A ski jacket is your first line of defence against the cold, harsh winter elements, whether skiing pistes in Meribel or backcountry touring in Colorado.
We've picked out the best ski jackets this season and then further whittled down our selection to the stand-out performers of the year from the best brands. From great value piste jackets to high end technical jackets designed for backcountry skiers, there's something here to suit everyone.
- Spyder Leader LE GTX
- Dakine Gearhart
- Salomon Arctic Down
- Black Diamond Boundary Line Mapped
- Patagonia Stormstride
- Haglofs Vassi GTX Pro
- Arc’teryx Incendia One-piece
- Rossignol Fonction Ride Free
- Schoffel Planica
- Picture Goods
- Protest Taco
- The North Face Chakal
- Buyer's guide: What do you need in a ski jacket?
Spyder Leader LE GTX
Best for: Demanding resort skiers
Mix Gore Tex and Primaloft into a stylish ski jacket and you’re onto a winner. The Leader LE is about as fully featured as it gets so will perform like a beast out on the slopes, protecting from the elements and keeping you sweat free, but it’s also built with comfort in mind. You’ll find stretch panels sewn in as well as a removable hood and powder skirt.
Best for: Conquering the whole mountain
Sitting towards the top of Dakine’s snowboard range is the excellent Gearhart jacket. It aims to offer the ultimate in shell performance, only the best materials and all the features you need in a solid all-mountain jacket, and after testing, we reckon it succeeds admirably. Breathability and waterproofing are both excellent, with legendary Gore-Tex performance and fully taped seams taking care of water ingress, and huge, easily accessible underarm vents allowing you to quickly dump excess heat. Durability is right up there thanks to the tough three-layer construction and obvious attention to detail, with decent-quality YKK zips and neat stitching all over. Pockets are plentiful and the loose, casual cut and long hem lend themselves well to backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Excellent stuff.
Salomon Arctic Down
Best for: Downright frigid temperatures
If you’re looking for maximum warmth for deep winter days this is quite possibly the jacket for you. Filled with 600 fill-power Track My Down goose down and finished with stonking 20k/20k outer fabric the Arctic Down will not fail in keeping you warm and dry this winter. Styling is perfect for use as an everyday wear jacket too, which bumps up the value over and above a one week a year ski jacket.
Black Diamond Boundary Line Mapped
Best for: Skiers who want a reliable all-rounder
Black Diamond have aimed the new Boundary Line Mapped jacket squarely at the genuine all-mountain skier. The unique selling point of this jacket is the use of wool insulation, which offers great moisture management. Rounded off with 20,000mm of waterproofing and fully taped seams, the Boundary Line takes Black Diamond’s big mountain ethos and applies it to a great all-rounder of a jacket.
Best for: Minimalist ski tourers
Built for dedicated ski tourers, the Stormstride has everything you need and nothing you don’t. This has the distinct benefit of keeping the weight down to just 490g, perfect for stuffing in your pack on the uphill. The 3-layer shell uses all the best in material technology, with a highly waterproof but stretchy ripstop outer for great freedom of movement and durability and a soft polyester knit backer, which gives a lovely next to skin feel and a touch of warmth.
Haglofs Vassi GTX Pro
Best for: Out and out off piste action
You know when a ski jacket uses Gore Tex Pro it means business. The king of the crop in the Gore Tex family offers the very best protection and durability money can buy. A true off piste jacket, the Vassi Pro has a roomy, long cut for maximum coverage, freedom of movement and of course style. A helmet compatible hood, pockets that don’t interfere with pack straps and a built in RECCO reflector arm you with everything you need for a day in the powder.
Arc’teryx Incendia One-piece
Best for: The most demanding female rippers
It’s official, one-piece ski suits are back. Arc’teryx have put their own spin on the genre, with this, which is new for the 2021 season. Top of the line Gore-Tex fabrics are used for protection with a heathered look and soft feel. Clever ventilation at the thighs doubles as a ‘quick-release’ system answering one of the main problems with a one-piece ski suit – toilet breaks. If the price tag makes you gasp, don’t forget that you don’t need to buy ski pants!
Rossignol Fonction Ride Free
Best for: Inbound skiers who prefer a trim cut
The new Ride Free range from Rossignol is a market disrupter, blending resort styling with freeride performance. With 20k/20k waterproofing and breathability the Fonction ticks the right freeride boxes but also has mapped insulation to keep you warm while cruising the resort slopes. Styling probably won’t appeal to die hard backcountry rippers but if you’re bored of the usual boxy ski jacket silhouette then the Fonction is worth a look.
