A ski jacket is an incredibly functional piece of ski gear that can effectively block out the elements. A great ski jacket can last for years and will keep you warm through every condition or terrain you encounter out on the mountain.
I’ve been skiing for nearly my entire life, and I’ve worn dozens of jackets over the years. I know what to look for in high-quality options that give you all the warmth, comfort, and performance needed on the mountain.
The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 is my choice for the best ski jacket of the year. It is one of the most popular models from one of the best cold-weather clothing manufacturers in the business. It’s a great jacket that is highly recommended.
I’ll provide you with an in-depth list of all the best ski jackets currently available in this post. My goal is to equip you with an option that meets or exceeds your needs as a skier. And it doesn’t hurt to look good either.
Let’s get rolling.
- Who Should Get This
- Top Picks of Best Ski Jackets
- Best Ski Jackets: What to Consider
- Useful Tips & Resources
- Final Verdict
Who Should Get This
Every skier can benefit from a nice ski jacket. While you might change your base or mid layers depending on the outside conditions, your main jacket usually stays on through thick and thin.
It is the first line of defense against the elements and will protect you no matter how cold it gets. If you’re going to invest in one ski clothing item, a jacket should be it.
A good jacket will last you for years. You may want to change things up and get a new one each season. However, unless you rip yours in half on a tree or it gets stolen, all of the jackets listed here will be good for hundreds of skiing days.
The style of jacket you want may vary depending on your needs and what type of weather you ski in most often, but this guide has something for everyone.
I’ll be honest, I have skied without a jacket. Usually, this is in the spring (or even summer) when conditions are warm, and there is no real possibility of snow. I’ve even skied in just a T-shirt before.
However, that’s only possible when the weather is exceptionally nice. If there’s even a slight chance of wind or snow, get a jacket. If you let your torso get too cold, the rest of your body will surely follow.
Does ski jacket need to be waterproof?
Yes, it does. There’s really no point in wearing a jacket that isn’t waterproof when you are skiing. If your jacket gets soaked, it will lose all of its insulating properties, and you will get cold. It’s uncomfortable and dangerous to use a jacket that isn’t waterproof.
What’s the difference between a ski jacket and a normal jacket?
Ski jackets will be fully water and windproof. This means that they are built out of different materials than a normal jacket. Many regular jackets are made out of cotton, which is a terrible material for a ski jacket.
Should my ski jacket have a hood?
This is a personal preference, and it depends on the conditions you find yourself in most often. If you know it will be snowing heavily or you get really cold, a hood is a nice feature to have. Some jackets have removable hoods.
Should ski jacket be tight or loose?
I like my ski jackets to be on the looser side, but it’s really a matter of personal preference. You don’t want a jacket to be too tight because it might cut off blood flow or restrict movement. If it’s too loose, it might let in wind or moisture.
Do ski jackets keep warm?
A good ski jacket will be your first line of defense toward keeping you warm in winter weather. Most skiers also wear a base layer and mid-layer for added warmth and to be able to adjust to changing conditions.
Are ski jackets good for rain?
They can be. If you get a good ski jacket that is fully waterproof, you can certainly use it as a rain jacket. Just know that it might be too hot in warmer weather, and you can quickly get uncomfortable.
How long does a ski jacket last?
A high-quality ski jacket can easily last you for several years. I’ve had a jacket last ten years before, although it was pretty beat up by then. If you take good care of your jacket and it doesn’t get damaged, 3-5 years is an average lifespan.
When should I replace my ski jacket?
If your ski jacket has any significant damage like tears or rips, it’s probably time to replace it. Some models can lose their waterproofing capabilities, and if this happens, it’s another sign that they should be replaced.
Can I wear a winter jacket for skiing?
It depends if the winter jacket is waterproof or not. If you’re in a pinch, any jacket will be better than nothing. But if that jacket isn’t waterproof, it’s not going to provide you with much if it starts snowing heavily.
Can you wear a ski jacket for hiking?
Sure, but the jacket might be too hot if you are hiking in warmer conditions. If you are hiking in cold weather, a ski jacket can work just fine.
Top Picks of Best Ski Jackets
Here are my picks for the best ski jackets of the year. Each model below is a solid choice; just be sure to read through the descriptions to find one that meets your needs.
1. Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0
- Best for: Overall
- Key features: Warm, excellent waterproofing, plenty of pockets, comfortable, durable, breathable, powder skirt.
