow and water out of the jacket so you feel comfortable no matter where you decide to ski.
Columbia’s Whilibird Interchange Jacket is also very breathable, and includes a good ventilation system that will help push moisture out of the jacket as you sweat. It also comes with a removable, adjustable hood you can use to fit over a helmet or hat and still keep your head warm.
Plus, this jacket has a waterproof zipper at the front and a snap back powder skirt you can also easily adjust. The jacket includes zippered hand and chest pockets, an interior security pocket, a goggle pocket, adjustable sleeve cubs, and an adjustable drawcord hem.
- Good design and style
- Great hood
- Can feel bulky
- Could provide better weather protection
Patagonia Windsweep 3-in-1
Patagonia’s Windsweep Jacket is made to be strong and long-lasting, and you should be able to get several ski seasons of performance out of it, giving you more bang for your buck. Plus, the styling is neutral, so the jacket will still look fashionable and presentable for many years to come.
Patagonia’s Windsweep Jacket is also made to give superior weather protection since its outer shell is made with Gore-Tex technology as well as DWR technology, giving you a double layer of protection against the elements. The combined use of Gore-Tex and DWR makes the jacket resistant to both wind and water, and provides one of the highest levels of weather protection on the market.
Made with an athletic fit, you’ll get a lot of flexibility with this jacket since it’s made to move with you without restricting your activities. Plus, you get a two-way adjustable hood with a drop-collar to keep your head warm on the coldest winter days.
- Good down insulation
- Waterproof shell
- Good weather protection
- Pockets are not insulated
- Can fit loose
- Can feel drafts
Arc'teryx Fission SL
This jacket also has an insulated, helmet and head compatible StormHood that is adjustable and made to keep your head warm. Made with a WaterTight Vislon middle front zipper, the jacket also features a bottom hem drawcord so you can easily lock in warmth and keep out moisture.
Arcteryx’s Fission SL Jacket also comes with two zippered hand pockets and two internal mesh dump pockets, so you’ll have plenty of space to bring your important items along with you. With its lightweight, weatherproof features, you’ll get a lot of use out of this jacket while you stay warm on the slopes.
- Great weather protection
- Could have more ski-specific features
- Could have better ventilation
Outdoor Research White Room
Made with durable, breathable, and waterproof Gore-Tex fabric on the outer part of the shell, the jacket also has 100% polyester flannel combined with the material. Plus, to increase breathability, this jacket has the Crossly ventilation system designed into it, meaning as you sweat, the jacket will push that moisture out, keeping you warm and dry.
Outdoor Research’s White Room Jacket also comes with a helmet-compatible hood that adjusts to fit your needs, and works well at keeping your head warm. You’ll also get a zip-out powder skirt that features Lockdown tabs, so you can adjust your jacket to keep you warm of the weather conditions change.
This jacket also features Shove-It zippered pockets where you can store stow hats, gloves, or whatever you need to take along with you. You also get an integrated RECCO reflector for added safety in case you ever wind up stranded in the snow, you’ll be much easier to find.
- Great weather protection
- Nice warmth
- Strong jacket
- Fabric can feel stiff
- Lining could be more comfortable
Flylow Gear Quantum Pro
Designed with a 3-layer outer system that makes its shell waterproof and breathable, you’ll get protection from moisture because of the shell’s DWR (durable water repellent) protection. Plus, the ventilation system built into the jacket also includes underarm vents to help keep moisture out as you sweat, keeping you warm and protected in all cold weather conditions.
Flylow’s Gear Quantum Pro Jacket also comes with an adjustable hood that works with both helmets and hats, allowing you to keep your head warm. The removable powder skirt offers another level of protection when you need it, and when you don’t want it, you can simply remove it.
Designed with eight pockets and no bulk cuffs, this jacket also features a waterproof zipper and weighs in at about 656 grams. So, for skiers that know they’ll be out in below-freezing conditions, this jacket offers the warmth and weather protection they might want.
- Strong, beefy jacket
- Fits loose
- Lots of pockets
- Can feel stiff
- Could have more ski features
The Arc'teryx Sabre Jacket comes with a 3-layer Gore-Tex construction on the outer shell of the jacket, and also has a fleece backer designed in it that helps boost your warmth so you feel comfortable all day long. Plus, the jacket features pit zips so you can ventilate when you want to, helping keep moisture out of your jacket as you sweat.
Featuring an adjustable hood, you can wear a helmet or jacket inside of your hood and close your hood easily to fit over it, giving your head a lot of warmth. Plus, this jacket is also designed with some space and decent flexibility for a good range of motion as you move.
