Whether you’re cruising the resort or earning your turns, a ski jacket is an important component of every skier’s kit. Compared to standard winter coats, these jackets come infused with ski-specific features and prioritize durability and coverage for the rigors of life on the slopes. Resort-goers might opt for an insulated piece to stay cozy on the lift, while backcountry skiers will likely prefer a breathable shell that keeps weight low. The good news is that there’s something for every female (or female-identifying) ripper, with stylish designs and colorways and great women’s-specific fits. Below we break down the best women's ski jackets for the 2022-2023 season. For more background information, see our ski jacket comparison table and buying advice below the picks. And to complete your kit, see our article on the best women's ski pants.
- Best Overall Ski Jacket: Arc'teryx Sentinel
- Best Resort Ski Jacket: Helly Hansen Alphelia LifaLoft
- Best Backcountry Ski Jacket: Patagonia SnowDrifter
- Best Budget Ski Jacket: REI Co-op Powderbound
- Best 3-in-1 Ski Jacket: The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate
Best Overall Women’s Ski Jacket
Best for: Resort/backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex
What we like: Technical performance, premium fit, and classy looks.
What we don’t: Expensive; a bit heavy and bulky for dedicated backcountry use.
The best women’s ski jacket combines technical performance with a fun styling and a classy fit, and year after year, no one nails the equation better than Arc’teryx. Within their impressive lineup of ski-specific outerwear, the Sentinel is our favorite all-around jacket for those who split their time between the resort and the backcountry. With its 70-denier face fabric and 3-layer Gore-Tex construction, you get a hardwearing and bomber shell, and the soft tricot backer adds a little extra protection for frigid chairlift rides. What's more, the feature set is sleek yet fully functional, with smooth-operating pit zips and a water-resistant front zip, adjustable hood, and a thoughtful collection of pockets. Added up, the Sentinel is a well-balanced jacket that excels in most conditions and looks good doing it.
It doesn’t get much better for an all-rounder, but the Sentinel does come up short for particularly cold conditions or dedicated backcountry use. The light fleece backer is a nice touch, but you’ll get a lot more warmth with an insulated piece like the Helly Hansen Alphelia or Patagonia Insulated Powder Town below. On the other hand, the Sentinel is fairly heavy and bulky for extended uphill tours, and the liner inhibits breathability even with the pit zips opened up. But we think it’s the most well-rounded of the bunch, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find flaws with Arc’teryx’s exceptional build quality and fit. And for 2023, the Sentinel also comes in an insulated version with 80g Coreloft synthetic fill ($800) and a stylish Anorak design (also $700).
See the Arc'teryx Sentinel
Best Resort Ski Jacket for Women
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (LifaLoft)
Waterproofing: 2L Helly Tech
What we like: Stretchy shell fabric, high-quality and stylish design, and cozy feel.
What we don’t: Pricey for a 2-layer jacket and can be too warm for active use.
Taking our top resort spot, Helly Hansen's Alphelia is an extremely comfortable and capable piece built to keep you warm and dry on the stormiest of days. Featuring Helly’s 2-layer Tech waterproof shell along with a moderate level of LifaLoft insulation, the jacket offers great weather protection and a nice boost in warmth compared to a non-insulated shell. Most resort skiers will appreciate the added insulation, which is enough to take the sting out of a chilly chairlift ride but won’t overwhelm you on the way down. The Alphelia also uses four-way stretch fabric throughout, which translates to great freedom of movement for everything from bombing downhill to racking your skis on top of your car. Finally, we love the jacket’s styling, which is super clean, works well for women of all ages, and is offered in a variety of classy colorways.
But while an insulated jacket is a perfectly good companion for resort skiing, the Alphelia isn't a great choice for side or backcountry use. The 2-layer construction will suffer in terms of breathability compared to 3-layer jackets like the Arc'teryx Sentinal AR above, and you might want a lighter, uninsulated shell for mild spring days. But it’s hard to beat the added warmth for cold chairlift rides, and the Alphelia comes with some nice touches, including a snap-out powder skirt, RECCO reflector, and Helly Hansen’s Life Pocket, which uses an additional layer of insulation to keep your electronics warm. Ski jackets are expensive and there’s no denying that the Alphelia is an investment, but it’s still a good value for what you get. And if you’re a beginner or occasional skier looking to save some cash, check out the REI Powderbound below.
See the Helly Hansen Alphelia LifaLoft
Best Backcountry Ski Jacket for Women
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L H2No Performance Standard
What we like: Stretchy construction offers mobility and comfort for ski touring.
What we don’t: You’ll get better weather protection with a rigid hardshell.
Patagonia offers a complete lineup of premium ski and snowboard jackets, and their reasonably priced SnowDrifter is our favorite design for backcountry skiers. Combining a stretchy, softshell-like face fabric with proprietary 3-layer construction, the SnowDrifter places a premium on comfort and mobility without compromising much in the way of weather protection. Compared to a standard hardshell jacket, it’s noticeably less rigid and restrictive, which is great news for the demands of uphill travel. Further, the added “give” in the design, combined with a soft moisture-wicking liner, non-insulated construction, and pit zips, translates to excellent breathability. And the rest of the jacket is streamlined yet functional, with a built-in powder skirt, six handy pockets (including an internal dump pocket great for warming goggles or gloves), and an embedded RECCO reflector.
If you’re in the market for a backcountry-specific design, you might also find yourself looking at Patagonia’s premium PowSlayer below. We’ve tested both jackets on the slopes, and our resounding vote goes to the SnowDrifter for its more breathable and mobile build (not to mention, it’s $300 less). It’s true that the stretchy face fabric sacrifices some protection in high winds and wet snow compared to a burly Gore-Tex Pro model like the PowSlayer, but in most cases, the tradeoffs are worth it for high-output efforts on the skin track. On the other hand, Patagonia’s Stormstride is an even stretchier and lighter design, featuring a woven shell and fewer features overall. But the SnowDrifter still is their most well-rounded and versatile jacket for uphill enthusiasts, earning it our top backcountry pick for the 2022-2023 season... Read in-depth review
See the Patagonia SnowDrifter
Best Budget Ski Jacket for Women
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (80 & 60g polyester)
Waterproofing: 2L Peak
What we like: An affordable jacket with impressive warmth and ski-specific features.
