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The Inertia Gear Test Arc'teryx Ski Jacket

The Arc’teryx Rush Jacket has a clean, trim design. Photo: Ryan Salm


The Inertia

There’s a lot of tech and design that goes into snowsports outerwear these days, and nowhere is it more evident than in ski jackets. Ski jackets need to block wind, snow, and even rain, be somewhat breathable for warm days and (perhaps) some uphill pursuits, light enough not to weigh you down, and for a product that generally runs around $400-600, they sure as heck better have a full suite of pockets and features to boot.

The question we sought to answer here was: If you were to own one ski jacket for the rest of your life (or at least the next few years), to be used in mid-winter powder, spring slush, sitting on the chairlift, puffing up the skintrack, and everything in between, which one would rise to the top? To answer that question, we took on the best all-mountain ski jackets from the top manufacturers in the business, at the resort, in the backcountry, and at the après-scene, and have come up with this list of the best ski jackets for the 2023/24 season. For more information, check out our Comparison Table, and Buyer’s Guide.

The Best Ski Jackets

Best Resort Skiing Shell Jacket: Trew Gear Cosmic Primo

Best Backcountry Ski Jacket: Rab Khroma Kinetic

Best Budget Ski Jacket: REI Co-Op First Chair GTX ePE

Best Crossover Resort/Backcountry Jacket: Flylow Quantum Pro


Best Resort Skiing Shell Jacket

Trew Gear Cosmic Primo ($480)

Trew Gear Cosmic Primo Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 737 g (1 lb 10 oz)
Fit: On the wider/boxier side, as most Trew gear runs. Size down if between sizes.

Pros: Durable and stylish with tons of pockets and a wide array of colors
Cons: A bit heavy for dedicated backcountry use

The Cosmic Primo jacket from Trew is a worthy piece of gear with 3L construction, oodles of pockets (a whopping five outer pockets and two massive internal dump pockets), and fabric that is super durable but not stiff. It’s hard to believe that it clocks in at under $500 and comes in so many color options.

For backcountry, while it’s not the stretchiness you’ll find in a dedicated touring shell, with large pit zips and a weight that isn’t too off the charts, this shell can do some time out of bounds as well. And if you’re pairing it with one of Trew’s high-coverage bibs, you can zip out the powder-skirt to save yourself a few grams or so.  For dedicated tourers, there are better jackets, but for hitting the resort, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a shell as well-equipped as this one. It was a pretty tight race between the Cosmic Primo and TNF’s Summit Verbier Jacket (see below), but in the end, the Primo won with a better price, more versatility due to the lack of an interior backing, and a few extra points for additional color options and massive pockets.

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Best Backcountry Ski Jacket

Rab Khroma Kinetic ($385)

Rab Khroma Kinetic Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 538 g (1 lb 3 oz)
Fit: Slimmer fit with some room to layer underneath.

Pros: Great, innovative venting system
Cons: Innovative venting system requires leaving front pockets open

Rab knocked it out of the park with their Khroma Kinetic jacket. This stretchy hardshell is breathable, comfortable, and somehow still weather-ready, fully capable of blocking snow, rain, and wind. The “breathable” aspect of the jacket does allow more wind in than most would want in a resort-skiing jacket (there also is no powder-skirt), but for uphill pursuits, this jacket was a definite winner.

Part of that is the very interesting venting system that makes use of a mesh lining on the inside of the two front pockets to allow air to enter the front of the jacket and escape through the back of the jacket with ventilation zips on the back of the arms, rather than the traditional pit-zips. A truly awesome feature that makes this jacket far more capable of being worn on the ascent than your average backcountry hardshell. The only downside to this feature is storage, as you have to leave those front pockets open for the venting to take effect, but there is a pocket within that larger pocket (that zips) to provide secure storage for a phone or a couple of smaller items.

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Best Budget Ski Jacket

REI Co-Op First Chair GTX ePE ($320)

REI First Chair GTX ePE

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Weight: 785 g (1 lb 11.7 oz)
Fit: A bit on the wider side. REI offers this jacket in the widest array of sizes we’ve seen.

