From breathability and waterproofing to fit and style, find out all you need to know about choosing and buying a ski jacket.
Whether you’re planning your first ski holiday or you’re a regular skier, it’s vital to pick the right ski clothing before your trip. Choosing the right ski jacket is an important part of your skiwear, and you should take time to pick the right one to meet your needs.
Luckily, you don’t need to spend a fortune on your ski jacket, as outdoor specialists Simply Hike stock a good range of ski jackets at excellent prices. They have adults’ ski jackets and jackets for kids, from brands like Helly Hansen, Peak Performance and Nils.
But how do you choose the right jacket for your own particular needs?
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Breathability and Waterproofing
Obviously you want to choose a jacket that will keep the snow out. But your jacket also needs to let out the heat and moisture that your body generates while you ski.
How well it does this is mainly due to the quality of the fabrics used in the jacket. You need to look out for two figure:
- Waterproofing is expressed in numbers that refer to a water test – 10,000mm is average, 20,000mm is high waterproofing while 28,000mm is very high.
- Breathability is given a RET value – lower than 6 is very breathable, 13 is good, and 20 will not be suitable for high energy activities.
For the greatest efficiency, look out for names such as Gore-Tex or Polartec. These will work better, but they will also cost more than own-brand waterproofing.
Shell Jackets or Padded Ski Jackets
Shell jackets are fairly thin and have little or no insulation. They don’t provide much warmth, so you’ll need to wear a separate fleece or wool layer under the shell.
You can choose between hardshell and softshell jackets. A hardshell jacket will give you the most water and wind resistance of any outer layer, but it won’t be very breathable. Whereas a softshell jacket will be more breathable but won’t offer as much wind and water-resistance. A softshell jacket is very versatile, and may also be used as a mid-layer under a hardshell jacket.
This hard shell Helly Hansen ski jacket has excellent waterproofing and is fitted with Recco® technology (see below for more info)
Padded jackets are warmer than shell jackets, but they can be very bulky and don’t offer as much protection against the rain.
Down-filled jackets tend to be warmer than synthetic padded jackets, but synthetic materials are definitely getting better. Some manufacturers have also moved towards more reponsible down production, and may mix both down and synthetic padding in one jacket.
And if you are going to a very cold ski destination, you might want to invest in an insulated ski jacket. These have an outer shell for protection against water, with a layer of down or synthetic insulation underneath.
This down filled padded ski jacket from Salomon features a removable hood and moisture wicking cuffs with thumbloops.
Choosing the Right Style of Ski Jacket
Different skiers need different things from their jackets. So ultimately, the type of jacket you buy will come down to the type of skier you are.
If you tend to stay on the piste, you have a larger choice of jacket type than other skiers.
If you to feel the cold more and are going skiing in cold conditions, an insulated jacket will help you to keep warm. But a shell jacket may be a better pick if you tend to ski in the warmer spring weather. Then you can always layer up if the weather turns colder.
Off Piste Skiers
Off Piste skiing is also known as Backcountry skiing. It’s high energy activity and skiers who go off piste will encounter more extreme conditions than those who stick to the pistes.
A softshell jacket will allow more heat transfer, but it may not offer enough protection from the harsh conditions on the more exposed ridges and peaks. A hardshell jacket is a great choice for off-piste skiers as they’re far more weather proof than softshell jackets, and specialised zip vents in the jacket will improve the jacket’s ability to shed heat.
So by wearing a softshell under a hardshell jacket, you will get the best of both worlds.
If you love freestyle skiing, you’ll be spending most of your time in the snow park, with short chairlifts and quick laps.
Choosing a shell jacket means you can add and remove layers when needed, and still make sure you stay dry.
The looser fit and breathability of this Didrikson ski jacket makes it great for freestylers.
Choosing the Right Fit
Picking the right fit for you depends on the kind of skiing or snowboarding you prefer to do. Slim fit is more suited to those who stick to the pistes, while a looser fit is good for the bigger movements of freestylers.
And don’t forget that you need to allow room for layers underneath your ski jacket.
Slim fit jackets are becoming more common, and are popular with anyone who doesn’t want to look like the Michelin man!
This Etched Lines ski jacket from Dare2B has a fashionable slim fit, and offers great waterproofing and breathability
Slim fit doesn’t always have enough room for layers, and not everyone wants to look like a freestyler. Regular fit give you the best of both worlds, and is very popular.
Looser fitting ski jackets tend to be more popular with freestylers and snowboarders. The loose fit gives you more mobility, which is needed for the big moves that they make.
Once you’ve picked the style and fit of your ski jacket, here are some useful features that you might want to look out for.
This Jack Wolfskin ski jacket has lots of useful features and is both highly waterproof and highly breathable.
Most ski jackets will have a hood, but look out for whether it’s fixed or detachable. A detachable hood can be removed if you won’t need it, whereas a fixed hood is always at the ready.
Also check how much adjustment the hood has. Many hoods are designed to fit over a helmet for when it’s snowing, and an elastic pull at the back of the hood will allow you to adjust the hood to fit.
Wrist gaiters can either be a simple inner cuff or fit over the hand with thumbholes.
You may also find that your jacket sleeves have an internal stretchy cuff in the sleeves of your jacket. These are sometimes made moisture-wicking material to help them dry quicker.
Vents in the underarm area or around the chest will help you to keep cool by improving air circulation. They often have a mesh backing to keep snow out of the jacket.
Some vents also have a two-way zip to make them easier to use when you’re wearing a backpack.
A powder skirt, or snow skirt, is a band inside the jacket around your waist that stops snow from going up your back.
Some powder skirts are removable, others can be poppered away when not in use. They may have ski pant loops or silicone strips around the band to help it stay in place.
Look for seams that have taping on the inside, to give more waterproofing. Some jackets have all seams sealed, whereas some may only have certain areas sealed to keep weight down.
Some ski jackets and pants can be connected with poppers, zip, loops or hooks on the powder skirt and the waistband of the ski pants. This gives added protection against snow inside your clothing.
OK, obviously all jackets will have zips! Some or all of them may be water resistan, and you might find that there’s a guard over the top of the front zip to stop it rubbing on your chin.
Some zips will have a pull to make it easier to use with gloves on, and an additional flap at the top will give extra protection against water getting in.
Some ski jackets may come with a Recco® reflector, which can help you be found by ski patrollers. But although this may help in an emergency, it isn’t a replacement for having and knowing how to use an avalanche transceiver.