- Waterproofing: Helly Tech Professional
- Insulation: 100 grams Primaloft body/ 80 grams sleeves and hood
- Cost: $$$$
Ski jackets don’t get much better than the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 (review), and this model is my pick for the best jacket overall. This jacket is a skier’s jacket and is made to see many days in the snow, without fail.
This model has an excellent feel and fit made possible through adequate but not excessive insulation combined with a stretch shell material that’s entirely wind and water-proof. It’s made of a 2-ply construction with Primaloft insulation and a 4-way stretch outer shell.
That combination makes it highly functional and extremely comfortable. It also has articulated arms and elbows for added durability and a snap-away elastic powder skirt to keep flakes out on big snow days.
Other features include wrist gaiters and dual hand warming pockets to help your hands stay cozy and your skis pointed downhill.
The only bad thing I have to say about the Alpha 3.0 is that it’s very expensive and might be out of the budget range for an average skier.
2. Spyder Women’s Captivate
- Best for: Women
- Key features: Great women-specific fit, very waterproof, warm, comfortable, durable, helmet-compatible
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex with DWR
- Insulation: Primaloft
- Cost: $$$
The Spyder Women’s Captivate is the best ski jacket for female skiers. Spyder is a top brand in the world of ski clothing, and this model provides everything you need in terms of warmth, comfort, and performance.
The jacket has a fully waterproof Gore-Tex outer shell and sits on top of 80g of Primaloft insulation to keep you warm and dry. This makes it outstanding to use in bad weather, and it provides reliable performance all season long.
All of the seams are also fully taped to increase durability. This has a helmet-compatible mesh pocket, water-proof zippers, adjustable wrist cuffs, and a powder skirt.
Other great features include fully taped seams, YKK AquaGuard zippers, and an internal zippered pocket to stash any personal items you want to be protected from the elements.
The Captivate does have a fairly slim fit, so you might want to size up if you like a looser feel.
Read More: Best Women’s Ski Jackets
3. The North Face Thermoball Eco Triclimate
- Best for: Warmth
- Key features: Versatile, 3-1 style jacket, waterproof, comfortable, nice fit, underarm vents, helmet-compatible hood
- Waterproofing: DryVent 2L
- Insulation: ThermoBall Eco
- Cost: $$$
If you struggle to stay warm when you ski, the North Face Thermoball Eco Triclimate jacket (review) will give you 3-1 performance that can help you adapt to variable conditions.
This jacket is designed to be three jackets in one, and when you use them all simultaneously, you get outstanding warmth and protection from the elements. And if it’s not as cold, you can thin things out for versatile performance.
Waterproofing is made possible by a DryVent 2 layer shell, and the inner jacket features ThermoBall Eco insulation for added warmth and comfort.
You also get good ventilation thanks to underarm vents, and the hood is helmet-compatible so you can stay safe.
The three-piece design can take some getting used to when you want to take them apart or put them back together again.
4. Spyder Challenger
- Best for: Kids
- Key features: Affordable, fun designs, warm, comfortable, stretch fit, powder skirt
- Waterproofing: Water Repellent Polyester
- Insulation: PrimaLoft Black Eco
- Cost: $$
The Spyder Challenger is the best ski jacket for kids. This model is built with the needs of little rippers in mind and provides a ton of warmth and comfort to keep them happy in the snow.
The model has a classic look with a big Spyder logo on the front that your kids will surely love. The brand makes excellent skiing apparel, and although this jacket is intended for children, the brand didn’t spare any expense in design or function.
The jacket features a fully water-proof, 100 percent polyester shell alongside Primaloft insulation to keep the little ones warm and cozy. It also has a removable hood and hood gaiter so you can customize it to fit various ski conditions.
Additional features include a powder skirt, taped seams, hand and chest pocket zippers, and a card pocket. If you want your child to stay warm and have fun on the mountain, the Challenger jacket is a step in the right direction.
It might not be quite as durable as an adult jacket, but it will have your kids covered for years of regular skiing.
5. The North Face Clementine Triclimate
- Best for: Petites
- Key features: Small sizes available, warm, versatile 3-in-1 design, durable
- Waterproofing: DryVent 2L
- Insulation: Heatseeker Eco
- Cost: $$$
The North Face Clementine Triclimate is the best ski jacket for petites. This option comes available in sizes down to extra-small, so it will work well if you struggle to find a good fit.