Pros: Great price and features with a clean look and sustainable chops
Cons: 2L construction means reduced breathability

For a fully-featured and GORE-TEX-ed jacket, that is made of recycled material, a price tag of $320 is pretty wild. Sure, the First Chair sports a 2L construction rather than a 3L like most other jackets on this list (see the buyer’s guide below for more info on that), but for those skiing in bounds, the breathability of a 3L won’t be as necessary as for backcountry skiers. What is important for resort skiing is pockets, and this jacket has that in spades, with a slew of exterior pockets and two interior pockets (one dump pocket and one media pocket).

The jacket is comfortable, with a bit of a looser fit to layer up underneath and a durable but flexible exterior. And with that exterior being GORE-TEX, you know you’ll be protected from wind, rain, and snow. That’s hard to beat at this price point.

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Best Resort/Backcountry Ski Jacket

Flylow Quantum Pro ($430)

Flylow Quantum Pro

Weight: 737 g (1 lb 10 oz)
Fit: Slightly on the larger/boxier side.

Pros: Great set of pockets and features, dump pockets feature zippers for additional storage
Cons: In-house waterproofing is solid but not as proven as GORE-TEX

Last season we tried two jackets from Flylow. The first was the Lab Coat, which was an awesome jacket, but skimped on pocket space, and didn’t make the cut for this review. Flylow quickly sent us another jacket to try out, the Quantum, and in testing we found everything that we were missing with the Lab Coat, namely plenty of storage space for essentials.

Other than being a very lightweight, very durable jacket, with a solid, roomy fit that had plenty of room for layering, the standout features of the Quantum were its cleverly designed pockets. Two interior stretch dump pockets are basically an industry standard at this point, but Flylow did something a little differently here, having the interior dump pockets integrated into the lining of the jacket, with wide zippered openings at the top. The pockets aren’t stretchy like the classic dump pocket, but the wide opening is plenty big enough to shove a pair of gloves or mittens into and the top zipper means you can secure whatever you want to keep inside so it doesn’t fall out when you take a tumble.

The only downsides to this jacket were fairly nit-picky. Flylow’s in-house waterproofing is awesome, but it just isn’t GORE-TEX, which most of the industry uses for a reason.

Also, in shooting for a balance between weight and durability, the jacket doesnt feel quite as durable as some of the more resort or durability-focused jackets mentioned above like the Black Diamond Recon or the Trew Gear Cosmic Primo. That said, it’s certainly capable of taking a beating and so far hasn’t let us down.

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Other Ski Jackets We Loved

Runner-Up Best Resort/Backcountry Ski Jacket

Mammut Haldigrat ($500)

Mammut Haligradt Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 755 g (1 lb 10.6 oz)
Fit: On the slimmer side. Some room to layer up underneath but not a ton.

Pros: Durable but lightweight and comfortable, wrist gaiters are awesome
Cons: Not the warmest or the most pocket space

Mammut’s Haldigrat came into this review swinging. The Haldigrat bibs also made a splash in our best ski bibs review with their removable bib-upper, a unique feature. The matching jacket also has a trick up its sleeve — wrist gaiters. Some other jackets in this review (Mountain Hardwear, The North Face) have thumb loops to help the jacket sleeve from getting bunched up, say when you fall and punch through a foot or two of powder, but those loops are a little finicky, and at best are mildly uncomfortable. The wrist gaiters, by contrast, are made of a comfortable and stretchy tube of material with a thumb hole that attaches to the inside of the sleeve about mid-forearm. With the wrist gaiters engaged, the sleeves of the jacket won’t bunch up when you punch through the snow, keeping snow out, and if snow should make it into the sleeve by some strange circumstance, it won’t travel deeper than mid-forearm. We would have loved to see this feature on every jacket we tested.

Besides the wrist gaiters, the jacket was surprisingly durable, given its lightweight construction and being quite flexible (not stiff like some other “lightweight but durable” options). Pocket space was sufficient, with two deep chest pockets and two internal pockets (one drop-in and one zippered). The shell wasn’t the most breathable, putting storm-readiness, weight, and durability first, but it didn’t run hot, which is also worth noting for those on the resort — you’ll want to layer up underneath. That said, for a true backcountry jacket that also hits hard on the resort, look no further than this one.

