The Best Ski Jackets Of 2021 To Stay Warm On The Slopes
Winter is coming and that means that ski season is here! For those of us who love the feeling of flying over frozen snow and carving our way down the mountain, this is our favorite time of year. But you can’t enjoy the slopes without a great ski jacket to keep you warm in the snow, on the chairlift, and standing in line for that all-important apres beverage. What’s a cold-weather-fiend to do? Find their best, top-rated ski jacket available.
To make sure you’re properly prepared for the coming cold, we’ve researched the best (and warmest) ski jackets for you to shred the ski hill in style. Our author, a ski aficionado who works with backcountry skiing and heli-ski guiding companies in Colorado and Alaska, will break down what’s important, what’s nice-to-have, and what to steer away from in the best ski jackets. Now read fast—the powder’s fresh and we’re ready to ski!
- Best for Harsh Weather: Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 Ski Jacket
- Best Upgrade: Arc’teryx Macai Ski Jacket
- Best Budget Interchangeable: Columbia Bugaboo II Interchange Ski Jacket
- Best All-Around: Wildhorn Dover Premium Men’s Ski Jacket
- Go-To Resort Jacket: Burton Covert Ski Jacket
- Best for Hard Charging: Sypder Leader
- Best Budget Pick: Andorra Men’s Performance Insulated Ski Jacket
- Best for Backcountry & Resort: Outdoor Research Skyward II Shell
- Tried & True: Obermeyer Foundation
- Best Upgrade Interchangeable 3-in-1: The North Face ThermoBall Triclimate
The Best Ski Jacket
Our beefed-up choice is the super-cool, super-functional, super-everything Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 Ski Jacket. This is a top-of-the-line ski jacket that keeps everyone from the pros to the new kids on the slopes warm and dry. While it comes at a premium price, you’ll understand why once you realize just how much it can do for your skiing.
The Alpha 3.0 jacket is made from two-ply fabric that uses four-way, full stretch material that’s waterproof, windproof, and still breathable. This is the jacket that keeps you protected from the powder day elements but dumps out excess heat that would normally make you sweat. Helly Hansen’s seam-sealed, DWR-treated, and fully insulated (with premium Primaloft Gold and Black Hi-Loft insulation) jacket will keep you warm and comfortable through your entire ski vacation — and is stylish enough to wear out to aprés drinks.
This jacket sports a ski pass pocket, two chest pockets (with a goggle shammy), two insulated hand pockets, and internal pockets to keep your electronics warm and safe. The wrists of your sleeves feature wrist gaiters with thumbholes and velcro-adjustable wrists to keep the snow out of your arms and ski gloves. The sealed zipper keeps water from entering through the front of your jacket, and the zipper tabs are big enough to easily grab with full gloves. But best of all? This jacket holds RECCO Advanced Rescue technology — essentially a magnetic tracking device-detectable from the air, should you get lost in the sidecountry or if an avalanche sweeps through. This is the latest in search and rescue tech that you can wear on the slopes. Read the in-depth review here.
Breathable and waterproof
Premium PrimaLoft insulation
Detachable, helmet-compatible hood
RECCO Rescue technology
- BrandHelly Hansen
- Weight14.4 Ounces
Ask anyone in the ski industry and they’ll tell you that Arc’teryx jackets are the platinum standard of ski jackets. Designed with the mountains in mind, the Arc’teryx Macai Ski Jacket is the insulated hug we all want on those cold days in the lift line. As a company based in the far-flung reaches of the alpine world, Arc’teryx has incorporated the latest in warmth, waterproofing, and rescue technology into their Macai jacket. From the burly three-layer Gore-Tex exterior to the compressed down and synthetic insulation, which provides mega warmth without mega bulk, this jacket is made for those cold, cold days. Its effectiveness is reflected in its price, which is no budget option, but those who wear it say it’s worth every penny. (Like I did, when I wore it in a windy rain/snowstorm at the base of Tuckerman’s Ravine in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.)
The Macai features taped seals, an adjustable, removable, insulated, and helmet-compatible hood, watertight zippers, an insulated collar, and adjustable hems and cuffs. It also uses a powder skirt with grippy elastic, which keeps your jacket secure on slippery ski pants, and offers a multitude of pockets for ski passes, phones, wallets, snacks, and more.
