To find out what the best ski jackets are, we took several top rated brands and tested them out in all types of weather in Vail and Jackson Hole on some of the coldest days in January and then some march spring skiing.
To give everyone an option, we listed our top 3 picks in a wide price range to fit everyone’s budget.
These jackets kept us warm, even on the ski lifts with the wind blowing. We did use a base layer with them on the colder days, see our favorite base layers here.
Two of the jackets are 3-1 jackets with removable insulated liners and one, the Arc’teryx would be considered a shell only with a light insulated liner. The Spyder Titan is a worthy contender as well.
For simplicity, we just reviewed the Men’s ski jackets, Ladies for your convenience we provided a link to the Women’s version.
These are our favorite ski jackets, as they won our trust because of their superior performance.
- Columbia Whirlibird Interchange Jacket
- The North Face Carto Tri-Climate Jacket
- Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket
- Spyder Titan Ski Jacket
Here is an overview of the ski/snowboard jackets with full reviews and our buying guide below.
The Best Ski and Snowboard Jackets
Ski Jacket Reviews
Columbia is a company that has been around since the 1930’s and I have long touted as one of the best quality-value ratio outdoor gear manufacturers in the market. Especially if you’re lucky enough to live nearby a Columbia Outlet store, the value ratio of their product simply cannot be beat.
The Whirlibird Interchange Jacket seems to be no different. It has a nylon outer shell with “selective seam taping” is not going to be completely waterproof in any major sense but we already know that’s not super critical in a ski coat.
Polyester insulation and inner lining is a great choice of materials and serves to move this jacket up on the list.
Removable hood is a feature I love on a ski coat and earns this jacket brownie points! Featuring an adjustable powder skirt really just seals the deal on this economy-priced jacket.
It’ll be hard to be disappointed in this jacket especially at the variety of price points it is available at.
If you don’t happen to be near a Columbia Outlet you can find this jacket for a killer deal on Amazon. For the style conscious skier/snowboarder, they have quite a few colors and styles available.
I would not hesitate to recommend this jacket for a full featured entry-budget skier jacket. In my opinion this is the best ski jacket for the money. Click here for Women’s Whirlibird
The North Face has been in the game of outdoor clothing since the 1960’s. Founder, Douglas Tompkins being dissatisfied with hiking jackets at the time decided he could do better and The North Face was born. For this reason their products are usually well thought out and not too far off base.
On the flip side, however, they’ve managed to wiggle their way into being one of the most widely recognized names in the industry and often charge a premium for products which may not truly be the best performers.
The Men’s Carto Jacket is a 3-1 ski/snowboard jacket that continues this tradition of quality gear and is the culmination of everything they have learned over the last 50 years.
You’ll pay a decent price for the name brand and for the “breathable” HyVent fabric (North Face’s in-house fabric) but when you wear the jacket you will understand why it cost a little more than other jackets.
The breathable HyVent 2L shell when paired with their “Heatseeker” insulated liner almost guarantees you will stay warm on the coldest of days.
And when spring season comes around, you can take out the insulated liner and just use the completely waterproof shell.
Their HyVent insulation really sets this jacket apart from the fleece-crowded market.
Your going to pay a little more for the Carto jacket but you will have a jacket that is going to give you years of service and with its flexibility, you can use it all season long.
As with most ski/snowboard jackets, it comes in several styles and colors, one of them is sure to suite your style. Click here for Women’s Tri-climate.If you afford to spend a little more the The North Face Carto jacket is a great ski/snowboard jacket.
If Columbia is a company I have touted as value based, Arc’teryx is absolutely (in my opinion) the opposite. Without a doubt it is the outstanding “premium” name brand in the outdoor gear world.
Arc’teryx is a Canadian based company that got its start making products for the military and moved into the civilian market in the late 1990’s
In my opinion many of their products do not deserve the high price tags. However the Beta AR ski/snowboard jacket is not in that category.
Keep in mind that, unlike the other two jackets, this one does not come with a removable insulated liner.
This jacket is primarily a shell with a thin layer of insulation but amazing it is incredibly warm. On really cold days I would use a good breathable base layer or a sweater.
The high-end GORE-TEX® Pro waterproof fabrics combined with reinforced shoulder and elbows make this one the most rugged and long lasting jackets on the market.
