Whether you're backcountry skiing or braving a Black Diamond, you need the right equipment. After the skis themselves, your ski jacket might be your most important piece of gear. It needs to stay warm, dry, and equipped for weather protection. Ski jackets have lining or insulation to keep a skier warm, as well as waterproof materials, hand pockets, helmet-compatible hoods, and more.
In this article, we'll run down 15 of the best ski jackets out there in categories like best overall, best value, best premium, best for downhill skiing, and much more. We'll also discuss the buying considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a ski jacket and frequently asked questions.
The Helly Hasen Alpha 3.0 is our favorite pick on this list. It's got a 2-ply fabric construction and 4-way full stretch fabric, which is very breathable and an ideal fabric for an outer shell. The seams are fully taped. Inside, there's warm PrimaLoft and a unique Life Pocket. This is integrated into the chest pocket and preserves the battery life on your phone! The jacket also has great windproofing, waterproofing, and breathability.
Features include a stretch powder skirt, water-resistant zippers, wrist gaiters with a thumb hole, and a removable helmet-compatible hood. For great ventilation, there's H2Flow System Mechanical Venting. Concerned about safety? This jacket also has the RECCO® Advanced Rescue system, which is a technology that helps rescuers find you if something happens like an avalanche.
Looking for an affordable ski jacket? This regular-fit option from Burton doubles as a snowboard jacket. It uses breathable, waterproof DRYRIDE fabric with critically-taped seams. This protects areas like your neck and shoulders.
The inside is made with Living Lining and 40% recycled Thermolite, which regulates your body temperature as you get warm or cold. In the body, there are 80 grams of Thermolite. In the sleeves, there are 60 grams. For ventilation, there are mesh-lined pit zips.
To keep snow and moisture out of your jacket, there's a powder skirt and water-resistant zippers. Other features include a contour hood with an easy-to-use rear pull adjustment, microfleece pockets, and a media/goggles pocket. There's also a pass pocket and dump pocket. The jacket comes in several colors and uses bluesign-approved materials.
If you can afford the luxury, the athletic-fit Arc'teryx Macai has it all. It uses Gore-Tex fabric, which is one of the most popular materials for snow jackets. It's fully windproof, breathable, and waterproof. Because the membrane is bonded to both the outer fabric and inner lining, the jacket is more durable! The insulation combines 750 grams of European goose down and synthetic Coreloft for an exceptionally warm and comfy interior.
There are two vents on the jacket: pit zips and mesh-lined PowderGuard vents. You can expect great temperature regulation. For pockets, there are two hand pockets, an internal mesh dump pocket, a left-hand sleeve pass pocket, and an internal chest pocket.
Make adjustments as desired with the hood drawcords, cuffs, and hem drawcord. Other features on the premium Arc'teryx Macai include a laminated chin guard, RECCO reflector, and powder skirt.
A reasonably-priced jacket, the North Face ThermoBall Eco is our favorite 3-in-1 ski jacket on this list. It's made from recycled materials and includes removable, synthetic insulation. The membrane consists of two layers of DryVent fabric with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. This adds to the jacket's ability to hold up in wet conditions and keep you warm.
The seams are also fully-taped. As for the inner jacket, it's made from 100% recycled polyester. Thanks to its standard fit, it's easy to move around while skiing. The underarm vents help with ventilation in case you start to get too warm. Because this North Face is a 3-in-1 jacket, you can also remove the inner jacket if needed.
To protect your head, the North Face Thermoball Eco has a fixed, helmet-compatible adjustable hood. Other features include a powder skirt with gripper elastic, zip chest pocket, internal goggle pocket, and a zip wrist pocket with a goggle wipe. We also like the zip-in-compatible integration system that works with other apparel from The North Face brand.
The Columbia Whirlibird IV 3-in-1 ski jacket comes at a great price for a skier on a tight budget. It uses Omni-Tech, a proprietary technology with air-permeable protection. That makes it both waterproof and breathable. For warmth, it's insulated with 80 grams of MicroTemp and patented Heat Reflective technology.