What we don’t: Limited color options; 2L construction offers middling weather protection and breathability.
Ski jackets are undeniably pricey, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend big to get a quality product. Known for their affordable yet functional in-house designs, REI jumped into the ski outerwear market last winter with a small collection of resort-focused pieces, and the Powderbound is a great budget choice. As expected from the Seattle-based brand, this insulated shell is high on value: for $199, you get proprietary 2-layer Peak waterproofing, a moderate amount of synthetic insulation along with a quilted liner, and valuable features like a powder skirt, pit zips, and plenty of well-distributed pockets. Taken together, the Powderbound is a solid option for inbounds riders that will keep you dry and warm without breaking the bank.
But as expected at this price point, the Powderbound isn’t meant to be pushed too hard. REI’s 2-layer Peak membrane isn’t a standout in terms of waterproofing or durability, and the polyester insulation adds both weight and bulk. Expect this jacket to get the job done on most days at the resort, but you’re likely to find its limit in extra-wet conditions. In addition, REI incorporated cheaper fabric flaps over the zippers for waterproof protection, which lack the high-end feel you get from coated zippers. And finally, the Co-op hasn’t proven itself yet in this category, and their fit and finish consistently comes up short of premium brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx. But for a purpose-built budget piece that ticks the right boxes for season-long use, the Powderbound is well worth checking out.
See the REI Co-op Powderbound
Best 3-in-1 Ski Jacket for Women
Best for: Resort
Type: 3-in-1 (11 g/sqft ThermoBall)
Waterproofing: 2L DryVent
What we like: 3-in-1 value and quality ThermoBall insulation.
What we don’t: Zip-in design is cumbersome and midlayer pockets lack zippers.
If you’re putting together your kit from scratch or looking to save some money, a 3-in-1 jacket can be a really nice option. In one fell swoop, you get a standalone waterproof shell, insulating midlayer, and—put together—an insulated ski jacket. The versatility and value here is second to none. And while many jackets in this category are of the budget variety (like the Columbia Bugaboo below), The North Face’s ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate is a nice upgrade at a good price. The 2-layer DryVent shell offers great coverage and modern resort styling, including features like a contoured waist, drop-tail hem, and sleek water-resistant front zip. But the main event here is the ThermoBall synthetic midlayer, which we've found does a pretty good impression of a lofty down piece—all while continuing to insulate when wet.
We understand the appeal of a 3-in-1 design, especially if you’re shopping for both a ski jacket and a midlayer at once. However, it’s important to note that the zip-in system doesn’t add much value in terms of warmth or comfort. In fact, 3-in-1s are more prone to drafts than standard insulated designs, and the connected midlayer limits access to your interior pockets (note: the ThermoBall jacket features open handwarmer pockets with no zips). Further, the shell’s extra zippers can be unsightly when worn alone, and the additional materials add weight and bulk. In the end, we prefer the versatility of separating our shell and midlayer, with the main downside being the need to make a decision on two jackets rather than one. But for those who want the convenience of a 3-in-1 purchase, the ThermoBall Snow Triclimate is a solid option.
See the TNF ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate
Best of the Rest
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Stormshell Intuitive
What we like: Softshell-like comfort and stretch in a protective, 3-layer design.
What we don’t: Lacks the bombproof feel of Gore-Tex-equipped hardshells.
From Colorado-based Flylow Gear, the Lucy Jacket combines the best attributes of softshell and hardshell designs into a well-rounded package. For sidecountry hikes or quick backcountry tours, the stretchy construction and smooth interior offer standout comfort. When a storm rolls in, the 3-layer waterproof build does a good job blocking wind and snow, and the extended collar covers all but your nose when zipped up. We also think Flylow nailed the styling of the Lucy—particularly in the tri-color patterns—and all of the materials impressed us from a quality standpoint.
Similar to the SnowDrifter above, the emphasis on comfort and stretch does impact the Flylow’s bombproof feel. Its DWR coating sheds snow effectively, but it’s not as well-equipped for particularly wet and nasty days (those who get out on storm days in the Pacific Northwest likely will want more protection). We also were a little disappointed by the organization: the jacket lacks an internal dump pocket for stashing goggles or climbing skins, and the chest pockets were too small to fit a large phone (in our case, an iPhone 11 Pro Max). The SnowDrifter remains our category favorite with a slightly better design, but the Flylow nevertheless hits a really nice middle ground of comfort and performance for mixed resort and backcountry use. And the cherry on top: we've received more compliments while wearing the Lucy than any other ski jacket... Read in-depth review
See the Flylow Gear Lucy Jacket
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (80 & 40g Thermogreen)
Waterproofing: 2L H2No Performance Standard
What we like: A high-quality resort jacket at a great price.
What we don’t: Too warm for mild conditions.
Patagonia’s Powder Town is a true looker of a jacket and has the performance specs to back it up. It’s offered in a range of styles, but we like the insulated model best: 80-gram synthetic insulation keeps the body warm, and we appreciate the thoughtful touches like a drop-in interior pocket for goggles and soft-touch taffeta lining. And with a 31-inch center back length, you get great coverage and modern styling. While the in-house H2No waterproof membrane doesn’t knock it out of the park in terms of breathability, this shouldn’t be a primary concern for most resort skiers, and you do get underarm vents to dump heat on warm spring days.
The Powder Town replaces the Snowbelle in Patagonia’s lineup for the 2022-2023 season. Changes to the design include a revamped pocket layout, new colorways, a longer cut, and—importantly—more sustainably sourced materials, including a postconsumer recycled polyester shell, 100% recycled insulation, and PFC-free DWR. Compared to the Arc’teryx Sentinel above, the Patagonia has a bit less of a high-end feel, plus mobility and bulk suffer a bit with the 2-layer construction. But it’s completely serviceable for the resort and delivers a great mix of warmth, weather protection, and durability for significantly less. Patagonia also makes the Powder Town in a non-insulated version ($349) and a 3-in-1 design with a removable synthetic insulated jacket ($499). For an upgraded resort option, they’ve also released the Storm Shift ($479), which we will be testing this upcoming season.
