What to Look for in a Ski/Snowboard Jacket

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Ski and snowboard season is just around the corner, and to take full advantage of it you need to be prepared, right? Many of us already know the feeling of being cold or having an ill-fitting jacket on the mountain and have learned our lessons.

To avoid any mishaps and be able to look and feel your best while participating in some of the most fun you can have this winter, then don’t go anywhere. We have the top tips in what to look for in a ski/snowboard jacket right here!

Type of Jacket

First things first, we have to take a look at the type of jacket you need and then narrow it down from there. You’ll find a few different types: hardshell, softshell, and insulated. Each is for a specific type of environment so make sure you know where you’ll be wearing it.

Hardshell – These are waterproof and wind-resistant and made to hold up to just about anything you throw at it. If you’re going to be traversing the backcountry, you’ll likely want to choose a hardshell jacket. While they’re made to be used on the outer layers, they are not insulated so you’ll definitely need to know how to use base and mid layers to keep warm. Keep in mind that these types of jackets are easy to pack away, but are not very breathable at all.

Softshell – In contrast to the hardshell, softshell jackets are incredibly breathable and offer max mobility. This shell is also waterproof and wind-resistant, and also doesn’t feature insulation so you’ll need to layer underneath to stay warm. These are a bit more versatile than hardshells as they can be used either as a mid-layer or outer layer, depending on your own preferences and the environment you’re in. For example, if you’re going somewhere with serious snowfall we highly recommend you add a hardshell jacket over this one.

Insulated – Last but not least, we have the insulated jackets that most of us are already somewhat familiar with. If you’re going to be in some serious cold/intense weather conditions like you’ll find in the northern countries, you’ll want an insulated ski and snowboard jacket. You’ll have an outer shell which will keep the wind and moisture out, as well as an additional insulation layer.

What the insulation consists of will vary, but down and synthetic insulation are the most common. If the weather is 0 degrees or colder and dry, we recommend down. Down keeps body warmth in but is also breathable.

Jacket Fit and Style

Now that you’ve figured out the type of jacket you need, you need to make sure you look good, too! For fit and style we have either Slim, Regular, or Loose.

Slim – Slim-fit jackets are ideal if you’re a skier who is focused on the technical, meticulous side of the sport. Why? Not only will you encounter less interference from your clothing, but they reduce drag and offer better control throughout each trick and move you make. The jacket is designed to move with your body. Just make sure that depending on the thickness and quantity of your layers underneath, you may have to go up a size.

Regular – This is the fit most common among beginner to intermediate skiers and snowboarders, as it’s the perfect meet-in-the-middle from slim fit and loose fit. It’s a nice balance between the range of motion loose fit offers while offering the technical experience of a slim.

Loose – Loose fit is, well, loose. This means that you’ll get greater range of motion from this style of snowboard jacket and not feel restricted in any way. Usually freestyle skiers and snowboarders choose this fit not only because of how it feels on but because of how it looks.


Our bodies all vary, depending on our age and our gender.

Kids – For children, we need to place a strong focus on comfort, mobility, insulation, and coverage. Not only that, but you need their jacket to have ample pockets to keep gloves, snacks, spending money, etc. safe.

Women – Women usually prefer a more fitted look and feel, though this is completely up to the individual wearing it. Women snowboarders tend to prefer an in-between snowboard jacket. One that is more fitted but not restrictive.

Men – Men alternatively, often prefer loose or normal fit jackets but this will also vary depending on the type of skiing or snowboarding they’re partaking in.

Waterproof Rating

So, you’ve narrowed down the type and fit of your jacket, we have to look at the specifics. Arguably, the most important spec to consider is the waterproof rating. This tells us more or less just how waterproof a certain jacket is, or how effective it is at keeping water from seeping into the shell. Letting moisture in is the quickest and easiest way to get cold which is not only uncomfortable, but can seriously be dangerous in some situations.

Waterproof ratings go off of millimeters and you’ll usually find ski/snowboard jackets which are rated anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 mm. However, there are some particularly impressive models which feature a rating from 15,000 to 20,000mm! You can expect those to be more expensive, of course.

Breathability Rating

Next up, we look at just how breathable your jacket will be. You not only want to focus on the warmth and insulation, but how well your jacket can let your sweat escape through the fabric to be evaporated into the air outside.

This spec is measured in grams. If you’re just learning how to ski or snowboard or are a more casual athlete, then you’ll be fine with a jacket ranking at 5,000 to 10,000 grams. If you’re more serious and keep going until you have to leave the resort, then you’ll want something closer to 15,000 grams.

Seam Tapings

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the waterproof rating as the type of seam sealing directly affects how much moisture gets into your jacket. There are three types of seams that we’ll look into:

Fully-Taped Seams – As you can probably guess from the name, each seam on the jacket comes covered by a waterproof taping. These are ideal if you’ll be in the backcountry or in particularly wet/extreme weather conditions.

Critically Taped Seams – The seams located in areas that will receive the majority of wetness are taped as well, like the midsection, neck, etc. However, not every seam on the jacket comes taped.

Welded Seams – These are by far the priciest of the bunch, but for a reason: they’re the most effective at keeping moisture out. These don’t even have actual stitching, but instead are kept together by means of a glue or sonic bonding!

Ease of Cleaning

At least once or twice during the season you should clean your ski/snowboard jacket. This is to make sure bacteria isn’t growing which not only can irritate the skin but can create foul odors which no one wants!

Make sure your jacket is easy to clean. You can find these instructions on the tag as well, but here are some tips to make sure you know exactly how to do so with any type.

Special/Extra Features

You’ll notice that you get the option to add on many extra features to most jackets. However, they may not be necessary or even something you want so let’s go into the most common accessories/additions that you’ll find out there.

  1. Hood – Hoods come in a few different configurations. Detachable hoods are convenient as you get to choose exactly when you want it on so on days with milder weather conditions you can simply leave it in your backpack. Attached hoods are on there forever, while stowaway hoods are as well but let you roll it up into a special pocket in your jacket when you don’t want to use it.
  2. Storm Flap – These are also the front zipper covers to make sure no wind or moisture gets in your jacket through the zipper.
  3. Powder Skirt – This is a piece of material that you can take off with a snap closure. It’s made to keep snow from getting inside your jacket through the front or back. Not only that, is it can keep wind out and warmth inside. If you’re getting too hot, simply take it off.
  4. Pit Zipper – This is another handy feature which will keep your body temperature at a comfortable level. It’s located near the armpits, and will let you either release heat or keep it in, depending on the weather.
  5. Pockets – You’re probably not going to want to haul a backpack around with you unless you’re going into the backcountry, so where are you going to hold your accessories and valuables? In pockets, of course! There are tons of different pocket configurations, but today, most people look for a pocket that can safely hold their smartphone, headphones, GoPros, etc. Not only that, but we recommend a goggle pocket and a place to safely hold your gloves, ski pass, and cards/cash.


Now that you’ve had the chance to look through exactly what to consider when buying a ski/snowboard jacket, are you feeling more confident? We hope our guide has helped you know what to look for and what you can look past. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again soon. Have fun on the slopes!


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Richard Remick

Richard is the founder and the chief editor of Outside Pursuits. Passionate about the great outdoors, Richard spends much of his time in Colorado enjoying skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. When at home in Florida, he is most often found in the water. He loves water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. He is a certified scuba diver. Because of his wealth of knowledge and experience, Richard has been invited to contribute articles to many outdoor-focused websites, such as Florida Rambler, and has been profiled on travel websites such as JohnnyJet.

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