10 Best Ski Jackets: Shopping and User Guide

Best Ski Jackets
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Rippers, shredders, and freeriders agree: The best ski jacket makes for the best days on the slopes.

And the best ski jacket, from our extensive research, is the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0. Super waterproof functionality, an advanced heat-storing temperature regulation system, and other top-of-the-line features set this jacket apart from the rest.

Did you know that the jacket you wear when you ski is as important to your performance as the skis themselves? A poor quality jacket compromises your ability to withstand brisk winds and biting snowstorms. Before you know it, you’re heading back to the lodge, calling it a day when there are still hours of powdery white trails and slopes to enjoy. 

Don’t let a bad jacket sabotage another ski trip! You deserve to enjoy your time spent doing winter sports to the max — and you can, with one of the best ski jackets on the market. 

Choosing the best ski jacket may seem more difficult than tackling a black diamond trail for the first time (okay, maybe not that difficult). Luckily, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Like ski lessons from an accomplished instructor, our ranking of the best ski jackets will make your job so much easier. 

The Ski Jackets We RAVE About

Best Overall
Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0
Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0
Best in Comfort
Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket
Outdoor Research Men's Hemispheres Jacket
Best in Luxury
Arc’teryx Macai Jacket
Arc'teryx Macai Jacket Men’s

What to Look for in the Best Ski Jacket 

Whether you’re shopping for your first ski jacket or getting ready to upgrade to one that integrates the latest and greatest technology, you should know which features matter most. 

Moisture and Wind Protection 

Your ski jacket should stand up to the wind, rain, and snow. Jackets use different materials and methods to accomplish this goal, some better than others. Water-resistant is a step down from waterproof, offering some cover but not full protection. 

While specially developed fabrics and materials create waterproof and water-resistant linings, other features also play a part in protecting you from the elements. Treating materials with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating seals fabrics against moisture, as does sealing, reinforcing, or taping the coat’s seams. 

Ski jackets often rely on powder skirts or snow skirts, as well as wrist gaiters and cuffs to keep snow from getting inside the jacket. Powder skirts keep snow from blowing upward into the coat. 

Temperature Regulation

While spending the day skiing out in the cold weather, you want to be warm — but not too warm. The best ski jackets’ lower layers include insulating materials, which can be as high-tech as thermal reflective and heat-storing materials. Vent systems allow excess body heat to escape. 

Safety 

Skiing can be dangerous, especially if you leave the meticulously groomed slopes for the unpatrolled wilderness. Backcountry skiing is both appealing and hazardous, because an avalanche could bury you. One of the most impressive safety features in ski jackets is the integration of Recco reflectors. 

Rescuers search avalanche sites for victims using devices called Recco detectors that send out radar signals. When those signals hit a Recco reflector, they guide rescuers to your location, potentially saving your life. 

Other safety features include helmet-compatible hoods — so you don’t have to choose between protecting your face from the elements and protecting your brain from a potential impact — and high-visibility markings. 

The Layers of a Ski Jacket

Dressing in layers is the best way to combat the elements. The most effective outerwear for skiers usually involves layering protective weatherproof and insulated fabrics to keep you dry and toasty. 

Shells

The outermost layer of ski jacket systems is called the shell, which is primarily responsible for keeping you dry. Shell jackets are further divided into softshells and hardshells. Generally, hardshells are more fully weatherproof than softshells, which tend to be just water-resistant but offer more breathability. 

The waterproof and windproof materials used in hardshells often go by trademarked names like Gore-Tex, H2No Performance Standard, HELLYTECH Professional, and DryVent. Softshells are generally made up of tightly woven synthetic fabrics that have a certain amount of stretch to them. They tend to be more insulated than hardshells, but you may need to add layers. 

Insulating Layers 

Beneath the shell, the lower insulating layers keep you warm and cozy, even out in the elements. These layers can be made of fleece, down, or other natural or synthetic materials. 

Don’t assume that every ski jacket is going to give you the whole package (even an expensive one). You may get a shell to protect you from the elements or a warm and insulated lower layer, but not both. 

When you do encounter a jacket that combines a midlayer or base layer with a shell, be aware that even if the manufacturer refers to two layers, those layers are likely permanently attached. Three-in-one jackets are the exception to this rule. 

Three-in-one jackets, also called systems jackets, can be split apart, typically with a simple zipper, allowing you to wear only the shell or the midlayer. For cold, wet weather, simply zip the lining back into the shell. 

Although systems jackets are versatile, they may not offer quite as much weather protection and warmth as a traditional ski jacket. 