See the Patagonia Insulated Powder Town
Best for: Backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L AscentShell
What we like: Great value; AscentShell is stretchy and breathable yet still fully waterproof.
What we don’t: Lacks some ski-specific features.
In-house fabric technologies often fall short, but Outdoor Research’s AscentShell is an exception. We’ve tested this waterproof membrane on a number of jackets at this point, including the Skytour’s predecessor (the Skyward II), which performed flawlessly throughout a full season of backcountry use. The fabric stretches like a softshell, is extremely breathable with an air-permeable design, and is fully waterproof. And to top it off, the Skytour is lighter than ever, dropping 2 ounces off the Skyward yet retaining a functional feature set, including plenty of interior and exterior pockets, pit zips, and a hood that adjusts to fit both climbing and ski helmets. It’s not the most versatile option for resort use—we’d recommend a more durable and protective jacket for lift-served days—but the Skytour is purpose-built to keep you cool and comfortable outside the ropes.
What are you giving up at the Skytour’s $379 price point? Build quality is a step down from the ridiculously high attention to detail that you get from the Arc’teryx Sentinel above, and the OR lacks features like a powder skirt and RECCO reflector. In addition, the AscentShell fabric doesn’t have the batten-down-the-hatches feel of the Gore-Tex jackets here, but it hasn’t let us down even in high winds and heavy snow. Finally, the Skytour’s 31.5-inch center back length is longer than most ski jackets here, which could be too long or just right depending on your priorities (for such a lightweight, backcountry-inspired design, it's a little long and overkill for us, especially when paired with a bib). All nitpicks aside, we’re big fans of the Skytour’s breathability, feature set, and relatively low price, making it a great choice for those who like to earn their turns.
See the Outdoor Research Skytour
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L BD.dry
What we like: A versatile jacket for both the backcountry and resort.
What we don’t: Black Diamond’s build quality doesn’t hold up to Patagonia and Arc’teryx.
In only a few years, Black Diamond has gone from the launch of its ski apparel line to being a big-time player. Their current collection covers everything from backcountry-specific shells to insulated resort pieces, and the Recon is our current favorite of the bunch. An all-rounder that excels both inside and outside of the ropes, the jacket combines Black Diamond’s proprietary 3-layer BD.dry membrane with a four-way stretch shell, translating to full-on weather protection with little compromise in the way of comfort and mobility. Uphill enthusiasts will love the removable powder skirt and internal mesh drop pockets for storing their skins, while resort-goers will find the Recon ready to charge, with features like a lift pass pocket on the left arm and ski helmet-compatible hood.
Similar to the Patagonia SnowDrifter above, the BD Recon Stretch is a non-insulated shell that stands out for being both highly waterproof and breathable. Both jackets feature stretchy face fabrics and proprietary 3-layer constructions, although we've found the BD to be heavier and bulkier-feeling, particularly when active (such as on a sidecountry hike). Second, Black Diamond’s build quality and fit can be hit or miss, and the Recon in particular tends to be too roomy in the hips for some. We’ve worn a lot of jackets from both Patagonia and Black Diamond and at the same price point will almost always opt for the former. But the Recon nevertheless is a competitive ski shell with enough versatility for both the resort and backcountry.
See the BD Recon Stretch Shell
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Pertex Shield
What we like: The most affordable 3-layer ski jacket here.
What we don’t: Too thin for dedicated resort use.
Outdoor Research is known for providing a lot of bang for your buck, and their versatile Carbide delivers in spades. Featuring a 3-layer Pertex Shield waterproof membrane, this jacket goes head-to-head with premium designs like the Patagonia SnowDrifter and Flylow Lucy above, all while checking in at a very affordable $299. Similar to the Patagonia and Flylow, the Carbide is competitively lightweight at 1 pound 2.8 ounces—thanks in large part to its thin 40-denier shell and modest 29-inch center back length—making it an excellent choice for minimalist backcountry-goers. But despite the streamlined build, OR still packs in all the requisite ski-specific features, including pit zips, a powder skirt, forearm pocket (great for storing your ski pass), and smooth-running two-way front zip.
Outdoor Research touts the Carbide as a do-all jacket for both the front- and backcountry, but we hesitate to recommend it as a dedicated resort design. Our main hesitation is the 40-denier shell, which lacks the toughness required for day-long exposure and the rigors of inbounds use. And while you get some extra comfort and warmth from the tricot knit backer, some resort-goers will prefer the added assurance of a fully insulated design. But for those who like to split their time in and out of bounds, the Carbide is the most affordable 3-layer design here and a more protective and versatile option than the Skytour above. For a resort-specific jacket at the same price point, check out OR’s Snowcrew ($329), which features 2-layer in-house waterproofing and a healthy dose of VerticalX insulation.
See the Outdoor Research Carbide
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex Pro
What we like: Top-end protection and durability in a fun mountain style.
What we don’t: Serious backcountry-goers will want a more streamlined piece.
Norrøna doesn’t have the name recognition of Arc’teryx, but they’re one of only a few brands that can come close in terms of attention to detail and outright performance. Their Tamok Gore-Tex Pro Jacket is case in point: this beautifully crafted shell is built for deep days with Gore’s top-of-the-line laminate and an extended back length (32 in.), includes a tall collar and helmet-friendly hood, and does it all in a fresh, freeride style. There’s sufficient organization for storing backcountry essentials, including hipbelt-friendly external dump pockets, and generous pit zips and a chest vent allow you to regulate your temperature throughout the day. Tack on a reasonable 1-pound-8.4-ounce weight, cozy hand gaiters, and a range of fun color options, and we can see why the Tamok gets so much hype.
The Tamok’s combination of style and performance makes it a great pick for those double-dipping both in and out of bounds, but serious backcountry-goers might want to take a look at Norrøna’s classic Lofoten. For the same price, this jacket is a technical masterpiece, shedding over 3 ounces off the Tamok with slightly thinner fabrics, a form-fitting build, and more functional handwarmer pockets. Both are ridiculously expensive, but the price is relatively reasonable when you consider that Arc’teryx’s $700 Sentinel above uses a downgraded Gore-Tex membrane (no “Pro”). Overall, we give the nod to the Sentinel for its lighter build (13.1 oz.) and do-everything nature, but Norrøna’s backcountry offerings are well worth a look for committed riders.
