Without doubt one of the most important investments you'll make in ski gear, your jacket is your first line of defence against the cold, harsh winter elements, whether you're skiing pistes in the Alps or backcountry bowls in Utah.
Most dedicated ski jackets will have ski and snowboard friendly features like a powder skirt to stop your jacket filling with snow when you take a tumble and a lift pass pocket. Some will also have a RECCO reflector sewn in - a very basic version of an avalanche transceiver which will assist rescue crews in finding you (albeit in a crude way) should you be buried under snow.
Jacket styles vary wildly, from baggy, cut down to the knees grungy designs to purposefully athletic cuts designed for moving fast and light in the backcountry. What's for sure though is that at some point you'll be layering underneath your jacket so make sure there's plenty of room for a baselayer and fleece or down jacket at a minimum underneath.
Ski jacket pockets should have water resistant zips or storm flaps to stop the contents inside getting a drenching, also look for a jacket with a useful array of inside and outside pockets as you won't always want to carry a pack with you.
Some jackets are designed to work in conjunction with pants from the same brand and are able to be attached together, which avoids the pants falling down or jacket riding up. This is a very handy feature but you'll also need to consider whether it's worth investing in new pants from the same brand.
There isn't a great deal of 'bad' outdoor gear around these days, assuming you stick to trusted brands, but make sure that at the very least you look out for the waterproof (shown as hydrostatic head or HH) and breathability (shown as MVTR or g/m2/24hrs) ratings to ensure the jacket is up to spec. Avid skiers and snowboarders pushing hard should look for numbers in the 20,000mm and 20,000g/m2/24hrs range, recreational skiers and boarders taking a slower pace in less demanding weather conditions can easily get away with 10,000mm/10,000g/m2/24hrs or similar. Taped seams are a must, this is simply the process of sealing up the tiny holes created when seams are sewn together with a slither of waterproofing tape. Turn the jacket inside out and find a visible seam, if it has said slither of tape then you're good to go.
The final considerations are what material and insulated or not. Most proprietary fabrics used in the construction of ski jackets from reputable brands are comparable on performance, but some are weighted more towards being lightweight, some are made for durability, others offer maximum breathability and some are great all-rounders. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask questions in a shop.
Whether you choose an insulated or a shell ski jacket is mainly down to personal preference. Some choose the flexibility of a shell jacket while others prefer to have at least some insulation in their outer layer.
Based on decades of experience on the slopes we've picked out the best jackets this season and then further whittled our selection down to the stand-out performers of the year. From great value piste jackets to high end technical jackets designed for serious backcountry skiers, there's something here to suit everyone.
Arc’teryx Rush LT jacket | £550 (M) WINNER
This jacket is designed to be the absolute last word in backcountry performance with no corners cut or seams left untapped. Arc’teryx have employed the best in fabric technology to achieve this in the form of Gore Tex Pro which provides extreme protection, so you can weather a hefty rain storm and still stay dry underneath. Fit is sublime giving you the feeling that you’re totally covered from head to bum without being overly encumbered by a heavy, chunky jacket. LT stands for ‘light’ and true to their word Arc’teryx have trimmed and slimmed the jacket to achieve an impressively light weight of 445g. Despite this, most features you would expect to see in a high-end backcountry ski jacket are there, including all the usual adjusters and pockets as well as pit zips for extra ventilation. One massive omission though is a powder skirt – eek, kind of feels like going out without your trousers on, but this jacket is designed to be clipped to matching, high-waisted Arc’teryx bib pants to keep the snow out.
Verdict: A backcountry stormer of a jacket that gets stuffed into our backpacks before every trip, without question.
Burton Breach | £200 (M)
A big, heavy beast of a jacket, unlike the Arc’teryx Rush LT Burton’s Breach is not one to carry in a pack. What it does have going for it though is oodles of style and a comfortable, cosy and warm feeling from Thermolite insulation and soft, supple and distinctly non-crinkly fabric. There’s an element of style over substance going on, with storm flaps on the large military inspired pockets rather than waterproof zips and non-functional poppers down the front but you still get 10K waterproofing and adjustable hem, hood and a powder skirt for deep powder days.
