How to Choose the Right Ski Jacket

Before hitting the slopes, discover which factors to consider when choosing a new ski jacket.

Finding the right gear for a long day of skiing is vital. Before you head out on your next ski trip, you’ll need all the essential equipment: skis, boots, poles, goggles and a helmet.

But don’t forget to think about your outfit. That can start with having the right ski jacket. Your ski jacket should keep you dry, warm and comfortable.

Ski jackets can be a perfect choice for a long weekend on the slopes or keeping you warm through the bone-chilling winter months. Pro Tips is here with all the info to help you choose your next ski jacket.

SKI JACKET VS. WINTER JACKET

Be aware there are differences between a ski jacket and a winter jacket.

A ski jacket comes designed for, well, skiing. This style can also be a good choice for snowboarding. A ski jacket will be lighter and may be more useful when layering. It will also have a good amount of breathability. Most ski jackets tend to be weather-resistant or fully waterproof due to contact with snow and the elements.

“Winter jacket” is a general loose term to cover many types of jackets. However, these jackets share one common feature: insulation. Winter jackets are made to keep you warm. Some will have levels of breathability and weather resistance.

TYPES OF SKI JACKETS

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make when choosing a ski jacket is which type of jacket is best for you. Each style has its own benefits, and your choice can come down to personal preference and how you’ll use it.

  • Shells can be a good option for the outer layer when layering. While they don’t have insulation, shells tend to be fully waterproof compared to the water-resistant soft shells. They are also windproof.
  • Soft shells tend to be very light. Made of a stretchy fabric, these jackets will often feature water-resistant properties. Soft shells will be more breathable than a shell.
  • Insulated ski jackets can help you stay warm in cold conditions. The insulation used in the jacket is either down or synthetic. Insulation can eliminate the need to layer but can cause you to get hot on warmer days. The outer part of insulated ski jackets tends to be waterproof or water-repellent.
  • 3-in-1 jackets can be a versatile option. These jackets combine two different jackets into one. You’ll have an outer shell jacket to protect you from the elements. There is also an inner layer made of fleece, down or synthetic insulation. You have three ways to wear this style of jacket: the outer shell, the inner liner or both together.

SKI JACKET INSULATION

Two popular styles of insulation you may choose from are natural down and synthetic fill. Each has its own unique benefits.

  • Natural down insulation tends to be lighter in weight and can be warmer in very cold conditions. However, down may lose some of its insulating properties when wet.
  • Synthetic fill insulation typically retains its insulating properties when it becomes wet.

Are you going with a jacket without insulation? Make sure to layer. Check out this guide to layering for a full day on the slopes.

WATER PROTECTION

You can tell how well a ski jacket will stand up to moisture by its waterproof rating. Many ski jackets feature a waterproof rating somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000. The higher the number, the more water-resistant a jacket will be.

Also be aware of the seams of your jacket.

  • Fully taped seams feature a waterproof tape over the seams on the inside of the jacket.
  • Other jackets will only have the tape over seams deemed “critical” where water can be more likely to seep in.
  • Welded seams fuse seams together to completely keep water out.

FIT

There are a variety of lengths and shapes of ski jackets. This choice comes down to personal preferences. Some skiers prefer a jacket that is trim and short-cropped. Others will opt for a baggier cut similar to a snowboard jacket.

It is important to find the right size. A ski jacket that is too large can create drafts. But a jacket that is too small can restrict your movement and leave portions of your body exposed. One way to determine the right fit for you is how you handle the cold. If you tend to get cold easily, it can be better to get a jacket with a little more room so you can layer.

OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER

Each jacket will have a wide range of features to consider. Depending on your wants and needs, this can make a certain ski jacket more enticing than others.

  • A hood can be an additional way to protect you from the elements. Hoods come in various styles. Most will fit over your helmet. Some will be adjustable, while others are removable.
  • A ski jacket with added ventilation can help keep you cool when the action heats up. Some jackets have ventilation in the armpits that you open and close with a zipper.
  • Make sure your jacket has enough pockets. You’ll also want to make sure they are functional when skiing. A ski pass pocket in the arm can be a convenient feature.
  • Snow skirts and waist gaiters will help prevent snow from going up your back if you fall. These can prevent snow from going up your sleeve.
  • Some jackets come with an avalanche beacon somewhere in the jacket. This can be a major safety feature, as it can help rescuers determine your location.

By finding the right ski jacket, the brisk conditions won’t be a bother as you zip down the slopes.

Ready to complete your ski outfit? Check out this Pro Tips guide on how to choose ski pants.