Choosing the right ski jacket is all about managing the conditions that you might encounter on the mountain. This depends on the specific kinds of skiing you enjoy most—bracing against a Nor’easter on a lift in Maine is far different than skinning up a sunny ridgeline in the North Cascades. Some people prefer a shell for the versatility, and some prefer a bit of insulation to keep the cold at bay. Budget-seekers like the all-in-one functionality of a 3-in-1 jacket, which comes with a separate insulating layer that can be zipped into the shell. We’ve included all three in our picks for the best ski jackets of the 2023 season below. For further guidance, see our ski jacket comparison table and buying advice below the picks. And for more on outerwear, see our article on the best ski pants.
- Best Overall Ski Jacket: Arc’teryx Sabre
- Best Insulated Jacket for Resort Skiing: Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0
- Best Backcountry Ski Jacket: Outdoor Research Skytour
- Best 3-in-1 Ski Jacket: The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate
- Best Budget Ski Jacket: REI Co-op Powderbound
Best Overall Ski Jacket
Best for: Resort/backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex
What we like: Premium build quality, fit, and performance.
What we don’t: A bit heavy and bulky for serious backcountry use.
Arc’teryx dominates the high-end jacket market, and their men's Sabre and women's Sentinel is an all-time favorite shell for those who ski both the resort and backcountry. Its premium 3-layer Gore-Tex construction is burly and offers phenomenal weather protection, while a soft-touch liner adds a little extra warmth and boosts mobility and comfort. Arc’teryx also nailed the features with easy-to-use pit zips, a highly adjustable and helmet-compatible hood, and five smartly designed pockets. All told, the Sabre is an extraordinarily well-rounded ski jacket that’s ready to handle anything from Arctic blasts of wind and snow on the lift to quick tours.
Where the Sabre comes up short is for extended backcountry use. At about 1.5 pounds, it’s fairly heavy and bulky to throw in a pack, and the liner inhibits breathability even with the pit zips opened up. Those who tour exclusively likely will want a more backcountry-specific piece like Arc’teryx’s own Alpha SV (for high-alpine adventures in harsh conditions) or Outdoor Research’s Skytour (when stretchiness and staying cool are most important), but you won’t find a better all-rounder than the Sabre. It delivers an unbeatable combination of comfort, build quality, weather resistance, and mobility. Of note: Availability for the jacket has been limited this winter, and the Sabre is currently only in stock directly through Arc’teryx.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Sabre See the Women's Arc'teryx Sentinel
Best Insulated Jacket for Resort Skiing
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (80 & 60g PrimaLoft Black)
Waterproofing: 2L Helly Tech
What we like: Premium, insulated build; fantastic fit and feel from the stretchy fabric.
What we don't: Runs warm for active use.
Helly Hansen's Alpha 3.0 has all the features we look for in a capable resort-ready design. First, you get a moderate level of PrimaLoft Black insulation in the body and sleeves for a nice boost in warmth compared with a non-insulated hardshell. It’s enough to take the sting out of a chilly ride up the chairlift but won’t overwhelm you on the way down. Second, the jacket offers really nice movement with four-way stretch fabric and a no-nonsense athletic fit. Rather than incorporating a few stretch panels into the jacket, Helly Hansen uses the four-way design throughout. Finally, we love the styling of the Alpha 3.0, which is super clean, works well for people of all ages, and is offered in a variety of colorways.
What are the downsides of the Alpha 3.0? Breathability lags behind the backcountry-focused shells on this list as a result of the 2-layer build and emphasis on warmth (the pit zips do help, however). The jacket does have a snap-out powder skirt and Recco reflector, not to mention the stretch mentioned above, but it’s definitely most at home inside the ropes. Lastly, we like the price of the jacket for what you get. It’s less than half the cost of the Arc’teryx Macai below, for example, but still covers all the bases (and more) for resort skiers.
See the Men's Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 See the Women's Helly Hansen Alphelia
Best Backcountry Ski Jacket
Best for: Backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L AscentShell
What we like: Excellent value for a fully featured, comfortable, and breathable touring shell.
What we don’t: Not a standout in truly wet conditions; a couple fit and finish complaints.
In-house fabric technologies often fall short, but Outdoor Research’s AscentShell is an exception. The impressive 3-layer design stretches like a softshell, is extremely breathable, and is fully waterproof. The latest ski jacket to utilize the electro-spun tech is the Skytour. Replacing the popular Skyward, this backcountry-focused shell utilizes lighter materials that cut weight and improve breathability, and they’ve swapped the somewhat polarizing full-length side vents for standard pit zips. Importantly, organization remains excellent—it’s fully backcountry-ready with six total pockets—and the interior is soft, moisture-wicking, and very flexible. Added up, you simply won’t find a better-tuned jacket for staying cool and comfortable on the mountain.
What are you sacrificing at the Skytour’s $379 price point? Build quality is a step down from the ridiculously high attention to detail that you get from the Arc’teryx Sabre above and Patagonia PowSlayer below, and the OR jacket has a couple small annoyances like a single adjustment at the hem that pulls the jacket to the side when cinched tight. In addition, the AscentShell fabric doesn’t have the batten-down-the-hatches feel of the Gore-Tex options, and the latest, trimmed-down variation won’t be a standout in particularly wet and heavy snow. That said, the Skytour’s breathability, fantastic comfort, and complete feature set at a very reasonable price make it our top 2023 touring pick.
See the Men's Outdoor Research Skytour See the Women's Outdoor Research Skytour
Best 3-in-1 Ski Jacket
Best for: Resort
Type: 3-in-1 (11 g/sqft ThermoBall)
Waterproofing: 2L DryVent
What we like: 3-in-1 versatility and quality ThermoBall insulation.
What we don’t: Heavy and bulky.