The Beta AR jacket has a helmet-compatible, easy to adjust hood plus a separate collar to keep out the cold air.
The jacket includes large “pit-zips” for ventilation when its warm out which is a critical inclusion in my book.
One of the odd features left out was the lack of a powder skirt. This is without a doubt a ski/snowboard jacket that will last you many years and with its flexibility is much more than just a ski jacket. Click here for Womens Beta AR.If you can afford to spend the extra money for this jacket, you will not regret it.
Spyder was founded by David Jacobs who was an Canadian Olympic skier in the late 70’s when he decided he could do better than the ski jackets they were using at the time. The company was moved to Boulder Colorado where it is still headquartered today.
They are one of the official suppliers to the US Ski Team so that should tell you something about the quality of Syper Jackets.
The Titan is one of Spyder latest offerings and in my opinion is one of the best ski jackets on the market. It is definitely one of the warmest ski jackets with its 60g of Thinsulate insulation while maintaining a thin and flexible design.
The jacket has all the necessary features of a quality ski/snowboard jacket like a removable helmet compatible hood. The jacket is fully waterproof with seams taped plus an abrasion resistant coating on the vulnerable parts of the jacket.
The Spyder Titan has a removable power skirt that is a necessity in my opinion. The Titan also has a ventilation system for spring skiing or when the weather turns warm.While certainly not the cheapest ski/snowboard jacket, you could pay a lot more for less of a jacket. The Spyder Titan’s racing roots show through with this jacket. It won’t make you an Olympic skier but you may feel like one wearing the Spyder Titan. Click here for Women’s Titan
How To Select the Right Ski/Snowboard Jacket
It seems like outdoor gear companies these days are using every hype word they can think of (or make up) to get people excited and extremely confused about what they’re actually buying.
We’re going to set you straight when it comes to buying your next ski jacket. This article will take you through what to look for, what to avoid, and how to smell that BS when the local outfitter tries to sell you something you don’t need.
Once you understand what to look for in a ski jacket you’ll be able to make a decision which saves you money and improves your skiing experience. At the end of the article we are going to review a couple ski jackets for you!
What is Layering
If you’ve dressed for the outdoors before, you’ve probably heard of layering. Layering is a methodology for dressing which leaves the wearer with many varying combinations of clothing that can accommodate a wide range of weather eventualities.
In other words: wearing a shirt, sweater, and jacket gives you more options than just wearing one really thick coat.
Types of Layers
We’re going to break down layering here into only two main groups:
Shells are the outermost layer and are very critical to the success of a good layering plan. Shells have one primary job – to create a barrier between you and the weather. Shells are usually either windproof, waterproof or (ideally) both. If your shell is waterproof it is also windproof. The reverse is not always true.
Insulation comes in two flavors – natural and synthetic. The three main examples are merino wool, polyester, and goose down. For the cold winter months down insulation is probably the best, albeit most expensive, choice. Insulation layers always go under the shell and are primarily responsible for trapping and retaining body heat.
Types of Layering Systems
When it comes to ski jackets we’re going to look at two styles with different approaches to layering:
Modular “3-in-1” Jackets
Really popular within the last few years are the modular jackets. These jackets take an all-encompassing approach to layering and, when you purchase one, they come with everything you need to make 3 separate layers.
Here’s how it works: You get a shell and an insulation layer when you purchase a 3-1 system. The only real neat feature here is that they’re usually made to zip together.
Why is this even important? Because, when zipped together, you have a single jacket which acts as your insulation and shell in one. When zipped apart you can choose shell or insulation – or both.
These systems provide an easy no-brainer type solution to layering.
The major downside? You’re stuck with whatever combination of shell and insulation the manufacturer deems appropriate. This isn’t so good for customizing but you can always just get a different shell insulation later and swap them out.
NOTE: Additional shells or insulation layers may not fit the zipper system of your original 3-1 coat so you may have to wear them as individual layers (something I prefer to do anyways).
Far and away less versatile and adjustable than a 3-1 layering system, the insulated shell comes with thick insulation permanently sewn inside the jacket.
This really sucks when it’s spring skiing conditions and everyone else is stripping off layers while you’re soaked in sweat inside your non-adjustable coat. There are very few situations outside of polar exploring where insulated shells have an advantage over good adjustable layering systems.
