The GO Outdoors Guide To Ski Jackets
A Ski Jacket is your outer shell when you ski, and is essential to protect you from the coldness of the snow, as well as the heat produced as you exert yourself.
Ski Jackets are different from typical waterproof jackets or insulated jackets becuase they are cut differently and have a variety of features you would never use elsewhere.
From the athletic cut that helps you glide down piste
, to the helmet compatible hood and lift pass pcokets, a Ski Jacket is a purchase that needs to be right, whether you're a regular skiier, or if it's you first time away.
Your ski jacket is arguably the most important item in your skiing pack besides your boots
, because skiing is a place where you need to be protected from both the cold and the heat, you need a jacket that is designed to cover all your needs.
Skiing is a sport undertaken in extreme low temperatures, pushing your body to the max in a mix of snow, slush, heat and powder, so you need clothes that protect you.
Some jackets are called ‘Ski Jackets’ but on closer inspection are made by big ski brands, but have little in the way of protection from damp and wetness.
Some of them are made of fabric and are more similar to a fleece, or are only slightly padded, and may not even be breathable!
These jackets are more suitable for après ski, when you aren’t as active, or as fashion pieces.
The choice can be overwhelming, but the best place to start is the weatherproofing capabilities of your ski jacket.
Unlike jackets designed for mountaineering, ski wear is usually less technical by design becuase the nature of skiing means less demanding environments and movements.
The bulk of the technological expertise goes into creating insulating padding, but as there is (usually) no rain, and usually less wind on the slopes, ski wear does not need typically require a full hardshell jacket's capabilities.
However, because you are physically active when skiing, many companies focusing on using breathable fabrics, as well as waterproofing capabilities.
For breathability seek out vents and mesh areas
, as well as breathable fabrics so you can stay warm yet cool on the slopes. Many ski jackets come with coated on breathable membranes that allows sweat to exit whilst also locking out excess moisture.
Ski jackets start with a technical, waterproof shell. This will idealy be windproof as well.
They are then usually layerd with a syntehtic insulator to create internal heat, working alongside breathability.
Can I wear a Down Jacket Skiing?
Ski Jackets are a tricky purchase beacuse you have two main considerations.
Firstly, you will be headed into the cold, for which you need warmth. This is why many people turn to a down jacket.
"With extreme fill powers of up to 700+, these will surely keep me warm!"
However, within minutes, your muscles will be warm and active from all your skiing - requiring you to have ventilation and breathability so you don't get sweaty and uncomfortable.
Because Down jackets are made with natural goose down have a natural advantage over cold- they can warm you very quickly, and maintain this heat over hours, however down jackets have a distdavantage against wet.
A down jacket will also be more expensive to buy, and will take around 4 hours to dry.
The down itself, if wet, becomes clumpy and saturated, and is then unable to loft and produce heat. Because skiing is both a wet and cold pursuit, you are better suited to chooing a ski jacket that is made with Synethtic Insulation opposed to down!
Synthetic Insulation - Ideal for the slopes
Man made, synthetic insulation is the lab-made equivalent of down.
This manmade material is an attempt to replicate the warming and heating effects of down, without the bulk, and with the chance to achieve higher levels of breathability.
Because it is more breathable, synthetic insulation is perfect for use when skiing.
Typically, synthetic insulation is made with different proportions of padding in different areas, for example, 100g in the body of the ski jacket, and 60g in the hood, so you get plenty of circulated heat without compromising on ventilation.
Overall you generally have more freedom of movement at a lower cost with a synthetic, however it may lose heat quicker than a traditional down
style, so if you spend more time sitting and relaxing in the mountains on your ski holiday than running the slopes, you may prefer the heat of a natural down insulated ski jacket.
Another reason to choose a ski jacket made with synthetic insulation is that it performs better when wet when compared to natural down, and is a cheaper and easier to care for option.
Columbia use Omni-Heat® insulation, helly hansen use Helly Core or Helly Tech, and some use no insulation at all.
Although this may seem crazy these jackets are much cheaper than insulated alternatives, and if you have followed the advice of the layering system and are wearing baselayers, you shouldn't feel the cold.
The other benefit is that the less insulation there is on your ski jacket, the more packable it is.
Ski Jackets Outer Shells
Ski Jacket Outer Shells (the face fabric) vary, but typically they can be made of
- HellyTech® Performance Fabric
- Marmot M1 Softshell
- ClimaPRO 3L
All are designed to keep you warm whilst the outer layers allow spray and wind chills to be stopped in their tracks.
What To Look For
DWR- Durable Water Repelling Coating
DWR is the manufacturers' own water repelling coating that is applied to the face fabric of your ski jacket to provide a layer of water repellency. It works in the same way as Teflon does on a non stick frying pan, allowing water and snow to bead off. DWR can also be useful for skiing because it is a less costly choice than a water membrane created ski jacket, such as GORE-Tex, and any re-coating of the DWR may only need to be done once a year, during or before the ski season.
GORE-Tex/Waterproof Membrane Technology
-A GORE-Tex membrane coating is, very waterproof and breathable, but may be too expensive to warrant a 'one ski holiday a year' purchase.
-Sealed seams indicate that your ski jacket has been designed with weatherproof construction, with seams that are tightly bonded to provide a barrier against moisture forming.
Articulated areas on the sleeves make sure you can move your jacket freely, ideal if you need extra venting, and other areas such as pit zips and deep chest zips allow you to release built up moisture.
A Snow Skirt
-This acts as a barrier against slush and powder, covering the lower area of the jacket to prevent dampness from entering.
Look for removable, fixed or pack-away hoods that can protect you as you ski.
- Ensure that your hood is 'Helmet Compatible' so it can be worn in conjunction with your ski helmet.
Zip closures, toggles or rib knitted cuffs can all be used in ski jackets at the hems, sleeves and neck areas. Any areas that seal out the weather will provide better insulation and weatherproofing.
Deep chest zips allow you to release heat on the move.
-These can be rolled up for venting
-Removable insulation, such as zip out fleece liners are ideal if you intend to vary your climates or activities throughout the life of the jacket, or if you want the freedom to remove layers, dependent on the weather.