A ski jacket is an incredibly functional piece of ski gear that can effectively block out the elements. I myself have a collection of old ski jackets that I like to look at each time I take out my box of winter clothes. While many of the jackets are worn and ragged, I hang onto them to remind myself of the many amazing ski seasons I’ve had.
While you probably aren’t as sentimental as me about your ski jackets, you still need to get your hands on a good one. A great ski jacket can last for years and will keep you warm through every condition or terrain you encounter out on the mountain. On a spring day, you might not need your big winter jacket, but on nearly every other ski day, your jacket is as important as any other piece of gear.
When it comes to ski jackets, there are a dizzying amount of options out there. We are going to look at some of the best ski jackets available to help you narrow down your choice and choose the one that best suits your needs. We will take an in-depth glance at why these jackets are great and list the features that make them stand apart from the rest of the market.
- The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 Jacket tops our list as one of the best ski jackets you can find. Another amazing option that will keep you warm and dry in any condition is the Arc’teryx Sabre AR Jacket.
- There are some good budget ski jacket options out there if you know where to look. Both the Wantdo Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket and the Columbia Alpine Action Jacket are affordable-yet-reliable ski jacket choices for a ski jacket. Both of these options also come in men’s and women’s styles.
- For a women’s specific ski jacket, take a look at the North Face Women’s Carto Triclimate Jacket or the Spyder Women’s Captivate Jacket.
- If comfort is your main concern, you’ll want to check out the Flylow Higgins 2.1 Jacket. This model isn’t the warmest on the list, but it is very, very comfortable.
- Backcountry skiers looking for a jacket specific to that type of skiing will appreciate the Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket.
- The Gore X7 Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket is a great option for cross country skiers.
- One of the best ski jackets for kids is the Spyder Challenger Ski Jacket.
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.
Best Ski Jackets in 2020: What to Consider
Water-proof and Wind-resistant
As I mentioned earlier, your ski jacket serves the highly important role of keeping your body protected from the elements. Skiing usually involves spending plenty of time in subzero temperatures. 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 important 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 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 as a result of 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 important factor to consider. I like larger 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 down 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 are things like 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.
Best Ski Jackets in 2020: Our Picks
1. Best Overall Ski Jacket: Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 Jacket
If you want a solid ski jacket that’s warm, durable, and will be able to handle just about any condition you could imagine, the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 is for you. This model has an excellent feel and fit to it made possible through adequate but not excessive insulation combined with a stretch shell material that’s completely wind and water-proof. This jacket is a skier’s jacket made to see many days in the snow.
This is 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 has articulated arms and elbows for added durability, as well as and a snap away elastic powder skirt to keep the flakes out. It also features wrist gaiters and dual hand warming pockets to help keep your hands warm and your skis pointed downhill.
- Excellent all-around jacket
- 4-way stretch fabric
- Powder skirt
- Comfortable fit
- Chest pocket with goggle shammy
- Not much to complain about with this jacket, it stands on the top of the list for good reason
Another top performer and one of the best ski jackets you can find is the Arc’teryx Sabre AR Jacket. Arc’teryx has made a name for itself by creating high-end outdoor clothing, and their line of ski apparel is great in both form and function. This jacket has a great fit with an extended length to keep snow out, and is comfortable, stylish, and effective in a variety of 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 amazing water-proofing abilities and stays breathable even if temperatures heat up. This is somewhat of a heavy jacket, but the extra bulk pays off when the temperatures drop. It comes with a pretty hefty price tag. However, the investment is well worth it.
- Quality brand
- Helmet compatible
- On the bulky side
3. Best Budget Ski Jacket: Wantdo Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket
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. The jacket has a polyester outer shell coated in a special water-repellent material. It also has 240 grams of polyester fiber for insulation.
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. It is also available in a women’s style, making it a great option for anyone who wants to spend their money on trips rather than gear. It’s available in a variety of colors and has plenty of pockets along with a decent hood.
- Nice fit
- Available in men’s and women’s styles
- Multiple colorways
- Not the most durable jacket
- Waterproofing can wear down over time
Another quality budget ski jacket option is the Columbia Alpine Action. Columbia is a well-known and respected brand in the outdoor clothing world, and they have been making affordable, quality gear for quite a while. The Alpine Jacket meets both of these characteristics, making it a great option for any skier looking for a solid ski jacket that won’t empty their wallet. It has a comfortable fit and is available in multiple sizes.
The jacket features a 100% polyester construction with a fully water-proof outer shell. On top of that, it has ample insulation created by a polyester fiber fill in conjunction with a thermal-reflective lining that works to keep your body heat from escaping. It also features adjustable wrist cuffs, a powder skirt, zippered hand pockets, and a removable hood. This is an excellent choice for a jacket and the price point makes it even more appealing.
- Comfortable fit
- Decent polyester fill insulation
- Quality brand
- Powder skirt
- Removable hood
- Critically seam sealed
- Polyester shell not as good as Gore-Tex
- Can run short on taller skiers
- Poor ventilation
5. Best Women’s Ski Jacket: North Face Women’s Carto Triclimate
The Northface Women’s Carto Triclimate Jacket is one of the best women’s ski jackets out there. North Face is a great cold-weather clothing brand that makes trusted and quality apparel for many different purposes. Their ski gear is top-notch, and this jacket works well for women skiers of all abilities. The jacket is constructed out of a polyester and polyurethane material that is comfortable, warm and flexible.
