We’re in the thick of the 2021 ski and snowboard season right now. We’ll assume you’ve already upgraded your most essential gear — new skis, ski boots, and ski goggles. Maybe you even splurged on a new ski backpack. But, what about your jacket? A good ski or snowboard jacket is just as important as the hardware you’re riding on. Because, if you’re not warm, dry, and comfortable on the slopes, how fun is that?
The bad news is that the best ski and snowboard jackets don’t come cheap. Premium outerwear usually incorporates next-gen waterproofing, insulation, and other technology to ensure you’re ready for the worst mountain conditions. None of that comes cheap. The good news is that we’ve done most of the legwork for you. We’ve found quite a few ski jackets at prices that anyone most can afford with a good mix of value, functionality, and quality. Here are our picks for the best ski and snowboard jackets for 2021.
Fjallraven’s heavy-duty Greenland No. 1 Down Jacket is ready to tackle the cold this winter with 600-fill-power goose down fill, a recycled polyester lining, and a fixed hood with edging in natural-tone leather. Two buttoned chest pockets and a zippered interior pocket provide plenty of space for stashing your smartphone, hand warmers, and glove liners. Plus, the lightweight design weighs just 2.3 pounds.
Burton is arguably the best snowboarding brand in the world with industry-leading technical apparel for both skiers and snowboarders. The Gore-Tex Helitack Stretch Jacket is among the company’s flagship offerings and is, in fact, the warmest synthetic insulated Gore-Tex jackets it offers. Wrapped around that premium insulation is a two-layer, bluesign-approved sustainable Gore-Tex outer for maximum waterproofing. The design is bolstered by YKK zippers, a removable snow-blocking waist gaiter, and a large interior pocket for stashing your essential gear. Plus, it’s backed by Burton’s lifetime warranty to boot.
It’s hard to beat a 3-in-1 jacket for maximum versatility. The ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 men’s jacket from The North Face is two products in one: A warm liner/jacket and a waterproof DryVent shell. Each piece can be worn individually or combined to create a toasty weather-resistant cocoon when the weather turns south. The lightweight, helmet-compatible design is ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and just about any other active winter pursuit. Plus, at less than $350, it’s one of the most affordable premium 3-in-1 ski jackets on the market.
For resort skiers, Helly Hansen’s Alpha 3.0 is near-perfect. A breathable, waterproof membrane coupled with an adjustable powder skirt helps lock snow out. Inside, the synthetic insulation provides reliable wet-weather warmth in all but the most extreme conditions. An insulated Lifepocket safely stows your smartphone or other mobile electronics, while preserving their battery life.
Hardcore backcountry pursuits require more serious apparel. Outdoor Research’s Skyward II Jacket is well-suited for more exciting, off-trail adventures. Thoughtful design features include high hand pockets for easy access when wearing a pack or harness, while enhanced elbow articulation and maximum-stretch fabric promise a greater range of motion. Plus, the double-zipper construction makes for easy access to your belays or beacon.
Patagonia’s entry-level Insulated Snowshot works just as well on the slopes as when running to the supermarket. Smart design features include a generous interior drop-in pocket for stashing your goggles, phone, and more, plus a proprietary H2No waterproof membrane that does a solid job of keeping the damp out. With 80-gram synthetic insulation around the body, it’s also one of the warmest snow jackets on this list. Bonus: The Snowshot’s shell fabric and insulation are crafted from 90% recycled materials.
From four-season tents to bombproof jackets, Marmot delivers some of the world’s best waterproofing. The men’s Spire Jacket is no different. The hardshell design is ready to take on storm skiing and hardcore riding with a weatherproof Gore-Tex shell and fully taped seams. The Spire boasts plenty of backcountry-friendly features, including pack-compatible chest pockets, zippered underarm vents, a powder skirt, and Angel-Wing Movement for a greater range of motion.
If you can afford it, the Arc’teryx Beta AR is one of the best ski jackets on the market. A staple of the company’s lineup for 20 seasons now, this jacket features Gore-Tex waterproofing and a hood large enough to accommodate a helmet underneath. It also is very durable, so it’s likely you’ll tire of this jacket before it begins to show any signs of age. Arc’teryx emphasizes versatility in the Beta AR. You won’t find much in the way of insulation here, but you do get features that make the Beta AR useful in a variety of mountain climates. Some of the most notable are hand pockets, armpit zippers for ventilation, and an updated length and looser fit to accommodate layers. No matter what you’re doing on the slopes, Arc’teryx’s Beta AR is more than up to the task.
Like Arc’teryx’s Beta AR, it seems like 686’s Smarty Jacket has been around forever. The 3-in-1 jacket is two parts: A waterproof outer shell and an insulated mid-layer jacket which can be zipped together or worn separately, hence the “3-in-1” name. But there’s plenty of other features to get excited about. Underarm zippers give you additional airflow, and lots of pockets provide space for passes, goggles, energy bars, and whatever else you might need. The adjustable hood is helmet-compatible, and the entire jacket can be rolled up for easy transport. Plus, you’re getting 686’s best waterproofing and warmth for a price that leaves enough money for you to buy the rest of your gear.
Beyond Columbia’s deep catalog of outdoor gear, the company also boasts a large line of winter sports clothing, including the Cushman Crest jacket. This jacket performs equally well on- and off-piste with its breathable, waterproof shell with thermal-reflective lining, which looks great on its own. On the mountain, you’ll appreciate the underarm vents, adjustable hood, cuffs, hem, and powder skirt, and all the pockets you could ever need. Given it is one of the lower-priced options on our list, we recommend this jacket to those looking for the best bang for their buck.
Another option in Burton’s catalog, the Covert jacket is a great entry-level jacket for novice skiers and snowboarders. The Thermolite insulation keeps you warm on the coldest days. While it may not be as waterproof as other jackets, it includes all the essentials: A removable waist gaiter, a helmet-ready hood, and plenty of storage space. Better yet, select color options are also “bluesign approved,” meaning its manufacture meets strict specifications to limit its environmental impact.
So how do you go about choosing the best jacket for your skiing and snowboarding habits? It all comes down to what you plan to do. If you’re likely to find yourself in a variety of conditions, a versatile, 3-in-1 jacket might make the most sense as you’ll be able to customize the jacket to different conditions. An insulated jacket makes more sense for colder conditions.
It may also make sense to choose your ski pants and jacket at the same time. There’s no rule that you must buy the same brand, but there are advantages to doing so. Of course, you’ll have the advantage of being able to match your pants and jacket perfectly, but that isn’t the only reason. As you can see above, your jacket will often have snaps that you can attach your pants directly to the jacket. This is especially useful in situations where you’ll be skiing or riding in deep powder or on snowy days. Snow will find its way into any opening, and you’ll end up wet regardless of how waterproof your jacket is on the outside. It’s not a requirement: Most jackets come with a powder skirt (some may call it a gaiter — same thing), so you will have some type of protection regardless.
Finally, you will need to figure out how much you want to pay. Generally, as you go up in price, the waterproofing improves as well as the functionality of the jacket itself. While there are some quality budget jackets out there, they can be few and far between. Stick in the middle range for a good mix of value and functionality — you’ll also find outerwear in this particular price range is much more durable in the long term.
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