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What Are the Best Ski Jackets?

Photo: Filmhaus Films

From Gore-Tex to Futurelight, pit zips to pass pockets, the choices that come with buying a new ski jacket can be enough to make your head spin inside a detachable hood. To guide you through the decision, we asked ten professional skiers, shop owners, and ski patrollers to break down the different options and help you find the best ski jacket.

Like buying a new pair of skis, ski boots, or snow pants, before you can pick the right jacket, you need to ask yourself where and how you plan to ski. If you do most of your skiing at resorts with chair lifts, you can prioritize warm insulation and convenience, including features like pockets for your phone. But if you like the kind of skiing where you are responsible for getting yourself up the mountain — like touring, skinning (climbing the mountain on your skis, which have a grippy layer for traction), or boot packing (taking off your skis and hiking up) — you’ll want something that can help you more actively manage your temperature. In those situations, features like pit zips, chest ventilation, packability, and pockets and clips for safety equipment, such as radios and avalanche beacons, become much more important. Regardless of the type of skiing you do, “a technical shell is often the way to go,” says Adam Fine, ski-gear expert at Curated.com. “It provides waterproofing and wind protection, but you can go up or down in layers depending on how warm it is.”

But there’s another factor: You also want to look good, wherever you wear your ski gear. More than ever before, it’s now possible to get a jacket that will work for you on the mountain and look rad as you walk through ski towns. Here are the experts’ top choices for ski jackets to pack for your next trip that will help you do both.

Best overall ski jacket

Multiple experts mentioned the Patagonia Triolet Shell. Jackie Kearney, a ski patroller at Lake Tahoe’s Kirkwood Resort, says many of her fellow patrollers wear it. “It’s sturdy and waterproof, and you can tell that just by holding it. It’s a little bit more of a resort-specific jacket, but it has a few technical features — more pockets and pit zips, which are nice to get some more ventilation.” It’s lightweight enough to keep you cool when the sun’s out, but it’s also great for layering up and staying warm. Mac Huelster, a stylist who’s worked with stars, including Leon Bridges, replaced his beefy snow jacket with the lighter Triolet when he temporarily moved to the warmer West Coast. “It’s nice to have that flexibility to put whatever you want underneath,” he says.

Best multipurpose ski jacket

K.C. Deane hops out of helicopters all over the world to get the best lines. Even if you still struggle to get off the chairlift, he says you can benefit from the Eddie Bauer Freshline jacket, which he had a hand in designing. “It’s optimized for anyone, either on hill or backcountry,” Deane says. The jacket is waterproof and breathable with eVent membrane fabrics, and it has slick features like thumb loops, plenty of ventilation zips, and clips for two-way radios. Plus, it’s uninsulated, so you can match it with any layer, even if that’s just a T-shirt on a rainy day.

Best 3-in-1 ski jackets

Instead of choosing between a lightweight waterproof shell and a warm insulated jacket, you can have it all with a three-in-one jacket that includes both. You can wear the two layers together on cold and wet days or each one separately, depending on the conditions and type of skiing you’re doing. Chris French, founder and president of NYC-based Ski Bums, the world’s largest LGBTQ skiing and snowboarding club, explains the importance of using two layers: “First, choose a non-insulated, breathable shell with zip vents that allow you to cool off when you’re at the base. Underneath that, you’ll pair it with an insulating layer that’s appropriate for whatever the mountain is serving up that day.” Patagonia’s Snowbelle and Snowshot (men’s and women’s versions of the same jackets) are longtime favorites of skiers seeking the convenience of an all-in-one jacket. Doug Webster, retail manager of the ski and sport shop at New Hampshire’s Gunstock Mountain Resort, says the brand’s appeal is nearly universal because its gear is “incredibly functional, conservative looking, and not as expensive as some of the similar technical brands.”

For an even more affordable three-in-one option, Nick Keter, women’s-clothing-department head at Outdoor Gear Exchange, recommends the Columbia Whirlibird jacket, which comes in both men’s and women’s versions and is one of the best sellers at his store. “Columbia does a great job of creating garments that are accessible and fit a wide range of sizes,” he says. Along with the jacket’s ability to offer layering options for both freezing runs and sunny “bluebird” days, Keter likes that it has Columbia’s “Omni-Heat” technology to help lock in body heat. “It’s for that person who’s a beginner to skiing and might need that warmth when sitting down and taking lessons, but it can also work for even the more intermediate and advanced skiers,” he says. “Having that versatility is great.”