It features a 3-in-1 design that allows you to remove the inner lining to use the shell or fleece liner as stand-alone jackets or in layers for added warmth. The outer shell is made of the brands DryVent 2L material that provides serious water-proofing while still being very breathable. It also has long sleeves with adjustable hook and loop cuffs, as well as hand warming pockets with storm flaps.
- 3-in-1 design
- Great water-proof DryVent construction
- Long sleeves
- Storm flaps
- Available in multiple colors
- Not many, this is a great women’s ski jacket
Another awesome women’s ski jacket is the Spyder Women’s Captivate Jacket. Spyder is a brand with a unique appeal that’s catered to serious skiers and racers for decades. If you’re already a fan of Spyder, you know that they make durable, high-functioning, quality apparel. The Captivate jacket stays true to that consistency and is a great choice for any woman skier.
The jacket has a fully water-proof Gore-Tex outer shell and sits on top of 80g of Primaloft insulation to keep you warm and dry. 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 powder skirt. A solid ski jacket from a reputable brand name.
- Trusted brand
- Unique look
- Warm and reliable
- Extremely durable
- Helmet compatible
- Powder Skirt
- Look and fit of Spyder gear not for everyone
7. Most Comfortable Ski Jacket: Flylow Higgins 2.1 Jacket
If you’re like me, comfort is a main concern while skiing. Sure, you need your gear to perform under any condition, but once you find the attributes you’re looking for, you need comfort. The Flylow Higgins 2.1 Jacket is one of the most comfortable ski jackets you will ever try on and is a go-to option for many of my ski days.
The Higgins 2.1 Jacket is not the warmest option on this list, so you might need to wear an extra layer if you’re rocking this as your outer shell on cold days. It is a shell-only jacket made of 100% waterproof polyester. That means it does not have very much in the way of insulation. However, in addition to its comfortable fit, it features a straight zipper design with adjustable wrist cuffs, chest pocket, and nice pullover hood.
- Seriously comfortable
- Nice hood
- Adjustable wrist cuffs
- Long sleeves
- Light on insulation
8. Best Backcountry Ski Jacket: Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket
If you’re a backcountry skier, you know the skiing style can be quite demanding. You need your backcountry gear to be reliable, warm, functional, and adaptable. The Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket is one of the best options available with all of those backcountry parameters in mind. The name of the jacket itself implies that it’s designed to go anywhere in the world.
This jacket’s outer shell features a fully waterproof Gore-Tex design that’s 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.
- Stretch technology is comfortable and flexible
- Built for the needs of backcountry skiers
- Small chest pocket
9. Best Cross Country Ski Jacket: Gore X7 Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket
If you’re looking for one of the best cross country ski jackets, the Gore X7 Gore-Tex Infinium is a good bet. While this style may not look like what you would expect out of a ski jacket, the slim fit and lightweight design is everything a cross country skier needs. The Gore-Tex construction offers excellent water-proofing capabilities, while the flexibility and fit make it very comfortable on all of the Nordic trails.
In addition to being both highly wind and water-proof, this jacket is extremely breathable. Cross country skiers build up a lot of body heat, and you want a jacket that will wick that excess moisture away. This jacket keeps you dry no matter how hard you work. It can also be worn for other off-snow activities such as cycling or running.
- Great cross country ski jacket
- Slim fit
- Water and windproof
- Not great in extreme cold
- Expensive for a lightweight jacket
10. Best Kids Ski Jacket: Spyder Challenger Ski Jacket
The Spyder Challenger Ski Jacket is a great all-around jacket specifically designed for kids. The model has a classic look with a big Spyder logo on the front that your kids will surely love. It is both warm and durable as well. The brand makes great skiing apparel and although this jacket intended for children, the brand didn’t spare any expense in design or function. If your kid likes to ski, this is a great way to go.
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 the jacket to fit various ski conditions. Additional features include a powder skirt, taped seams, hand and chest pocket zippers, and a data 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.
- Excellent kids jacket
- Quality brand
- Solid construction
- Powder skirt
- Taped seams
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 a variety of different ski conditions. If you get through 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 this video for some tips on how to repair any water-proof clothing you might have.
Another little tip I’ll share in regards to ski jackets is to get a couple of them for varying situations. If you ski often, you’re certain 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.
A ski jacket is a welcome friend on the snow. A good jacket will keep you warm and cozy for endless laps with your friends, epic powder days in the backcountry, or any other skiing adventure you could imagine. It pays to find a jacket you like to wear and that works well for the type of skiing you like to do. All of the jackets listed here come highly recommended and at least one will fit your needs.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have an entire box full of old ski jackets. Sometimes I use these fallen soldiers as loner jackets for family or friends, but other times I’ll take them out of the box just to recollect all of the amazing experiences I’ve had on skis. A good ski jacket can hold these memories like a journal, and the sight of one makes me smile because of the many trails I’ve skied in it and the memories it gave me.
While you certainly don’t need to get sentimental over your ski gear, it’s a special feeling to have a keepsake or memento that reminds you of the amazing moments you’ve had in the snow. The next time you think about throwing away an old ski jacket, put it in a dusty closet for a few years and then pull it out to see if it instills the same spirit of adventure and excitement as it did during those first runs.
Do you have a favorite ski jacket that isn’t listed here? What makes it so good? Let us know in the comments below!