The Arc'teryx Sabre Jacket comes with five pockets, so you’ll have plenty of places to stash the items you want to bring along with you. Also, it falls to hip-length, keeping your body well covered, and is also designed to be lightweight and packable.
- High-quality materials
- Good fit
- Good performance
- Could use a higher end of Gore-Tex material, Gore-Tex Pro.
- Can fit large.
Outdoor Research Skyward
Outdoor Research’s Skyward Jacket is a more affordable option for skiers shopping on a budget, but for its price, it still brings you many great features. Designed with AscentShell technology to boost ventilation, you’ll stay dry inside your jacket even while you sweat, since the jacket pushes moisture to the outer layer of the jacket.
Also, the jacket is designed to be waterproof and windproof, so it will keep you protected from both the wind and snow if you encounter any adverse weather conditions. The hood on the jacket is also adjustable and can fit any helmet or hood, and made as a wire-brimmed halo-hood to also protect your eyes.
Designed with a double-separating center front zipper, you also get Movement-Mirroring Stretch technology with this jacket, making it flexible and helping it to move with you. For a skier looking for a good jacket on a budget, this jacket should do the trick and help keep you warm and dry each time you hit the slopes.
- Excellent ventilation
- Full-length jacket
- Armpit zippers
- Finish could be more durable
- Can fit baggy
The North Face Thermoball Snow Triclimate
Designed with quality features like armpit zippers and a good ventilation system, you’ll be able to stay dry even as you sweat since this jacket will push the moisture away from your skin and to the exterior of the jacket. This jacket is made with synthetic insulation, but it still does a very good job with warmth regardless, and could easily be mistaken for a down-filled jacket.
Plus, you get the typical 3-in-1 jacket benefits with this design, so you can break down the jacket into lighter layers when the weather is warmer, or use all the pieces of the jacket together for better weather protection when you need it. The shell on this jacket is made to be both waterproof and breathable, and includes seam-sealed DryVent 2.5L technology.
Designed with a relaxed fit, this jacket also has zip-in compatible integration with other The North Face products, and comes with a fully adjustable hood that can fit over any helmet or hat. You’ll stay warm and dry while you ski with this jacket, and if you’re shopping on a budget, you might be very happy with the benefits this jacket offers.
- Great fit
- Excellent insulation
- 3-in-1 jacket
- Heavier than some other options on our list
- Shell could be more durable
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When selecting one of the best ski jackets to fit your needs, you’ll need to consider a few things before you run out to make your purchase. First, knowing where you’ll be skiing and what the weather conditions will be like will become important factors. Next, the amount of time you spend on the slopes can also help dictate your decision, as can your budget.
We’ll cover below some of the most important criteria you’ll want to look at when you decide on what ski jacket to buy. These criteria include insulation, waterproofing, breathability, and weight. Then, we’ll break down some of the features you’ll find most commonly on a ski jacket.
Ski Jacket Insulation
Skiing jackets are designed to be comfortable and warm, and different manufacturers use varying types of insulation methods in their ski jacket designs to help provide extra heat. Skiing jackets are usually made with either down or synthetic insulation options, and each provides its own set of benefits and concerns.
With down, you’ll get more warmth and less bulk, but the price is more expensive. Down also tends to insulate worse as it gets wet, although most ski jacket brands nowadays add other features to their jackets to prevent this from happening—like waterproofing the outside shell of the jacket, or adding waterproofing methods to the interior insulation of the down fabric itself.
Synthetic insulation will be a more affordable option, but it does tend to weigh more. However, synthetic insulation does better with down as far as retaining insulation goes when the insulation gets wet. Synthetic insulation also dries out faster than down does when moisture becomes a problem.
Some ski jacket manufacturers use both types of insulation inside of their jackets, putting down in areas where you need to stay warm, and synthetic areas in places more prone to moisture—like under the arms. For instance, the Arcteryx Macai Jacket discussed in our list above uses both types of insulation, with down around your core area and synthetic insulation in the underarm area.
Jackets made with synthetic insulation also tend to fit bulkier and feel bulkier, and can interact with your range of motion in a negative way because these jackets don’t tend to be as flexible as those designed with down. The choice between synthetic insulation and down insulation will really depend on your budget, and where you plan to ski.
The best option for insulation, if you can afford it, comes from skiing jackets that use the combination insulation method. If you know you’ll be out when the temperatures are below freezing, you’ll want to opt either for down insulation or synthetic insulation.
However, if you’re looking for a more affordable option and worry about what might happen if the down insulation in your jacket gets wet, you can go for a jacket made with synthetic insulation. Much of this will depend on where you plan to ski, and what the weather is like outside.
