Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Ski Jackets for Women of 2022

We test women's ski jackets from Patagonia, Arc'teryx, Helly Hansen, Outdoor Research, and others to find the best models for hitting the slopes
From resorts to the backcountry, we test every product thoroughly in a...
Photo: Scott Rokis
Tuesday December 7, 2021
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Over the last 9 years, our expert shredders have tested 55+ of the best women's ski jackets. For this update, we bought 16 top-ranked models to test back-to-back on the ski hill. We ride chairs, carve turns, and crush happy hours to put each model to the test from California to Colorado to Canada. When it came time to leave the resort behind and head to the more rugged backcountry, we put each jacket's versatility, weather resistance, and ski-specific features to the test. Whether you're looking for warmth, protection from the elements, value, or style, we've done all the side-by-side comparisons to help you find the best model to meet your needs.

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $675 List
Check Price at Backcountry
$749 List
Check Price at REI
$450 List
$337.50 at Backcountry
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score
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71
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Pros Durable, weather resistant, stylish, breathable, refinedWeather resistant, comfortable, durableWarm, lofty insulation, soft, very mobile despite insulation, excellent comfort and fitBreathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic lookRelatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilation
Cons Expensive, powder skirt non-removableExpensive, resort specificLackluster ventilationNo insulationNon-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiers
Bottom Line A high-tech, durable, and weather-resistant resort shell that stands out above the competitionA sleek and well designed resort specific option for the skier looking for the most high end shell out thereA super warm and soft resort jacket with a cool utilitarian look, this is perfect for someone who tends a little colderA sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair priceAn excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountry
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Arc'teryx Incendia Helly Hansen Powder... Black Diamond Recon... Outdoor Research Ca...
Weather Resistance (20%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Comfort And Fit (20%) Sort Icon
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Warmth (20%)
5.0
4.0
8.0
3.0
2.0
Ventilation (20%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
9.0
Style (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Features (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Arc'teryx Incendia Helly Hansen Powder... Black Diamond Recon... Outdoor Research Ca...
Insulation Flannel backer None Body: 60g PrimaLoft Sleeves: 40g PrimaLoft None None
Waterproofing Gore-Tex Gore-Tex PFC free DWR BD.dry 3-layer Pertex Shield
Weight (in pounds) 1.3 lbs 1.3 lbs 2.2 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.2 lbs
# of Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered arm, 2 internal mesh, 1 zippered internal mesh 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 2 internal drop-in 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh 2 zippered chest, 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered arm, 1 internal mesh, 1 internal zippered chest
Main Fabric 70D nylon NP100d nylon 70% nylon, 30% polyester 84% nylon, 16% elastane 100% Nylon
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pit Zips? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuff construction Velcro Velcro Velcro with wrist gaiters Velcro Velcro
Powder skirt? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
RECCO? Yes Yes Yes No No


Best Overall Women's Ski Jacket Shell


Arc'teryx Sentinel AR - Women's


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 9
  • Comfort and Fit 9
  • Warmth 5
  • Ventilation 8
  • Style 9
  • Features 8
Insulation: None | Weight: 1.3 lbs
Extremely weather-resistant
Stylish
Versatile
Breathable
Not very supple material
Not warm

The women's Arc'teryx Sentinel AR is our favorite shell jacket for ripping around resort slopes. It scores highly in nearly every metric, save warmth, and looks stylish doing so. From the first feel, the 3L Gore-Tex shell screams bombproof weather resistance, and it did not disappoint. This jacket kept us dry and out of the wind in the pouring rain and gusting sub-zero storms in Vermont. The Sentinel AR also has a sleek, high-quality construction with fully taped seams, and DWR-treated and taped zippers keep the moisture out. We also really liked how quickly the pit zips could increase ventilation with their large, open design. The shell material itself was also extremely breathable, allowing us to stay dry while working hard. This shell also has enough features to keep us happy at the resort.