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Best Storm-Skiing Jacket

The North Face Summit Verbier ($650)

The North Face Summit Verbier Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 830 g (1 lb 13 oz)
Fit: Average, room to layer-up underneath, but with a trim, athletic fit rather than a boxy one.

Pros: Thin brushed fleece backing adds warmth for cold days, exterior is super durable
Cons: Brushed fleece backing adds weight and reduces versatility for spring conditions

Do you find yourself in puking snow and well-below-freezing temperatures often? You’ll love The North Face’s Summit Verbier Jacket. From the plethora of pockets to the thin brushed fleece lining, there’s a lot to love about this jacket. The matching set of bibs was one of our favorite ski bibs as well, and as far as full bib/jacket kits go, you can’t get much better than this one. It charges hard, looks good, and has a ton of storage options, as well as one of our favorite features, the elusive pass-through pocket, which lets you access interior pockets without unzipping the front of the jacket.

The biggest word of caution about this jacket is the lining. This jacket simply runs just a good bit warmer than your usual all-mountain shell jacket. We realized that when our tester was wearing his usual storm-ski midlayer for a blustery day on the resort, and started overheating despite the frigid temps. Just something to be aware of, that this isn’t a pure shell jacket. Looks on this jacket are top-notch.

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Lightest Backcountry Ski Jacket

Mountain Hardwear High Exposure Jacket ($550)

Moutain Hardwear High Exposure Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 737 g (1 lb 10 oz)
Fit: Average, maybe the boxier side, plenty of room to layer up underneath.

Pros: Super lightweight and packable with storm-ready water and wind-proof protection
Cons: Not the most durable

Mountain Hardwear knows a thing or two about outerwear. Their Boundary Ridge bibs were our top pick for snowboard pants, the High Exposure bibs ranked second among backcountry ski bibs, and this jacket was up there with the best of them for backcountry ski jackets. Made from GORE-TEX C-Knit material, the jacket is insanely lightweight (the lightest on this list), solidly breathable (for a GORE-TEX shell), moves with you thanks to a good amount of stretch, and somehow still repels rain and wind with ease. It even has super-lightweight thumb loops that help keep the jacket sleeves from hitching up and letting snow in. This jacket is a piece of gear to get stoked about.

With all that lightweight awesomeness, there are a few sacrifices that were made. First off, pocket space. The jacket features just two outside pockets on the chest and one interior drop pocket. Not a ton of space, but good enough. It’s made better by interesting climbing-skin loops on the inside that allow you to hang your skins inside your jacket without sacrificing pocket space. Pretty cool and certainly innovative. Second, the lightweight material is fairly thin, so we’re a bit worried about this jacket for long-term durability, and wouldn’t recommend it for extended resort use. Thirdly, there isn’t a powder-skirt.

A confusing and very minor con we found was the jacket-to-pants attachment point located at the small of the back. The attachment point features a small plastic hook intended to connect to a fabric loop on compatible pants and bibs from Mountain Hardwear. In theory, a great idea, but in practice, it’s fairly annoying to have a piece of hard plastic in the small of your back when sitting in chairs, car seats, and wearing backpacks. That said, it’s fairly easy to chop off without damaging the integrity of the jacket. We’re just a little curious why this feature made it through QA testing. All that said, you really can’t beat this jacket for lightweight, storm-ready protection for the backcountry.

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Versatile and Durable
Black Diamond Recon Stretch ($400)

Black Diamond Recon Stretch Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 769 g (1 lb 11 oz)
Fit: Super average – room to layer but also a clean, trim fit.

Pros: Stretchy yet bomber material
Cons: A bit heavy overall

Black Diamond’s Recon Stretch jacket does very little wrong. It has a solid set of pockets and stretchy and breathable material, and to cap it all off, it’s quite durable. The fit is on-point, and the stretchy material moves with you rather than restricting movement like some stiffer materials on this list. As a shell, and a stretchier/more breathable one at that, it loses a few points on warmth, so for resort skiing, you may end up going with a slightly warmer mid/baselayer for storm skiing days. And Black Diamond’s BD.dry waterproofing DWR doesn’t have the same proven track record as GORE-TEX, but so far, so good.