The Value of a Good Ski Jacket 

How much do ski jackets cost? The best ski jackets are an investment, so expect to spend a bit of money on them. The jackets on our list range from around $200 to nearly $1,000, with many available for $500 and under. 

However, you don’t necessarily get what you pay for: Some great waterproof jackets are fairly mid-priced, while some high-end ones have a surprising number of flaws. Choosing a ski jacket based on price alone may leave you missing features that will keep you safer, happier, and more comfortable on the slopes. 

Methodology

A ski jacket is so much more than a coat. It’s the gear you rely on to keep warm, dry and protected so you can enjoy every moment on the slopes. A ski jacket is an investment in your comfort and even your safety, so our ranking includes only jackets that meet the highest standards in the following criteria:  

  • Weather protection 
  • Temperature regulation
  • Features
  • Versatility
  • Safety technology 

Whether your passion is alpine, cross-country, backcountry, or freestyle skiing, find out which ski jacket is the best on the market for your needs. 

The Best Ski Jackets

Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0

Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0

Helly Hansen’s Alpha 3.0 has nearly every feature you could want in a ski jacket, plus some great tech you never knew you needed. The extremely waterproof HELLYTECH Professional outer shell is DWR-treated for extra moisture resistance. The four-way stretch material makes this coat comfortable and breathable.

With PrimaLoft insulation in the body, sleeves, and removable hood, this jacket will keep you warm in the coldest environments. It utilizes special H2Flow temperature regulation technology to store heat in specially designed air pockets and ventilation zippers to release excess heat, so you will be prepared for any temperature and activity level.

Today’s skiers want to stay connected, and the LifePocket allows you to do just that by keeping your smartphone warm and avoiding excess battery drain. Lifesaving Recco technology, a stretch powder skirt, and a foldaway high-visibility brim in the hood complete this high-end ski jacket.

Pros

  • H2Flow mechanical venting
  • Recco reflector
  • LifePocket saves phone battery

Cons

  • Complaints about durability
  • Powder skirt is not removable
  • Some complaints about fit

Patagonia 3-In-1 Snowshot Jacket

Patagonia Men's 3-In-1 Snowshot Jacket

Patagonia’s Snowshot is a high-performing systems jacket that keeps you warm with lightweight Thermogreen insulation. Like other three-in-one jackets on our list, the Snowshot can be deconstructed to wear the shell or the inner layer only. Unlike others, the Snowshot’s inner layer is reversible, so you can choose between the quilted and smooth textures when you wear it separately.

An outer shell made from two-layer H2No Performance Standard material treated with DWR prevents water from seeping in, and the moisture-wicking lining and pit zips keep you dry and let body heat escape. And, the concealed Recco reflector could save your life in the event of an avalanche.

This versatile and comfortable jacket’s design reflects Patagonia’s commitment to environmental and social consciousness: Of the 100% polyester shell, 70% of the materials are recycled, as are 90% of the insulation materials. The whole jacket is sewn by Fair Trade Certified labor.

Pros

  • Versatile construction
  • Recco reflector
  • Weatherproof

Cons

  • Collar is high and loose
  • Some complaints about fit
  • Few pockets

Arc’teryx Sabre LT Jacket

Arc'teryx Sabre LT Jacket Men’s

A bulk-reducing construction featuring micro-seam allowance is the secret behind this lightweight version of Arc’teryx’s ever-popular Sabre jacket. What this jacket isn’t light on is features. WaterTight pit zippers allow you to vent out body heat without exposing yourself to the elements. The StormHood with a laminated brim is made to fit over your helmet.

You’ll stay dry all day long thanks to the jacket’s long length and integrated powder skirt. This jacket also features Slide ‘n Loc attachments that connect seamlessly to compatible ski pants to prevent snow exposure. Although the jacket still uses waterproof Gore-Tex materials, the special C-Knit version of the material allows for added comfort and reduced weight.

Plenty of internal and external pockets make it easy to store your stuff, although some skiers found the laminated internal pocket too small for their smartphone. Large cuffs complete with Velcro adjusters and an adjustable hem drawcord allow you to tailor the jacket to fit your needs.

Pros

  • Waterproof Gore-Tex with DWR
  • Stretch panel powder skirt
  • Recco reflector

Cons

  • Powder skirt isn’t removable
  • Small internal pocket
  • Some complaints about fit

Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket

Outdoor Research Men's Hemispheres Jacket

What makes the Outdoor Research Hemispheres jacket so special is the movement-mirroring stretch technology that allows for stunningly unrestricted motion. Designed with backcountry skiers in mind, this windproof and highly waterproof hardshell is made to withstand all weather conditions. The TorsoFlow venting system runs from armpit to hem to let body heat escape.