The flipside of the breathability and versatility of a hardshell design is that it does not provide any inherent insulation. The Sentinel AR has a soft flannel backer, but we did not find this to provide any significant insulation. It should be noted that maintaining the proper temperature through layering and sweat-wicking is certainly an important part of staying warm. This being said, if you are looking for a jacket that keeps you both warm and dry, you may want to consider one of the insulated models we tested instead. If you are looking for one of the highest-end hardshells for downhill snow-sliding on the market, however, we believe the Sentinel AR is worth the investment. This is a burly and stylish hardshell with a flattering cut and the ability to last you several seasons.

Read review: Arc'teryx Sentinel AR-Women's

Best Overall Insulated Jacket


Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 7
  • Comfort and Fit 9
  • Warmth 8
  • Ventilation 6
  • Style 8
  • Features 8
Insulation: 60g Primaloft (body), 40g Primaloft (sleeves) | Weight: 2.2 lbs
Warm
Lofty insulation
Silky soft and mobile
Good breathability
Poor ventilation features

When we first picked up the Powderqueen 3.0 and slipped it on we were blown away by how instantly warm we felt. This jacket is surprisingly warm for its weight and the silky feel of its synthetic insulation makes it feel like an ultralight luxury down sleeping bag. On the outside, the DWR treated shell material blocks wind and precipitation wonderfully, and the water-resistant zippers work like a dream. Our favorite element of this jacket is how well it wicks moisture, a rare find in an insulated jacket. The heat this jacket kept was noticeably dry even when we began to work up a sweat.

In a related vein, we wish the Powderqueen had more effective pit zips. With how well the material wicked moisture, however, this was not as necessary as it would be with some other insulated models we've tested. If you are someone who trends cold and prefers built-in insulation in your ski jacket, allow us to recommend the ultra-comfortable and high-performing Powderqueen to keep you warm and dry on the deepest powder days.

Read review: Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0

Best Bang for Your Buck


Outdoor Research Carbide - Women's


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 8
  • Comfort and Fit 9
  • Warmth 2
  • Ventilation 9
  • Style 8
  • Features 7
Insulation: None | Weight: 1.2 lbs
Handles resort and backcountry applications
Breathes and vents well
Comfortable, stretchy fabric
Excellent value
No insulation
Thin shell material

Where the Outdoor Research Carbide shines is in its extremely breathable and comfortable shell material. The 3L Pertex shield material is one of the most breathable and comfortable materials we've worked with. The DWR coating of this material is also convincing, providing excellent weather protection for its weight. Combine all of this with ski-specific features to take you from the resort to the backcountry and you have a stellar value for an outstanding price.

While this stretchy 3L provides excellent breathability and water resistance, we did feel the more biting winds permeate this thin material. This more backcountry-oriented shell is so thin that we do have some questions about how it will hold up to the test of time, but after over a month of use, we have no reason to believe it will perform poorly. If we had just one wish for this jacket, it would be that the powder skirt were removable. This would knock this jacket out of the park. These small criticisms aside, we believe the Carbide performs similarly to many high-end shells on the market at a fraction of the price.

Read review:Outdoor Research Carbide Women's

Best Bargain for an Insulated Jacket


The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 - Women's


66
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 8
  • Comfort and Fit 5
  • Warmth 8
  • Ventilation 4
  • Style 8
  • Features 8
Insulation: PrimaLoft Silver Insulation | Weight: 2.0 lbs
Good ski features
3-in-1 works well in all its iterations
Good ski features
Fits small
Hood doesn't stay over the helmet

We were pleasantly surprised by the The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1's versatility and performance. Despite its slim fit (we recommend sizing up), the jacket had almost all of the features we look for in a ski jacket (deep pockets, quick and reactive zippers), and it impressed with its weather resistance. Best of all, it's two separate pieces that, when combined, make a warm and high-functioning ski jacket but also highly satisfying as individual pieces, too. The inner synthetic jacket is warm and looks great on its own, and we often wear it around town. The outer shell stands perfectly well on its own on days that are warmer or when we wanted to play with light layers underneath.