The inner lining is made of a metallic dot pattern design to trap heat, but not moisture. For better temperature regulation, there are vents in the underarms. Because this is a 3-in-1, you can choose to wear just the waterproof outer shell or just the inner windbreaker.
The Columbia Whirlibird IV also offers features like a ski pass pocket, inner security pocket, zippered chest and hand pockets, and a goggles pocket. To keep snow out of your jacket, there's an adjustable hood, cuffs, and hem. This ski jacket isn't fancy, but it's got all the needed features and a low price tag at less than $200.
Anorak jackets don't zip down all the way. The main advantage is that they tend to be more waterproof because there's less space for snow and moisture to get in. The Volcom is a waterproof, windproof option with a droptail design and V-Science technology.
The outer shell is two layers, while the lining is breathable and regulates the temperature. The zippered vents help with that, as well. For pockets, there's what Volcom calls a "noise pocket," which is a custom-designed pocket for your phone or music player. There are two handwarmer pockets, too.
To keep snow out of your jacket, there's a stretch adjustable powder skirt. Other cool features include goggle clips, a suede-like chin guard, a whistle zipper pull, and a specialty ticket ring. The price tag is pretty affordable.
Many insulated jackets can be on the heavy side, so if you want something lighter, check out the Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft. It boasts a 2-ply fabric construction made with Helly Tech Professional. This membrane was designed for weather resistance thanks to fully-taped seams and a DWR coating. Inside, it's insulated with LifLoft, which is 20% than other materials, but still warm.
The fibers are hydrophobic, too, so moisture easily lifts off the fabric and evaporates. Other features include the Life Pocket, which preserves the battery of your electronic devices, and a detachable, adjustable hood with a foldaway Hi-Vis brim.
There's also a powder skirt, wrist gaiters with thumbholes, and water-resistant zippers. If you're worried about getting lost or needing help after a Black Diamond mishap, the Alpha LifaLoft has a Recco Advanced Rescue System.
Designed with heavy, wet snow in mind, this jacket is great for long skiing sessions in temperatures 15-degrees and colder. The Rapide offers a waterproof, breathable shell with critically-taped seams and a DWR coating. For warmth, it's insulated with 160 grams of PolyDown puffy microfiber.
There's embossed nylon lining, as well, which makes the jacket more comfortable. Moving is easy, too, thanks to the jacket's classic, tailored cut. For other features, there's a powder skirt, adjustable cuffs, wrist gaiters with thumb holes, and plenty of pockets. There's a goggle cleaner and key holder, too. The hood is removable.
Considering all the features and quality, the Rapide is pretty affordable at less than $300. There are a variety of color options like black, yellow, orange, and blue. Because the jacket is so warm, it's a great option for people who don't like to layer that much.
While you need a good jacket for whatever type of skiing you're doing (downhill, terrain park, backcountry, etc), the type of jacket that works best can vary. We like the Burton Radial jacket with its two-layer Gore-Tex shell, a great choice for wet weather resistance. Gore-Tex is required to have fully-taped seams.
A regular fit is a good choice because it's tailored without being restricting, so you have room to layer as needed. Warmth is important, too, because it can get pretty cold going up on a lift. The Thermolite insulation keeps you warm and dry, while the Living Lining regulates your temperature. It may be cold going uphill, but once you start skiing, you can heat up pretty quickly.
The no-snap pit zip ventilation helps you not overheat, too. Other features include an attached contour hood with rear and front adjustment, a waist gaiter with a jacket-to-pant interface, and good storage. There's a dump pocket, two handwarmer pockets, and a zippered media/goggle pocket.
Freeride skiing (also known as side-country) skiing is when you ski on natural off-piste terrain. You can expect deep powder snow and steep runs. Because it involves going off the beaten path, it's best to have a guide if you're inexperienced.
The Flylow Roswell is designed specifically for this kind of skiing with a regular, hip-length fit. It's got a 2-layer stretch fabric shell, fully-taped, with a DWR coating for great weather protection. Inside, it's insulated with 80 grams of Spaceloft synthetic down.
To regulate your body temperature on exciting runs, there are long underarm vents. Other features include six outside pockets, two inside pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, waterproof zippers, and wrist gaiters with thumb loops.