A 3-in-1 design gives you plenty of versatility to adapt to any condition you find yourself in. You can use all the layers on cold days and slim things down when it warms up.
The DryVent 2L membrane provides a ton of waterproofing capabilities, while Heatseeker Eco insulation gives you warmth and comfort.
The Clementine has a standard fit that won’t restrict movement as you ski, and this flexibility is nice to have when you are taking on challenging terrain.
This one might be a little too small for larger skiers, but for a smaller fit, it’s ideal.
6. Flylow Cobra
- Best for: Comfort
- Key features: Comfortable, warm, well-insulated, good ventilation, powder skirt, helmet-compatible hood
- Waterproofing: High-Performance DWR
- Insulation: 100 grams Spaceloft synthetic down
- Cost: $$$
If you want a comfort-focused model, the Flylow Cobra is worth exploring. This jacket has an easy fit that won’t get in your way on the mountain.
It’s also extremely warm, thanks to 100 grams of Spaceloft synthetic down insulation. This works very well with a high performance DWR shell to give you protection from all the elements.
Other features included 14-inch underarm vents to let you adapt to the conditions, a removable powder skirt, and a helmet-compatible hood.
One hundred grams of insulation is quite a bit, so this might not be the best option if you run hot as a skier.
7. Arc’teryx Sabre AR
- Best for: Backcountry
- Key features: Comfortable, super durable, regular fit, Gore-Tex membrane, lightweight
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$$$
This jacket has a great fit with an extended length to keep snow out and is comfortable, stylish, and effective in various conditions. It has a slim look and a modern feel to it as well.
The jacket features a well-designed 3-layer Gore-Tex construction that goes a long way towards keeping you warm and dry in any situation. It has incredible water-proofing abilities and stays breathable even if temperatures heat up.
You’ll pay a steep price for all of this excellent backcountry performance, and this is the most expensive jacket on the list.
8. Flylow Malone
- Best for: Spring Skiing
- Key features: Lightweight, comfortable, solid construction, plenty of pockets, waterproof
- Waterproofing: OmniBloq DWR
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$$
The Flylow Malone is a great option for spring skiing because its lightweight design won’t be too warm and stuffy.
This is also a very comfortable jacket with a natural fit that is easy to get used to. A jersey backing in the lining makes it easy to wear with just a tee-shirt underneath.
You also get a lot of pockets to store any extra gear or sunscreen for those slushed-out spring skiing days.
It doesn’t come with any insulation, so it’s not a good choice for cold days unless you pair it with several other layers.
9. Wantdo Mountain Waterproof
- Best for: Budget Option
- Key features: Affordable, comfortable, many color options, well-insulated
- Waterproofing: PU membrane
- Insulation: 240 grams poly
- Cost: $$
If you’re searching for a good budget ski jacket, the Wantdo Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket is an excellent choice.
This is an affordable and effective ski jacket more than capable of keeping you dry while you enjoy your day.
It has a polyester outer shell coated in a special water-repellent material. It also has 240 grams of polyester fiber for insulation.
Fleece-lined pockets are a nice touch, and this one is also available in many color options.
This jacket has a pretty common look to it, so you might not be the most stylish skier on the slopes, but that won’t matter when you realize how much money you saved on your purchase.
10. Outdoor Research Hemispheres
- Best for: Durability
- Key features: Very strong construction, Gore-Tex reliability, comfortable, versatile performance
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex 3L
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$$$
If you want a jacket that will take a beating and keep on providing excellent performance all season long, the Outdoor Research Hemispheres is for you.
This jacket’s outer shell features a fully waterproof Gore-Tex design combined with stretch technology to make it more flexible.
It has fully taped seams to keep out the weather, while the ample pockets and adequate ventilation increase general functionality. This jacket is lightweight, sturdy, and perfect for your next backcountry excursion or long days at the resort.
The Hemispheres is another costly option, but that’s my only negative remark on it.
Best Ski Jackets: What to Consider
Here are some important things to keep in mind when shopping around for the best ski jackets.
Water-proof and Wind-resistant
As I mentioned earlier, your ski jacket serves the vital role of protecting your body from the elements. Skiing usually involves spending plenty of time in subzero temperatures, and if you don’t stay warm, you won’t last long.