The jacket is very comfortable but should probably be sized up to allow the best movement when skiing with all layers together. We felt this tightness mostly across the shoulders and chest, which occasionally hindered our movement. The jacket comes in enough colors that you can personalize it to your liking, and it works well with fun, patterned ski pants. We think the The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate is a jacket that could work for almost anyone looking for a great deal on an insulated jacket.

Read review: The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 - Women's

Best for Backcountry Skiing


Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro - Women's


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 9
  • Comfort and Fit 8
  • Warmth 3
  • Ventilation 9
  • Style 9
  • Features 6
Insulation: None | Weight: 1.3 lbs (including powder skirt)
Durable
Weather resistant
Extremely thoughtful design
Comfortable cut
Very breathable
Expensive

We are completely enamored with this high-end technical Gore-Tex Pro shell from Norrona. It feels like they thought of everything when designing the Lofoten. Its performance begins with the most breathable of Gore-Tex membranes with a hefty 70D weave. This shell feels like it can handle any weather and we know it wicks moisture as well as any of the best options on the market. Every zipper on this jacket is water resistant and taped. The removable powder skirt and super lightweight wrist gaiters add a little more versatility than standard in a backcountry-specific shell.

The features of this jacket are fairly sparse compared to some resort-specific models, which lands it more squarely in the backcountry shell category. Often, less is more for the backcountry and this jacket is no exception. This being said, the double chest pockets and single internal zip pocket are more than adequate for days in the resort. We found it hard to find a flaw in either the construction or performance of this high-end shell. If you are in a position to invest in a top-end backcountry piece of gear, the Lofoten is an outstanding choice.

Read review:Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro - Women's

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
79
$675
Editors' Choice Award
This weather resistant hardshell is one of the most technically sound and high performing options out there
76
$450
Editors' Choice Award
For those looking for an insulated jacket to keep them warm all day, this stylish jacket fits the bill
76
$749
A high end, well-thought-out Gore-tex shell with a durable feel and excellent weather resistance
73
$699
Top Pick Award
This backcountry oriented shell is excellently designed and capable of fulfilling a one jacket quiver
71
$299
Best Buy Award
A high performance technical shell that performs well in or out of bounds and won't break the bank
71
$400
An extremely versatile hardshell with stretch, space to layer, and excellent breathability
70
$420
This fly model performs well on the slopes and looks good, too
69
$375
A comfortable, stylish jacket with great ski features for a decent price
68
$400
This jacket is a protective hardshell that has all the ski specific features you need
66
$360
Best Buy Award
This jacket is very ski-worthy, especially for those wishing to have a quiver-of-one jacket. The adaptability this model offers is top notch
64
$299
A great value for a Gore-tex hardshell that is lacking in some technical and style performance
63
$210
This jacket looks good but leaves us wanting when the weather gets bad
63
$425
An uphill oriented, lightweight and very breathable shell with a technical cut
62
$199
A jacket with decent ski features and a low price tag, this one has good value for a basic jacket
62
$399
This customizable jacket is solid-performing, but it's a bit pricey and not our favorite
34
$259
Not excelling at insulating or weather resistance a large appeal of this option is its price point

Our testers got out on gorgeous bluebird and hammering storm days to...
Our testers got out on gorgeous bluebird and hammering storm days to put jackets like the Patagonia Powder Bowl to the test on the ski hill.

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editors Betsy Welch, Jessica Haist, and Jackie Kearney. Betsy hails from the Front Range of Colorado, although you'll usually find her adventuring in the mountains or abroad. When the snow flies, Betsy likes to rip around local resorts, nordic ski, and dabble in skimo racing. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Jessica made her way west into the states and now resides in Mammoth Lakes, California. Jessica has acquired the gear connoisseur's eye for detail and function with Mammoth mountain's varied slopes available all season long. She's also lived and worked all over the US as an outdoor educator and guide and holds a Master's Degree in Outdoor Education from Arizona's Prescott College. Jackie has skied and lived in several places in the American West. After ski patrolling for several years at Kirkwood Mountain in Lake Tahoe, California, she returned to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado to pursue the same work at Telluride.