As a Search and Rescue volunteer, I can’t get enough of the RECCO Advanced Rescue reflector included in the design. RECCO designs are used to track lost skiers from the air, which is one more safety feature to help rescue efforts. In a warm, windproof, waterproof, and breathable Gore-Tex ski jacket (we love big pit zips), you couldn’t ask for more. Read the in-depth review here.
Removable, helmet-compatible hood
Ski pass pocket
RECCO Advanced Rescue reflector
- Weight1.32 Pounds
So you want the best deal for your money, and want the most out of your jackets? Or are you looking for sizes that never seem to exist – like 6XL or a tall version? Look no further than the Columbia Bugaboo II 3-in-1 Jackets. The author’s brother — a 6’4”, 250-pound firefighter — has used the Bugaboo as his ski and winter jackets in Colorado and Maine for the past five years — and won’t switch to anything else.
This 3-in-1 Columbia jacket provides you with a waterproof and breathable shell, alongside an inner fleece jacket. You can wear each of these jackets individually, or combined for a kick-butt insulated jacket. The patented Oni-Heat and Omni-Tech technology help to offer more layering options and prevent overheating by reflecting body heat as well as excellent breathability. Combine it with independent layers or make the most of what is provided to get some of the best results possible from ski jackets.
For customization, you can remove the hood when you don’t need it, or adjust the fit to accommodate a helmet. Multiple pockets will carry all of your gadgets, wallets, and other small items without needing to drag around a backpack. The exterior shell includes reflective elements and sealed seams at critical junctions. This jacket will keep you warm, dry, and ready for any winter weather for years to go. Ask that firefighter brother — once he gets back from skiing, of course.
Detachable adjustable storm hood
Omni-heat reflective and Omni-tech waterproof
Tall options and up to 6XL sizes
- Weight1 Pounds
The Wildhorn Dover Ski Jacket is built to keep you protected from all of the cold, blustery elements without wrecking your budget. Nothing ruins a perfect day on the slopes like a jacket that doesn’t keep you warm and dry! Fortunately, this coat has been crafted by top apparel experts to keep the gnarly out while you shred the gnar. Without being bulky, this jacket will keep you comfortable even in adverse weather conditions on the slope thanks to this two-way stretch, 12K DWR-coated performance shell. Although it’s snug-fitting and on the thinner side, this coat allows for a full range of motion. This allows you to plant your poles and face your body down the mountain without your jacket riding up and exposing you to snow, wind, and ice. The dynamic-motion articulated material in the upper back, shoulder, and sleeves is cut and sewn in perfect unison with activity in mind.
What we love about this jacket are the pockets, along with a few other key features. You’ll find a ski pass pocket, a chest pocket, two hand pockets, and an interior valuables pocket that’s water-resistant to keep your goods safe. The other feature worth mentioning is the dual-adjust hood. To get the perfect fit, you can adjust it both horizontally and vertically. Plus, it’s compatible with ski helmets, so you can keep yourself protected.
12K DWR coated
2-way stretch performance shell
Underarm ventilation zippers
- Weight2.57 pounds
If you’re looking to keep warm in style wherever you go, then the Burton Ski Jacket is the top ski jacket choice for you. It’s designed with Thermolite insulation along with embossed taffeta fabric to ensure that you never feel the chill on the ski hill. This increases comfort and will keep you in top condition throughout all the chairlifts and winding trails of your ski trip.
The waterproof material will keep out all kinds of moisture which keeps you even warmer on your full-day ski adventures. The taped sleeves are reinforced in key areas of movement to keep from ripping or restricting movement, making this a jacket that is built to last. The powder skirt snaps in front to keep the blower pow from blowing right up your stomach.
The Covert Jacket features helpful, easy-to-access media and goggle pockets for simple storage when you need to take a break. Burton is famous for their snowboards, and they have developed this jacket with similar attention to detail. The pockets are easy and handy, the zipper cover will keep your jacket from freezing, while the underarm zippered vents will keep you at a comfortable temperature. It doesn’t matter if you’re a skier or snowboarder; we all agree that this is a quality jacket worth buying.