For those looking to save, turning to a 3-in-1 ski jacket can be a good option. With a single purchase, you get both a waterproof shell and an insulating midlayer that can be either zipped in on cold days or left at home in spring conditions (you can even wear the insulated jacket on its own around town). Many 3-in-1s are of the budget variety, but we think upgrading to the $360 The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow is worth the investment. The jacket has a nice fit, offers decent exterior storage, and includes upgrades like pit zips and exposed, water-resistant zippers. Its standout feature, however, is the ThermoBall zip-out jacket, which we've found does a pretty good impression of a lofty down piece—all while continuing to insulate when wet.
If you’re set on the 3-in-1 design, the ThermoBall Snow Triclimate is our favorite option on the market, but we typically prefer the versatility of separating our jackets and midlayers. The extra zippers and heft that come with this kind of outer layer make them not as comfortable and they provide less freedom of movement. Further, 3-in-1s are more prone to feeling drafty, plus the connected midlayer limits access to your interior pockets. That said, the ThermoBall Snow Triclimate provides two well-built jackets with relatively few compromises, making it a solid value for resort skiers.
See the Men's TNF ThermoBall Triclimate See the Women's TNF ThermoBall Triclimate
Best Budget Ski Jacket
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (80 & 60g polyester)
Waterproofing: 2L Peak
What we like: A great value for a warm resort design.
What we don’t: Step down in material quality; only critically seam sealed.
Ski jackets can get very expensive—the Arc’teryx Macai below is pushing $1,000, for example—but that doesn’t mean you need to spend big to get a quality product. For resort skiers looking for a warm and well-built jacket, the REI Co-op Powderbound is a nice choice. For just under $200, you get a waterproof build with 80-gram synthetic insulation around the core (lighter 60g is used in the sleeves), great organization both outside and inside the shell, and useful features like a powder skirt and pit zips. We even like the simple design and minimalist branding, which means that the Powderbound can be worn both for skiing and everyday winter use.
What are the shortcomings of REI’s entry-level ski jacket? The fit lands on the large end of the spectrum, and the more budget-oriented construction gives it a fairly bulky feel (especially when compared with a sleek insulated option like the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 above). And with any jacket at this price point, REI’s proprietary waterproofing tech isn’t up to Gore-Tex standards—the shell is only critically seam sealed—nor should you expect Patagonia or Arc’teryx build quality or comfort. That said, we can’t help but love the value here: the Powderbound is everything most people need in a resort jacket and nothing they don’t.
See the Men's REI Co-op Powderbound See the Women's REI Powderbound
Best of the Rest
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (80g & 40g Thermogreen)
Waterproofing: 2L H2No
What we like: A warm and comfortable resort jacket.
What we don’t: Less of a performance piece than the Alpha 3.0 above.
Patagonia’s PowSlayer below is a high-performance, premium option, but the brand’s new Powder Town has the most appeal for resort skiers. Offered in a range of styles—including an uninsulated shell and 3-in-1 jacket—we like the insulated model best: It’s quite warm with 80-gram synthetic in the body, and includes thoughtful touches like a drop-in interior pocket for goggles and a soft-touch taffeta lining. We’ve also been impressed by Patagonia’s in-house H2No waterproofing, and the adjustable hood and powder skirt do a nice job sealing out the cold and wet. For days lapping the resort, the Insulated Powder Town is a cozy and well-built option.
The Powder Town replaces the popular Snowshot/Snowbelle in Patagonia’s lineup for the 2023 season. Changes to the design include a revamped pocket layout, new colorways, and—importantly—more sustainably sourced materials, including a postconsumer recycled polyester shell, 100% recycled insulation, and PFC-free DWR. However, like its predecessors, the Powder Town isn’t ideal for uphill travel: The 2-layer design is lacking in breathability compared to more premium 3-layer competitors, and the warm construction means you’ll quickly work up a sweat on sidecountry trudges, riding in the trees, or when hitting the park. For an upgraded resort option from Patagonia, they’ve also released the Storm Shift ($479), which we will be testing this upcoming season.
See the Men's Patagonia Powder Town See the Women's Patagonia Powder Town
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex Pro
What we like: Top-end protection and durability for serious big-mountain riding.
What we don’t: No hand pockets and overkill for resort use.
Norrøna doesn’t have the name recognition of Arc’teryx, but they’re one of only a few brands that can come close in terms of attention to detail and outright performance. Their Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Jacket is case in point: this beautifully crafted shell is built for deep days with Gore’s top-of-the-line laminate and an extended back length, includes a tall collar and helmet-friendly hood, and has a near-perfect combination of features and weight. There’s sufficient organization for storing backcountry essentials, and a large, mesh-backed zipper along the front allows you to regulate your temperature throughout the day (you also get extra-large pit zips for dumping heat). Tack on a reasonable 1-pound-8.6-ounce weight, cozy hand gaiters, and a range of fun color options, and you can see why the Lofoten is so beloved.
What are the downsides with the Norrøna’s top-end Gore-Tex Pro design? Price is the biggest obstacle at $799, although the Lofoten features an upgraded waterproof build compared with the Arc'teryx Sabre above. That said, the Sabre is more well-rounded with its flannel-backed interior that is less crinkly and more comfortable for everyday riding. In addition, the Lofoten fits on the small end (we went up a size and it worked great) and you miss out on hand pockets, which is an issue for resort use or times when you want protection from the biting cold. Overall, we give the nod to the Sabre for its do-everything nature, but the Lofoten is hard to beat in serious alpine conditions... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Norrøna Lofoten GTX Pro See the Women's Norrøna Lofoten GTX Pro
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Tactic
What we like: Softshell-like comfort and stretch in a protective, 3-layer design.
What we don’t: Lacks the bombproof feel of Gore-Tex-equipped hardshells.
The Flylow men’s Malone and women’s Lucy jackets combine the best attributes of softshell and hardshell designs into a well-rounded package. For sidecountry hikes or quick backcountry tours, the stretchy construction and smooth interior offer standout comfort. If a storm rolls in, the 3-layer waterproof build does a good job blocking wind and snow, and the extended collar covers all but your nose when zipped up. We also think Flylow nailed the styling of both the Malone and Lucy—particularly in the tri-color patterns—and all of the materials impressed us from a quality standpoint.