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Finding the best women's ski jacket started with ample online research. We made an initial cut of 50 jackets before selecting and purchasing the models discussed here for testing. We took them out in various locations from Canada to Vermont to California to Colorado, including the backcountry. We paid attention to critical areas of performance like warmth, weather resistance, features, ventilation, and even style. When called for, we supplemented field use with controlled tests, like spraying the jackets down with water to test water resistance. All-in-all, we think you'll find this study to be a comprehensive and helpful starting point in the selection of your next ski jacket.

Related: How We Tested Ski Jacket for Women

We want to set you up for endless powder fields like this one.
We want to set you up for endless powder fields like this one.

Analysis and Test Results


If you're into riding the lifts from the first chair till last, you'll want a ski jacket that will keep you warm, dry, and functioning well all day. Style is also a huge factor when choosing your outfit for riding, as it often becomes one's on-hill identity that your ski partners recognize ("There she is, in the teal coat!"). Where you live and how often you ski will affect which jacket will work best for you. Are you a fair-weather skier who likes cruising the groomers and then having happy hour on the deck? Or do you want to slay the pow on a storm day and work hard all day doing it? We've outlined the best choices for each scenario.

Related: Buying Advice for Ski Jacket for Women


Value


Trying to figure out which ski jacket hits the sweet spot between performance and price can be difficult. Consider how much you get out on the mountain to help you justify your spending on your next ski jacket. For only a few weekends every winter, you might be happier with a less expensive option. However, if you call into work sick every powder day and get dozens of days on the mountain each year, it's easier to swallow the prices of some high-end gear. If the latter sounds like you, Arc'teryx Sentinel AR and Norrona Lofoten should both be on your shortlist. For less frequent skiers or those on a tighter budget, there are a few models that combine great performance with relatively modest price tags, like The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate, Black Diamond Recon Stretch, or the Outdoor Research Carbide.

We do our best here to help you identify the tradeoffs you are making when budgeting for your ski jacket. In our experience, spending more often leads to superior weather resistance, higher-end style, and better tailoring. The Arc'teryx models and Norrona Lofoten are great examples of this—they top out on style and weather resistance. Their thoughtful construction with taped or welded seams and fully water-resistant zippers meld with high-end Gore-Tex to put them a step above the rest in this category. They'll keep you skiing all day, and will likely last several ski seasons. Relatedly, they consistently impress with their on-trend and flattering tailoring. However, if you are looking for a jacket that has similar weather resistance and a similar cut, at a fraction of the price, consider the award-winning Carbide.

The Carbide is so much jacket for how inexpensive it is, it performs...
The Carbide is so much jacket for how inexpensive it is, it performs as well as jackets that cost multitudes more than it does.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Going for an insulated jacket could potentially save you money on expensive insulating mid-layers, which often cost hundreds of dollars. Many insulated jackets today tend to cost less than the pricey shell jackets. The Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0 is our favorite insulated model but still priced within reach. For further savings, though, the versatility and price-point of the North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 is a very appealing bargain to cover your bases adequately.

The versatile Triclimate on a very windy and deceptively cold day at...
The versatile Triclimate on a very windy and deceptively cold day at A-Basin in Colorado.

Weather Resistance


We evaluated all jackets on how well they keep you protected from the elements.


Hardshell jackets like the Patagonia Powder Bowl, FlyLow Billie Coat, Norrona Lofoten, Incendia, and the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR score high in this category because of their super durable and water-resistant shell materials and large storm hoods. Depending on the time of year and the climate you're skiing in, this category can be the most essential ski jacket feature. Ski areas in a maritime environment tend to have wetter, heavier snow that can quickly soak through a jacket without decent water resistance. This is important because the wetter you get, the colder you become, which can result in an abrupt end to your ski day.