See the Norrøna Tamok Gore-Tex Pro
Best for: Resort
Waterproofing: 2L PNW
What we like: Great coverage, durable, and functional feature set.
What we don’t: Pretty heavy for an uninsulated shell.
For those who haven’t been introduced, TREW Gear is an Oregon-based company that excels in the mid-range and high end of the resort and backcountry markets. Their designs are super well-made and have clean styling—the look and feel often remind us of Gore-Tex—and durability and weatherproofing are performance hallmarks. The women’s Astoria is their core, uninsulated 2-layer jacket that hits a very desirable combination of price ($299), toughness, and coverage. With a long cut and burly shell, the jacket excels in the kind of conditions you learn to accept in the Pacific Northwest: wet, rowdy, and—at times—deep.
Like Flylow above, TREW Gear’s jackets look best in their tri-color layouts, although the Astoria is available in a range of both solid and multi-colored options. Comfort is another strong suit with an impressively smooth lining, and they’ve managed to check the right boxes with features like pit zips and a nice assortment of interior and exterior pockets. One downside of the build is that it’s pretty heavy for a jacket that lacks insulation, so we wouldn’t recommend hauling it on any significant backcountry adventures (you can bump up to the more premium and lighter-weight Stella for an additional $100). But if you stay inside the ropes and want a well-sorted, long-lasting shell, the Astoria deserves your attention.
See the TREW Gear Astoria
Best for: Backcountry/resort
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex Pro
What we like: Premium all-around performance.
What we don’t: Crinkly and stiff; overkill for most backcountry and resort skiers.
Sitting atop Patagonia’s impressive line of ski shells is the PowSlayer. Whereas the Insulated Powder Town above is tuned for the resort and the SnowDrifter is a lightweight and mobile option for backcountry skiers, the PowSlayer is all bombproof protection, all the time. It’s outfitted with Gore’s top-of-the-line Pro construction, which is hard to beat in terms of both breathability and weatherproofing, and in our experience offers a tangible defense against the elements. Similar to the Norrøna Tamok above, this is the jacket you want to be wearing when Mother Nature is on the loose. The rest of the jacket is also thoughtfully designed and made to last: zippers are smooth and confidence-inspiring, you get a total of eight pockets, and the innovative cord-locking system is user-friendly and keeps clutter to a minimum. Finally, reflecting Patagonia's strong environmental push, the face fabric incorporates 100-percent-recycled nylon without any impact on performance.
With all that praise, why do we have the PowSlayer ranked so low on our list? In comparison to the stretchy SnowDrifter above, the PowSlayer's face fabric is noticeably crinkly and stiff, resulting in less overall comfort and freedom of movement. We understand the appeal of Gore-Tex Pro for high-alpine endeavors or long expeditions where you need the best waterproofing available, but it’s simply overkill for most (not to mention the price tag). But Patagonia did keep weight low at an impressive 1 pound 2.4 ounces, and the jacket packs up relatively small, which is great for stuffing in your pack on the skin track. Simply put, the PowSlayer is a lot of jacket for the everyday skier, but it’s the whole package for serious weather and extended trips into the backcountry... Read in-depth review
See the Patagonia PowSlayer
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (750-fill down; 60, 80, & 100g synthetic)
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex
What we like: The ultimate on-piste jacket for cold weather.
What we don't: Double-take-worthy price.
You can’t start a discussion about the Andessa without first acknowledging its price: Yes, this jacket really costs $950. What you get for that large sum of money is an absolutely glorious resort piece that is one of only a few jackets capable of pulling double duty for daily wear. The Andessa is extremely warm, super comfortable, fits great, and has the first-rate build quality that Arc’teryx and very few other companies offer. For resort skiing and particularly in cold places, the Andessa is the cream of the crop and should last you for many seasons to come.
Warmth and insulation come courtesy of Down Composite Mapping, a technique Arc’teryx also employs on their popular down jackets like the Cerium LT. Premium 750-fill goose down is distributed around the core and sleeves to keep weight and bulk to a minimum, with synthetic insulation in areas most prone to getting wet like the underarms, cuffs, and collar. The result is lofty warmth that can keep you comfortable in truly frigid conditions (for us, this included temperatures below zero when factoring in wind chill). It’ll run hot in mild weather, but if you’re the type who’s always cold on the slopes or want a premium ski jacket that wears well around town, there isn’t anything better than the Andessa. Of note: Arc’teryx also offers the Andessa jacket in a non-insulated version for $600.
See the Arc'teryx Andessa Insulated Jacket
Best for: Resort
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex
What we like: Super tough and feature-rich hardshell.
What we don’t: Stiff, bulky, and heavy.
Popular outdoor retailer Backcountry has entered the apparel world with a surprisingly complete line of outerwear, insulation, and more. The Cottonwoods Jacket (also offered in a matching bib) is their premium resort shell, highlighted by a high-end 3-layer Gore-Tex construction and thick 70-denier face fabric. Organization-wise, there are a grand total of seven pockets—five along the exterior and two inside—that make it easy to distribute gear and snacks, and Backcountry nailed the basics with easy adjustments at the hood, cuffs, and hem, as well as soft hand gaiters for an extra dose of comfort. It all adds up to an impressively hardwearing and functional jacket, and it’s even priced well at $399.
It’s really hard to overstate the robust and bombproof feel of this jacket, which has become our go-to choice for storm days at the resort. The downside to this construction is that the Backcountry is among the stiffest and least comfortable jackets on our list, and considerably less supple and mobile than the 70-denier Arc'teryx Sentinel. For this reason, we don’t recommend it for backcountry use (it’s also a hefty 1 lb. 12 oz.), and you might want a lighter and airier shell for bluebird spring days. But for a squall-ready jacket that you can truly hunker down in (we love the tall collar that zips all the way up to the nose), the Cottonwoods is a high-end choice that won’t break the bank.
See the Backcountry Cottonwoods
Best for: Resort
Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex
What we like: Standout value for a Gore-Tex-equipped shell.
What we don’t: Unproven over the long term.