If your torso and internal organs begin to get cold, blood will leave your extremities to try and warm them back up. If you get wet, the cold and wind can accelerate this process and lead to potentially dangerous situations.
A good ski jacket must be fully water-proof and wind-resistant to keep you warm and dry even in terrible conditions. Ski jackets come in many different styles and insulation levels, but at their core, they should all keep you dry.
Water-proofing abilities come down to what the jacket is made out of, which is the first thing you should pay attention to when buying.
Insulation is another critical factor to consider when purchasing a ski jacket. A more heavily insulated jacket will be warmer than a lightly insulated one. The choice of how much insulation you want is a personal decision based on the type of skiing you enjoy.
I have a few ski jackets of different insulations for different times of the year. Some people like a really warm and well-insulated jacket, while others prefer a lighter shell.
Most modern ski jacket insulations use synthetic fibers that work well to keep your body heat in and can still be effective when wet. Some older jackets might be insulated with wool or a combination of natural and synthetic fibers.
You want to make sure your jacket has quality insulation that is not made of cotton.
Your jacket’s outer shell should also be durable. Gore-Tex is a common material used in ski jacket construction due to its excellent water and wind-repelling capabilities.
Other synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon are used in shell construction, and you will often find that a ski jacket has a combination of all of these materials.
You want to make sure that your jacket’s outer shell completely covers your body, arms, and neck. Exposed areas can cause you to rapidly lose body heat, which is why a high-quality shell is so important.
You can always put on another layer underneath your jacket if you get cold, but you should never consider putting another jacket over your ski jacket.
How your jacket fits your body is another essential factor to consider. I like more oversized ski jackets because they tend to be more comfortable and offer more protection.
Make sure that the sleeves of your jacket cover your wrists with your arms extended and that the bottom of the jacket does not come up over your waistline with your arms above your head.
Ski racers or cross country skiers will probably want a tighter-fitting jacket. This cuts down on wind resistance and increases speed. Such models are specifically designed for that type of skiing.
If you’re a beginner skier, I wouldn’t get a jacket that fits too tight because that can restrict your movement or cut off circulation. The exact fit is a personal preference, but snug and comfortable is usually the way to go.
Jackets come with any number of additional accessories and features. When I buy a ski jacket, I make sure that it has plenty of pockets, a powder skirt, and a nice hood.
Pockets allow you to keep any belongings or extras you want with you out on the slopes. I usually fill mine with a water bottle, plenty of snacks and treats, and sometimes extra gloves or goggles.
A powder skirt is a nice feature as well. It is an added piece of water-proof material that’s connected to an elastic band at the bottom of your jacket. You can pull this skirt down over your waist to make sure no powder gets in your pants or jacket if you take a fall on a big snow day.
A good hood comes in handy when conditions get extra cold by increasing the warmth of your jacket and keeping the wind away from your head.
Other features to think about in a jacket include ventilation zippers, removable liners, glove attachments, and anything else that makes the jacket a little more effective on the mountain.
A good ski jacket should function like a Swiss Army Knife by providing you with extra support and assistance for anything you encounter while skiing. I like a jacket that has plenty of added features and would recommend considering that in a purchase.
Useful Tips & Resources
There are plenty of things to consider when purchasing a ski jacket. As such, you need to ensure the one you get is the one you want.
All of the jackets listed above are reliable options that will work in various ski conditions. If you get this far and still are unsure which option is best for you, check this out for some additional information.
Your ski jacket will see a lot of wear and tear over the course of its lifetime. Even the most durable jackets are not immune to rips, tears, or other unwanted failures. If you happen to snag your jacket on a rock or tree, don’t panic.
There are ways to repair your ski jacket and get it close to its original state. Check out the video below for some tips on how to fix any water-proof clothing you might have.
Another little tip I’ll share about ski jackets is to get a couple of them for varying situations.
If you ski often, you’re sure to encounter changing weather and temperature patterns. One ski jacket might be good for frozen slopes, while others are better off on warm days or light runs. Don’t be afraid to mix and match as you need.
The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 is my pick for the best ski jacket of the year. This is a great option that will meet the needs of a wide range of skiers. It’s a serious line of defense against winter weather, looks great, and is very comfortable.
Every jacket you see here will provide skiers with everything they need to enjoy their time on the slopes. It pays to have a high-quality ski jacket, and if you want to take advantage of each and every ski day, get one of the jackets found above.