Warmest ski jacket

As a guide for National Outdoor Leadership School, Jeff Wohl spends a lot of time outside. Whether it’s backcountry skiing, building a quinzee hut, or just hanging in camp, he needs to stay dry and warm, which means he needs a good jacket. “On cold ski days, or in camp, I put on a large parka,” says Wohl. One of his favorites is the Black Diamond Belay. It’s packed with waterproof ThermoLite insulation to keep you warm, and has a DWR (durable water-repellent) finish. “It has the sort of features I like, such as double lapel pockets, and double inside water-bottle pockets for hot water or a thermos,” Wohl says. The jacket is designed primarily for sitting still and belaying as your climbing partner ascends above you, but if you are the kind of person who can never feel too warm, you’ll appreciate it on those frigid February evenings at a mountain resort.

Best lightweight ski jackets

Even though it’s made from two layers of windproof and waterproof Gore-Tex fabric, Keter says the Arc’teryx Zeta SL jacket is impressively lightweight and breathable. “Back in the day, it used to be that you could have something breathable or you could have something that’ll keep you dry, but you couldn’t have both,” he says. But new technologies, like the ones featured in this jacket, allow for durable, waterproof layers that will also wick away moisture if you work up a sweat skinning uphill. The jacket folds down small for compact, easy packing if you want to stow it in your bag in case the weather changes suddenly, and its seams are fully sealed to ensure no water gets inside. “It’s coming at that higher price point for a shell,” says Keter, “but Arc’teryx is just one of those brands that cuts no corners when it comes down to engineering every detail.”

If you want a similar jacket at a slightly lower price point, Keter is also a fan of the Dryzzle Futurelight shell. He says the North Face’s proprietary Futurelight technology is “a porous membrane that keeps out water droplets but lets sweat vapor escape” and, unlike Gore-Tex, can be made into a soft, stretchy fabric that allows for maximum mobility. “This is going to tout some of the best breathability, as far as waterproof shells go,” says Keter, and, like the Arc’teryx jacket, it’s “super-packable.”

Most durable ski jacket

If you’re in college or just not always interested in finding a hanger, you want a jacket that can stand up to the slopes and being tossed in the corner of your room or behind your spare tire as you bump down the road. For Eric “Hende” Henderson — an adventure athlete who guided for 15 seasons between Wyoming and Alaska, and even skied on Everest before becoming a brand rep — the answer is the RAB Valiance. Rather than just a shell, this hydrophobic down-insulated puffy “has high durability, ice-, rain- and weather-protection,” he says. It also has a fully taped, waterproof Pertex Shield outer layer, so “it can take the beating and keep delivering warmth and durability,” Henderson says.

Most stylish ski jackets

For those looking for a great ski jacket that is also very style-forward, Nick Sargent, president of the trade organization Snowsports Industries America, suggests the Mammut Delta X line. “Mammut historically makes product for the hard-core climber, backcountry skier, etc., so this really softens that connection to a consumer,” he says. “It’s very fashion-forward.” We like the sleek urban styling of the 3850 Hooded Hardshell. It’s made of Gore-Tex with taped seams to keep you dry, but it also has a more athletic cut, with extra length in the sleeves and room in the shoulders to accommodate larger builds and mobility needs.

Many skiers want to “look good getting coffee, and steezy on the mountain” says Roy Tuscany, founder of High Fives Foundation, a not-for-profit organization helping traumatically injured athletes get back to their sports. When he wants to look and feel great, he wears the Flylow Crowe. “It’s super durable,” Tuscany says. Stretchy ripstop fabric moves with you and PrimaLoft Eco Insulation keeps you warm. The Crowe can be worn as a mid-layer or jacket, but it has a DWR finish rather than full waterproofing, so it’s not the best choice on rainy days.

Editors’ note: Although not the exact same jacket, the Flylow Mia has a similar look to the Crowe, and it’s made from the same PrimaLoft Eco Insulation to keep you warm.

Best ski jackets for kids

Henderson loves Stio for children’s gear. “Their stuff is amazing, and the fit is always great,” he says. His kids wear the Hometown Down Hoodie. It’s made of Pertex Microlight Minirip Nylon, which resists tears and water, and is filled with water-repellant down for warmth. It also has great features like a helmet-compatible hood, an ID label, and plenty of pockets for snacks.

When customers ask Mike Donohue, co-owner of Outdoor Gear Exchange, what they should get for their kids, he points them to Jupa. “Jupa is a kids-only brand that does infant, toddlers, and kids.” For a ski jacket, he likes the Adrian Puffy. The insulated jacket has polyester synthetic down that keeps kids warm but dries faster than real down, and a waterproof and breathable outer membrane. Jupa is also great because it includes extra length in the hems of its products so the jacket can grow with your child.

Editors’ note: Again, while not the exact same jacket as the Adrian, the Alyssa is comparable in look and feel to the Adrian, with the addition of a faux-fur lined hood.

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What Are the Best Ski Jackets?