REI jumped into the ski outerwear market a couple seasons ago with a small collection of resort-focused pieces, and their current top-flight jacket is the First Chair GTX. As expected from the Seattle-based brand, this non-insulated shell is high on value: For $299, you get Gore-Tex waterproofing, a soft-touch interior, and valuable features like a powder skirt, pit zips, and seven well-distributed pockets. Another nice touch is the emphasis on sustainability, with a recycled polyester lining, PFC-free DWR coating, and bluesign-approved materials. Taken together, the First Chair is a solid step up from REI’s Powderbound above and a great all-around option, particularly for resort riders.
As expected for the price, the First Chair isn’t as well suited for active use. Gore’s 2-layer construction isn’t a standout in terms of breathability, and the smooth lining covering the interior adds both weight and bulk. In addition, REI incorporated cheaper fabric flaps over the zippers on the pockets and pit zips for waterproof protection (the center zipper is coated, however). Added up, it’s a very similar design to the TREW Gear above with the addition of premium Gore-Tex (TREW uses their in-house 2L PNW membrane), although we think most skiers will appreciate the more refined style of the Astoria. But for a thoughtfully designed hardshell that ticks the right boxes for season-long use at a great price, the First Chair is well worth checking out.
See the REI Co-op First Chair GTX
Best for: Backcountry
Waterproofing: 3L Dynashell
What we like: Excellent breathability and stretchiness.
What we don't: Not completely waterproof.
For long tours in mild conditions, a softshell jacket is more breathable and has better stretchiness than a traditional hardshell. Dynafit’s Beast Hybrid stands out in this category thanks to its lightweight construction, trim and performance-oriented fit, and competitive price. The “Hybrid” in the name relates to its two fabric types: a waterproof 3-layer shell covers the upper body, arms, and hood, while a thinner 2-layer softshell around the lower body lets out hot air and provides excellent mobility. This balanced design excels for springtime use and in areas like the Rocky Mountains that see a lot of dry powder throughout the season.
The downside of the Dynafit’s hybrid build is that its protection falls short in wet conditions and for resort days—even sitting on a chairlift can leave you vulnerable to moisture seeping through. And the snug fit that's a boon on the skin track does make it challenging to layer underneath (it's not well-suited for accommodating a puffy jacket). In the end, the Dynafit can’t match the versatility of the $50-cheaper and fully waterproof Outdoor Research Skytour above, but its combination of weight and mobility makes it a great secondary touring jacket to have in your quiver.
See the Dynafit Beast Hybrid
Best for: Resort
Type: Insulated (150g & 40g Thermore Classic)
Waterproofing: 2L HydroBlock Sport
What we like: Women’s-specific fit and that classic resort style.
What we don’t: Not particularly waterproof and middling breathability.
Obermeyer used to be synonymous with ski jackets, but with street style being the new norm on the slopes, their more traditional offerings have grown long in the tooth. The Tuscany II, however, has stood the test of time and remains a nice choice for casual resort skiers. Those looking for a tastefully feminine design will find a lot to like here, with a form-fitting shape and cozy faux-fur trim on the hood, along with a soft face fabric that’s available in a number of classy colorways. And despite its closer fit, the Tuscany does accommodate a midlayer underneath, although you might not need the added warmth thanks to the jacket’s thick, 150-gram insulation throughout (40g in the hood).
The Obermeyer will get the job done on cold and snowy days, but when the mercury rises and the snow turns to slush, it will show its weaknesses. For one, the jacket’s HydroBlock Sport laminate lacks the quality of membranes like Gore-Tex and will wet out in sustained moisture. To be sure, you can get away with the Tuscany in colder climates like Colorado and the Northeast, but we don't recommend it for the Pacific Northwest. Second, it does not feature pit zips, and with heavy insulation, it can really build heat during mild days on the slopes. But the jacket will blend in on the city streets more than most, which is the sort of crossover appeal many women want. For a warm, stylish, and versatile design, it’s no secret why the Tuscany II remains popular year after year.
See the Obermeyer Tuscany II
Best for: Resort
Type: 3-in-1 (fleece)
Waterproofing: 2L Omni-Tech
What we like: Affordable way to get out on the slopes.
What we don’t: Cheap construction and generic fit.
The essential duties of a resort jacket are to keep you warm and protected from moisture and wind and provide enough storage for the basics. Columbia’s answer to these needs is the Bugaboo Interchange, a 3-in-1 ski jacket at a very attractive price point. Perfect for wintery days on the slopes, you get a good deal of warmth with a fleece zip-out jacket and Columbia’s signature (and somewhat polarizing) Omni-Heat reflective lining. The silvery interior is a little too disco for us when we slip it off, but it does feel like it’s working by radiating your body heat. And when the mercury rises, simply remove the fleece and don the shell over a light baselayer.
All that said, we’ve found that the Columbia’s basic shell and lining do impact breathability, and a lack of pit zips means the Bugaboo can run hot. In addition, the material quality isn’t up to snuff compared with the options above and is more prone to wetting out (regular washing and reapplying the DWR does help). But on easy resort days coast to coast, this is all the jacket that most weekend warriors need. For a similar 3-in-1 design that trades the fleece liner of the Bugaboo for a synthetic jacket, check out the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange.
