This article is part of our series of 2020 Ski Clothing Gear Guides, in partnership with Collett’s Mountain Holidays. We tested key products from our ski collections in the heart of the Dolomites – giving you advice and insight about the best kit for snowsports this winter.
Your choice of ski jacket may be the most visible piece of kit in your ski setup. More than just a style statement, getting the right outer layer is going to keep you protected from the variety of conditions you might face on the mountain. Our testing criteria for ski jackets covers the key areas you want to consider when buying a new coat for the slopes.
Fit & form
How an outer layer fits and feels will have a big impact on how well it keeps the weather at bay. Consider the performance you are expecting from this one item of outerwear, and how it might vary for different types of skiing. Typically, resort skiers might opt for a more relaxed fit with room for more layers while more athletic fit is preferred for ski touring or winter mountaineering.
In a well-built jacket we look for a design that allows a good range of motion and a comfortable fit whether you’re in action on the slopes or sat on the terrace soaking up the view.
In simple terms your outer layer or shell is there to protect you from the weather. Mountain environments can be unpredictable and challenging so we rely on a jacket to provide an effective barrier against any wind and precipitation.
Some skiers and snowboarders may also choose an outer jacket that includes insulation, and there are plenty of options that will keep you warmer – we tested both shell jackets and insulated examples. For either option you can also wear other layers under your outer jacket for additional warmth – we cover different styles of insulation in our 2020 Gear Guide to baselayers and midlayers for skiing.
Of course with an active pursuit like skiing there are times in the mountains where you will be getting warm so a jacket also needs to breathe well – allowing excess heat or moisture to escape. The right layering system will assist here.
Alongside the core fit and function of a jacket there can be a whole range of useful features specifically for mountain activities. Many include vents or “pit zips” to quickly dump excess heat, powder skirts and various pockets.
A note on our reviews:
Our testing team from SportPursuit HQ used products on location in the Italian Dolomites to form reviews from hands-on experience. We aim to offer a useful summary of the product based on the performance for regular snowsports enthusiasts without too much technical jargon. Any specific questions about an item we tested? Let us know in the comments.
They say: Hit deep powder with confidence with the Men’s BL Pro Snow Jacket, equipped with GORE-TEX® Technology.
We say: A benchmark for high-performance shell jackets with excellent weather protection and well-designed feature set.
Fit, form and function: A more athletic cut than some other jackets means the BL Pro feels well fitted while maintaining a very good range of motion. While Gore-Tex fabric can feel stiff or “crinkly”, the well-shaped fit means it remains comfortable.
As expected with a well-known technology like Gore-Tex this is a shell with an impressive level of protection against wind, rain and any other weather you might encounter. Cuff adjusters and a well-build hood can seal out the elements, putting the BL Pro among the best in test for weather protection, though in colder temperatures you will likely want to add an insulated midlayer to keep you warm.
Additional features: Marmot have kitted out this jacket with a full complement of features without anything obtrusive or excessive. To prevent overheating there are long under-arm vents, and mesh lined chest pockets can act as additional venting if needed. Our testers especially liked the DriClime® lined collar that adds extra comfort, and the integrated but removable snow skirt.
They say: perfect for every skier, in every condition.
We say: contemporary styling and eco-friendly performance for cold days.
Fit, form and function: The Good Times Jacket and the female-specific equivalent, the All-Time, have a comfortable, relaxed fit. Planks’ Ridedry15 fabric feels soft and supple and is made using Repreve® yarn, a recycled material that includes plastic bottles to reduce the impact of manufacturing new garments.
Planks proves again that sustainable options can perform just as well as previous garments. The insulation strikes a good balance – keeping you warm enough on the hill but also suitable for those who don’t want a thick insulated layer.
Additional features: mesh-backed vents are a great touch to cool you down without snow getting in (especially if you’re in armpit-deep powder!). The Good Times and All-Time had the most pockets of any model we tested – plenty of storage if you like carrying plenty in your jacket.
They say: Big mountain performance with recyled and recyclable fabrics
We say: a reliable and well-constructed shell with sustainable design
Fit, form and function: Untrakt’s Obsidian delivers a great fit that will appeal to most riders – space for layering without being loose, with an all-mountain silhouette. Block colours and contrast zips bring understated style that will look great everywhere.
This is a jacket that delivers exactly what you would expect. A recycled ECOSHIELD membrane beads water well and gives the garment strong weatherproof performance.
Additional features: the usual cuff adjustments, a well-built adjustable hood, and removable snow skirt keep the weather at bay, and there are plenty of pockets. A handy goggle wipe is attached inside the chest pocket – all the small details seem well thought through.
They say: Fair and sustainable freeride style
We say: high quality construction in a versatile eco-conscious design
Fit, form and function: testers immediately noticed the reassuringly premium feel of Pyua’s environmentally friendly CLIMALOOP ™ fabric – a 3-layer laminate made of recycled material that gives this jacket a great structure. Articulated design on the arms moves well, though some users may find the broader chest a bit roomy.
Highly rated for waterproof performance and breathability, we’d be happy to take the Flight Jacket out as our outer shell in any conditions – the CLIMALOOP fabric inspires confidence and works well in action.
Additional features: the unusual offset main zip is likely to get noticed – it’s a smart design to avoid bulky zips stacking up if you are wearing zipped midlayers. A full complement of pockets including a lift pass pocket on the sleeve will carry everything you need, and the powder skirt matches the quality of the rest of the design. Vents on the side of the torso take a bit of getting used to and aren’t as large as others but do the job well.
They say: An insulated, waterproof & breathable ski jacket made with recycled and recyclable materials.
We say: For skiers looking for warmth and eco-conscious design.
Fit, form and function: With the addition of insulation a jacket can feel bulkier than a shell but the Untrakt Igneous has a relatively slim fit. This keeps things streamlined, though there is less room for layering – size up for more space.
The star of the show here is the recycled insulations, called “Thermolite EcoMade T-Down”, arranged in heat-sealed baffles to minimise cold spots. It keeps you warm and snug and is an innovative use of recycled PET fibre, one of several materials within the jacket reusing waste material and delivering high performance.
Additional features: Cuff gaiters with thumb loops seal out the sleeves nicely and combined with the stretch snow skirt should stop any gusts finding their way through.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our 2020 Gear Guides for ski clothing.
Got a question about one of the products we reviews, or more general opinions on choosing a new ski jacket? Let us know in the comments below.