For a 50/50 resort/backcountry shell, you can’t go wrong with this one. Those who spend more time in the backcountry than on the resort might find themselves a bit disappointed by the weight. As such, they would likely find a more backcountry-specific shell like the Rab Khroma Kinetic, Mountain Hardwear High Exposure, OR Skytour, or the Arc’teryx Rush to be better options. But for resort riding durability, this jacket is second to none. And, for the 2023/2024 season, Black Diamond is adding more colors to the lineup.

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Arc’teryx Rush Ski Jacket ($750)

Arc'teryx Rush Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 698 g (1 lb 8.6 oz)
Fit: Definitely on the slimmer side, especially through the torso.

Pros: Super durable backcountry jacket with a light construction
Cons: Material is a bit stiff (especially in the arms/shoulders)

Arc’teryx’s Rush ski jacket was one of the most expensive options we tested, and while that is definitely not our favorite feature in a ski jacket, this jacket sure does pack a punch. It’s currently impossible to make a jacket that is stretchy, lightweight, breathable, durable, and provides storm-ready protection — you’re going to have to make some sacrifices somewhere. Arc’teryx’s Rush jacket hits every single one except for stretch and breathability. Due to the bomber GORE-TEX material, stretch and breathability take a hit, while lightweight storm-readiness and durability prevail. The shoulders and arms are made of a fairly stiff material that adds durability while preserving lightness, and while the rest of the jacket isn’t quite as stiff, it’s not stretchy, either. Pockets are sufficient, neither a pro nor a con, with three exterior pockets (that are designed with backpacks in mind) and two interior pockets (one dump pocket and one zippered media pocket).

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OR Skytour Ascentshell Jacket ($380)

OR Skytour Ascentshell Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 627 g (1 lb 6 oz)
Fit: Very average, maybe a little boxier, room to layer.

Pros: Super breathable and comfortable backcountry shell jacket, great price
Cons: Wind protection takes a hit with the high breathability

OR’s Skytour Ascentshell was tough not to place in the top spot for backcountry ski jackets. There really is not a lot wrong with this jacket, other than the fact that some storm-readiness is sacrificed in the name of breathability, and it’s not as light as the other options we reviewed. This jacket still repels rain and snow with ease and does a solid job of cutting the wind, even though it runs a little colder than a true hardshell in windy conditions.

That said, when it comes to backcountry outerwear, breathability has to be a main consideration if you don’t want to be miserable for 90 percent of the time you’re out there, and the Rab Khroma Kinetic‘s innovative venting system elevated that jacket to a new level in the breathability category. That said, the Kinetic’s uber-lightweight construction does take a hit on resort-riding durability, so if you’re looking for a “true” backcountry jacket that also performs well in-bounds (it’s a bit more breathable than the Mammut Haldigrat, but a bit heavier, too), we can’t recommend OR’s Skytour Ascentshell enough.

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Patagonia Untracked ($700)

Patagonia Untracked Jacket

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Weight: 620 g (1lb 6 oz)
Fit: Average fit, our small/medium tester found himself sizing down to a small.

Pros: Patagonia sustainability with the proven protection of GORE-TEX
Cons: Limited color selection, pricey.

GORE-TEX is the industry standard for a reason. Their waterproof/breathable membrane is hard to beat, having had a patent-fueled head start on the competition. However, one area that GORE-TEX does not shine in is sustainability, which is why, until now, Patagonia has not collaborated with the outerwear-materials juggernaut. Until now.

This 23/24 season, Patagonia revealed the Untracked Jacket and Bibs, a supremely well-balanced shell kit made with 3L  PFC-free and 100% recycled GORE-TEX fabric with a light flannel backing. As far as we can tell no compromises on performance were made with the introduction of recycled materials into the GORE-TEX formula, the jacket material is durable but not stiff, moving exceedingly well with both up and downhill movement. It also clocks in on the lighter end of the spectrum, about the same weight as the OR Skytour, above at 620 grams.

A fairly full set of features include two exterior handwarmer pockets, a pass pocket, one internal drop-in pocket, and one chest pocket that has a pass-through zipper to access a media pocket on the inside. Unfortunately, since the media pocket has its zippered opening on the top of the pocket, the pass-through is really only usable with the media pocket, and doesn’t function to access pockets on other parts of your layers. Other than that small nit-pick, the only downside to the jacket is the price – sustainable GORE-TEX don’t come cheap. However, factoring in that aspect, this jacket lives up to the price.

