Ski Jacket Buying Guide

A ski jacket could be one of the most important pieces of ski wear you buy, so it’s important to choose the right one to make sure that you feel comfortable and protected out on the slopes this season.

A ski jacket could be one of the most important pieces of ski wear you buy, so it’s important to choose the right one to make sure that you feel comfortable and protected out on the slopes this season.

However, with so many choices, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which coat is the best for you. This is before we get to the different materials, styles, fits and considering what you want to do in the mountains – hit the park and freestyle or hit the runs with precision?

With this in mind, we’ve put together this handy guide to all things ski jackets. We’ve included some of the key elements you need to look out for when choosing the perfect ski jacket. We’ll also match different types of skiing to an ideal type of ski jacket.

Read on to discover more about ski and snowboard jackets so you’re prepared for the next time you hit the slopes…

Ski Jacket Waterproofing

If you’re out on the slopes, chances are you’re going to fall over in cold, wet snow. So the first job of any good snowboard and ski jacket is to stop water from getting in.

A decent waterproof or snow-proof ski jacket will be made using a waterproof membrane fabric such as Gore-Tex. Waterproof fabric is rated in millimetres, and the higher the rating, the more waterproof your jacket will be.

A jacket needs a rating of over 1,500 millimetres to be classed as waterproof, but you should aim for around the 10,000-millimetre mark, or higher. When it comes to waterproofing, the higher the number the better.

Ski Jacket Breathability

Ski Jacket Breathability

Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding, you’re going to be moving around a lot, which means you’re going to sweat. So it’s important that your jacket is fully breathable in order to prevent the build-up of moisture inside your clothes and avoid what’s known as the ‘sauna effect’.

A decent ski jacket should be made from a breathable fabric that allows tiny water vapour molecules to travel through and escape the jacket while at the same time maintaining a barrier that stops water coming in from the outside.

You may see breathability displayed in grams. 5,000g is low and 20,000g or more is very breathable. Some jackets may instead carry a “RET value” for breathability. If you see this, you should know that most skiers aim for a number 10 on this scale.

Other breathability features to look out for include ventilation zips (or pits zips) under the arms, where sweat is most likely to build-up, as well as a mesh inner lining.

What are the Types of Ski Jackets?

What are the Types of Ski Jackets?

Insulated Jackets

If you’re a casual skier, an insulated jacket is likely to be just right for you. These jackets tend to feature an outer shell for waterproofing and a layer of insulation beneath it, which can be either down or synthetic insulation. Down insulated jackets are great if the weather is -20 and dry, as they tend to be both warm and lightweight. However, consider your level of activity and the temperature when looking at insulated jackets.

Read more: Down & Insulated Jackets Complete Guide

Down Jackets

Although down jackets are lightweight and very warm, they aren’t ideal for skiing. This is because they will lose their insulating properties when wet – so if you fall or are in the backcountry, you could find you’re colder than you want to be. It’s important to remember that the movement for skiing means you will heat up naturally, so a very warm down jacket won’t be necessary. Down jackets are ideal for walking around or for après-ski.

Hardshell Jackets

A hardshell jacket is a waterproof and wind-resistant jacket designed to stand up to pretty much anything. This makes them ideal for all types of snowsport, including the backcountry. They’re not insulated, but are the outer part of your layering system, and can be easily packed away when you’re hiking uphill. For more casual skiers, a hardshell might not be the best choice as they’re not as breathable as softshell jackets.


A softshell ski jacket is a versatile layer which can be worn as either a mid-layer or outer layer. Softshell jackets are usually treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating but aren’t waterproof. So, if you’re expecting heavy snow or doing some backcountry skiing and snowboarding, you’ll need a hardshell jacket to wear over your softshell jacket.

Read more: What are Softshell jackets?

How Should Ski Jackets Fit?

Ski jackets – and snowboard jackets – can fit in a number of ways depending on your activity, the crowd you’re with and your personal style.


Slim-fit ski jackets are a good choice for technical skiers, as they reduce drag and give you better control over your movement down the slopes. You may need to choose a size up to allow room for your layers underneath and any additional padding you may want.