The Sentinel AR comes up high enough to protect your face, but can...
The Sentinel AR comes up high enough to protect your face, but can be adjusted to stay out of your face even if you are not wearing a helmet.

Many of the products we evaluated are constructed with a waterproof/breathable shell material such as Gore-Tex. The Powder Bowl, Sentinel AR, Incendia, Backcountry Notchtop, Lofoten and REI First Chair feature Gore-Tex. Some products we tested, like the OR Carbide or BD Recon Stretch, have a highly rated, proprietary waterproof/breathable material like BD.dry or Pertex, respectively. All of these membranes are rated on their water resistance/breathability ratio in terms of millimeters of water/grams per meter squared of water vapor. Also, everything we tested was given added water resistance with the application of a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, but some jackets repelled water better than others.

Hardshells like the burly Incendia were the best equipped to battle...
Hardshells like the burly Incendia were the best equipped to battle any weather out there.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Waterproofness is rated on an industry-standard test in which labs determine how many millimeters of water in a square inch tube it takes for a material to start leaking. As a general rule, something with a 15K waterproof rating will work for most resort use, but if you live in a maritime climate or spend a lot of time all-day touring in stormy weather, look for something closer to the 20K+ range.

Breathability, on the other hand, is not so simple. Part of this is due to the way water vapor behaves differently in different climates, and part of this is due to there not being a standard test. Manufacturers will want to report the highest number here, so it's important to take this information with a grain of salt.

With a DWR treatment, liquid beads and slides off jackets instead of...
With a DWR treatment, liquid beads and slides off jackets instead of being absorbed into the fabric. This hydrophobic ability diminishes over time, but happens more slowly with high-quality treatments.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Along with field testing, we spray each jacket with water to carefully evaluate how well water beads off the surface and how long it takes the water to soak into the material, if at all. The spray test largely assesses the DWR coatings on these jackets, not the overall waterproofness of the materials. Every jacket we tested did well at repelling moisture during our spray tests. We were curious about the protective qualities in the shells of the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange and The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate and took them out in wet snowfall. Moisture beaded right off of them both. It is important to note that DWR coatings will wear off over time from washing and use, but garments can be re-treated. The Sentinel AR, Incedia, Norrona Lofoten and Powder Bowl have Gore-Tex shells with DWR coatings that held up the best and beaded water quickly, whereas the Orage Nina and Obermeyer Tuscany II absorbed some water into their exterior shells over time.

We consider other factors in this category: how wind resistant the jacket's construction is—do we feel drafts through zippers or seams? The Patagonia jackets had bombproof, weather-protected zippers. Arc'teryx and Norrona also performed highly for this reason. We also evaluate if hoods are adjustable, insulated, and will fit over a helmet to protect you from winds and precipitation while sitting still on the chairlift or skiing down in stormy weather. All of the shells have non-insulated hoods, while the fully insulated jackets all had some degree of insulation in the hood. For example, the Helly Hansen Powderqueen has a pillowy insulated hood that adds an awesome buffer on storm days. We also loved the technical performance of the oversized Arc'teryx and Norrona hoods and how well they protected our chin and face even without a helmet underneath.

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Comfort and Fit


Comfort and fit are paramount because you want to be able to move around and feel good while wearing your jacket all day.


There is an array of ways in which manufacturers address comfort and fit in their jackets. In our experience, there are two main ways in which they do this: the tailoring and the mobility of the actual material. For example, burlier shells like the Sentinel AR, Incendia IS, Patagonia Powderbowl and Lofoten all feel crinkly out of the box as they did not have any stretch. What sets them apart from each other are their varying levels of tailoring. We especially like how the Arc'teryx models have articulated elbows, a fold of fabric at the elbow that allows you to bend without pinching or shortening the arm. We also love how these models and the Lofoten are tailored with ample room in the shoulders and a taper at the waist to allow easy movement and keep the jacket shifting around and rubbing or pulling uncomfortably. The Patagonia Powderbowl, on the other hand, was made of a similar thickness Gore-Tex, but lacked such deft tailoring, leading it to score slightly lower here.