See the Columbia Bugaboo II Fleece Interchange
|Arc'teryx Sentinel||$700||Resort/backcountry||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 4.8 oz.|
|Helly Hansen Alphelia||$475||Resort||Insulated||Unavail.||2L Helly Tech||2 lb. 3.3 oz.|
|Patagonia SnowDrifter||$429||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L H2No||1 lb. 2 oz.|
|REI Co-op Powderbound||$199||Resort||Insulated||80g / 60g||2L Peak||1 lb. 8.9 oz.|
|TNF ThermoBall Triclimate||$360||Resort||3-in-1||11 g/sqft||2L DryVent||2 lb. 5.1 oz.|
|Flylow Gear Lucy Jacket||$400||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Intuitive||1 lb. 3.5 oz.|
|Patagonia Powder Town||$399||Resort||Insulated||80g / 40g||2L H2No||1 lb. 10.9 oz.|
|Outdoor Research Skytour||$379||Backcountry||Shell||None||3L Ascentshell||1 lb. 4.3 oz.|
|BD Recon Stretch Shell||$400||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L BD.dry||1 lb. 7.5 oz.|
|Outdoor Research Carbide||$299||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Pertex Shield||1 lb. 2.8 oz.|
|Norrøna Tamok||$799||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex Pro||1 lb. 8 oz.|
|TREW Gear Astoria||$299||Resort||Shell||None||2L PNW||1 lb. 13 oz.|
|Patagonia PowSlayer||$749||Backcountry/resort||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex Pro||1 lb. 2.5 oz.|
|Arc’teryx Andessa||$950||Resort||Insulated||Down & synthetic||3L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 14.7 oz.|
|Backcountry Cottonwoods||$399||Resort||Shell||None||3L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 12 oz.|
|REI Co-op First Chair GTX||$299||Resort||Shell||None||2L Gore-Tex||1 lb. 8.9 oz.|
|Dynafit Beast Hybrid||$400||Backcountry||Shell||None||3L Dynashell||1 lb. 1 oz.|
|Obermeyer Tuscany II||$259||Resort||Insulated||150g / 40g||2L HydroBlock||1 lb. 11.7 oz.|
|Columbia Bugaboo||$210||Resort||3-in-1||Fleece||2L Omni-Tech||Unavail.|
- Best Uses: Resort and Backcountry
- Ski Jacket Types
- Jacket Layers: 2L vs. 3L
- Common Features
- Ski Jacket Fit
- Layering Underneath Your Ski Jacket
Ski jackets often are designed for a specific purpose—resort, backcountry, or both—so we’ve included a “best for” listing in our specifications and table. The vast majority of skiers spend at least a little time on a chairlift, and, as a result, most ski jackets accommodate those needs. Specifically, a shell built for inbounds use should be durable, wind- and waterproof, and have a fit that can accommodate layers of varying sizes underneath. Insulation is optional for resort-goers but especially nice for chilly lift rides in cold areas like the Northeast and Colorado. We also see more liberties taken with both fit and style in the resort market: with less of a need to keep weight low, modern resort jackets often feature long hemlines (indicated by the center back length), roomy fits, and trendy, modern styling.
For ski touring, mountaineering, or even sidecountry exploration, a non-insulated and lightweight design takes precedence. The fabrics need to be thin and packable, and there is a high priority on fabric technology to deliver top-notch performance at a low weight. Jackets that integrate stretchy face fabrics or sections of softshell lead the pack in breathability, but for heavy wind and moisture, a premium hardshell still is best. Fit does vary by use—freeride shells are roomy, while touring-specific options fit more snugly—but all designs share a focus on mobility. Finally, jackets that toe the line between backcountry and resort use typically have an accommodating fit, ample durability, and breathable fabrics that are still impervious to wind and moisture. It’s a tall order and requires ponying up a large sum of money, but these pieces, including the Arc'teryx Sentinel and Patagonia PowSlayer, are among the most versatile and high-performing here.
Ski jackets can be broken into three main categories: shell, insulated, and 3-in-1. Choosing the right model depends largely on your skiing style and budget. The most popular is the shell, which is a versatile choice for everyone from casual resort skiers to backcountry adventurers in harsh, wet environments. Insulated jackets are ideal for inbounds skiing in deep winter, while 3-in-1 jackets are a good choice for budget-seekers and those just building their kit. Below is a quick breakdown, and for a deeper dive, check out our article on ski jacket types.
Shell (Non-Insulated) Jackets
Shell jackets offer sturdy protection from wind and moisture and can be suitable for both backcountry and resort use. Made with multiple layers of fabric laminated together, they are typically waterproof, windproof, and at least modestly breathable. By our definition, these jackets are not insulated, so you’ll want to pair them with a midlayer and/or baselayer for warmth (for more, check out our tips on How to Layer for Backcountry Skiing).
High-end shell jackets like the Outdoor Research Skytour have premium waterproof/breathable membranes (Gore-Tex and AscentShell are two of our favorites) and a tailored fit for excellent range of motion. Some feature rigid and crinkly hardshells, while many modern backcountry designs incorporate a stretchy face fabric or panels of softshell, which provide great mobility and breathability but less bombproof protection. Basic shells use thicker fabrics and cheaper waterproofing that doesn't breathe as well. Beginning and occasional skiers will be fine with an entry-level shell jacket, but we do recommend spending up for those who get out a lot.
An insulated jacket typically combines a weather-protective shell with built-in synthetic fill, resulting in a great defense against both moisture and cold. We love these designs for resort-goers, who will benefit from the added warmth during cold chairlift rides and frigid downhill laps. The majority of ski jackets feature synthetic fill—compared to down, it's cheaper, more breathable, and insulates even when wet. The most high-end varieties offer more warmth for less bulk (PrimaLoft Gold and Patagonia’s PlumaFill are two of the best), while budget designs will be heavier, bulkier, and tend to overheat in a hurry. Regardless of the type of insulation, keep in mind that these jackets are inherently heftier, less breathable, and offer less range of motion than shells, which isn’t a big issue for inbounds use but can be a deal-breaker for most backcountry skiers.
If you opt for an insulated model, it’s a good idea to carefully consider how much warmth you need. Most jackets feature a heavy dose of insulation in the body with thinner fill in the arms and hood. A thick and substantial option is a dream in the cold but will run hot on mild-weather days, which can pose an issue for season-long use. As such, we typically prefer moderate levels of warmth, such as Patagonia’s Powder Town (80 and 40g). These jackets give you the flexibility to add a midlayer if the mercury really drops without overheating when the sun comes out and temperatures rise midday. There’s certainly a time and place for a heavily insulated model, but most skiers will be better off with a more balanced design.
With an outer shell and zip-in insulated layer, 3-in-1 jackets are extremely popular for casual skiers. The main advantage is cost: you can pick up a decent 3-in-1 jacket for around $180 to $350, and—as the name implies—you get the versatility of three jackets in one. Wear the shell sans insulation on warm spring days, zip the two together mid-winter, and don the midlayer (most often a fleece or synthetic jacket) for everyday use. Versatility is unparalleled, and, unlike insulated models, you can leave behind the warming layer simply by unzipping it.
