Backcountry skiing is a fantastic way to enjoy winter, and it is something every avid skier should try at some point in their life. You’ll always want to be prepared when you venture off-piste, and having a good backcountry ski jacket will pay off immensely.
I’m Christine, the founder of this blog and a lifelong skier. I’ve been on many backcountry skiing adventures, and I know how to find the best gear and equipment to take along. I’ve worn or heavily researched all of the jackets you’ll see here.
The Outdoor Research Hemispheres is my pick for the best backcountry ski jacket of the season. This is a very durable and comfortable option that will give you effective protection from the elements without slowing you down.
There are several other solid options out there, and I’ll show you all of the best jackets for the backcountry in this post. Whether you are a seasoned ski tourer or just looking for a high-quality option, you’ll be able to find a great jacket here.
Let’s dive in.
Who Should Get This
If you plan on doing any backcountry skiing, you’re going to need a backcountry jacket. While you could get away with a more resort-style jacket in a pinch, the design and features of all the options listed here are intended to match the rigors and challenges of backcountry skiing.
These will work well for all types of backcountry skiing, from long-distance tours to a day of hiking to untouched powder. They are lightweight, comfortable, and built to effectively block out wind and snow.
If you only plan on skiing in-bounds at a resort, you don’t necessarily need a backcountry jacket. Of course, you could still use one of these jackets at a resort, but they tend to be a little more expensive than your standard ski jacket.
Best Backcountry Ski Jackets: Top Picks
Here are all of my top picks for the best backcountry ski jackets of the season. Every option you see here is ready for action and adventure away from the ski resort.
1. Outdoor Research Hemispheres
- Best for: Overall
- Key features: Durable, excellent weather protection, helmet-compatible, good venting
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex 3L
- Style: Shell
- Cost: $$$$
The Outdoor Research Hemispheres jacket is an excellent option for backcountry skiing and comes at the top of the list.
A Gore-Tex design protects from wind and water. Alongside that, there is a unique stretch technology that makes the jacket extremely functional and comfortable no matter how you ski.
Plenty of extra features and a rugged design ensure this jacket will last for many, many backcountry ski trips. It’s also well-vented to give you added airflow on a long uphill ascent.
This is an expensive jacket, but it’s well worth it if you want the best of the best.
2. Arc’teryx Alpha SV
- Best for: Touring
- Key features: Lightweight, rugged design, extremely waterproof, durable, comfortable
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Pro
- Style: Shell
- Cost: $$$$$
This Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket is a great option for any avid backcountry skier, especially those who love to go on extended ski tours.
The special design cuts down weight and bulk without sacrificing any warmth or advanced performance. It’s a slim design that will work with your body instead of against it.
It has a highly durable 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric that can handle all conditions and withstand abuse from extreme adventures.
The only real downside of this model is its price. This jacket will cost you as much as a new set of skis.
3. Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0
- Best for: Durability
- Key features: Durable design, excellent moisture-wicking, lots of pockets, engineered for the backcountry
- Waterproofing: Helly Tech
- Style: Insulated
- Cost: $$$$
The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 (review) is a very durable option that will provide backcountry skiers with reliable performance, no matter how hard they like to go.
It offers excellent warmth while also being exceptionally comfortable and flexible, making it the ideal companion for any situation you can find off-piste.
You’ll also get solid moisture-wicking properties that can pay off if you are tackling an extended uphill ascent.
This one is insulated, so it might be too warm for spring skiing touring situations.
4. Flylow Malone
- Best for: Comfort
- Key features: Comfortable, stretch design, very waterproof, removable powder skirt
- Waterproofing: OmniBloq
- Style: Shell
- Cost: $$$
The Flylow Malone is one of the most comfortable backcountry ski jackets that you’ll find. This one is easy to wear and won’t hold you back.
It features a 3-layer stretch stormshell outer fabric that is very flexible and won’t restrict your movements on the mountain.
You also get excellent waterproofing thanks to an outer membrane with a 20K rating. The removable powder skirt is another nice touch that can be useful when there is a lot of snow.
This jacket is a bit lightweight, but I still think it will work well for most backcountry skiers.
5. Burton Covert
- Best for: Budget Option
- Key features: Affordable, waterproof, warm, Living Lining, good fit
- Waterproofing: DryRide
- Style: Insulated
- Cost: $$
Burton might be a snowboarding brand, but the Covert jacket makes for a good backcountry option, no matter what you like to ride downhill.
Aside from an affordable price, this jacket also features Burton’s Living Lining. This helps regulate your body temperature by allowing hot air to escape, and it can pay off in the backcountry.
You’ll also get Thermolite insulation throughout the jacket for a little extra warmth, which can be a great asset in bad weather.
This might be too insulated for backcountry skiers who work hard, and the Burton brand might detract skiing purists.
How to Choose a Backcountry Ski Jacket
Here are some important things to keep in mind when choosing a backcountry ski jacket.
Any jacket designed for backcountry skiing should be constructed of water-proof and wind-proof materials. Always ensure it is made of Gore-Tex, Nylon, or a similarly waterproof outer layer as well.
Backcountry jackets need to hold up well under intense weather conditions, and you need to be sure they will keep away the elements in a way that keeps you warm. They also need to be durable enough to handle regular use and abuse.
A backcountry ski jacket should be designed to handle the worst mother nature can throw at you. This means that all parts of the jacket, including zippers, hoods, and straps, need to be reliable and consistent so you can bundle up when needed.
A hood that covers your entire head and can cinch down to help with visibility is essential in the backcountry. Look for ones integrated directly into the clothing design. Most backcountry jackets are also a shell rather than insulated.
While the primary purpose of a ski jacket is to block out the snow, cold, and wind, it’s also vital that a backcountry jacket let some hot air escape. Breathability will be helpful when you have an uphill ascent and are working up a sweat.
Look for jackets that have ventilation built-in, such as zippered pit vents or other openings. You’ll also want a material that is naturally able to help pull moisture away from your body. Shell-style jackets are better at this than insulated options.
Many backcountry ski jackets have added features that help you prepare for any situation. Extra pockets will help you pack food, safety equipment, and extra accessories, while helmet compatibility keeps your head protected.
Safety is critical in the backcountry, and you should always find ways to keep your body out of harm’s way. I like jackets that have glove straps. That keeps my gear from becoming lost during a nasty spill.
Useful Tips & Resources
Backcountry skiing can be a truly unforgettable experience, but it also comes with plenty of danger and risk. You need to be sure you are prepared for all conditions and educate yourself about the risks and how to navigate them.
Check out this link to learn more about backcountry skiing safety.
If you are going to spend any time in the backcountry, you also need to know about avalanche safety and conditions. Ski resorts do their own avalanche control to keep skiers safe. However, in the backcountry, that is left up to you.
Here is a video with some good advice on avalanche safety.
The Outdoor Research Hemispheres is my pick for the best backcountry ski jacket of the year. This is a solid jacket all-around and will give you excellent performance in off-piste situations. It’s durable, reliable, and built to handle just about anything you can throw at it.
All of the jackets you see here are recommended for the backcountry. You need to be prepared for anything when you go out into the winter wilderness, and these jackets will help establish the first line of defense against the elements while also helping your body breathe uphill.