Best for: Cruising the pistes and terraces
The 2-way stretch outer fabric of the Planica has a denim look to it and is soft to the touch - none of your usual stiff and crunchy materials here! This helps the jacket feel understated and elegant, with a few luxury touches that make it stand out from the crowd, like the fur-lined hood and heavy YKK Metalux zips. This choice of comfortable and good looking fabrics doesn’t leave you without protection on the slopes though, with 10K waterproofing and fully taped seams.
Best for: Comfort seeking eco warriors
Stretch isn’t something you typically see on a ski jacket but the Goods offers it in 4 ways. This means it’s likely to be much nicer to wear than the crinkly equivalents. It’s also lined with a cosy but eco-friendly recycled insulation and the eco goodness doesn’t stop there as the Goods also uses a Bio-sourced outer fabric. Fully sealed seams, waterproof zips and an inner snowskirt make sure the snow stays where it belongs.
Best for: All mountain skiers wanting excellent bang for buck
This 3-in-1 jacket from Protest offers versatility for all types of skiing. The removable inner is filled with an eco-friendly bamboo blend and the hard shell outer can be worn on its own on warmer spring skiing days. Fully taped and with 20k waterproofing staying dry is pretty much guaranteed and the pit zips and laser cut ventilation holes help excess heat and moisture escape.
The North Face Chakal
Best for: All-mountain fun on a budget
The Chakal is the type of ski jacket that earns its place in your wardrobe by offering everyday wear versatility, thanks to its great looks. Under the exterior you get dependable, warm, and breathable PrimaLoft insulation as well as a number of pockets to store your kit. North Face’s own DryVent fabric is as waterproof as the competition and AquaGuard zips make sure no moisture creeps through from the outside.
Buyer's guide: What do you need in a ski jacket?
Before buying a ski jacket ask yourself these questions.....
Is the jacket fully waterproof and how do I tell?
Get the basics right first, make sure your jacket is waterproof. We would suggest a minimum level for skiing and snowboarding of a 10,000mm hydrostatic head, this information can be found on the tag of the jacket or on the manufacturers web page. If you're really putting the jacket through its paces in all weathers then you should aim for a higher level of 20,000mm or above.
What are taped seams and do I need them?
Taped seams are important to stop the gradual creep of moisture past small holes created when the various panels of the jacket are sewn together. Some only have critically taped seams usually above the shoulder and in the hood but most dedicated ski jackets have fully taped seams i.e. every seam on the jacket has a layer of waterproof tape bonded over the top of it.
Are the zips waterproof?
Any zips will need to either have storm flaps - a flap of material over the top of the zip - or preferably be water tight. If they don't have either eventually moisture will creep through. You can tell if a zip is watertight by looking at the area either side of the teeth, if it has a rubbery looking coating then you're good to go. Also make sure that all zips run smoothly and have chunky pullers so you can easily use them with gloves or simply with cold hands.
How many pockets do I need and do I need pit zips?
Make sure you have enough for your needs, look for a jacket with a lift pass pocket on one of the sleeves as this will save a lot of hassle in busy lift queues. If you're going to be doing a lot of high intensity skiing or ski touring then pit zips are a must for ventilation through the body without having to remove your jacket.
Do I need an insulated ski jacket?
Whether you go for shell or insulated depends on if you prefer to layer up or not. Shell jackets (jackets with no insulation) are more versatile as long as you have a wardrobe full of technical layers to go underneath. You can vary these layers depending on conditions, from a light baselayer underneath on warmer days to a full compliment of base and mid layer for deep winter days. It also allows you to vary layers through the day for better temperature regulation overall. Some prefer insulated jackets for their simplicity and the fact that you don't have to buy expensive extra layers to go underneath them.
Is down insulation any good for skiing?
As a general rule synthetic insulation is better than down for ski clothing as it retains most of its insulating properties when wet. Although tempting be careful not to buy overly insulated jackets as they will quickly get hot and clammy when you're skiing.
Other features that skiers and snowboarders find useful, but aren't necessarily vital, are a powder skirt, which is designed to keep snow from going underneath your jacket, and thumb loops which keep your sleeves down and tucked under your gloves.