The pockets are generous enough to hold plenty of gear when you ski outside the ropes, and their placement won’t interfere with a pack. You can run your headphones through the internal media pocket, so you’re never without your tunes.

There’s no powder skirt, but you may not miss it, thanks to the long length that keeps snow from blowing up inside the jacket. Still, the lack of a Recco reflector, especially in a jacket designed for backcountry skiing, seems like an oversight. And without a warm base layer underneath this shell, you’re likely to get chilly.

Pros

  • Stretch Technology Gore-Tex
  • Internal media pocket
  • TorsoFlo venting

Cons

  • No Recco reflector
  • Hardshell requires base layer
  • No powder skirt

Spyder Leader GTX Jacket

Spyder Leader GTX Jacket

Spyder’s Leader GTX jacket is a sharp-looking waterproof and windproof option made with durable Gore-Tex fabric, which is popular among ski enthusiasts. PrimaLoft Silver Eco insulation keeps you warm but comfortable, minimizing bulk and maximizing softness. Additional water protective features include taped seams and Watertight AquaGuard zippers.

There’s a lot to personalize about this jacket to precisely fit it to your preferences. You can adjust the opening of the helmet-compatible hood or remove it completely. You can also remove the snap back powder skirt and adjust the cuffs and hem. Underarm ventilation keeps you from overheating.

However, the Spyder Leader GTX jacket lacks a Recco reflector. Despite some complaints of defective zippers, the biggest downside to this ski jacket is that it really is only a ski jacket. Too insulated for other uses, this coat may not be worth the cost if you only hit the slopes once in a while.

Pros

  • Waterproof Gore-Tex with DWR
  • Removable powder skirt
  • PrimaLoft Silver insulation

Cons

  • No Recco reflector
  • Reports of zipper issues
  • Not versatile off the slopes

Columbia Whirlibird III Interchange Jacket

Columbia Men's Whirlibird III Interchange Jacket

A modern update to Columbia’s well-loved Whirlibird jacket, this three-in-one option offers plenty of upgraded features at a great price point. Wear the warm, Omni-Heat thermal reflective insulated liner or the breathable Omni-Tech seam-sealed waterproof shell on their own or together for all-weather outerwear options. Columbia’s zip-in three-point interchange system makes removing and replacing layers easy.

There’s a lot to love about the Whirlibird III. Features like a snap back powder skirt, a drop-tail design, and an abrasion-resistant chin guard keep you protected from the elements and more. Adjustable features, from the hood to the hem and the wrist cuffs to the powder skirt, make for a comfortable and secure fit.

With a chest pocket, ski pass pocket, interior security pocket, goggle pocket, and zippered hand pockets, you have plenty of options for storing your stuff. However, the Whirlibird III is missing some features, such as extra pockets, which previous versions of the coat had.

Pros

  • Versatile 3-in-1 construction
  • Omni-Heat insulation
  • Adjustable powder skirt

Cons

  • No Recco reflector
  • Lacks features of prior model
  • Some complaints about fit

The North Face ThermoBall Snow Triclimate Jacket

The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Snow Triclimate Jacket

Many ski jackets are made to be just one layer in your outerwear attire. The versatile ThermoBall Snow Triclimate jacket brings together base and shell layers for a reasonable price. You can wear the layers together or separately, on or off the slopes.

The outer shell’s wind- and waterproof DryVent two-layer fabric and DWR finish protects you from rain and snow. The base layer’s ThermoBall PrimaLoft synthetic fiber cluster insulation compares to 600 fill goose down insulation, without the bulk. A powder skirt, helmet-compatible hood, and underarm vents make this jacket a great choice for skiing, snowboarding, and other high-activity snow sports.

Despite its popularity, some skiers and snowboarders feel that the jacket’s two separable layers just don’t offer the warmth and protection of high-end ski jackets. The powder skirt also sits too high to keep out snow for some skiers, and it isn’t adjustable.

Pros

  • Versatile 3-in-1 construction
  • ThermoBall insulation
  • Waterproof DryVent with DWR

Cons

  • No Recco reflector
  • Uninsulated arm and shoulder
  • Powder skirt may be too high

Arc’teryx Macai Jacket

Arc'teryx Macai Jacket Men’s

The most expensive option on our list, the Macai jacket from Arc’teryx is a well-received luxury item for skiers who don’t mind dropping nearly $1,000 on a jacket. Under the three-layer Gore-Tex Pro waterproof shell, a strategic mix of Down Contour insulation made of natural European goose down and synthetic Coreloft insulation stays warm even when wet.