Waterproof DRYRIDE 2-layer nylon
Easy-access media / goggle pockets
Therma pocket to keep your devices warm
Underarm zippered vents
- Weight2.15 Pounds
In this quality jacket featuring underarm ventilation, a removable powder skirt, and helmet-compatible, removable hood, you’ll feel safe from snow, ice, and sleet all over the slopes with Spyders Leader jacket. Don’t care about all of those aspects? Don’t worry; the design is incredible enough to make up for those “little essential details.” Spyder, a leader in ski wear designs, brings their unique aesthetic to this leading ski jacket with blocks of color. The sleek cut won’t give you the “puffy” look, but will still keep you warm and dry.
Fully taped seam aid in its waterproofness, while the Thinsulate insulation gives you the heat entrapment you need on those blustery chairlifts. However, Spyder knows that sometimes you pump out a lot of heat hiking up that powder-choked ridge, and you need a jacket that can breathe out that excess heat. The waterproof exterior is also breathable to keep you just the right temperature, no matter your activity. Feel free to combine them with some of the top-quality ski boots from our list.
Modern design with bold color blocks
Waterproof yet extremely breathable
Removable helmet-compatible hood
- Weight1 Pounds
It is not just about keeping warm in the icy weather but equally being as comfortable as you can be. If you want all of this on a micro-budget, you should opt for the Andorra Men’s Performance Insulated Ski Jacket and experience its worth head-on.
This stylish jacket will keep you warm with flair. It comes fitted with an array of moisture-wicking inner materials that keep the wearer dry and comfortable. There are critical seams sealed in order to keep the water out. Whether it is sweat or simply precipitation, you’d best believe that you’ll stay dry. The microfleece-lined, zip-off hood can be adjusted to deliver warmth and protection from the elements. This jacket offers multiple zippered pockets to keep your extras dry and easily accessible, and interior stretch cuffs with thumb holes to keep the snow out while you ski the slopes. For more must-have products to have on the slopes, check out our guide to the best ski sunglasses.
Moisture-wicking interior material
Microfleece-lined, zip-off hood
Thermal reflective liner
Inner mesh pockets
- Weight2 Pounds
Waterproof, breathable, and incredibly lightweight. The Outdoor Research Skyward II Shell reaches the trifecta with ease, style, and stretch. The Skyward II allows you to move more dynamically without restriction, while protecting you from the gnarliest weather on the mountain. While this shell was originally designed for backcountry ski touring, Outdoor Research has adapted its design to make it easier to layer this jacket for the chairlift.
The Skyward II features a helmet-compatible hood, a wire-brimmed halo hood, burly zipper, sealed seams, a storm flap, integrated hood cordlocks, a brushed tricot-lined collar, a key clip, articulated elbows, adjustable cuffs and hem, hand pockets designed to sit above a ski backpack waist strap, and dual chest pockets. This jacket design is an athlete-favorite for a reason — it’s functional, comfortable, and stylish enough to wear on the town later. It should be noted that since this is a shell, it’s not going to be nearly as warm as the rest of the jackets on our list, but it’s more versatile than every other jacket on here. This is a great jacket to keep the snow off of you in blizzard conditions and sunny, warm spring days, alike.
Wire-brimmed halo hood
A brushed tricot-lined collar
- BrandOutdoor Research
- Weight1.59 Pounds
This is the OG of ski jackets. Obermeyer was one of the first official ski wear companies who helped move us away from leather coats and wool sweaters and to high-tech, lightweight materials. Obermeyer Foundation jacket features reflective and waterproof exterior elements to keep you visible, even while you’re night skiing. A two-way adjustable, removable, and helmet-compatible hood will keep you out of the worst elements, while the fleece-lined collar gives you warmth and comfort even in the blustery snow. Mesh gussets help control ventilation in key zones, while the moderate insulation will take the chill off without overwhelming you with warmth. Multiple large pockets give you the room you need to store your essentials, including a separate ski pass pocket on your sleeve. If anything goes wrong with your favorite new ski jacket, Obermeyer offers a lifetime warranty. Because they’re just that dedicated to skiers everywhere.
