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 recently buying my first shell jacket I am now 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.
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. Arc’teryx and Norrona make great ski jackets with the best materials – but they do come at a cost. Sweet Protection and Helly Hansen make good quality jackets that are slightly cheaper.
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!
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
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.
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 find should you get lost in the lift queue.
6. The best time to buy
The worst time to buy a ski jacket is early to mid-season. You will pay full price in the UK and an extortionate amount in any ski resort. The best time to buy is April and May or during summer. All the ski shops will be trying to get rid of last season’s stock before the following season starts. Also keep an eye on Sport’s Pursuit; a flash sales website that often has high quality ski jackets for a fraction of the normal price. Ski resorts have a great selection of shops and jackets so get out and try them on!
7. 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).