The Sentinel AR leaves plenty of room around the neck and shoulders...
The Sentinel AR leaves plenty of room around the neck and shoulders for easy movement.

Some jackets have stretchy shell materials that flex with movement, like the Nina, OR Carbide, and BD Recon Stretch. Some of the insulated models also incorporate stretch to counteract the bulk of insulation. The Tuscany and Nina both incorporate stretch into their construction. Notably, the Helly Hansen Powderqueen did an excellent job at this, combining with generous tailoring to produce an extremely comfortable jacket that we would forget to take off when we came inside because it felt like a second skin.

Silky lining on the interior of the Powderqueen gives it a luxurious...
Silky lining on the interior of the Powderqueen gives it a luxurious and comforting feel.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

The fit of your jacket can also affect its warmth. If it is too small and you are not able to put extra layers on for those biting cold days, you won't be as comfortable. Conversely, if it is too roomy and lets in drafts, it will also be less warm and comfortable. We compared all of the manufacturers' size charts to see if they matched up with our testers' dimensions and provide some extra information on how to select a fit for yourself. In general, we found Patagonia's "Regular Fit" to be roomy, which we have over years of experience found Patagonia's clothing and outerwear. We also liked the extra room all of the hardshells in this review except the Notchtop left for layering. For the Columbia Whirlibird and The Northface Triclimate 3-in-1s, we recommend sizing up since the inner insulating layer can feel a bit bulky and lacks stretch.

The stretch in the Recon Stretch working well here for the many...
The stretch in the Recon Stretch working well here for the many transitions of a long day of touring. It allows great shoulder mobility and is comfortable under a pack.

Warmth


How warm (or cold) you are on the hill can make or break your ski day. In our test, we rated each jacket on how warm it kept us on cold, windy, stormy days. We skied fast and sat on windy chairlifts to find out if there were any drafts in strange places and tried out all the special features designed to help retain heat. We also made sure that the jackets we tried had different types of and degrees of insulation. The Burton Jet Set was a surprisingly toasty budget option.


The Columbia model uses a foil-like lining they call Omni-Heat that is designed to reflect heat back towards your body. This, in combination with synthetic insulation, keeps you warm. We were skeptical about this flashy material but found that the Whirlibird is one of the warmer jackets in the review. The North Face Thermoball was also super toasty, albeit a bit slim fitting. Our favorite of the top-performing products here was the Powderqueen. While it does not contain the heaviest insulation in grams packed into the shell, it is the only model here with Primaloft synthetic insulation. We found this insulation to have the best warmth to weight ratio in this review, which leads to this jacket's lofty, light warmth.

The uninsulated shell jackets we tested all provide a similar, but not equal, level of warmth. We found the weight of the face fabric, and the backer material did contribute to their overall warmth. Notably, the Sentinel AR has a flannel backer and a 70 denier face fabric. This made it the warmest of the shells we tested and made it the best option for a shell jacket. With these jackets, layering appropriately underneath is the best way to manage their warmth. While not incredibly warm on their own, these jackets provide the added benefit of helping you manage your temperature based on exertion, which is a key element to staying dry inside your jacket and consistently warm all day.

The fun, flashy inside of the insulated layer of the Whirlibird IV.
The fun, flashy inside of the insulated layer of the Whirlibird IV.

Other design factors that contribute to warmth are wrist gaiters that keep the drafts out of your sleeves like in the Powderqueen 3.0, chin guards that can zip up over a neck gaiter like in the Burton Jet Set, and baffles around your neck to keep drafts from creeping down your spine like in the Northface Triclimate.

The Powderqueen kept us toasty warm even after the sun went down and...
The Powderqueen kept us toasty warm even after the sun went down and temps plummeted while packing up the car.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Consider the winter climate where you typically ski and your average level of exertion on the ski hill. Intermediate to advanced skiers in warmer, maritime climates might not want to opt for the warmest model, as the outside temps and generation of body heat are already warm enough.