All that said, 3-in-1 jackets do add bulk and weight with the extra zippers, and integrating the shell and insulating layer negatively impacts range of motion. Further, you can’t access the midlayer’s pockets when it’s zipped into the shell, weather protection is often middling with cheap materials, and these jackets are far from the best performers for high-exertion activities (opting for one with pit zips is suggested). Nevertheless, for the budget-seeker or skiers that only make it to the mountain a couple times a year, a 3-in-1 like the Columbia Bugaboo Interchange is a good way to get kitted out for a reasonable price.
One specification you’ll consistently run into as you research ski jackets is the number of fabric layers (either 2L or 3L). A 2-layer jacket bonds the exterior face fabric to a waterproof membrane and has a separate liner along the interior, while a 3-layer build connects all three pieces together. In terms of cost, 2-layer models are often found on entry-level to mid-range resort options, including REI’s $199 Powderbound and Patagonia’s $399 Insulated Powder Town. Stepping up to a 3-layer design usually means a price tag north of $400.
How do the construction types differ in terms of performance? Starting with 2-layer jackets, these are popular among resort riders as they offer solid weatherproofing and durability at a good value. Downsides are that 2-layer jackets aren’t very breathable, and the extra liner adds both weight and bulk (these are fairly minor issues for inbounds use). Active resort and backcountry skiers often choose a 3-layer build for its improved range of motion, comfort, and lighter weight. In addition, 3-layer jackets breathe reasonably well, and high-end Gore-Tex-equipped models are market leaders in protection in the harshest conditions. All told, if you stick to the resort, either a 2- or 3-layer build can do the trick, but we recommend a 3-layer option for the ski touring crowd.
Ski jackets are waterproof pretty much across the board, from cheap $100 options all the way up to high-end Gore-Tex (or equivalent) shells. They accomplish this via waterproof laminates and DWR (durable water repellent) coatings, which help shed wet snow to keep moisture from sitting on your jacket and wetting through the outer fabric. One exception is a backcountry-specific softshell, which does not use a laminate and will eventually let in moisture (for this reason, the Dynafit Beast Hybrid above patterns its softshell fabric with 3L hardshell in areas most prone to moisture).
Among waterproof options, there is a spectrum of performance. Bargain designs will keep you dry in cold conditions when precipitation falls as snow, but they’ll be the first to soak through in rain and slush. This is usually due to their cheaper face fabric, which absorbs moisture, as well as a lack of full seam taping. For this reason, budget designs are sufficient for casual resort-goers (you can always head into the lodge to dry out), but we don’t recommend them for serious shredders or backcountry skiers.
Moving up the performance ladder, our favorite choice for most resort skiers is a high-quality 2-layer design like Patagonia’s Powder Town or Helly Hansen's Alphelia. The majority of backcountry skiers can get away with a lightweight and stretchy 3-layer jacket that balances breathability and waterproofing, including our top pick, Patagonia's SnowDrifter. Finally, for the most serious winter conditions, it's hard to beat a high-end hardshell with thick face fabric and premium tech. At the top of the food chain is a burly Gore-Tex Pro shell like the Norrøna Tamok, which is an impressive performer in brutal wind and snowfall and will keep you protected even on multi-day expeditions.
For most resort skiers, breathability is not the first consideration when looking for a jacket. While you can absolutely work up a sweat on your way down the mountain, it’s easy to dump heat with pit zips or by dropping a layer at the car midday. On the other hand, skiers who like to earn their turns will place a premium on a well-ventilated jacket. Among the options, shell jackets are the best breathers, and those with high-end 3-layer fabric constructions such as Gore-Tex and AscentShell are head and shoulders above the rest. Within this category, designs with thin and stretchy face fabrics ventilate better than true hardshells with rigid and thick shells (consider the Outdoor Research Skytour vs. the Norrøna Tamok). And if you’re willing to compromise on some wind and water resistance (we often do on bluebird spring days), softshell jackets or hybrids like the Dynafit Beast Hybrid are the all-around leaders, as they omit the waterproofing layer.
Skiing is a rough sport—everything from getting on and off the lift to hiking and riding off-trail can wreak havoc on gear—so your outer layers are often quite durable. Denier, or “D,” is how fabric thickness is measured, and a higher number correlates with a more substantial build. Overall, resort skiers are best off with a burlier construction, and some jackets are as thick as 100D or more. If you prioritize a lighter set-up for mobility but still want something tough, jackets with about 70D like the Arc’teryx Sentinel are a nice compromise. And finally, backcountry shells are often the thinnest for weight savings, with popular models hovering around 40D, including Patagonia’s PowSlayer and the Outdoor Research Skytour (40D x 65D). It’s worth noting that some manufacturers do not provide this specification, but you can make some safe assumptions based on intended use: expect a thicker build with a resort shell and a bit less durability for active and touring designs.
For resort skiers, the weight of your ski jacket isn’t usually a deciding factor. As long as you’re comfortable, it’s easy to handle a few extra ounces without really noticing (even the 2-lb.-1.1-oz. TNF ThermoBall Snow Triclimate isn't excessively heavy for the typical ski day). On average, cheaper jackets compensate for their less advanced fabrics by using more of it, making for thicker, durable shells. It’s when you start hiking or venturing off-trail that a lighter jacket starts to make a lot of sense. Standouts in this category include the Patagonia SnowDrifter (1 lb. 2 oz.) and Dynafit Beast Hybrid (1 lb. 0.8 oz.). Generally, a jacket's weight will also correlate with its packed size, which is an important consideration for backcountry skiers as well.
Most hoods go unused for downhill skiing—a helmet is a fine source of protection and insulation. But for those particularly nasty days either in and out of bounds, it’s a nice feature to have to seal up the area between your helmet and collar and hunker down for those blustery lift rides. When shopping for a ski jacket, make sure to get a hood that is large enough to fit over your ski helmet—most will do the trick, but it never hurts to try before buying. Also look for a hood to be plenty adjustable to cinch down and stay pinned to your head while skiing. A properly adjusted hood should not interfere with your field of vision as a good safety measure. Finally, should you want to use your ski jacket for more than just skiing, ensure that your hood fits well when you’re not wearing your helmet.