Sizes up to 3XL
Water-resistant powder skirt
Included, detachable goggle cloth
- Weight2.36 Pounds
Any skier has seen the 3-in-1 jacket design: a shell, a warm layer, and the ability to wear them both together as an insulated ski jacket. But The North Face took this design to the next level with an incredible shell combined with a puffy jacket, rather than a fleece one. The shell is made from DWR-treated, waterproof, and windproof DryVent fabric with sealed seams and underarm zippered vents to dump excess heat. This shell sports zip pockets, a chest pocket, an internal ski goggle pocket, and a zippered wrist pocket with a goggle wipe attached. The cuffs and hem are adjustable to keep the worst elements out, as well.
The shell is zip-integrated with its insulating layer, the eco-friendly insulated jacket. This inner layer is lightly stuffed with Primaloft Black insulation, which is made from eco-recycled materials that are both lightweight and ridiculously warm for its weight. This layer is more versatile than its fleece counterparts, and is far slimmer and sleeker. Each of these layers is also zip-in compatible with other integration-able North Face jackets, so you can mix and match at will. The North Face is known for their high-quality mountain gear, so we’re confident that this ThermoBall Triclimate jacket is well worth its price tag.
Waterproof shell and light puffy jacket
Eco insulation made from recycled materials
Underarm ventilation system
Zip wrist pocket with goggle wipe
Zip-in compatible with North Face garments
- BrandThe North Face
- Weight1.75 Pounds
Why You Should Trust Us
The author has been skiing for nearly as long as she could walk. Growing up in the high peaks of Colorado but learning to ski at the down-home hills of New England, she took her ski skills to Alaska (and Japan and British Columbia) and never looked back. After hundreds of days in cold, wet, snow-filled weather, she knows what will do that trick on the slopes, and what just won’t cut it. As a professional outdoor guide, backcountry skier, and chairlift aficionado, she used her two decades of ski experience to bring you the best of the ski jacket world.
Who This Is For
So you’ve been invited on a ski trip; congratulations! But you just realized that your old fleece jacket or Carhartt work coat won’t cut it in blower powder and cruising down the slopes? We’ve got you. While most of these jackets were designed for in-bounds resort skiing, there are a few that will serve you well off-piste, too. Keep your budget in mind but look for the right style, features, and cuts for you.
How We Picked
We used a mixture of the author’s preferences and the public’s favorite options. There is a range of budget options, from the college kid’s skinny wallet to the business exec’s gold card. Any of these jackets will get you from the base to the summit and back down again without freezing, but we have our favorites for a reason.
Features to Look for in a Ski Jacket
Any article of clothing that is meant to keep you warm is no joking matter. The decision of which ski jacket to go with is an important one that comes down to personal preference, desired activity, and budget. As a ski professional, our author offers some much-needed guidance to make the process streamlined and painless.
Insulation - As a rule of thumb, natural insulation happens to be more compact than synthetic padding, but it loses the ability to retain heat when wet. On the other hand, synthetic insulation functions a lot better when it is wet. The downside with synthetic insulation is that can be bulky and hard to compress for storage. This should be considered when looking at insulation as a whole.
Fleece is warm but is far more bulky and heavy than down or synthetic-filled insulation. However, if you want a removable jacket option, many of the 3-in-1 ski jacket options include a fleece jacket as the interior. Keep all of these options in mind when searching for an insulated ski jacket, but remember — a heavier jacket may not mean it’s warmer!
Breathability - Though the fabric used to make a ski jacket should keep the wet elements out, your layers should not let you build up enough heat that you end up sweating. When you sweat, the moisture instantly cools your body, which can be a problem in freezing temperatures. Based on this, it is advisable to go for materials that are waterproof to 16,000-20,000mm which have a breathability rating of 10,000-15,000grams.
Warmth - What good is a ski jacket if you’re too cold to ski? The inner layer should be lined with a thermal material that helps to evenly distribute warmth to the covered areas. (See our thoughts on insulation above.) Whether it is down or fleece, be sure to find the right warmth to keep you out on the slopes. Some of our options include body heat-reflective materials alongside the insulation, so you make the most out of the work you’re putting into earning your turns.