Verdict: Although not a top performer on the slopes the style is sure to win plenty of people over.
Jottnar Ragnarok | £849 (M)
There aren’t many ski jackets that aim their tentacles squarely at very cold skiing but the Ragnorak does just that with a chunky quantity of ‘only the best for you sir’ 900 fill power hydrophobic goose down in a 93/7 down/feather ratio. Jottnars proprietary SKJOLDR waterproofing offers impressive performance in a relatively rustle and crinkle free material with an outer face that’s soft to the touch and supple enough to be comfortable. Seams are fully taped, and zips are waterproof, combined with the decent 20K hydrostatic head the Ragnorak is a great option when the weather closes in.
Verdict: If you’re heading off to lift accessed terrain in the more northerly resorts of Canada, the northern fringes of Europe or Asia, or simply at high altitude then the Ragnorak is a cosy and high performing, if expensive option.
Picture Effect ProKnit | £490 (M)
Picture have quickly adopted 3D knit technology, perhaps because of their ethical standpoint, and the Effect features it in several panels spread around the jacket. This helps breathability, adds stretch and is more environmentally friendly as you don’t have wastage from pattern cuts. A top of the line DRYPLAY membrane gives massive 25K/25K waterproofing and breathability which is great on long climbs and spring skiing days. As you would expect all the seams are taped and zips waterproof, making this a suitable layer for the foulest of mountain days.
Verdict: We applaud Picture for continuing to pioneer sustainable, eco-friendly outdoor clothing and the Effect brings a small amount of this into the world of technical ski clothing.
Salomon Icefrost | £350 (M)
‘Freeride inspiration with resort level warmth’ is what Salomon say about their Icefrost jacket and with this they’ve hit the nail on the head. In many ways the Icefrost looks and feels like a freeride jacket without any of the usual chintzy euro styling of piste orientated ski clothing. Fit is loose for layering and comfort and the Icefrost is long at the hem, which should appeal to discerning younger skiers. The Icefrost backs up its looks with mid-level performance, there’s perhaps a little too much insulation at 100g/m2 but it’s pleasantly warm and still breathes well enough for high intensity skiing.
Verdict: At £350 we can’t really argue with the style and performance of the Icefrost.
Black Crows Ventus | £520 (M/W)
Built with tough, waterproof and abrasion-resistant yet breathable three-layer Gore-Tex fabric, the Ventus is the Chamonix-based company’s new shell jacket. Meticulously made and perfectly specced for the demands of backcountry skiing, the jacket features full-seam taping, a helmet-compatible hood with three-point adjustment, double zipped main zip and pit zips, huge mesh cargo pockets on the inside, two large back-pack friendly hand pockets and two sleeve pockets. There’s even a map of the Aigle du Midi and the Vallée Blanche on the included goggle wipe.
Verdict: Flawless design and build for even the most extreme backcountry adventures – just don’t forget to take your own insulation layer.
Eider Camber 2.0 | £280 (M)
Aimed at those who prefer sticking to the groomers and their jackets insulated, the Camber is designed with quality, durability, comfort and weather protection in mind – all at a reasonable price. Four-way stretch fabric across the back makes for excellent freedom of movement, while tough, textured panels for the shoulders and arms mean that you won’t damage your jacket by simply carrying skis or boards. There’s impressive 20K waterproofing, with 10K breathability, despite the E-Loft insulation fill. Features include pit zips, loads of pockets and a simply excellent helmet-compatible hood.
Verdict: Top-notch design for cosy weather protection and performance carving the groomers with snow to street style. Generous functional features make for an excellent all-rounder insulated jacket
CMP Fixed Hood | £220 (M/W)
CMP have used their own three-layer fabric on this shell jacket to deliver decent waterproofing of 15K combined with an impressive breathability rating of 15K mvp. Seams are fully taped throughout, and all the zips are water-resistant. The lack of a chest pocket is almost made up for by the cleverly designed hand pockets with extra zipped mesh pockets inside those – which can also let a bit more air in if the long pit zips alone aren’t enough. Other nice touches to this functional shell include micro-fleece at the back of the neck, wrist gaiters and an offset zipped pleat at the chin.