As with any Patagonia product, it’s an oversight not to mention their dedication to making gear last. Plenty of other brands have warranties, some as good as Patagonia’s, but their Ironclad Guarantee is the o.g. “we’ll fix your gear no matter what happens” promise.

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Backcountry Cardiac ($550)

Backcountry Cardiac Best Ski Jackets

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Weight: 708 g (1 lb 9 oz)
Fit: Very large/boxy, pay attention to size chart, potentially size down for best fit.

Pros: Great set of pockets and features, hood works great with or without a helmet
Cons: Stiffer material in the shoulders

The Cardiac Jacket from Backcountry really had us intrigued. One of our favorite things about “retailer-designed” gear is the people who are designing them have seen and gotten their hands on a plethora of the best gear in the industry by way of selling it, and so have plenty to draw from in designing their own. That’s true with the Cardiac jacket, a backcountry/resort-styled shell that is light and breathable enough to tour but has bomber GORE-TEX Pro material and a full set of features. The jacket is exceedingly light, with a pretty flexible material from the chest down and a stiffer material in the shoulders and arms for increased durability.

Our biggest complaint was the shoulder material as it was a bit crinkly and stiff-feeling. Not the biggest downside, but definitely not our favorite from a comfort perspective, which the scores reflect. Pockets-wise, we were stoked on the sheer quantity but felt that some of them could have been designed or placed better. Our tester for this kit is generally a medium, and found himself sizing down to a small for the best fit.

One standout feature was the hood, which is exceedingly comfortable with and without a helmet. If you like wearing a hood on storm skiing days, you’ll love this jacket. A unique feature of this jacket is an extra front zipper with a perforated backing that allows you to open the jacket a little wider and let some air in through the front.

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Comparison Table

Jacket Price Overall Rating Best For Weight Material/Waterproofing Fit
Trew Gear Cosmic Primo $480 9.0 Resort 737 g
(1 lb 10 oz)
3L PNW Primo Fabric Boxy
The North Face Summit Verbier $650 8.75 Resort 830 g
(1 lb 13 oz)
3L FUTURELIGHT fabric Slim
Rab Khroma Kinetic $385 8.75 Backcountry 538 g
(1 lb 3 oz)
3L PFC-Free DWR Average-boxy
OR Skytour Ascentshell Jacket $380 8.75 Backcountry/Resort 627 g
(1 lb 6 oz)
3L AscentShell fabric Average
Black Diamond Recon Stretch $400 8.5 Backcountry/Resort 769 g
(1 lb 11 oz)
3L BD.dry Average
Mammut Haldigrat $500 8.5 Backcountry/Resort 755 g
(1 lb 10.6 oz)
3L DRYtechnology Pro Slim
Flylow Quantum Pro $430 8.5 Resort/Backcountry 656 g (1 lb 7 oz) 3L Intuitive Average-boxy
Patagonia Untracked $700 8.25 Resort/Backcountry 620 g (1lb 6 oz) 3L recycled GORE-TEX Average
Mountain Hardwear High Exposure $550 8.0 Backcountry 457 g
(1 lb 0.1 oz)
3L GORE-TEX C-Knit Boxy
Arc’teryx Rush $750 8.0 Backcountry/Resort 698 g
(1 lb 8.6 oz)
Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX Pro Slim
Backcountry Cardiac $550 8.0 Backcountry/Resort 708 g
(1 lb 9 oz)
3L GORE-TEX Pro Boxy and large – size down
REI First Chair GTX $300 7.75 Resort 785 g
(1 lb 11.7 oz)
2L GORE-TEX Average

Best Ski Jackets TNF Jacket

The North Face Summit Verbier Jacket in all its glory. Photo: Ryan Salm

How We Tested

We rated each jacket on its durability, comfort, features, and breathability/ventilation. Style, as it always is in skiing, was, of course, a consideration, but since that differs from person to person, we left that rating out of the overall score and instead have done our best to point out options we found to be particularly steezy. For consistency, we mostly tested only 3L shell jackets, focusing on all-mountain, do-anything durability and features.