Fit - The fit is important for style and function, but is absolutely up to your personal preference. Anyone looking to cruise smooth European pistes should opt for a slim fit. Baggier options are more suited for bigger movements altogether. Anyone looking to indulge in a combination of the two should go for a stretch material. When in doubt, opt for a roomier fit to accommodate additional layers on cold days.
Design - While this is, again, mostly a matter of preference, design truly does come into play. If you’re looking for versatility, you want your design to include enough motion, breathability, and adjustability to fit your skiing style. Color, shapes, and overall look come into play because you want to look good on the ski hill. If nothing else, we would say keep these three things in mind when considering the design: ample pockets, adjustable hoods, and armpit ventilation zippers. These three things will keep you warm and happy, no matter what the conditions are like.
Types of Ski Jackets
Hardshell - This type of ski jacket is most common on the slopes. Hardshell jackets are versatile, waterproof, windproof, and durable. Additionally, they are breathable while also having a good number of sealed seams to keep the elements out while keeping you comfortable. If you look for a hardshell, make sure you have armpit zippers for those warmer days.
Softshell - These are usually soft, as the name implies, and super stretchy. Nevertheless, they are armed with stellar water-resistant properties. On the downside, they are not quite as a wind- and water-proof as their hard-shelled counterparts. Softshell jackets are great for overcast or sunny days, or if it’s lightly snowing. However, if you plan to ski in wet climates, softshells aren’t going to keep you as dry and warm as a hardshell. They will, however, be warmer than uninsulated hardshells on dry days.
Insulated - For those extra icy days, this is the kind of jacket to turn to. This type of jacket has an outer shell as well as a layer of insulation built into it. This could either come in natural down or synthetic form. At the end of the day, we would recommend erring on the side of an insulated ski jacket. These are the warmest option, which will serve the most people in the best way.
Ski Jacket FAQ
Q: What is a ski jacket?
A: Ski Jackets are specifically designed layers for alpine skiing, generally. They are generally compatible with in-bounds snowboarding, as well. There are some ski jackets that are designed for backcountry and cross country skiing, specifically, which are much more active than traditional chairlift-oriented alpine skiing. Ski jackets are designed to keep you warm, dry, and store all of your accessories on your person.
Q: Are ski jackets essential?
A: If you plan to ski, then yes, they are. Since they are designed specifically for this active winter sport that juggles fast-paced action with long, chilly chairlift rides, ski jackets are uniquely equipped to keep you warm and happy out skiing. While you could get away with a work jacket or a warm winter jacket for a day or two, ski jackets will keep you much drier than a normal jacket will.
Q: What do you wear under a ski jacket?
A: Anything but cotton! Wool or synthetic baselayers are great for skiing since they wick cold-inducing moisture away from your body, which will keep you significantly warmer. Add a mid-layer jacket underneath, like a fleece pullover or a light puffy jacket, and you should be warm enough for more and more laps.
Q: Should ski jackets be tight or loose?
A: This totally depends on the type of skiing you intend to indulge in. Downhill skiing usually calls for a tighter fit, as befits its European ancestry, while more active variations can tend towards a looser fit. In general, we would suggest leaning towards a looser fit to accommodate additional layers underneath.
Q: How should a ski jacket fit?
A: Altogether, it should not be too tight or loose. It should have enough space for you to fit layers of clothes and insulation under if the need arises. However, you don’t want your ski jacket to be baggy, like a hoodie or a flannel shirt. It needs to sit close enough to your body to keep snow out and reflect your body heat back to you.
Q: How do I wash a Gore-Tex ski jacket?
A: Check the garment instructions before you wash any of your Gore-Tex clothing. Most are machine washable on gentle settings, and you can wash them with DWR-specific treatments to reinforce the waterproof properties. You can use a small amount of household detergent, but be sure not to over-indulge — and never put your Gore-Tex jackets in the dryer!
- How to Buy a Ski Jacket Right For You - Outside