The middle ground between the technical slim-fit jacket and the freedom of movement offered by a looser jacket for freestyling. If you are a casual skier, this is likely what you’ll be looking at before finding out what type of skier you are.


A loose fit ski jacket is great for coverage and mobility, so is a great choice for freestylers and boarders. This is the fit you’re most likely to see with snowboarders for their more relaxed style and less-formal attitude compared to skiing.

Which Jacket is Best for My type of Skiing?

Which Jacket is Best for My type of Skiing?

The type of skier you are – or the type of skiing you’ll be doing – can have a significant impact on the jacket you buy. We’ve picked out the main types of skiing and matched a jacket type you should consider.

Piste & Alpine

You’re on the mountain, carving runs or going off-piste for a powder day. This means you’re going to be skiing in a particularly cold area or at a cold time of year and you’ll need an insulated ski jacket. If you’re a spring skier, then go for a hardshell where you can add or remove layers depending on the weather. You may only need a softshell for the spring.


If you’re a confident skier that is looking for untracked powder and untouched peaks, you’ll work up a sweat. Then you need to throw in the extreme backcountry conditions. A hardshell ski jacket will be vital here to keep out the elements on the ridges. Look out for “pit zips” to let any extra heat out. A softshell jacket underneath will provide added breathability and warmth.


Tearing it up in the park and taking short chairlifts means being able to add or remove layers is essential. This is especially true if you’re waiting for jumps and rails to free up. If the park is empty, you’ll just need your hardshell ski jacket to protect you from getting wet, but bring a softshell if it’s busy.

Key Features of Ski Jackets

We’ve picked out some of the most important features to consider when buying a ski jacket, including everything from hoods to pockets. Check out our diagram before the additional detail below.

  • Hood – Often overlooked, a good hood is important for protecting you from the elements. Most jackets will come with either a removable hood that packs away into the collar or a fixed hood. Make sure it’s spacious enough to accommodate a helmet.
  • High Collar – High collars can be pulled up over your chin, lips and even the tip of your nose to keep the wind off and snow out.
  • Taped Seams – Fully waterproof jackets should feature taped seams to prevent leakage from the stitch holes, keeping you well and truly dry.
  • Underarm Ventilation – Called “pit zips”, they give you the ability to zip open the underarms when you’re feeling a bit warm.
  • Snow Skirt – This is a key feature as it prevents snow from getting inside your ski jacket when the inevitable fall happens. Look out for removable skirts which can be taken out if you want to wear your ski jacket as an everyday coat.
  • Lining – There are several different liner types available, but we’d usually go for a jacket that has a fleece lining as these provide better warmth. Some jackets allow the insulation to be removed, which is useful for spring skiing conditions.
  • Pockets – Look for fleece-lined handwarmer pockets. Also, make sure you’ve got plenty of pockets for all your gear, including a nice big goggle pocket. Lift pass pockets on the sleeve of your ski jackets are also really useful.
  • Reinforcements – Some more expensive ski jackets will have strategic wear points on the shoulders, elbows and side panels to protect against abrasion from when you fall or when you’re carrying your skis.
  • Adjustable Cuffs – Adjustable cuffs can be slackened for ventilation or tighten around gloves when the weather is cold and snowy to prevent a draught or snow from entering the jacket.
  • Wrist Gaiters – Wipeouts are part of the fun of skiing but not when you end up with jacket sleeves full of snow. Wrist gaiters stop this from happening.

Tips for Buying a Ski Jacket

Tips for Buying a Ski Jacket

Here are some final top tips to remember when buying your ski jacket:

  • Find the best shape – for your body and type of skiing or snowboarding.
  • Understand the technical information.
  • Choose a bright colour – you’ll look good and it helps should anything go wrong.
  • The more you spend the longer it will last – this is a general rule with all jackets.

Hopefully, this has given a much better idea of what to look for and consider when buying a ski jacket. Then, you’ll be ready to carve down the mountain in style and with confidence.

You can discover more of our ski wear in the links below.

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