Only consider these options for the most extreme cold conditions.
Homemade Layering Systems
It’s worth noting here that it is possible and, often, advisable to create your own layering system. Selecting your own shell and insulation layer (or multiple different insulations) means you have full control over every variable.
Most outdoor professionals will choose this method due to the superior level of control provided in choice of gear.
Homemade layering system won’t be able to zip together into a single garment the way 3-1 systems do but that’s a very minor drawback when compared to the great benefits offered by choosing your own appropriate clothing layers.
Choosing a Shell
Picking a shell can be a confusing process when you begin to consider how many features and options are out there. On top of this, manufacturers are always trying to come up with new ways to make common features sound like the most groundbreaking thing since agriculture. Let’s talk about what you really need to know:
Waterproof layers are really only necessary if you’re planning to ski in spring conditions. For the majority of skiers, a waterproof shell is absolutely not necessary for resort skiing.
Waterproof breathable shells are all the rage and hyper expensive. They’re really not necessary and you’re a lot further ahead letting your upper body “breathe” by halfway unzipping the jacket.
Before shelling out the beaucoup bucks for waterproof breathable shells, consider how likely you really are to end up in a situation where you’re getting rained on while skiing…….
Windproof layers which are not waterproof are often less expensive. These jackets are sometimes called “soft shell” jackets. In most winter time resort skiing conditions a softshell outer layer is just the right amount of weather protection.
Advantages of softshell windproof layers include flexibility (made from stretch material) and much better breathability than even the most advanced waterproof coats.
Fit and Sizing
Choosing a shell which is a size or two larger than normal for you is definitely important. Why go up a size?
You’ll want room under that shell for your insulation layer.
If you’re buying a 3-1 system then simply choose the size which fits you best.
Extremely critical for a good shell layer – ventilation options. My personal favorite, and the option I think is most critical in choosing a skiing shell, is pit-zips.
Large zippers under the are a great way to dramatically increase the temperature range at which your shell layer can be worn.
Another mandatory feature is a powder skirt.
Most ski shells come with an elastic cord around the bottom hem to help seal the jacket against the weather. Don’t confuse this with a true powder skirt – powder skirts are inside the jacket, usually a handful of inches above the bottom of the garment, and provide and additional adjustable seal around your waist to keep out the snow when you take a digger.
If you’re skiing with a helmet (and you should be, see out ski helmet reviews here)) then a hood really isn’t going to do you any good.
Look for shells with removable or stowable hoods. Often times feature-rich shells have a small pocket into which the hood can be stashed. Some jackets feature a “helmet hood” but these are usually meant for covering climbing helmets and often won’t fit the larder ski helmets.
Helmet skiers are left with the beanie option for extra warmth though it’s rarely necessary with a good helmet.
Once you’ve smartly chosen your favorite shell, you’ll want to start looking at insulation. Don’t ignore this even if you’re buying a 3-1 system because understanding what insulation you’re buying is really important to making an informed buying decision.
Fleece comes in many thicknesses and weights. Windproof fleece is amazing and if you can find it, don’t hesitate to pay the extra price.
Look at the fleece in your 3-1 jacket to make sure it’s thick (or thin) enough for your needs. Not all 3-1 jackets are made the same!
Fleece is really just specially woven polyester!
Okay, I know fleece is synthetic, but it has its own category. Synthetic insulations are usually some variation of polyester insulation trapped inside a nylon garment. There are as many different colors, brands, and warmth variations out there as you could ever imagine.
Synthetics are great for wet conditions where your insulation might become soaked. This is only a real potential in spring skiing.
You won’t find down insulation unless you take the DIY approach to making a layering system or, if you’ve got the budget, you start considering extremely high end 3-1 layering options.
Down usually comes from geese but sometimes you’ll find duck down. These little feathers are hyper-insulating and extremely lightweight. Added benefit? They’re highly compressible meaning you can smash your jacket into a tiny ball for packing.
Drawbacks include high price and a severe loss of insulation if the down becomes wet. Maybe not the best choice for late spring skiing.
Alright, I made that word up, you caught me. It is, however, worth noting that many insulation layers come with the cool feature of being able to pack down inside of their own pockets for luggage and travel. This is a feature I have enjoyed many times.