Ski jackets come in many different shapes and sizes, and softshell models are some of the most versatile out there. The style sits somewhere between an inner and outer layer, providing you extra warmth in light rain, wind, or snow. Though hardshell jackets are worn for their durability, softshell options can do a little bit of everything.
If you want a great jacket that can help protect you from the elements without weighing you down, the following softshells are a good way to go. Each item in this guide offers cold weather protection in a way where you won’t overheat from a hard day on the slopes.
- Outdoor Research is known for its quality, and the Ferrosi Hoody matches that standard perfectly. This softshell jacket is both thin and lightweight in a way that won’t slow you down. However, despite that construction, the jacket manages to be sturdy and durable as well. It is abrasion-resistant but also manages to provide you with the flexibility you need while piloting down the mountain. As an added bonus, it stuffs into its own pocket for maximum storage.
- North Face is one of the most recognized winter apparel brands on Earth. The Apex Flex GTX Jacket shows why. This softshell product comes with excellent winter protection, keeping out of the ice and snow, while also letting you breathe. The light fabric and soft construction are not just comfortable, they create excellent ventilation throughout your entire torso. On top of that, the jacket is wind resistant and comes with a special moisture barrier to keep you nice and dry.
- The Arc’teryx Gamma LT is one of the best softshell jackets on the market, thanks to its thin construction and excellent ventilation. This jacket is made to keep cold air out and let moisture escape. It does both with ease.
In addition, the Gamma LT has a great fit and is quite flexible. The long sleeves are tough, while the helmet-compatible hood is a must for taking trips into the backcountry. It is also durable and can be worn in both skiing and casual settings.
Who Should Get This?
Softshell ski jackets are best suited for skiers who exert themselves on the slopes. It gets cold during the winter, but being bundled up in too many layers causes you to sweat. Softshell jackets offer advanced ventilation, which allows you to work as hard as you want.
The following options are particularly useful for both backcountry and cross-country skiers. Both of those disciplines take quite a bit of energy, and it always helps when you can push without becoming overheated or sweaty. Anyone who braves the mountain trails on dry or semi-wet days will love to have a good softshell outer layer.
Best Softshell Ski Jacket: What to Consider?
Softshell jackets are naturally flexible. Even so, some are much more flexible than others. Always check to see what materials your jacket is made of, as well as the amount of give it provides. Look for jackets with a 4-way stretch. Some 2-way stretch models (meaning they only stretch up and down) can work, but they don’t have the same range of motion.
Softshell jackets are not as sturdy as their hardshell counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t handle a little snow. Though you will never find a truly waterproof softshell jacket, some models do use a waterproof membrane to prevent moisture from getting in. Certain brands also equip their jackets with special linings or water-resistant coatings. Just know that such improvements can hinder ventilation or add on extra weight.
Softshell jackets may not provide the same weather protection as hardshell models, but they tend to deliver more warmth. In terms of insulation, try to find models that bond fleece on the inside of the jacket, as well as ones that use special linings to increase warmth. While you’re never going to get as much insulation as you would in a full fleece jacket, softshell ski jackets with soft lining or extra thickness get the job done in lighter conditions.
Best Softshell Ski Jacket: Our Picks
The Ferrosi Hoody from Outdoor Research is a softshell jacket with a light construction and tough design. That combination works with the excellent flexibility to provide great results on each and every run. It also comes with a hood, is extremely breathable, and stuffs up into its own pocket for easy storage. Add on the hood and warm pockets, and you have a winner.
What We Like:
- Lightweight shell provides solid ventilation
- Extremely flexible
- Thin, won’t slow you down
- Can be worn with a jacket or on its own
What We Don’t Like:
- Hood is not helmet compatible
- Pockets set a bit too low
Skiers who want a softshell jacket that keeps them dry will enjoy the North Face Apex Flex GTX. Though not as heavy-duty as some models, this item combines solid wind and water resistance with a light shell and excellent ventilation. The fabric also works to regulate body temperature, keeping you warm but not overheated while skiing.
What We Like:
- Zipper closure
- Fights against the wind
- Sturdy exterior locks out the cold
- Construction keeps out moisture
- Regulates body temperature
What We Don’t Like:
- Only comes in two color options
Skiers who value lightweight design will love the Arc’teryx Gamma LT. This model is not just thin and flexible, it also offers a fantastic fit and advanced ventilation. The protection is extremely solid and, despite the thickness, the jacket is able to stand up to most elements. There are also various colors to choose from, allowing you to wear it around town.
What We Like:
- Light with great ventilation
- Four-way stretch material
- Durable, made to last
- Multi-purpose, can be worn around town
- Available in multiple colors
- Machine washable
What We Don’t Like:
- Long sleeves can interfere with gloves
- Doesn’t do as well in extreme cold
Useful Tips and Information
This guide covers great softshell jackets and explains what makes them so useful. However, if you want a deeper discussion on the differences between hard and softshell models, check out the video here.
It is also worth noting that, while they can be worn on their own, most softshell jackets are part of a larger ensemble. This guide explains layering, and explores how to use different clothing items on the slopes.
Softshell jackets are some of the best gear you can wear out in the snow. Skiers need to protect against the elements, but they also need to be able to breathe. The above models toe that line, providing resistance from the elements on top of excellent ventilation.
It does not matter if you’re looking for a stand-alone item, or if you want a flexible layer underneath a larger jacket, every softshell in this guide will provide you with great results.
Do you have a softshell jacket you take out on the slopes? Are there any others you’d like to see discussed? Let us know below!
Joseph Scalise is an avid writer, editor, and snow sports enthusiast who loves to spend his time outdoors. He began his love of writing early on in life and continued to pursue it as he grew older. While his time behind the computer doesn’t get him into the wild unknown as much as he would like, he never misses a chance to head up (or down) a mountain, across a river, or through a lush forest. When he’s not planning new trips, you can always find him typing away on his next project.