Although a lot of skiers love the Macai and find it well worth the expense, it has its share of drawbacks, especially for a jacket at this price point. The Recco reflector safety system found in much cheaper jackets is missing from this model. Reviewers also complain about oddly angled pit zips and too-small pockets.

Although you’d expect a jacket this pricey to last, some skiers report a lack of durability, with damage occurring to the fabric quicker than expected. Some skiers found that the fabric or stitches ripped, causing the down insulation to leak.

Pros

  • Down and synthetic insulation
  • Removable powder skirt
  • DropHood moves with your head

Cons

  • Nearly $1,000
  • No Recco reflector
  • Some durability complaints

Black Diamond Mission Ski Shell

Black Diamond Mission Ski Shell — Men's

Black Diamond’s Mission Shell is made for just the right amount of comfort and weather protection. Constructed out of Gore-Tex fabric and soft interior lining, this versatile jacket will keep you dry and warm without restricting movement. The two-way extended pit zips provide plenty of ventilation to avoid overheating.

Some of the Mission Shell’s more innovative ideas fall flat. You can adjust the hood with the three-way Integrated Cohaesive cord management system, but some skiers report it just doesn’t achieve the desired fit. On the other hand, the jacket’s numerous, well-placed and highly functional system of pockets earn high praise.

Although the wrist cuff tabs are custom-molded, some skiers complain that the Velcro used to attach the cuffs to gloves isn’t strong enough to hold tight — and once it comes undone and snow and ice find their way into the Velcro, getting it latched again is next to impossible.

Pros

  • Waterproof Gore-Tex shell
  • Abundance of pockets
  • Integrated powder skirt

Cons

  • Powder skirt isn’t adjustable
  • Some complaints about fit
  • Velcro straps inadequate

Outdoor Research Skyward II Jacket

Outdoor Research Men's Skyward II Jacket

If you’re having trouble deciding between the protection afforded by a hardshell and the comfort and flexibility of a softshell, the Skyward II jacket from Outdoor Research may be the perfect option. This breathable laminate construction is a hybrid of softshell stretch and hardshell weatherproofing.

Because it’s not a true hardshell, the Skyward II jacket isn’t as impervious to intense wind and rain as the Hemispheres and other hardshells. While the Skyward II is a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the Hemispheres, it’s still fairly pricey for a shell only — no insulation included.

That said, alpine skiers and other snow sports enthusiasts love the stretch of the three-layer AscentShell fabric and the freedom of motion that comes with it. If you’re looking for the best ski jacket for particularly wet climates, you may want to look elsewhere. But for a comfortable and lightweight option for dryer areas, this jacket has plenty to offer.

Pros

  • AscentShell stretch fabric
  • Internal media pocket
  • TorsoFlo Venting

Cons

  • No Recco reflector
  • Not insulated
  • No powder skirt

What are the different types of insulation used in ski jackets?

Generally, the insulation used to make ski jackets cozy and warm even in the chilly winter air fits into one of two categories: down or synthetic. One type of insulation isn’t necessarily better than the other, and they each have benefits and disadvantages. 

Down is natural insulation in the form of goose or duck feathers. Down insulation is wonderfully warm and lightweight. Unfortunately, it isn’t waterproof. When a down jacket becomes even slightly damp, it stops providing that warmth — definitely not what you want when a snowstorm or rainstorm strikes, leaving you shivering on the slopes. 

Down insulation can be treated to give it more water resistance, but processed down isn’t cheap. Its performance when wet is still only passable, not great. 

For wetter climates, synthetic insulation can be a more efficient and cost-effective option. Made of fibers that repel water, synthetic insulators retain warmth even when wet. 

Because contact with snow is a natural part of skiing, many manufacturers use primarily synthetic insulation in their ski jackets. Some jackets have down filling under a highly waterproof shell. You can even find certain jackets that incorporate both types of filling in different areas, limiting the down filling to areas that are less likely to get wet. 

The technology used in insulating ski jackets doesn’t end with natural and synthetic materials. Companies use proprietary technologies to reflect, redirect, and store your natural body heat to keep you warm. 

How do you clean a ski jacket? 

You invested hundreds of dollars in your jacket and wear it in some not-so-delicate weather conditions. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to keep it looking and functioning like new for years to come, and that includes caring for it properly. 

The good news is that it isn’t necessary or recommended to wash your ski jacket after every outing. In fact, you should only clean it when it looks (or feels) dirty. 

How you go about caring for your ski jacket varies from one coat to another. Always check the manufacturer’s care instructions and follow them to the letter to avoid accidentally harming your ski jacket. Some jackets are dry clean only, others are fully machine-washable, and others can only be handwashed (as in, in a sink). 

Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the type of detergent or cleaning solution to use. Traditional laundry detergents, especially powder detergents, can damage the material or the DWR waterproofing finish. So can stain removers, fabric softeners, and bleach. 

If the tag isn’t specific about what kind to use, it may be worth it to buy a special type of detergent designed to wash waterproof and technical synthetic outerwear. 

You can put some ski jackets in the dryer on a low setting, while others should be hung on a line to dry. If you do put your jacket in the dryer, it’s a good idea to use dryer balls rather than chemically treated dryer sheets for a natural way to boost softness and reduce wrinkles. 

Generally, this is all you need to do to care for your ski jacket. However, if you find that after years of use your jacket is no longer waterproof, you can use a special wash-in solution to add water repellent coating to the fabric again. 

Where should I look for a ski jacket? 

We did the research for you, and now you’ve chosen your favorite ski jacket from our list — or at least, you narrowed it down to your top contenders. Now what? 

When you’re seriously looking for a ski jacket, you can’t expect to waltz into a department or big box store and find what you really need. Remember, this is a piece of sporting gear, not just a fashion statement. Your best bet is to buy your ski jacket from a retailer that is knowledgeable about ski equipment and gear. 

You can often find the best selection at dedicated ski shops, or stores like REI or DICK’s Sporting Goods. Some ski jacket manufacturers, like Columbia and The North Face, have outlet locations where you can find some of the best deals. 

Buying your ski jacket online is a convenient way to find precisely the jacket you’re looking for without being limited by a brick-and-mortar store’s inventory. Although you can’t try on jackets when you shop online, most company websites have sizing guides and allow returns. 

As a bonus, you may be able to save money through online-only sales and promotions, or through cash-back and other shopping programs. 

What are the best ski jackets? 

With so many features and factors to compare, choosing the best ski jackets on the market isn’t easy. At RAVE, we gathered as much quality information about the market and its top products as possible, scouring the internet and collecting and fact-checking data from the most trusted experts and authorities out there. 

What we learned through our in-depth research is that five considerations are most important to identify the very best ski jackets. We based our ranking on these five crucial factors: 

  • Weather protection, giving extra merit to high-quality windproof and waterproof materials, DWR finishes, and effectively designed snow skirts
  • Temperature regulation, factoring in insulation and venting technologies
  • Features that range from well laid-out pocket systems to media and technology integration
  • Versatility, with three-in-one and multiclimate coats scoring the highest
  • Safety, awarding credit for Recco reflectors, helmet-compatible hoods, and other features

The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 may have the best combination of features found in any ski jacket, but every piece of performance outerwear on our list is worthy of your consideration. Ski jackets like the Arc’teryx Sabre LTSpyder Leader GTX, and Black Diamond Mission Shell use Gore-Tex waterproof materials for great weatherproofing. 

The Patagonia Snowshot 3-in-1The North Face ThermoBall Snow Triclimate, and the Columbia Whirlibird III Interchange are among the most versatile ski jackets you can find. What the Hemispheres hardshell and Skyward II hardshell/softshell hybrid ski jackets by Outdoor Research have in common is their stretchy material that won’t hinder movement, even on the most challenging terrain. 

If money is no object, the pricey Arc’teryx Macai’s luxurious blend of natural goose down and water-resistant synthetic insulation offers the best of both worlds — but there are plenty of great options at more budget-friendly price points. 

RAVE Recommends

Now that you’ve found your ideal ski jacket, you’re ready to hit the slopes, right? Well, almost. Complete your outerwear ensemble with the gear you need — not to mention, the things you need to take care of your gear. 

  • Nikwax Tech Wash: The perfect way to clean machine-washable ski jackets without damaging the waterproof technology, Nikwax Tech Wash is effective, popular, and simple to use. 
  • Kikkerland Hedgehog Reusable Dryer Balls, Set of 2: Before you put your ski jacket in the dryer, stick these adorable and environmentally friendly dryer balls in the machine for a softer, smoother finish. 
  • Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-in Waterproofing: Return an old ski jacket’s waterproof sheen to brand new with this hassle-free wash-in waterproofing method. 
  • WTACTFUL 3D Animal Funny Balaclava Face MaskThrow caution to the wind and have some fun with these over-the-top animal-themed face masks. They are sure to keep your cheeks warm and a smile on your face.
  • OutdoorMaster OTG Ski GogglesA fully UV-protective unisex set of fog-resistant, helmet-compatible goggles that fits over your glasses, all at a price point under $20? Yes please!