The Nina kept us warm and we didn&#039;t experience any drafts through...
The Nina kept us warm and we didn't experience any drafts through the zipper at high speed.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Ventilation


When you're working hard making turns in deep powder or hiking in bounds, you can work up a sweat quickly. If you get sweaty, you can become clammy and cold, which can end your ski day quickly. You want a jacket that breathes well or has the ability to let air pass through with the use of pit zips and other features.


A jacket's materials, as well as the ventilation features incorporated in the jacket, are both effective ways to release heat and moisture. With an easy-to-open pit-zip like on the Powder Bowl and Arc'teryx Incendia, you can immediately get airflow to your body, allowing you to regulate your temperature quickly. Some jackets like the Backcountry Notchtop and Norrona Lofoten even featured central and chest zips for ventilation. Since many of the contenders in this review are thick and insulated, meaning not very breathable, the ventilation features are essential for staying comfortable in varying conditions on the ski hill. The un-insulated shells we tested had the best ventilation of the bunch.

The Sentinel AR has some of the largest open pit zips we tested and...
The Sentinel AR has some of the largest open pit zips we tested and they greatly improved airflow without having to unzip the jacket.

Almost all of the jackets in this test have some pit-zip feature for venting, allowing for air to circulate inside the jacket on warmer days, some allowing more air in than others. Some of the jacket's pit-zips were mesh-backed to keep the snow out, like on the Helly Hansen Powderqueen, whereas some had no mesh. Without mesh, the pit-zips can open up wider for maximum ventilation but also can allow snow inside the jacket if you happen to tumble. Unless you're brand new to skiing, we usually recommend open pit zips without any mesh liner. Notably, the Backcountry Notchtop features the most innovative ventilation, with extra-large pit zips and a laser-cut lining on two huge chest zips for some additional airflow. All of the 3-in-1 styles have pit-zips on the exterior shell but not on the interior insulating layer, which makes them much less useful. Of course, removing or adding the insulating layer is a fantastic way to regulate temperature.

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Style


Style may be subjective, but it's still important to many skiers. Feeling good in your jacket can affect how you ski and how you feel on the hill. Then, there's the fact that people begin to recognize you by what you wear while skiing, and your outfit essentially becomes your identity when your head and face are otherwise cloaked in a helmet and goggles. It's how people find you out on the mountain. Selecting a jacket that represents your style and personality is important, just as finding one with properly placed vents and warm enough insulation is, too.


Color-blocked designs with different colored hoods, bodies, and sleeves continue to be the latest style on the slopes, as is found in the Norrona Lofoten. We like the color offerings for the Burton Jet Set. We love contrasting zippers like on the Powderqueen 3.0 and super-stylish FlyLow Billie Coat

This version of the Jet Set won us many compliments.
This version of the Jet Set won us many compliments.

We dig the look of long hemlines—like on the Sentinel AR, Incendia, Norrona Lofoten, and Recon Stretch. These jackets, along with the Carbide and Notchtop, all feature a tailor that tapers at the waist and extends back out, creating a look that flatters natural contours. We also thought that the more traditional, straighter cuts of the Patagonia Powder Bowl and The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow looked nice and clean for those of us who prefer a more understated style.

The bright color combo of earth tones and neons stands out in a...
The bright color combo of earth tones and neons stands out in a crowd on gray days.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Ski Features


This year, we found that almost all of the jackets had the same essential ski features in common (pass pockets, google pockets, YKK zippers, and adjustable hoods). It seems that the manufacturers have caught on to what makes a great day on the hill, and they've incorporated these essential features into the jackets. Most ski-specific jackets also have powder skirts, designed to keep snow from going up your back on a powder day or from going down the pants when falling.