We first published this article in March of 2023, after a very cold and snowy winter in the American West, which proved to be the perfect arena to put the best ski jackets of 2023 to the test. And that’s exactly what we did, in bounds and out, on groomers, skin tracks, boot packs, and powder fields, in the middle of winter and up until it got too warm to ski in a jacket, we tested more than 20 different ski jackets from the top manufacturers in the industry, and not all of them made the cut.

In the most recent update, we added two new 2023/24 jackets, including the Flylow Quantum Pro which overtook the Mammut Haldigrat for best crossover backcountry/resort jacket. The 12 jackets gathered here represent the cream of the crop, and we’ll be keeping the list up to date as we get our hands on the latest and greatest ski jackets of 2024 and they hit the market.


Ratings Table

Jacket Overall Comfort Durability Breathability/Venting Pockets/Features
Trew Gear Cosmic Primo 9.0 9 10 8 9
The North Face Summit Verbier 8.75 8 9 8 10
Rab Khroma Kinetic 8.75 10 7 10 8
OR Skytour Ascentshell Jacket 8.75 9 8 9 9
Black Diamond Recon Stretch 8.5 9 10 8 8
Mammut Haldigrat 8.5 9 8 8 9
Flylow Quantum Pro 8.5 9 8 8 9
Patagonia Untracked 8.25 9 8 8 8
Mountain Hardwear High Exposure 8.0 9 6 9 8
Arc’teryx Rush 8.0 8 9 8 7
Backcountry Cardiac 8.0 7 8 9 8
REI First Chair GTX 8.0 8 8 7 9

Dump Pockets Ski Jacket Details

Dump pockets are a fairly essential feature. Photo: Ryan Salm

Ski Jacket Buyer’s Guide

Pockets

When it comes to ski outerwear, pockets matter. Maybe they matter more to some people than others, but even those who ski with a backpack will want to keep some small items closer at hand. In our jacket pockets, you’ll usually find some lip balm, a voile strap, a ski pass, phone, Swiss Army knife, and maybe an energy bar or two. As such, solid exterior pockets, often either on the chest or at the hip, are a necessity. Some jackets place those hip pockets higher up, so they’re still accessible with a backpack on.

we’re also huge suckers for interior drop pockets. These big mesh squares inside a jacket let you store skins and keep them warm for backcountry expeditions, dry out a pair of foggy goggles, or stash gloves when walking around the lodge. One interior drop pocket should be a ski-jacket essential, and two are preferred.

Another awesome pocket feature that only one jacket on this list has is a “pass-through” pocket. Back in the day, lead tester Will Sileo used to have a Tenacity Pro jacket from Mountain Hardwear. His favorite feature on it was that one of the two chest pockets wasn’t a pocket at all but opened up to the inside, letting him access whatever would be in the interior drop pockets, or the chest pockets of a pair of bibs, without unzipping the front jacket zipper. That jacket is now about a decade old and has been discontinued, and the feature isn’t one commonly seen in ski jackets. However, the Summit Verbier jacket from The North Face does have this feature, with a media pocket on the chest that can be opened from the outside and the inside. Slightly different, but it does the trick.

Some jackets on this list also feature internal pocket organization — pockets inside of pockets to help keep things organized and secure. Sound overkill? Actually, it’s super useful. Speaking of The North Face Summit Verbier jacket, that pass-through media pocket has a small stretchy sleeve on the inside as well, so when we’re using it as a pocket and not a portal to the inside pockets of our jacket or bibs, the phone isn’t bouncing around but is fairly strapped in.

Helmet-compatible hood Best Ski Jackets

A helmet-compatible hood is pretty essential for storm-skiing days. Photo: Ryan Salm

Hood

Hoods are another feature that can be done wrong but also can be done very, very well. Look for the keyword “helmet-compatible hood” when purchasing, meaning the hood is big enough to accommodate your noggin with a helmet on. However, those helmet-compatible hoods are often a bit roomy when used without a helmet unless it’s got a decent bit of adjustability (the keyword to look for is “two-way” adjustability) to cinch down to the size of your head. Keep an eye out for those buzzwords.