Ski Jacket Waterproofing
All skiing jackets on our list are made with some type of waterproofing technology, usually combined into the outer shell of the jacket. You get a lot of options for waterproofing methods depending on the brand you pick, but if you want to go for the best type of waterproofing on your jacket and can afford it, Gore-Tex offers the highest level of protection. Gore-Tex also tends to last a lot longer, as some other waterproofing methods can actually wash off in the washing machine the more you clean your jacket. Also, most Gore-Tex waterproofing designs are fully waterproof.
DWR (durable water repellent) is the other standard option in waterproofing, and usually is more water-resistant than fully waterproof. However, DWR still works well to shed moisture from the jacket and helps the jacket to dry out faster. With DWR, though, the repellant on the outside of the jacket can wear off and break down the more you both wear and wash the jacket.
With waterproofing technologies, you typically get what you pay for in a ski jacket. Gore-Tex will cost you more and last longer, but DWR will be cheaper and still works well. So, when deciding what you need, consider your budget, and whether you need a fully waterproof jacket, or one that simply repels the water.
Ski Jacket Ventilation
If you’ll be skiing often in the backcountry, you’ll definitely want a jacket with good breathability. However, if you know you sweat a lot, then you’ll still want a jacket that provides good ventilation, no matter where you prefer to ski.
Some jackets offer great features like armpit zippers so that you can ventilate your jacket yourself when you need it, while others are made with other vents throughout the jacket. Most shell jackets breathe fairly well, and you’ll get good ventilation out of other jackets that use 3-layer fabric construction on their jackets, usually made with a combination of Gore-Tex, eVent, or Polartec NeoShell technologies.
Chances are, the more expensive your ski jacket is, the better the ventilation system will be. Softshell jackets tend to offer the best ventilation systems but not great weather resistance, so depending on what you need, you may need to spend a bit more if you want good ventilation.
When deciding on how to approach this feature, consider where you’ll be skiing and how much you know you perspire. With that in mind, you should be able to decide on the type of ventilation that’s best for your use.
Ski Jacket Weight
Depending on where you plan to ski, you may or may not need a lightweight jacket. If you’re planning to ski mostly at the resort, then weight probably won’t matter when you make your decision, as long as you feel the jacket is comfortable for you and meets your other needs.
However, backcountry skiers may want a jacket that fits them lighter in case they need to compress it and carry it along with them. Typically, the more lightweight a jacket is, the more it will cost.
So, once you know where you’ll be skiing—backcountry or resort—then you’ll be able to figure out what you need. If you’re on a budget and usually only ski at resorts, then you can save a bit of money here by giving this up.
Ski Jacket Features
Skiing jackets are usually designed with several common features that you’ll want to look at closely before you make your purchase. These features include hoods, pockets, powder skirts, pit zips, and RECCO technology. We’ll cover each of these in a bit more detail below.
- Ski Jacket Hoods. Depending on how and where you ski, you’ll want to consider whether or not you’ll need a ski jacket with a good hood. If you do a lot of resort skiing and mostly go downhill, you might not need a hood and could be just fine with a beanie or helmet. However, if you know you feel cold when you’re on the ski lift or if you like skiing when the weather is ugly, then getting a large, well-insulated hood can help keep your head warm and your body temperature higher. If you do want a good hood, make sure the fit is large enough to fit a helmet or hat, and adjustable so that you can cinch it securely to your head when you ski. Hoods that fit well shouldn’t get in the way of your sight. Also, if you plan on wearing your ski jacket for more than just usual ski days and out in snowy weather, then a good hood will also keep your head warm for that.
- Ski Jacket Pockets. You’ll want to have some pockets on your ski jacket unless you plan to backpack when you ski. All skiing jackets come with some hand pockets, and most of them also have a zippered chest pocket that’s usually used to hide away smaller items—like your phone or wallet. If you do plan on bringing your electronics along with you on snowy ski outings, you’ll want to make sure you have a chest pocket on the inside of the jacket so that your device stays warm and dry.
- Ski Jacket Powder Skirts. If you know you’ll be in deep snow when you ski or might tumble and fall, then you’ll want a jacket that has a powder skirt. Powder skirts help prevent snow from getting into your jacket, and are usually made from fabric that’s found in the lining of the jacket in the waist. Powder Skirts will keep snow from getting into your pants and the bottom area of the jacket. Sometimes, powder skirts are removable—so you’re able to take them off if you want to wear the jacket to run errands when it’s snowing outside.