Unsurprisingly, the emphasis on comfort and stretch does impact the Flylow’s bombproof feel. Its DWR coating sheds snow effectively, but it’s not as well-equipped for particularly wet and nasty days (those in the Pacific Northwest who get out a lot likely will want more protection). We also were a little disappointed by the organization: the jacket lacks an internal dump pocket for storing goggles or climbing skins, and the chest pockets were too small to fit a large phone (in our case, an iPhone 11). Nitpicks aside, the clean-looking Flylow jacket hits a really nice middle ground of comfort and performance for mixed resort and backcountry use... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Flylow Gear Malone See the Women's Flylow Gear Lucy
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (750-fill down; 60 & 100g synthetic)
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex
What we like: The ultimate on-piste jacket for cold weather.
What we don't: Double-take-worthy price.
You can’t start a discussion about the Macai without first acknowledging its price: Yes, this jacket really costs $999 (the women's Andessa is a little less at $950). What you get for that large sum of money is an absolutely glorious resort piece that is one of only a few jackets capable of pulling double duty for daily wear. The Macai is extremely warm, super comfortable, fits great, and has the first-rate build quality that Arc’teryx and very few other companies offer. For resort skiing and particularly in cold places, the Macai is the cream of the crop and should last you for many seasons to come.
Warmth and insulation come courtesy of Down Composite Mapping, a technique Arc’teryx also employs on their popular down jackets like the Cerium LT. Premium 750-fill goose down is distributed around the core and sleeves to keep weight and bulk to a minimum, with synthetic insulation in areas most prone to getting wet like the underarms, cuffs, and collar. The result is lofty warmth that can keep you comfortable in truly frigid conditions (for us, this included temperatures below zero when factoring in wind chill). It’ll run hot in mild weather, but if you’re the type that’s always cold on the slopes or want a premium ski jacket that wears well around town, there isn’t anything better than the Macai... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Macai See the Women's Arc’teryx Andessa
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Pertex Shield
What we like: Fantastic price for a breathable 3-layer shell.
What we don’t: Too thin for dedicated resort use.
Outdoor Research is known for providing a lot of bang for your buck, and their well-equipped Carbide delivers in spades. Featuring a 3-layer Pertex Shield waterproof membrane, this jacket goes head-to-head with premium designs like the Flylow Gear Malone above, all while checking in at a very affordable $299. Similar to the Flylow, the Carbide is competitively lightweight at 1 pound 5.5 ounces—thanks in large part to its thin 40-denier shell—making it an excellent choice for minimalist backcountry-goers. But despite the streamlined build, OR still packs in all the requisite ski-specific features, including pit zips, a powder skirt, forearm pocket (great for storing your ski pass), and smooth-running two-way front zip.
Outdoor Research touts the Carbide as a do-all jacket for both the front- and backcountry, but we hesitate to recommend it as a dedicated resort design. Our main hesitation is the thin shell, which lacks the toughness required for day-long exposure and the rigors of inbounds use (for comparison, the Sabre above uses a burly 80D face fabric and only weighs slightly more). And while you get some extra comfort from the tricot knit backer, it can’t match the mobility of a stretchy design like Flylow’s Malone or OR’s own Skytour above. But for those who like to split their time in and out of bounds, the Carbide is one of the most affordable 3-layer designs here. For a resort-specific jacket at a similar price point, check out OR’s Snowcrew, which features 2-layer in-house waterproofing and a healthy dose of VerticalX insulation.
See the Men's Outdoor Research Carbide See the Women's Outdoor Research Carbide
Best for: Backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex Pro
What we like: Versatile and bomber shell with proven performance.
What we don’t: Huge price tag and missing some ski-specific features.
Arc’teryx’s Alpha SV hardshell isn’t designed exclusively for skiing, but it’s a very legitimate option nonetheless. It has everything we love and expect from an Arc’teryx jacket: it fits great, is bombproof with Gore's latest Pro membrane and 100-denier face fabric, and is one of the lightest models on this list at just over 1 pound (there’s a reason we’ve ranked it highly in our hardshell round-up for years). This do-everything jacket is fantastic for backcountry use but isn’t out of place on a resort day with its strong weather protection and layering-friendly, long cut.
What do you give up with a non-ski-specific shell like the Alpha SV? Most notably, you don’t get features like a powder skirt for deep snow days or hand pockets. If these are important to you, it’s worth checking out Arc’teryx’s Rush Jacket. This premium shell also performs extremely well in brutal conditions with a mixed 80- and 100-denier Gore-Tex Pro build, but adds in items like hand pockets, a powder skirt that can connect to compatible Arc’teryx snow pants, and a slightly longer cut (by about 0.5 in.). Both are among the top jackets for serious alpine use, but they also come with steep price tags: $799 for the Alpha SV and $749 for the Rush... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Alpha SV See the Women's Arc'teryx Alpha SV
Best for: Resort
Waterproofing: 2L PNW
What we like: Great coverage, durable, and functional feature set.
What we don’t: Pretty heavy for an uninsulated shell.
For those who haven’t been introduced, TREW Gear is an Oregon-based company that excels in the mid-range and high end of the resort and backcountry markets. Their designs are super well-made and have clean styling—the look and feel often reminds us of Gore-Tex—and durability and weatherproofing are performance hallmarks. The men’s Jefferson and women’s Astoria are their core, uninsulated 2-layer jackets that hit a very desirable combination of price ($299), toughness, and coverage. With long cuts and burly shells, the jackets excel in the kind of conditions you learn to accept in the Pacific Northwest: wet, rowdy, and—at times—deep.