Ventilation

If you’re looking for one jacket to wear in all conditions, there will come a time when you’ll need some ventilation, whether that’s puffing up the skin track or spring skiing. Even the most breathable ski jacket, if made of hardshell waterproof material, won’t be able to keep up with the human body’s needs at peak output. Pit zips are the most common form of jacket ventilation and are a pretty good compromise between letting air out and not letting snow in. Rab’s Khroma Kinetic has a different ventilation style with front and back vents that help move air through the jacket better.

Best Ski Jackets wrist detail

Cuffs are worth paying attention to – a small detail but if done wrong can certainly be a pain point. Photo: Ryan Salm

Other Features

There are a ton of other features that go into the making of the best ski jackets. One of them is the snow skirt. For those who wear bibs, this is a bit of a “who cares?” feature, so if you’re a bibber and a weight-saver, it might be worth looking for a jacket with a removable snow skirt.

Our favorite new feature that’s just gaining traction and popping up on a few jackets are wrist gaiters, a small, thin cuff with thumb holes that goes under your gloves and keeps out the snow. They’re incredibly effective for under and over-the-sleeve styles of mittens and gloves and keep your jacket sleeves from hitching up. They’re a standout feature on the Mammut Haldigrat, and we hope to see them on more ski jackets in the next few years.

Mountain Hardwear Best Ski Jackets

Mountain Hardwear’s High Exposure jacket packs down tiny, but doesn’t skimp on weather-ready protection. Photo: Ryan Salm

Material

When it comes to the material your jacket is made of, you’ve got a lot of great options, and there’s always going to be a few trade-offs. Weight and durability tend to go hand-in hand – gains in one category tend to eat away at the score of the other. Same with waterproofing and breathability.

To be fair, it’s very hard to beat GORE-TEX material in terms of waterproofing and durability, but it won’t always be the winner when it comes to weight and breathability. Proprietary fabrics and DWR finishes like Mammut’s DRYtechnology Pro, Black Diamond’s BD.dry, Flylow’s Perm HD fabric, and others are catching up and sometimes even beating GORE-TEX in one or more of the aforementioned key categories. But when it comes to designing a great ski jacket, all of those factors need to work together.

Another point of distinction is 2L vs. 3L material. Both types have a waterproof (but importantly, breathable) membrane sandwiched by an exterior layer on the outside for durability and an inner lining on the inside. The outside layer is then coated in a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish that keeps water from seeping in and adding weight as well as reducing breathability. This DWR can wear out with use, but is easily revived with special washes.

In a 3L design, all three layers – inside, outside, and the waterproof membrane – are fused together. 2L material has the outer two layers fused together and the inside liner (often mesh) hanging separately. For those hitting the backcountry, 3L material is far and away the top choice for increased breathability and reduced bulk, whereas if you’re hitting the resort, 2L (like the REI First Chair) will do just fine, and keep a few bucks in your pocket, too.

What’s the Hype Around GORE-TEX?

As mentioned above, any good ski jacket needs a waterproof/breathable membrane to keep water out, and GORE-TEX happens to be one of the first and best. It’s actually a very long and interesting story, but here’s the short version. Back in 1969, Bob Gore accidentally discovered how to create the porous membrane (called ePTFE) by stretching PTFE, a fluoropolymer, and immediately filed a patent. Many legal battles ensued, but Gore held onto their patent for creating the type of porous membrane for years, getting a head start over everyone else who have come to market with a similar material since. As such, many outerwear companies simply use GORE-TEX rather than going to the trouble of manufacturing their own waterproof/breathable membrane.

Best Ski Jackets Mountain hardwear Touring

A good ski jacket should have enough pockets that you don’t need a backpack but should also be comfortable with a pack on. Photo: Ryan Salm

Final Thoughts

Any of the ski jackets on this list would be a great companion for wintertime skiing on the resort and in the backcountry. We’ve tested a wide variety of jackets in the past few years, and these are the ones that rose to the top with high-performing materials, great pockets and features, and comfy fits. While we do spend a lot of time calling out both pros and cons of the jackets in this review to give you the full picture in making a purchasing decision, overall, we stand by every single item on this list and would never recommend a product we wouldn’t use ourselves.

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Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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