Unless you ski with a backpack, it’s important to select a jacket with multiple pockets. Most ski jackets include a couple of hand pockets and at least one zippered Napoleon-style pocket at the chest. That Napoleon pocket is great for stashing smaller items like a phone, camera, or wallet, where your body heat can help keep everything functioning properly (the “Life Pocket” on the Helly Hansen Alphelia is specifically insulated to limit battery drain on your electronics).
Additionally, we find internal dump pockets almost indispensable for days on the slopes. Cavernous, easy-to-access, and close to your body’s heat, they’re a great place to stash gloves, goggles, or glasses in between runs or if you’re starting to overheat while hiking. Further, dump pockets are a practical choice for backcountry skiers who want to store their climbing skins on a short descent (also great for thawing skins out). Finally, you’ll see a number of resort-ready models include a sleeve pocket on the left arm, which allows for both easy access to your ski pass and compatibility with RFID passes and electronic gates.
Powder (Snow) Skirts
It's nearly impossible to keep snow completely out should you ski through some really deep powder or take a serious tumble, but a powder skirt nevertheless is a great extra line of defense. Also known as a snow skirt or powder gasket, this is a piece of elasticized fabric built into the lining of a jacket around the waist, typically snapping together at the front to form a seal at the bottom hem. Powder skirts are most common on resort-specific shells and burly backcountry shells but are one of the first things to go when shaving weight is a priority. Some manufacturers even design the snow skirt to snap out of the way or remove completely, which is a nice bonus for casual or around-town use.
Jacket-to-Pant Attachment Systems
Like the powder skirt, jacket-to-pant attachment systems are all about maximizing protection and warmth. Designs don’t vary significantly within the ski market, and most utilize a simple button on the powder skirt that secures to a corresponding piece on the pant (in the case of Patagonia, this is a fabric loop). The upside in connecting your outer layers is creating an even more solid seal from the wet and cold, but it’s certainly not a required feature for either resort or backcountry use. It’s worth noting that in nearly all cases, you’ll need to purchase a ski pant from the same brand for the system to work and integrate properly. And many manufacturers, like Outdoor Research and Black Diamond, skip the feature altogether.
Skiing can be a high-exertion activity, and waterproof jackets, no matter the quality, restrict airflow. Enter the pit zip. Open them all the way, typically extending from approximately the middle of your ribcage to just above your elbow, and you can release a whole lot of hot air quickly. Although they’re not a necessity for the easygoing skier and do add a bit of weight and bulk, we recommend putting pit zips on the active skier's “must have” list when jacket shopping. Some designs even feature pit zips that extend all the way to the hem (we saw this in the now-discontinued OR Skyward II), which offer standout ventilation but aren't particularly practical.
Most modern ski jackets feature a built-in RECCO reflector, a passive unit that doesn’t require batteries and can be picked up by RECCO detectors often carried by resort search and rescue. These are a great addition particularly for resort skiers who frequent areas prone to avalanches or tree wells. However, we want to make it clear that a RECCO reflector is no substitute for an avalanche beacon, with much simpler technology and a far weaker signal. It’s a nice safety measure for resort-goers who occasionally venture off-trail, but sidecountry and backcountry skiers should always go prepared with a complete avalanche rescue toolkit (including a beacon, shovel, probe, and the proper training and knowledge).
In general, the fit of a ski jacket corresponds with its intended use. Resort designs like Helly Hansen’s Alphelia have a roomy shape to accommodate a range of base- and midlayers underneath. In addition, they feature a long cut with a drop-tail hem for protection from frozen chairlift seats. On the other end of the spectrum are backcountry-specific builds like the Dynafit Beast Hybrid, which are trimmed down to minimize bulk and improve range of motion. They’re snug enough to move with you comfortably on the skin track but have just enough space to accommodate a puffy for transitioning and on the descent. Finally, an option like the Arc’teryx Sentinel lands in the middle and aims to balance backcountry and resort needs. It’s large enough to not feel restrictive when wearing a midweight down jacket but has excellent mobility for hiking and occasional uphill travel.
The outdoor apparel world has seen a sizable uptick in the use of sustainable practices in recent years, and ski jackets are no exception. Two key measures include recycled materials and PFC-free DWR coatings (traditional coatings use perfluorocarbons—a chemical known to be harmful to the environment). Bluesign-approved fabrics are also becoming more common, indicating that the materials have been sourced and produced to minimize their overall impact on the environment. Finally, many companies tack on a Fair Trade certification, which helps ensure the fair and ethical treatment of workers.
The good news is that most sustainability-conscious brands are transparent about these practices and indicate which (if any) measures each product uses. Patagonia is a clear leader in this realm: Their new Insulated Powder Town jacket, for example, is Fair Trade Certified, features 100%-recycled liner, insulation, and shell, and has a PFC-free DWR finish. Several other brands are also making strides, including Outdoor Research, REI, and more. There’s still a long way to go in the industry, but the current trajectory and momentum from many of the key players are encouraging. And of course, a final way to shop sustainably is to purchase quality products that will last and repair old gear rather than buy cheap items that will need to be replaced in a season or two.
Unless you opt for a 3-in-1 jacket, you’ll likely want a dedicated midlayer for skiing. The amount of insulation can vary dramatically, from a thin fleece to a puffy down jacket. Fleece jackets are the classic choice for skiing and can be quite warm and lightweight, but mid and heavyweight designs are bulky. Down is the pricey option but is unmatched in lightweight, compressible warmth (just make sure to keep it dry because it will stop insulating when wet), and synthetic fill splits the difference. Synthetic insulated jackets have a fairly good warmth-to-weight ratio, retain their insulating properties when wet, and are slightly more breathable than down. For more on midlayers along with our top picks, see our article on the best midlayers.
Baselayers and their next-to-skin warmth are also important in keeping you toasty and dry. A breathable and well-ventilated jacket will only perform as well as the baselayer underneath, so don’t skimp here. Synthetics, like those made by Patagonia or Helly Hansen, are comfortable and breathe well at a reasonable cost. The downside is they are less soft and more prone to retaining unpleasant odors than merino wool. Merino is more expensive but excels in temperature regulation and odor prevention. On all but the coldest days, our go-to baselayers are the lightweight or midweight options for a good balance of warmth and breathability.
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