A ski jacket is one of the most important items of clothing you will ever own. It needs to keep you warm in some of the most extreme weather conditions your body will ever face. It needs to be practical, hardwearing, and make you look great on the slopes.
So where do you start looking for one that works for you? Right here of course – with my 7 steps to buying a great ski jacket. Read it together with our guide to 10 Features Every Ski Jacket Needs, and you’ll be a lot closer to finding the perfect jacket for you.
1. Buy a shell
After buying my first shell jacket I was converted. Traditionally most ski jackets are insulated, which is great in cold conditions but a nightmare when it’s warm or when you’re exerting yourself. A shell jacket is essentially a breathable, waterproof, and durable thin layer. A good shell will protect you against wind and rain and you can use layers underneath to control your temperature.
Pictured here: Helly Hansen Jola Jacket in Sunburned colourway.
2. Choose the best brand
It’s easy to become a brand snob when choosing a ski jacket. However, when it comes to buying a ski jacket sometimes it pays to be snobby. Haglöfs, Arc’teryx, Kjus, and Norrona make great ski jackets with the best materials – but they do come at a cost. Sweet Protection, Scott, Peak Performance, and Helly Hansen make good quality jackets that are slightly less expensive.
Pictured here: Haglofs Couloir Jacket, pictured in Acai Berry colourway.
3. Find the best shape
Let’s face it, even if you do want a practical ski jacket you don’t want to look like a colourful sack of potatoes. Especially since your ski jacket will probably be one of the most expensive items in your wardrobe – you will want to look good in it.
Lucky for you, ski clothing manufacturers do take this into consideration. Longer jackets that cover your bum are great for those inevitable falls in the snow, and they will elongate the body.
Look out for fitted shell jackets that will show off your silhouette as opposed to big puffy ones – another bonus of a shell jacket!
Make sure it fits you, too. How freely can you move in it? Are the arms long enough? Can you dip your chin beneath the collar – for those moments when it’s blowing a blizzard and you’re sitting on a chairlift? The only way you can be sure of these things is by going into a specialist shop and trying lots of jackets on – ordering off a website is always going to be a bit hit-and-miss. Seen here: Eider Aster Hoodie in Raven Grey.
4. Untangle the technical info
When buying a ski jacket, manufacturers can be a little confusing when describing their jackets. Throwing around words that wouldn’t sound out of place in a laboratory, it can be difficult to make an informed decision.
I won’t bore you with what all the technical jargon means, but I will tell you what to keep an eye out for: waterproof up to 20,000mm (10,000 will do the job but you should aim high); breathable up to 20,000gr; vent zips; snow skirt; GORE-TEX.
You might not be able to tick all of the boxes, but having at least a few of these features make for a good ski jacket. Shown here: Black Diamond Liquid Shell in Grass colour way.
5. Choose a bright colour
Whether you want to look like a bag of skittles or not, the colour of your ski jacket is important. Not only will you be wearing it for a whole season, or a decade, it will be the colour people recognise you by. Choosing a bright colour will set you apart from the rest.
Try and think outside the box and stay away from plain blues, reds and greens which will make you look like you’re trying to impersonate a ski instructor. Emerald, burnt orange, and mint all look great on the slopes. An added bonus is that an original colour will make you easier to spot should you get lost in the lift queue. Shown here: Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody in Fiesta colourway.
6. The more you spend the longer it will last
When buying a T-shirt you can spend as little or as much money on it as you want, but in the end you’ve still just got a T-shirt. Buying a ski jacket is different. You pay for the technology, the durability, the waterproofness, the breathability…I could go on.
Try not to worry about spending more, as generally the more you spend the longer it will last. A good quality ski jacket is an investment and should last you for years.
Having said that, last season’s ski jacket will always be cheaper than the current one and, for the most part, you will barely notice a difference (apart from the colour). Shown here: Norrona Roldal Gore-Tex Jacket in Blue Moon colourway.
7. Choose an eco-friendly jacket
An added consideration these days is whether your clothing is eco-friendly. Companies like Picture Organic Clothing and Haglofs lead the way, using recycled materials and eco-friendly water repellant, whilst Sherpa Adventure Gear gives back money from its sales to educate Sherpa children in Nepal.
Shown here: Picture Organic Clothing Seen Jacket in Dark Blue/Grey/Neon Pink.
If money’s tight, then it’s worth popping into TK Maxx and Decathlon, and seeing what’s on the racks, as they sometimes stock big-name brands. You won’t find the really technical jackets in there – O’Neill rather than Norrona, for example; and the colours can sometimes be a bit…odd. But prices are low, and sometimes you’ll find a Gore-Tex jacket in there. You could also dip into Mountain Warehouse, a flash sales and discount website also with a high street shop. As a rule of thumb, it’s much better to go into a shop and try several jackets on, before you buy.
Pictured here: Mountain Warehouse Vista Extreme Jacket in Bright Pink.
This guide may not suit all skiers, but I hope it points you in the right direction! Also see our features 10 Features Every Ski Jacket Needs, Ski Trousers, How to Prevent Cold Feet Skiing and Ski Base Layers, and our guides to ski helmets, ski goggles, and the best ski gloves.