Like Flylow above, TREW Gear’s jackets are available in tri-color layouts, although the Jefferson and Astoria come in a few classy solid colorways as well. Comfort is another strong suit with the Jefferson’s impressively smooth lining, and it also manages to check the right boxes with features like pit zips and a nice assortment of interior and exterior pockets. One downside of the build is that it’s pretty heavy for a jacket that lacks insulation, so we wouldn’t recommend hauling it on any significant sidecountry adventures. But if you stay inside the ropes and want a well-sorted, long-lasting shell, the Jefferson deserves your attention. For a more premium, backcountry-friendly option from TREW, check out their new Cosmic PRIMO (a shell we’ll be testing this winter).
See the Men's Trew Gear Jefferson See the Women's Trew Gear Astoria
Best for: Resort/backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L BD.dry
What we like: Very stretchy and comfortable with good organization.
What we don’t: Feels heavier than a standard hardshell; single hem cinch pulls the jacket to the side.
In only a few years, Black Diamond has gone from the launch of its ski apparel line to being a serious player. Their current collection covers everything from backcountry-specific shells to insulated resort pieces, and the Recon is our current favorite of the bunch. An all-rounder that excels both inside and outside of the ropes, the jacket combines Black Diamond’s proprietary 3-layer BD.dry membrane with a four-way-stretch shell, translating to strong weather protection with little compromise in the way of comfort and mobility. Uphill enthusiasts will love the removable powder skirt and internal mesh drop pockets for storing their skins, while resort-goers will find the Recon ready to charge, with features like a lift pass pocket on the left arm and ski helmet-compatible hood.
Similar to the Outdoor Research Skytour above, the BD Recon Stretch is a non-insulated shell that stands out for being both waterproof and breathable. Both jackets feature stretchy face fabrics and proprietary 3-layer constructions, although we've found the BD to be heavier and bulkier-feeling, particularly when active (such as on a sidecountry hike). Second, Black Diamond’s build quality can be hit or miss, and the Recon in particular fit us long, which led to some awkward bunching around the hem. Finally, the single waist adjustment meant the jacket pulled surprisingly far to one side when cinched (we had a similar issue with the Skytour, although the OR doesn’t pull as dramatically to the side). But if those complaints aren’t deal breakers, the Recon is undeniably a competitive ski shell with enough versatility for both the resort and backcountry.
See the Men's Black Diamond Recon Stretch See the Women's BD Recon Stretch
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (60g & 40g Thermal STD)
Waterproofing: 2L Dryplay
What we like: Sustainably built with stretchy and soft materials.
What we don’t: Less warm and cozy compared with the Powder Town above.
A relative newcomer to the ski jacket world, Picture Organic has set themselves apart from the competition with sleek, park-oriented styling, competitive pricing, and a strong focus on sustainability. Their products incorporate recycled materials and PFC-free DWR treatments, and the company also recently became a certified B Corp (joining Patagonia, Burton, and others). From their growing collection, we like the Object best, which mixes eco-conscious efforts like 64% recycled polyester with a 20K/20K waterproof breathable membrane and soft lining for day-long comfort.
How does the Object compare with Patagonia’s Insulated Powder Town above? Both jackets are solidly weatherproof and have plush interiors that justify their mid-range price tags. Further, there’s a strong emphasis on sustainability with both designs, although the Patagonia incorporates more recycled materials (that are also bluesign-approved) and tacks on a Fair Trade certification. The Object also falls short of the Powder Town in warmth, although it’s the better breather and will save you a significant $100. In the end, the Powder Town strikes us as the cozier and superior option for days at the resort, and Patagonia’s track record is hard to beat. But the Object is an intriguing alternative for less, and we’re eager to see how it fares over the long term.
See the Men's Picture Organic Object See the Women's Picture Organic Exa
Best for: Resort
Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex
What we like: Standout value for a Gore-Tex-equipped shell.
What we don’t: Unproven over the long term.
REI jumped into the ski outwear market a couple seasons ago with a small collection of resort-focused pieces, and their current top-flight jacket is the First Chair GTX. As expected from the Seattle-based brand, this non-insulated shell is high on value: for $299, you get Gore-Tex waterproofing, a soft-touch interior, and valuable features like a powder skirt, pit zips, and seven well-distributed pockets. Another nice touch is the emphasis on sustainability, with a recycled polyester lining, PFC-free DWR coating, and bluesign-approved materials. Taken together, the First Chair is a solid all-around option and particularly for resort riders.
As expected for the price, the First Chair isn’t as well-suited for active use. Gore’s 2-layer construction isn’t a standout in terms of breathability, and the smooth lining covering the interior adds both weight and bulk. In addition, they’ve incorporated cheaper fabric flaps over the zippers on the pockets and pit zips for waterproof protection (the center zipper is coated, however). And finally, REI hasn’t proven themselves yet in this category and their fit and finish consistently comes up short of high-end brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx. But for a thoughtfully designed hardshell that ticks the right boxes for season-long use at a great price, the First Chair is well worth checking out.
See the Men's REI Co-op First Chair GTX See the Women's REI First Chair GTX
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex Pro
What we like: Premium all-around performance.
What we don’t: Crinkly and stiff; overkill for average resort days.
Sitting atop Patagonia’s impressive line of ski shells is the PowSlayer. The Powder Town above is tuned for the resort, but the PowSlayer is a favorite among active backcountry and sidecountry explorers. It’s outfitted with Gore-Tex’s top-of-the-line Pro construction, which delivers bombproof protection and surprisingly good breathability, and the premium materials do a nice job mixing weight and durability (the shell is noisy and pretty stiff, however). And reflecting Patagonia's strong environmental push, the face fabric incorporates 100-percent-recycled nylon without any noticeable impact on performance.
The smaller features of the PowSlayer also are thoughtfully designed and made to last: zippers are smooth and confidence-inspiring, and an innovative cord-locking system is user-friendly and keeps clutter to a minimum. With a total of eight pockets (five outer, three internal), Patagonia didn’t skimp on organization despite an impressively light total weight of just over 1 pound 3 ounces. Simply put, the PowSlayer may be overkill for the resort, but it’s the whole package for serious weather and the backcountry... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Patagonia PowSlayer See the Women's Patagonia PowSlayer
Best for: Backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex Infinium (water resistant)
What we like: Excellent breathability and stretchiness.