Lightweight and breathable, this high-end jacket has all the essentials and more for backcountry skiing. It's made from a rugged, next-gen material with a DWR finish and a Gore-Tex Pro membrane. It's bonded to the outer material and the inner lining.
For ventilation, there are WaterTight pit zippers. As a shell jacket, there's no insulating material. To store your stuff, there are two hand pockets, an internal mesh dump pocket, and an internal laminated zip pocket.
For easy movement and layering, the Arc'teryx Rush has a regular fit and articulated patterning. Additional features include a StormHood, velcro cuff adjusters, powder skirt with a stretch panel and gripper elastic, laminated brim, and hidden Recco Reflector.
If you tend to feel the cold, consider the Spyder Lader GTX. It combines the necessary waterproofing and breathability with warmth. There are warmer jackets on this list, but they also cost more. This Spyder is a good choice for cold skiers on a tighter budget.
The outer shell uses Gore-Tex (which means fully-taped seams) and a DWR coating. Inside, there's an impressive 100 grams of cozy PrimaLoft Silver Eco insulation. To shield your body from snow, there's a removable hood with an adjustable opening, removable powder skirt (a must for downhill skiing), and adjustable cuffs and hem drawcords.
Storage includes an internal zippered pocket and goggle pocket with a chamois lens wipe. We also appreciate the pit zips and how breathable the jacket is, which is useful because skiing can cause your body temp to change quickly. Going up a hill on a lift can be very cold, but when you're skiing, you can warm up very quickly. A jacket that's designed with both scenarios in mind is necessary.
If you feel too warm in an insulated jacket or a 3-in-1 jacket, your best bet is a shell. The Outdoor Research Skyward II offers impressive materials and features. It uses AscentShell technology, a fully waterproof, breathable, laminated material.
AscentShell is also lighter and stretchier than other kinds of membranes. The ventilation is TorsoFlo venting that goes from the hem to your bicep. If you sweat a lot, this is a great choice for you. The lining is 100% polyester.
For storage, there are two internal pockets, a chest pocket with a media pocket, and zip hand pockets. Other features on the Skyward II jacket include a wire-brimmed Halo hood, water-resistant zippers, wrist gaiters with thumb loops, and elastic cuffs and hem.
This jacket works for a variety of skiing scenarios and has great weather resistance. For the exterior, it has a nylon/elastane shell fabric with a DWR finish. The membrane is BD.dry 3L, which is Black Diamond's unique waterproof, windproof, breathable technology.
The lining is a Jersey Backer. As for fit, it's relaxed, so it's easy to move and add layers. There are front hand pockets, chest pocket, and two internal drop pockets. Regulating your body temperature on the slopes is important, so there are DWR-treated pit zips.
Additional features include a hood, PU-coated front zipper, adjustable cuffs, and removable internal waist gaiter.
Our final jacket on the list is the Burton Ak Swash. It offers a Gore-Tex membrane bonded to the outer fabric, which gives you improved versatility and comfort. Inside, it's insulated with lightweight, low-profile PrimaLoft Silver. Thanks to the microfiber mesh, air particles repel water, keeping you warmer and drier.
The Living Lining expands when you're warm and shrinks when you're cold, regulating your temperature. Pit zips help with regulation, too. As a regular articulated fit jacket, the Burton Swash lets you move easily whether you're skiing or hiking.
To store your things, there are chest pockets, a pass pocket, mesh dump pockets, a media/goggle pocket, and handwarmer pockets. Other features include a water-repellent waist gaiter, hood, durability side panels, and a jacket-to-pant interface. This jacket also is a bluesign-approved product.
We went over 15 great ski jackets with must-have features and extras like color options. The number of jackets on the market can be overwhelming. Knowing what to look for is very helpful, so here are the buying considerations to be aware of:
There are a few kinds of ski jackets out there. We included 3-in-1 jackets in our list. These are made from an outer layer and inner layer which can be separated. The inner layer is insulated, while the outer layer's purpose is to keep you dry and protected from wind. Thanks to their versatility, they're a good choice if you want a jacket that works in for multiple seasons and temps. Insulated jackets are similar because of their insulating layers, but they don't separate from the shell. If warmth is your priority, insulated jackets are good choice.