We love the powder skirts on the BD Recon Stretch and Norrona Lofoten because they're removable when not needed, like for around-town use or when there isn't pow to slay on the mountain. Many brands' powder skirts are compatible with the same brand's ski pants, and you can attach them, so they become impenetrable to snow. This is the most efficient way to wear a powder skirt, but it's not very helpful if you have different brands of jackets/pants.

A removeable powder skirt on the Recon Stretch adds an extra layer...
A removeable powder skirt on the Recon Stretch adds an extra layer of weather resistance when you need it. We like how it can be removed when you don't.

There are many convenient and unique features on all the different models on our test. Features we look for in our favorites are:

Pockets

We need lots of places to stash our stuff. We particularly like it when jackets have media pockets with headphone ports like in the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR and OR Carbide so we can listen to our tunes while we ski. More jackets have been incorporating this feature, although with the popularity of wireless earbuds, we wouldn't be surprised to see this feature vanish as quickly as it appeared. We also appreciate big mesh goggle pockets and fleece-lined handwarmer pockets like in the Jet Set and Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0. A zippered interior pocket or chest pocket is essential for keeping important things like credit cards and car keys safe and sound. The Flylow Billie Coat has a great variety of pockets that we love. We found it odd that the chest pocket on the Burton Jet Set is only affixed with velcro rather than a zipper.

We really like when pockets are located above the point where a...
We really like when pockets are located above the point where a backpack would sit, we think this makes them more useful in more circumstances.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Wrist Gaiters

These help keep the drafts out of your sleeves and keep your hands warmer when you don't have your gloves on. Wrist gaiters made out of thin, sleek materials are better for wearing underneath gloves. If poorly designed these can cut off circulation or be just downright uncomfortable. The Norrona Lofoten and Powderqueen 3.0 have notably effective and comfortable wrist gaiters.

RECCO Reflector

This feature seems to be a growing trend and is becoming an industry standard for all ski jackets. The RECCO system will potentially aid ski patrol in finding you more quickly if you are caught in an in-bounds avalanche. The Snowbelle, Sentinel AR, Incendia, Powderqueen 3.0 and Powder Bowl jackets all have a RECCO reflector.

The Lofoten is the only jacket in this review that features a "Rescue Pocket." This pocket is not actually a pocket, but more a vent in the chest with a mesh backer velcroed to the body of the jacket. The intention is to be able to reach a transceiver on a body harness beneath your shell without having to undo a chest strap on a backpack or unzip your jacket fully. We think this is an innovative feature, and when practiced extensively, just like any other rescue equipment, it could improve efficiency in a search. Our only warning would be to make sure you don't try and use it as a real pocket.

A unique front pocket meant for easy access to rescue equipment, or...
A unique front pocket meant for easy access to rescue equipment, or to act as a secondary source of ventilation.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Another unique feature that we came across was a cord to attach your cell phone to your jacket, so it doesn't fall when you're on the chairlift. The Orage Nina sported this useful feature. Relatedly, the Powderqueen 3.0 was the only jacket that featured a battery-saving pocket for your phone. This jacket functions with Primaloft Gold Aerogel insulation to keep your phone warm and the battery operation going as long as possible despite the cold external environment. If you've ever had your phone battery perish prematurely at the resort, you'll probably appreciate this unique feature.

The Nina&#039;s snow phone leash.
The Nina's snow phone leash.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Conclusion


Aside from your skis and boots, your ski jacket is probably the most important piece of gear for a day on the hill. It has to keep you warm, dry, and able to rip all day long. All of the jackets in this review have features that seek to do just that. For many people, weather resistance and warmth are the most important factors to consider, while for others, features like pockets and where they're placed matter the most. For skiers who like to shred hard and maybe get out in the backcountry, ventilation is a key factor. And of course, you want a jacket that looks good, makes you feel great, and reflects your style. We hope that our observations and recommendations have helped you select the right kind of jacket for your unique needs on the slopes.

Your ski jacket can make or break a ski day; we hope we helped you...
Your ski jacket can make or break a ski day; we hope we helped you narrow down the choices.

Jacqueline Kearney, Betsy Welch, and Jessica Haist

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