- Ski Jacket Pit Zips. Since skiing requires a lot of physical activity, you’re probably going to perspire when you do it, and some of us sweat more than others. Waterproof jackets sometimes offer poor quality ventilation features, so you want to make sure you get a jacket that offers weather protection but is still breathable. A lot of skiing jackets nowadays are made with pit zips under your arms, which allow you to open your jacket out to vent to get out hot air and moisture so that you don’t overheat while you are on the slopes. You may not need this feature if you are a more casual skier and they do add some weight to the jacket, put if you are very active and know you tend to perspire easily, then you’ll want to consider a jacket with this feature.
- Ski Jacket RECCO Technology. Some top-of-the line skiing jackets feature RECCO reflectors on them, and these are an added safety feature. If you tend to ski in areas that can have avalanches, then this is an excellent benefit to have as long as you can afford it, since it tends to make the jacket itself more expensive. A RECCO reflector is a unite in the jacket that doesn’t use batteries and can be detected by RECCO detectors usually used by search and rescue teams. So, depending on where you ski, you may want to opt for this additional safety feature.
Q: What are the different types of ski jackets, and what do I need to know about them?
Skiing jackets typically come in three different type choices, which are hardshell, softshell, and 3-in-1. Whatever type of ski jacket you need will depend on a lot on how you ski and how much you can afford to spend.
The preferred type of jacket among skiers is the hardshell jacket, which can cover you during just about any type of ski trip—whether it’s casual or backcountry. Softshell jackets are made for more mild conditions, and 3-in-1 jackets are great for those shopping on a budget. We’ll break down each style in a bit more detail below.
- Hardshell skiing jackets. These ski jackets have a very solid outer layer that is made to provide excellent wind and moisture protection that you can use even if you are a backcountry skier. Most hardshell skiing jackets have several layers of fabric woven together, and include waterproof and windproof features. They also usually have average breathability. Also, most of them come with synthetic or down fill insulation. Depending on what type of hardshell jacket you purchase, the price can vary greatly with these jackets. Some hardshell jackets are more high-end and feature Gore-Tex, eVent, or NeoShell laminate technology and good flexibility. With your more affordable, basic hardshell jacket, you’ll get cheaper fabrics and cheaper waterproofing that sacrifices some breathability. If you are a newbie skier or ski only every now and then, a cheaper hardshell jacket would work for you, but those that will be out on the slopes more will want the features that come with higher-end models.
- Softshell skiing jackets. Softshell skiing jackets are the most breathable types of jackets you’ll find on the slopes, and bring you great breathability. These jackets are also very flexible, and designed to move as you move. However, their increased ventilation often sacrifices some weather resistance, and won’t keep you as dry when you’re in the snow as other types of jackets. However, if you perspire a lot or are a high-intensity skier, a softshell ski jacket might work well for you.
- 3-in-1 skiing jackets. Casual skiers generally prefer this option, since these jackets give you an outer shell and a zip-in insulated layer. 3-in-1 jackets also typically cost less than other jackets, and offer you a midlayer you can disconnect from the jacket and wear either the outer or inner jacket layer when the weather is warmer. These jackets do tend to be bulkier since they have extra zippers on them, and their integrated design makes them stiffer and less flexible. They also don’t typically offer higher-end models, and work well for more casual or beginner skiers who just want something to protect them on days they hit the slopes.
Q: Do I need to consider if I’ll be doing backcountry or resort skiing when I select my jacket?
Most ski jacket brands design their jackets with a single focus in mind—and that’s either resort skiing, backcountry skiing, or a combination of the two. Since many skiers are also on a chairlift often, skiing jackets are usually made to accommodate the time you’ll be spending there, too.
Skiing jackets made for resort skiing need to be durable and have some kind of wind and water-resistant protection built into them, although they don’t always need to be fully waterproof. You also want to plan to layer with a resort ski jacket, and probably get something with decent insulation. So, if you plan on skiing mostly in resorts, you’ll want to look at fit, comfort, and weather protection.
Backcountry skiers need something that’s got great insulation and will keep them very warm no matter where they decide to ski. However, having a jacket that’s also lightweight and easy-to-carry will be important here, since sometimes you’ll want to take the jacket off and compress it down. So, technology is a major priority here, as is compressibility. Backcountry skiers that know they’ll be out in below-freezing weather conditions will want something that’s both warm and lightweight.
When you’re researching what the best ski jackets are for your winter skiing plans, you’ll want to consider where you’ll be skiing, your style, the type of weather you’ll encounter, and your budget. Once you know those general ideas, you should be able to select some jackets that will fit your needs.
The best avenue to making sure you get the ski jacket that’s right for you is to hit your local stores after you narrow down your choices, and try on the brands and styles you’re interested in. Once you find the right ski jacket for you, you’ll know, and you’ll be able to stay warm and dry each time you hit the slopes.