Shell jackets are also popular. They aren't as warm as 3-in-1 jackets or jackets with insulation, but you can easily layer underneath for added warmth. The shells themselves are lightweight, waterproof, windproof, and very breathable. There are two types of shells: soft shell and hard shell. Softshells are stretchy and breathable, but not especially waterproof, so they're not good for wet conditions. They also don't have hoods, usually. Hard shells are hooded, waterproof, and durable. The material isn't stretchy, so your movements are a bit stiffer than with a softshell.
In cold weather, many skiers look for insulation to keep them warm. Insulation is measured in grams, so a jacket with 80 grams is warmer than one with 60 grams. Insulation is often made from materials like fleece or another synthetic fiber. Fleece is soft and fuzzy.
It comes in a variety of weights and weaves. Brands often come up with their own names for the synthetic insulation blends they develop, like Burton's PrimaLoft or Columbia's Omni-Heat and Thermarator. Down is also used in insulation, though jackets that include this material typically have a higher price tag.
Down is very warm,but less water-resistant than other insulation types. If you don't need a thick insulation layer in your ski jacket, a good shell jacket and its thinner lining can keep you warm and dry.
Staying dry is crucial to a comfortable, fun skiing experience. If you get wet, you get cold very quickly. To see how well a jacket keeps up you dry, you'll look at the waterproof rating. Companies use a specific test to measure how well their jackets hold up to water.
They put a 1-inch diameter tube above the jacket's tightly-stretched fabric and fill the tube with water. Over the next 24 hours, how many millimeters of water can the jacket resist? That becomes the rating.
Most products have at least a 5,000 mm rating. Higher-rated products can go up to 15,000-20,000+ mm. The higher this rating, the more expensive the jacket usually is.
|Waterproof Rating||Performance & Protection|
|0 - 5,000 mm||Little to no protection against moisture|
Drizzle and light dry snow
|5,000 - 10,000 mm||Rain- and waterproof under light pressure|
Light rain and normal snowfall
|10,000 - 15,000 mm||Rain- and waterproof under medium pressure|
Average rain and normal snowfall
|16,000 - 20,000 mm||Rain- and waterproof under high pressure|
Heavy rain and wet snow
|> 20,000 mm||Rain- and waterproof under very high pressure|
Very heavy rain and wet snow
A jacket's taped seams should be examined, too. When a jacket gets stitched together, this creates tiny holes where water can soak through. To prevent this, companies tape the seams inside and out.
If your jacket uses Gore-Tex fabric, it must have fully-taped seams, which means every seam has tape. With critically-taped seams, only seams on important parts of the body like your neck and shoulders are taped.
When you're skiing, you want a breathable jacket that lets sweat and moisture evaporate off your body. Companies measure this rating in grams, so a jacket with a 5,000-gram breathability rating releases that many grams of sweat per square meter over 24 hours. You can find jackets with breathability ratings of 15,000-20,000 grams. Ski jackets with high breathability cost more.
|Breathability Rating||Breathability Level & Use|
|0 - 5,000 grams||Low breathability|
Useful for wearing around town and low-intensity activity
|5,000 - 10,000 grams||Medium breathability|
Good for medium intensity activities like hiking or biking
|10,000 - 15,000 grams||High breathability|
Ideal for demanding activities like skiing or snowboarding
|> 15,000 grams||Extra high breathability|
Excellent for long periods of high-intensity work with no breaks
If your ski jacket has solid waterproof and breathability ratings, it's going to be durable. Materials like Gore-Tex, microfiber, and blends are designed to stand the test of time and harsh elements.
Jackets have different fits and lengths. It's mostly an aesthetic choice, but fit and length can affect how you move, how many layers you can wear underneath, and if snow can get into your clothes. There are three main fit styles: slim, regular, and relaxed.
Slim fits are more tailored, athletic-looking, and show your body's shape. Regular fits are tailored below the waist, but they're a bit looser and less constricting. Relaxed fits are the loosest jacket, giving you lots of room for layering underneath.