What we don't: Lack of waterproofing dramatically reduces season-long versatility.
For long tours in mild conditions, a softshell jacket is more breathable and has better stretchiness than a traditional hardshell. Dynafit’s Free Infinium Hybrid stands out in this category thanks to its lightweight construction, trim and performance-oriented fit, and competitive price. The “Hybrid” in the name relates to its two fabric types: A windproof and water-resistant 3-layer Gore-Tex Infinium shell covers the upper body, arms, and hood, while a thinner 2-layer softshell around the lower body lets out hot air and provides excellent mobility. This balanced design excels for springtime use and in areas like the Rocky Mountains that see a lot of dry powder throughout the season.
The downside of the Dynafit’s hybrid build is that its protection falls short in wet conditions and for resort days—even sitting on a chairlift can leave you vulnerable to moisture seeping through. As a result, the Free isn’t a one-jacket solution like the $29-pricier (and fully waterproof) Outdoor Research Skytour above. But if you value stretchiness and breathability on the uphill—the Dynafit even incorporates pit zips into its air-permeable design to maximize airflow—the Free Infinium makes a great secondary touring jacket.
See the Men's Dynafit Free Infinium Hybrid See the Women's Free Infinium Hybrid
Best for: Resort
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex
What we like: Super tough and feature-rich hardshell.
What we don’t: Stiff enough to be a letdown for active use.
Popular outdoor retailer Backcountry has entered the apparel world with a surprisingly complete line of outwear, insulation, and more. Their Cottonwoods Jacket (it’s also offered in a matching bib) is their hardwearing and premium resort shell. It’s uninsulated but includes a tough and highly weatherproof face fabric, 3-layer Gore-Tex construction, and well-sorted organization. There are a grand total of seven pockets—five along the exterior and two inside—that make is easy to distribute gear and snacks, and Backcountry nailed the basics with easy adjustments at the hood, cuffs, and hem, as well as soft hand gaiters for an extra dose of comfort. It’s even priced well at $399, and we’ve found the Cottonwoods on sale a number of times throughout the season.
We often have long-term concerns about brand-new products, but the Cottonwoods puts those mostly at ease with its combination of very durable materials and a proven Gore-Tex build. The downside of the construction is that the jacket is among the stiffest and least comfortable on our list. Not only is it fairly noisy, but it lacks the supple and mobile feel of alternatives like Arc’teryx’s Sabre, Black Diamond's Recon, and even the Gore-Tex Pro-equipped Norrøna Lofoten. For deep powder days at the resort or if you spend a lot of time in the trees, the bombproof design is a fair tradeoff, but we think many riders will be happier with better mobility and less restriction from their ski shell.
See the Men's Backcountry Cottonwoods See the Women's Backcountry Cottonwoods
Best for: Resort
Type: 3-in-1 (fleece)
Waterproofing: 2L Omni-Tech
What we like: Affordable way to get out on the slopes.
What we don’t: Cheap construction and generic fit.
The essential duties of a resort jacket are to keep you warm, protected from moisture and wind, and have enough pockets for the basics. Columbia’s answer to these needs is the Bugaboo Interchange, a 3-in-1 ski jacket at a very attractive price point. It’s warm with a fleece zip-out jacket and Columbia’s signature (and somewhat polarizing) Omni-Heat reflective lining. The silvery interior is a little too disco for us when we slip it off, but it does feel like it’s working by radiating your body heat.
We’ve found the basic shell and lining do impact breathability, and a lack of pit zips means the Bugaboo can run hot. In addition, the material quality isn’t up to snuff compared with the options above and is more prone to wetting out (regular washing and reapplying the DWR does help). But on easy resort days coast to coast, this is all the jacket that most weekend warriors need. For a similar 3-in-1 design that trades the fleece liner of the Bugaboo for a synthetic jacket, check out the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange.
See the Men's Columbia Bugaboo See the Women's Columbia Bugaboo
|Arc'teryx Sabre||$700||Resort/backcountry||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 8.9 oz.|
|Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0||$475||Resort||Insulated||80g / 60g||2L Helly Tech||2 lb. 3 oz.|
|Outdoor Research Skytour||$379||Backcountry||Shell||None||3L AscentShell||1 lb. 6.1 oz.|
|TNF ThermoBall Triclimate||$360||Resort||3-in-1||11 g / sqft||2L DryVent||2 lb. 3.3 oz.|
|REI Co-op Powderbound||$199||Resort||Insulated||80g / 60g||2L Peak||1 lb. 13 oz.|
|Patagonia Powder Town||$399||Resort||Insulated||80g / 40g||2L H2No||1 lb. 15 oz.|
|Norrøna Lofoten GTX Pro||$699||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex Pro||1 lb. 8.6 oz.|
|Flylow Gear Malone||$400||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Tactic||1 lb. 5.3 oz.|
|Arc’teryx Macai||$999||Resort||Insulated||750-fill down; 60g / 100g||3L Gore-Tex||2 lb. 4 oz.|
|Outdoor Research Carbide||$299||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Pertex||1 lb. 5.5 oz.|
|Arc'teryx Alpha SV||$799||Backcountry||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex Pro||1 lb. 2 oz.|
|Trew Gear Jefferson||$299||Resort||Shell||None||2L PNW||1 lb. 15 oz.|
|Black Diamond Recon||$400||Resort/backcountry||Shell||None||3L BD.dry||1 lb. 11 oz.|
|Picture Organic Object||$300||Resort||Insulated||60g / 40g||2L DryPlay||2 lb. 8.9 oz.|
|REI Co-op First Chair GTX||$299||Resort||Shell||None||2L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 11.7 oz.|
|Patagonia PowSlayer||$749||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex Pro||1 lb. 3.3 oz.|
|Dynafit Free Infinium||$350||Backcountry||Shell||None||3L GTX Infinium||1 lb. 3.4 oz.|
|Backcountry Cottonwoods||$399||Resort||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 15 oz.|
|Columbia Bugaboo||$210||Resort||3-in-1||Fleece||2L Omni-Tech||2 lb. 6 oz.|
- Best Uses: Backcountry And/or Resort
- Ski Jacket Types
- Softshells and Hybrid Hard/Softshells
- Jacket Layers: 2L vs. 3L
- Common Features
- Ski Jacket Fit
- Layering Underneath Your Ski Jacket
Ski jackets often are designed for a specific purpose—resort, backcountry, or a mix—so we’ve included a “best for” listing in our specifications and table above. Most skiers spend at least a little time on a chairlift, and as a result, most ski jackets accommodate those needs. Specifically, a resort shell should be durable, highly wind- and waterproof, feature functional organization, and have a fit that can accommodate layers of varying sizes underneath. Insulation is optional for resort-goers but a bad idea for most backcountry uses.