Verdict: Tough and functional shell jacket with good features and performance that will suit hard-working all-mountain skiers and backcountry enthusiasts
Protest Giggile 18 | £149 (W) BEST BUDGET
The Giggile 18 is affordable but big on function and style. At £149, it won’t necessitate any breaking of banks but in return you’ll be rocking a pretty classy looking jacket that’s built to withstand the demands of a full season of shred.
Despite the low price the Giggile is constructed using Geotech Fabric which offers superior levels of waterproof protection (20K), breathability (20K) and unrestricted freedom of movement, it’s reassuring to know that the Giggile 18 really is fit for purpose and built to keep you warm, dry and protected on the most miserable of mountain days.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a jacket that will do you for a few seasons then the Giggile 18 really does look set to last the pace.
Schoffel Keystone 2 | £570 (W)
Immediately comfortable and beautifully cut, the Keystone 2 has very clearly been designed to flatter with function and do so in style. The removable hood with faux fur trim and shiny silver zips positions this jacket directly at the higher end, mature skier and the pricetag of £570 more than backs up its intent.
Big on chic styling it may be, but the Keystone 2 also packs a hefty punch when it comes to snow technical features. With a breathability rating of 20K and waterproof capabilities of 20K, the Keystone 2 has very clearly been built to keep you protected and comfortable on the hill. In terms of warmth, the impressively cozy feeling comes courtesy of PrimaLoft Gold Active - top of the range insulation for this premium snow jacket.
Verdict: At £570, the Keystone 2 demands significant investment but ensures it ends up in the hands of those who value its combination of luxurious style and practical substance.
Columbia Powder Keg II | £287 (M/W)
Made from a soft-touch DWR treated medium waterproof and breathable fabric, the Powder Keg II will appeal to all-mountain riders of all kinds for crisp, cold bluebird days. Muted snow-to-street styling and colourways on the outside are betrayed the moment you open the main zip and reveal the jacket’s space-blanket-like reflective lining. This Omni-Heat 3D lining is then boosted by 60g of insulation, making for a warm fitted jacket with surprisingly low bulk and good freedom of movement. Excellent features include double-zip pit zips, a double-zip main zip that can be opened form the bottom to let out heat, toughened abrasion resistant sleeves, a powder skirt and an effective helmet-friendly hood.
Verdict: Stylish and comfortable cleverly insulated jacket with excellent functional detailing for all but the wettest and grimmest days on the slopes.
Rossignol Rapide | £227 (M)
If you want one warm jacket to cruise the pistes in, then look no further than Rossignol’s Rapide, featuring a hefty chunk of down like synthetic insulation and a flattering, tailored cut which looks great both on and off the mountain. With 20K/20K waterproofing and breathability we found this jacket performed perfectly during long days on the pistes, especially in colder weather. Feature wise the Rapide keeps it slim, trim and aesthetically pleasing with a couple of fleece backed handwarmer pockets and a lift pass pocket on the lower arm. There’s a decent powder skirt to keep the snow out and an adjustable hem and hood which is functional and comfortable if not overly technical.
Verdict: At £227 this jacket represents superb value for money thanks to excellent build quality and choice features.
Tenson Yanis | £200 (M)
A superb budget option from Swedish brand Tenson who are re-emerging on to the UK ski market after a few years away. Featuring Tenson's MPC Extreme fabric the Yanis has a respectable 10k/10k waterproof/breathability rating putting it towards the top of the middling performers. Outer fabric is pleasingly stretchy and soft making for a comfortable jacket to wear and the removable snow skirt and hood adds an element of versatility. The looks are a little plain to say the least but there's also a camo option of the same jacket available to spice things up. Features are plenty, with effective hood and hem adjusters, hand and chest pockets as well as a ski pass pocket and underarm ventilation from pit zips.
Verdict: £200 buys you a lot of coat in the Yanis - if you can put up with the plain styling.