As for length, a ski jacket can go as far down as your knees. If this is too long, you should at least get a jacket that covers your back completely when you bend over. You don't want it riding up and exposing your bare skin to the cold and snow.
Cropped jackets sit at your waist, so they might be too short depending on your body type. Hip length usually sits at the hip bone nor a few inches lower. Thigh-length jackets go 3-4 inches below your hip, covering your butt.
Ski jackets with hoods help keep you warm and dry. Styles vary. You can find attached/fixed hoods, removable hoods, or hoods that can be tucked out of the way. An insulated ski jacket is more likely to have a hood than a shell, especially a soft shell jacket.
Features like cinch cords and adjustments ensure the hood is comfortable and that you can move your head around. You should also be able to wear a helmet under the hood. Check out our guide to the best ski helmets.
A powder skirt is a simple feature, but it's one of the best things a skier could ask for. Also known as a snow skirt or waist gaiter, a powder skirt is a wide, elasticated band inside your jacket. Its purpose is to keep snow from going up your back if you fall.
Some have stretch panels or even loops or snaps to attach the skirt to your snow pants. These are often called a jacket-to-pant interface. Some skirts are removable, but most skiers keep them on. While powder skirts are almost always found on an insulated jacket, soft shells don't usually have them.
You might not think about it much, but how well a ski jacket can ventilate temperature can make or break your comfort level. Whether you're in mountain conditions or on the ground, the climate inside your jacket can change quickly. Resort skiers can feel quite cold going up on a lift and then get really warm skiing down.
Vents under the arms of your jacket are an essential way to moderate your body temperature. Vents have zippers, so when you're cold, you keep them zipped up to trap your body heat. When you get warm, you zip them down to release the heat. Zip vents are a common feature, but they're not always on a ski jacket, so look to make sure.
The best ski jackets have lots of pockets for stuff like cell phones, Mp3 players, wallets, keys, snacks, and more. Handwarmer pockets are useful, as well, and often lined with fleece. You want zippered pockets so all your stuff doesn't fall out.
Many jackets have dedicated media/goggles pockets lined with mesh, a lens cloth, or a media port. In the market for some ski goggles? Take a look at our guide here.
Nothing is quite as annoying as getting snow up your sleeves. Thankfully, there are design features that combat this problem. Look at the cuffs of the jacket. Are they adjustable? If so, you're able to fit your cuffs based on the kind of glove you're wearing.
If you're wearing bulkier gloves, your cuffs can fit looser, while you need a tighter fit for thin gloves or mittens. Wrist gaiters are also important. These can be just simple inner cuffs or they can go over your glove and thumb thanks to a hole. Pulling the gaiter up over your glove this way creates a tight seal that leaves no gap for cold, wet snow to get into your jacket.
The last buying consideration is the ski jacket's price. Depending on the brand, materials,and features, price can vary pretty significantly. You probably won't spend less than $100 or so for a good-quality jacket. Cost starts to go up with higher waterproof and breathable ratings. Materials like down and Gore-Tex also add dollar signs.
High end jackets cost $600+ (our pick for the best premium jacket is around $1000), so if you don't go skiing a lot, it might not be worth it for you. If you're a frequent skier, however, and want to invest in a jacket that will last for years to come, a more expensive jacket will have the features and durability you want.
"Best" is a relative term, but there are a few brands that are very popular among skiers. We included Helly Hansen a few times on this list and the Helly Hansen Alpha earned the spot for best overall pick.
A Norwegian brand, it's been around since 1877. Burton is another good brand and has a wide selection of ski jackets at a range of prices. Its specialty is snowboards and snowboarding gear, but they make ski jackets, as well. Since its founding in the 1960s, The North Face has made high-quality outdoor apparel for skiing and other winter activities.
Well-known, popular brands make ski jackets with the features you need, good materials, and good waterproof and breathability ratings, but you can find lesser-known brands that hold up, too. You might just have to be more intentional about looking at their weather resistance ratings, materials, and so on.
A jacket's price is often the deciding factor for many people. The best ski jackets can be very expensive because of quality materials, high ratings for waterproofing and breathability, and brand recognition.