For ski touring, ski mountaineering, or sidecountry hikes, a non-insulated and lightweight design takes precedence. The fabrics need to be thin and packable, which impacts durability, and there is a high priority on mobility and staying cool. Breathable softshell jackets lead the pack in comfort for fair-weather days, but in heavy wind and moisture, a premium hardshell still is best (we cover the various shell constructions in more detail below). Fit does vary by use—freeride shells are roomy while touring-specific models fit more snugly—but all designs focus on maximizing range of motion. The jackets that toe the line of backcountry and resort use—including our top-rated Arc'teryx Sabre—have a great fit, reliable construction, and fabrics that balance wind- and wet-weather protection with breathability.
Closely tied to the “best uses” above is a ski jacket’s construction type. Here, the market can be broken into three main categories: shell, insulated, and 3-in-1. Choosing the right model depends largely on your skiing style and budget. The most popular is the shell, which is a versatile choice for everyone from casual resort skiers to backcountry adventurers in harsh, wet environments. Insulated jackets are ideal for inbounds skiing in deep winter, while 3-in-1 jackets are a good choice for budget-seekers and those just building their kit. Below is a quick breakdown, and for a deeper dive, check out our article on ski jacket types.
Shell (Non-Insulated) Jackets
Shell jackets offer sturdy protection from wind and moisture and can be suitable for both backcountry and resort use. Made with multiple layers of fabric laminated together, they are typically waterproof, windproof, and at least modestly breathable. By our definition, these jackets are not insulated, so you’ll want to pair them with a baselayer (and usually midlayer) for warmth.
High-end shell jackets like the Arc’teryx Sabre have premium waterproof/breathable membranes (Gore-Tex, Patagonia’s H2No, and Outdoor Research’s AscentShell are three of our favorites) and a tailored fit for excellent range of motion. Some feature rigid and crinkly hardshells, while many modern backcountry designs incorporate a stretchy face fabric or panels of softshell, which provide great mobility and breathability but less bombproof protection (for more, see our description of hybrid hard/softshells below). Basic shells use thicker fabrics and cheaper waterproofing that doesn't breathe as well. Beginning and occasional skiers will be fine with an entry-level shell jacket, but we do recommend spending up for active and aggressive skiers or those who get out a lot.
Jackets in this category combine a weather-protective shell with built-in insulation, resulting in a great defense against both moisture and cold. We love these designs for resort-goers, who will benefit from the added warmth during cold chairlift rides and frigid downhill laps. Most insulated ski jackets feature synthetic fill—compared to down, it's cheaper, more breathable, and insulates even when wet. The most high-end varieties offer more warmth for less bulk (PrimaLoft Gold and Patagonia’s PlumaFill are two of the best), while budget designs will be heavier, bulkier, and tend to overheat in a hurry. Regardless of the type of insulation, keep in mind that these jackets are inherently heftier, less breathable, and offer less range of motion than shells, which isn’t a big issue for inbounds use but can be a deal-breaker for most backcountry skiers.
If you opt for an insulated model, it’s a good idea to carefully consider how much warmth you need. Most jackets feature a heavy dose of insulation in the body with thinner fill in the arms and hood. A thick and substantial option like the Arc’teryx Macai is a dream in the cold but will run hot on mild-weather days—we had to open the pit zips and occasionally unzip the front to stay comfortable—which can be a problem for season-long use. As such, we typically prefer moderate levels of warmth, such as Patagonia’s Powder Town (80g and 40g) or Helly Hansen’s Alpha 3.0 (80g and 60g). These jackets give you the flexibility to add a midlayer if the mercury really drops without overheating when the sun comes out and temperatures rise midday. There’s certainly a time and place for a heavily insulated model, but most skiers will be better off with a more balanced design.
With an outer shell and zip-in insulated layer, 3-in-1 jackets are extremely popular for casual skiers. The main advantage is cost: you can pick up a good 3-in-1 jacket for around $200 to $400, and—as the name implies—you get the versatility of three jackets in one. Wear the shell sans insulation on warm spring days, zip the two together mid-winter, and don the midlayer (most often a fleece or synthetic jacket) for everyday use. Versatility is unparalleled, and, unlike insulated models, you can leave behind the warming layer simply by unzipping it.
3-in-1 jackets do add bulk and weight with the extra zippers, and integrating the shell and insulating layer negatively impacts range of motion (we’ve also found it also makes them prone to being drafty). Further, you can’t access the midlayer’s pockets when it’s zipped into the shell, weather protection is often middling with cheap materials, and these jackets are far from the best performers for high-exertion activities (opting for one with pit zips is suggested). Nevertheless, for the budget-seeker or skiers that only make it to the mountain a couple times a year, a 3-in-1 like the Columbia Bugaboo Interchange is a good way to get kitted out for a reasonable price.
