Norrona Tamok | £499
Knowing Narrona and its history of bright coloured clothing, it was a bit of a shock to see the rather drab brown, blue and camouflage grey options of the Tamok.
However, there’s nothing drab about its performance. This light and relatively soft and silent three-layer Gore-tex shell has a loose cut for easy layering, and a huge, helmet-compatible hood.
With its military cut Tamok has a stack of useful pockets, as well as excellent breathability and comfort, thanks to its Gore-tex fabric, large pit zips and an additional zippered chest vent.
Versatility, off-slope style, and on-slope top performance make the Tamok one of our favourite jackets of the year.
+ Packed with useful features…
– …but a goggle pocket would have been nice!
Helly Hansen Sogn | £280
The Sogn is a jacket for riders who feel the cold – the soft Helly Tech Performance 2L outer shell fabric is seam-sealed and combines with PrimaLoft insulation and HH's H2Flow venting system to keep you warm, dry and comfortable.
It has a relaxed fit, which is good for freedom of movement as well as layering, and has a host of pockets as well as freeride specific features such as pit-zips, a jacket-pant compatible powder skirt, higher collar, goggle chammy in chest pocket and in-built Recco reflector.
Our only quibbles were the tightness of the wrist gaiters and lack of stated thumb loops.
If you prefer insulated ski jackets over shells, and like a loose fit, you should check out the feature-packed Sogn.
+ Warm with lots of pockets and features
– Poor hood fit when worn without a helmet
Arc’teryx Sphene | £500
The cut of the Sphene is unapologetically athletic, designed to accommodate a technical mid-layer but not much else underneath the Gore-Tex Pro outer, which worked for us. The e3D Ergonomic patterning could easily be dismissed as technical jargon but try this jacket out and you’ll appreciate the effort that’s gone into its active fit – it’s so good it almost feels like you’re not wearing it.
The hem drops and tapers perfectly to provide a snug but not restrictive fit, and the storm hood has been designed superbly well, allowing enough space for a helmet but also working perfectly well without.
The Gore-Tex Pro fabric is a bit rustly but its breathable wind and waterproof performance is well established.
Pockets and features are minimal but so is the weight at 435g, which compares very favourably with other backcountry jackets.
Our only real gripe with the Sphene is that the zips are only water resistant, although in use the pockets did stay dry.
An incredibly well made and thought out, if expensive, jacket for serious backcountry users.
+ Lightweight without too many compromises
- Zips are only water-resistant
Patagonia Powder Bowl | £350
The women's version of the Powder Bowl that we tested has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a technical jacket, including pockets in useful places which are cut in such a way that the jacket doesn't bulk out when they're full.
There is also a powder skirt and the jacket is spacious enough for plenty of layers underneath. You might not need to though – we found its modest lining kept us quite warm on the snow in cool temperatures, and the Gore-tex jacket was very windproof. It also has a good high collar to keep the cold and the wind out! In warmer weather, the pit vents will keep you pleasantly cool.
If you’re looking for a women's jacket that is long lasting, technical and looks good, this is the jacket for you.
+ Tough wearing but good looking jacket
– Still a little on the pricey side
Eider Shaper | £400
Eider spent three years working on an ergonomic design for the zip and collar of the Shaper in order to protect your chin and lower face from the elements while allowing a full range of movement. It was worth it! Pull up the hood too, and your head is sheltered in a little cocoon against the elements.
The loose fitting jacket is fashioned from high-density double-weave ‘Defender’ fabric with increased durability and abrasion resistance on exposed areas such as shoulders and elbows and comes with a range of zippered pockets and a detachable powder skirt.
Excellent design, especially in the collar and hood, which will suit backcountry skiers and front-side riders alike.
+ Simple design with stretch comfort
– Non-adjustable hood; a little hefty
The North Face Gatekeeper | £275
The Gatekeeper jacket is an insulated ski jacket designed for recreational skiers which appeals to the more casual end of the ski market both in terms of looks and features – something that shows especially in the dainty zip pulls and the average fit of the removable hood.
The DryVent outer material protects and breathes well though, feeling soft to the touch, with a 2-way stretch that helps articulation.
Insulation works well too, with the Heatseeker synthetic fill retaining warmth well and adding a cosy feel. The flattering but not too close cut allows extra layers too.
Bridges the gap between fashion and technical functionality for the slopes with just enough performance.
+ Simple design with stretch comfort
– Non-adjustable hood; a little hefty
Picture Naikoon | £280
Picture's fully waterproof and breathable outer fabric sits on top of an insulated lining to keep you warm, dry and comfortable. The Naikoon is not trying to be a lightweight shell – and despite its extra bulk, freedom of movement is retained by its stretch outer fabric
One complaint was the hood, which was too flappy without a helmet.
There are zipped pockets aplenty, with the zipped inner security pocket containing an internal waterproof phone case (but no audio ports). There’s also a large inner mesh stash pocket for goggles or other bulky items.
A serious, insulated riding jacket that's warm enough for the coldest days on the mountains.
+ Eco-friendly; lots of useful features
– Hood not adjustable enough
Ortovox Guardian Shell | £589
The Guardian's 90 g/m2 Merino inner makes the jacket supremely comfortable and warm – as well as doing a good job of wicking moisture away from the layer beneath. We liked the supple Toray Dermizax outer fabric too, and found it impressively breathable, as well as totally water and windproof, tough and durable.
Both the main and underarm zips are two-way for versatile ventilation and you get two large chest pockets, a ski pass pocket on the left arm and an inner pocket. On top, the two-way adjustable storm hood is helmet compatible and gives good peripheral vision.
A seriously accomplished jacket at a serious price, that has improved on last season’s excellent effort.
+ Merino lining, comfortable and warm
– You need a bank loan to buy it
Burton Rubix | £235
This fantastic multi-coloured jacket is a typical long and spacious Burton snowboard cut, with excellent comfort and warmth. With two-layer Gore-tex on the outside and Thermolite insulation inside it will keep you warm and dry.
There are pockets low on the outside, and an inside pocket plus ski pass holder near the bottom of the jacket; which might mean you have to hoik up your jacket at turnstiles, but it’s a small price to pay for this jacket's look.
The material is impressively soft, given the Gore-tex integration – although we it's so soft we worry about durability.
This fantastic multi-coloured jacket is a typical long and spacious Burton snowboard cut, with excellent comfort.
+ Stand out design and comfortable fit
– Soft face material is prone to abrasion
Salomon QST Guard | £300
The Salomon QST Guard has been designed to look like a shell but perform like an insulated jacket thanks to – well, insulation, in the form of 40 gram Primaloft.
This is a pretty good combination as it means the jacket isn’t heavy and bulky but still keeps you warmer than a shell. And, of course, it’s also waterproof, windproof and breathable.
The design has been carefully thought out, starting with the helmet compatible hood, which still works without a lid, and the high collar with its soft microfleece lining.
Pockets include a small zipped lift pass pocket on the left sleeve, one small zipped chest pocket (a bit too small to be much use really), two zipped hand pockets and on the inside of the Guard a big mesh stash pocket which easily holds goggles or a water bottle, plus a small, zipped security pocket.
Velcro adjustable cuffs sit over wrist gaiters, and there are mesh-backed pit zips for ventilation and a fixed powder skirt to stop cold air and snow getting in.
The Salomon QST Guard has all you need in an lightweight, breathable, lightly insulated ski jacket.
+ Extra warmth without weight and bulk
– Chest pocket a bit too small