Some jackets can cost as much as $1000 or more! Do you need to spend this much? Our best value jacket (Burton's Covert jacket for men) starts at about $120. We haven't found other good jackets for much less than that; the quality drops off significantly once you start getting into $50-$100 ranges. Generally, most good ski jackets will go for about $300-$600.
Factors like size and sales can cut the price down more. For better deals, check out end-of-season sales in a store or on a ski gear site.
In the buying consideration on jacket type, we talked about the different styles there are, like 3-in-1 jackets, insulated jackets, and shells. If you're looking for versatility and willing to pay for it, a 3-in-1 is a good choice.
If you tend to feel the cold, an insulated jacket gives you the warmth you need. If you want to prioritize breathability and waterproofing, a shell jacket will likely work best. Hard shells can be insulated, but not always. They're fully waterproof, durable, and lightweight. If you want something very lightweight and don't need the extra warmth, get a non-insulated shell.
Hard shells best for rain and snow protection. Soft shells are best for light snow and rain since they aren't as waterproof. They're a good choice for mild, dry weather conditions or as an extra layer beneath another ski jacket.
A ski jacket should fit well without being too constricting or too relaxed. If you're going downhill skiing, you'll want one with a closer fit. This helps with aerodynamics.
If you're cross-country skiing and moving your arms and body more, a looser-fitting jacket may work better. Think about your ski style and how much flexibility you want. You should also consider how many layers you want.
If you layer a lot, a loose jacket gives you more room and ends up hugging your body with everything underneath.
Is a ski jacket really necessary or does any winter jacket cut it? Ski jackets have specific designs that make them good for winter activities. The main difference is how light they are.
Even an insulated ski jacket is lighter than a regular winter jacket. You're meant to wear layers under a ski jacket. In a pinch, you could wear a snowboard jacket for skiing, too. Snowboard jackets tend to fit looser and are longer, though, which may not work for you. For examples of great snowboard jackets, check out our guide here.
Ski jackets are meant to be worn with layers underneath. For the layer right against your skin, we advise against cotton. It soaks up sweat and doesn't dry quickly.
It ends up making you colder. Synthetic fiber, wool, or anything else that wicks moisture work much better. Next, you'll want something that insulates your body heat, especially if you wearing an outer shell jacket. A light fleece hoodie or soft shell is a good choice. Add as many layers as you need to stay warm.
We can't recommend layering enough. One heavy, thick winter jacket won't keep you as warm or comfortable as multiple thinner layers. The other good thing about layers is that you can take some of them off if you start to warm up too much.
Wondering if you should buy a used ski jacket to save some money? It isn't necessarily a bad idea, but you need to know what to look for. The first is waterproofing. Check the label or look up the jacket to see its rating. To see if the material has held up over time, pour water on it.
If the water turns into beads on the surface and doesn't soak through, it's still waterproof and will provide weather protection. If the jacket is really good otherwise but the waterproof surface is fading, there are ways to "re-waterproof" it. The next check is for any rips. You can repair most rips with patches, but if the seams are starting to come apart, it's probably best to pass on the jacket.
Check the pockets for any rips, too. Last, make sure all the zippers work, including pit zips and pocket zippers. Buying from a site and can't see the jacket in person? Look at the pictures closely and communicate with the seller if possible. It's always risky to buy things without a good close look first, so if possible, try to get your hands on the jacket before committing.
If you know where to look and what you're looking for, used ski jackets and other equipment can save you a lot of money. For tips on renting, buying, and borrowing, check out our guide.
Whether you're new to skiing or experienced, the jacket you wear matters. Resort skiers and backcountry skiers alike both need warm, waterproof, windproof, and comfortable outerwear. In this article, we described high-end, affordable, and budget jackets that work for all kinds of scenarios.
When shopping for the best ski jackets, look for features like waterproof ratings, shell fabric, breathability, ventilation, and more. Think about the weather conditions you'll be skiing in. Will the powder be dry? Or is the snow more likely to be wet? How cold will it be? Do you tend to feel the cold sharply or do you run warm? With these questions (and this article) as your guide, you can find the perfect ski jacket for an awesome skiing season!