A subset of the “shell” category above, softshells and hybrid hard/softshells have appeals for high-exertion activities like ski touring. Pure softshells lack a waterproof liner and are the clear leaders in mobility and breathability as a result. Their woven exterior fabrics have a generous amount of stretch, let air flow in and out to help with temperature regulation, and they lack the crinkly and stiff feel of a hardshell. Their main downside is weather resistance, or lack thereof, which limits their appeal to fair-weather backcountry skiing (they’re especially popular in regions with dry snow). We don't include any dedicated softshells on the list above—Dynafit’s Free Infinium Hybrid does use a stretchy 2-layer softshell material around the lower body—but for a full look at options, check out our article on the best softshell jackets.
Hybrid hard/softshell designs take the stretchy fabric of a softshell and incorporate a waterproof membrane for a big boost in weather protection. Jackets like Black Diamond’s Recon Stretch, Outdoor Research's Skytour, and Flylow's Malone are noticeable more comfortable, breathable, and less restrictive than a Gore-Tex hardshell. That said, we’ve found this hybrid concept still can’t match a standard hardshell in terms of all-out protection in very wet and rough conditions. In particular, their face fabrics are more prone to absorbing moisture, and they don’t have a bombproof feel in very high winds. But for the right use and the right environments—and especially for those looking for a one-shell answer for mixed resort and backcountry use—hybrid hard/softshells can be a great choice.
One specification you’ll consistently run into as you research ski jackets is the number of fabric layers (either 2L or 3L). This feature points to construction: a 2-layer jacket bonds the exterior face fabric to a waterproof membrane and has a separate liner along the interior (often mesh), while a 3-layer build connects all three pieces together. In terms of cost, 2-layer models are often found on entry-level to mid-range options, including REI Co-op's $199 Powderbound and Patagonia’s $399 Powder Town Insulated. Stepping up to a 3-layer design usually means a price tag north of $400 or $500.
How do the construction types differ in terms of performance? Starting with 2-layer jackets, these are popular among resort riders as they offer solid weatherproofing and durability at a good value. Downsides are that 2-layer jackets aren’t very breathable, and the extra hanging liner adds both weight and bulk. Active resort and backcountry skiers often choose a 3-layer build for its improved range of motion, comfort, and lighter weight. In addition, 3-layer jackets breathe reasonably well and high-end Gore-Tex-equipped models are market leaders in protection in the harshest conditions. If you stick to the resort, either a 2- or 3-layer build can do the trick, but we recommend a 3-layer option for the ski touring crowd.
Ski jackets are waterproof pretty much across the board, from cheap $100 options all the way up to high-end Gore-Tex (or equivalent) shells. One exception is a backcountry-specific softshell, which may have seam taping but will eventually let in moisture. Among waterproof options, spending more will get you a longer lifespan, on average, as the more advanced fabrics aren’t as prone to deteriorating. Those that get out a lot or are deep in the backcountry in serious conditions should consider investing in a burly Gore-Tex Pro shell like the Patagonia PowSlayer. The shell fabric and waterproof membrane are very impressive performers in brutal wind and snowfall. Most resort skiers, however, will be just fine with an entry-level option like the Columbia Bugaboo Interchange. Finally, look for a jacket with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, which helps shed wet snow to keep moisture from sitting on your jacket and wetting through the outer fabric.
Breathability ranks as a top priority for backcountry use, and a little less so with downhill skiing. While you can absolutely work up a sweat on your way down the mountain, it’s easy to dump heat with pit zips or dropping a layer at the resort midday (so long as you can survive the chairlift ride minus some insulation). Shell jackets are the best breathers, and those with a high-end 3-layer fabric construction (Gore-Tex, eVent, Polartec NeoShell, or OR's AscentShell) are head and shoulders above the rest for waterproof jackets. Generally, the more you spend on an uninsulated hardshell, the better the breathability. Softshells are the all-around leaders because they don't have to deal with the waterproofing layer, but the clear downside is wind and water resistance.
Skiing is a rough sport—everything from getting on and off the lift to hiking and riding off-trail can wreak havoc on gear—so your outer layers are often quite durable. Denier, or “D,” is how fabric thickness is measured, and a higher number correlates with a more substantial build. Overall, resort skiers are best off with a burlier construction, and some of our favorites are about 100D and up. If you prioritize a lighter setup for mobility but still want something tough, jackets with about 80D like the Arc’teryx Sabre are a nice compromise. And finally, backcountry shells are often the thinnest for weight savings, with popular jackets ranging from 40D (Patagonia’s PowSlayer) to about 70D (Norrøna's Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro). It’s worth noting that some manufacturers do not provide this specification, but you can make some safe assumptions based on intended use: expect a thicker build with a resort shell and a bit less durability for active and touring designs.
The outdoor apparel world has seen a sizable uptick in the use of sustainable practices in recent years, and ski jackets are no exception. Two key measures include recycled materials and PFC-free DWR coatings (traditional coatings use perfluorocarbons—a chemical known to be harmful to the environment). Bluesign-approved fabrics are also becoming more common, indicating that the materials have been sourced and produced to minimize their overall impact on the environment. Finally, many companies make products with a Fair Trade certification, which helps ensure the fair and ethical treatment of workers.
The good news is that most sustainability-conscious brands are transparent about these practices and clearly indicate which (if any) measures each product uses. Patagonia is a clear leader in this realm: Their new Powder Town jacket, for example, is Fair Trade Certified, features 100%-recycled liner, insulation, and shell, and has a PFC-free DWR finish. Several other brands are also making strides, including Picture Organic, REI, and more. There’s still a long way to go in the industry, but the current trajectory and momentum from many of the key players are encouraging. And of course, a final way to shop sustainably is to purchase quality products that will last and repair old gear rather than buy cheap items that will need to be replaced in a season or two.
For resort skiers, the weight of your ski jacket isn’t usually a deciding factor. As long as you’re comfortable, it’s easy to handle a few extra ounces without really noticing (even the 2-pound-3.3-ounce The North Face ThermoBall Snow Triclimate isn't excessively heavy for the typical ski day). On average, cheaper jackets compensate for their less advanced fabrics by using more of it, making for thicker, durable shells. It’s when you start hiking or venturing off-trail that a lighter jacket starts to make a lot of sense. This is when a dedicated, lightweight hardshell may be the ideal choice for your skiing needs. Standouts in this category include the Arc'teryx Alpha SV (1 lb. 2 oz.) and Patagonia PowSlayer (1 lb. 3.3 oz.).
Most hoods go unused for downhill skiing—a helmet is a fine source of protection and insulation. It’s most often on the chairlift when you really need to hunker down does the hood come out. For those particularly nasty days, make sure to get a hood that is large enough to fit over your ski helmet. And not only does it have to be large enough, but it also needs to be plenty adjustable to cinch down and stay pinned to your head while skiing. A properly adjusted hood should not interfere with your field of vision as a good safety measure. Finally, should you want to use your ski jacket for more than just skiing, ensure that your hood fits well when you’re not wearing your helmet.
Unless you ski with a backpack, it’s important to select a jacket with multiple pockets. Most ski jackets include a couple of hand pockets and at least one zippered Napoleon pocket at the chest. That Napoleon pocket is great for stashing smaller items like a phone, camera, or wallet. To protect your electronics, it’s good to have a chest pocket along the interior of the jacket so your body heat can help keep everything functioning properly (the “Life Pocket” on the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 is specially insulated to limit battery drain on your electronics). If you listen to music while on the mountain, look for a chest-height pocket with an interior opening to feed your headphone cord for a clutter-free setup.
Other useful storage options include mesh hanging pockets built into the jacket’s inner lining. These serve as a nice place to stash your gloves, goggles, or glasses in between runs or if you’re starting to overheat while hiking. Further, they’re a practical choice for backcountry skiers that want to store their climbing skins on a short descent. Finally, you’ll see a number of resort-ready models include a sleeve pocket on the left arm, which allows for both easy access to your ski pass and compatibility with RFID passes and electronic gates.
Powder Skirts (Snow Skirts)
It's nearly impossible to keep the snow completely out should you ski through some really deep snow or take a serious tumble, but a powder skirt nonetheless is a great line of defense. Elasticized fabric is built into the lining of the jacket around the waist, and will typically secure to your ski pants near the front zipper. This helps snow from entering in the space between your pants and the bottom hem of the jacket. Some manufacturers make the snow skirts removable should you want to use the jacket around town.
Jacket-to-Pant Attachment Systems
Like the powder skirt, jacket-to-pant attachment systems are all about maximizing protection and warmth. Designs don’t vary significantly within the ski market, and most utilize a simple button on the powder skirt that secures to a corresponding piece on the pant (in the case of Patagonia, this is a fabric loop). The upside in connecting your outer layers is creating an even more solid seal from the wet and cold, but it’s certainly not a required feature for either resort or backcountry use. It’s worth noting that in nearly all cases, you’ll need to purchase a pant from the same brand for the interface system to work. And many manufacturers, like Outdoor Research and Black Diamond, skip the feature altogether.
Skiing can be a high exertion activity, and waterproof jackets, no matter the quality, restrict airflow. Enter the pit zip. Open them all the way, extending from approximately the middle of your ribcage to just above your elbow, and you can release a whole lot of hot air. Although they’re not a necessity for the easygoing skier and do add a bit of weight and bulk, we recommend putting pit zips on the active skier's “must have” list when jacket shopping. One design that really stands out is Outdoor Research's Hemispheres II, which has pit zips that extend all the way to the hem.
In the table above, we've listed jackets that are equipped with a RECCO reflector. These are for skiers that make their way out of bounds or into areas prone to avalanches. The RECCO reflector built into your ski jacket or pant is a passive unit that doesn’t require batteries and can be picked up by RECCO detectors often carried by resort search and rescue. They lack the technology and strong signal of a dedicated search and rescue beacon, but they do provide an additional safety measure should you venture off-trail. For a deeper dive on the tech, we've found RECCO's website to be a good resource.
In general, the fit of a ski jacket will correspond with its intended use. Resort designs like Patagonia’s Powder Town have a roomy shape to allow you to wear a range of base and midlayers underneath. In addition, they have a long cut with a drop hem to provide protection from frozen chairlift seats. On the other end of the spectrum are backcountry-specific builds like the Dynafit Free Infinium Hybrid, which are trimmed down to minimize bulk and improve range of motion. They’re snug enough to move with you comfortably on the skin track, but have just enough space to accommodate a puffy for transitioning and on the descent. Finally, an option like the Arc’teryx Sabre lands in the middle and aims to balance backcountry and resort needs. It’s large enough to not feel restrictive when wearing a midweight down jacket, but has excellent mobility for hiking and occasional uphill travel.
Unless you opt for a 3-in-1 jacket, you’ll likely want a dedicated midlayer for skiing. The amount of insulation can vary dramatically, from a thin fleece to a puffy down jacket. Fleece jackets are the classic choice for skiing, and can be quite warm and lightweight, but mid and heavyweight designs are bulky. Down is the pricey option but is unmatched in lightweight compressible warmth (just make sure to keep it dry because it will stop insulating when wet), and synthetic fill splits the difference. It has a fairly good warmth-to-weight ratio and retains its insulating properties when wet. For more on midlayers along with our top picks, see our article on the best midlayers.
Baselayers and their next-to-skin warmth are important in keeping you toasty and dry. A breathable and well-ventilated jacket will only perform as well as the baselayer underneath, so don’t skimp here. Synthetics, like those made by Patagonia or Helly Hansen, are comfortable and pull moisture away from your skin effectively at a reasonable cost. The downside is they are less soft and more prone to retaining unpleasant odors. Merino wool is expensive, but excels in temperature regulation and odor prevention. On all but the coldest days, our go-to baselayers are the lightweight or midweight options for a good balance of warmth and breathability.
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