Something went wrong with retrieving your basket information. Absolute is the ultimate deep-freeze defying cold-weather challenge jacket designed to take on extremes and totally tame winter. Some features, like a hood that fits a helmet, are fairly universal to ski and snowboard jackets. If you charge hard at your local ski resort you are probably going to want some insulation to keep you warm on all the windy lift rides.
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The Helly Hansen Alpha uses a 3-layer Helly Hansen Professional fabric that feels very durable though also a bit on the heavier size. The Patagonia Departer is a 2-layer shell made out of recycled fabric and while extremely lightweight feels more flimsy compared to to other ski shells hence the lower score in this criteria.
The Helly Hansen Alpha jacket scored the highest for this category since it is packed with more features than any of the other jackets tested. The Alpha jacket has a removable snow skirt and built in wrist gaiters to help keep snow out.
It has pit zips located on the side rather than the traditional location underneath the arm making them easier to open though unfortunately testers found they were not as effective for cooling down quickly. The Stio Raymer and Patagonia Departer both have fewer features than the other jackets in this test but the upside was that they are also the lightest two jackets tested.
Dry fabric did a great job keeping snow or water from soaking through and thanks to the powder skirt, no snow snuck in underneath when plowing through powder or during a fall. While most of the other jackets performed as expected, the Strafe Pyramid was noteworthy because of water spotting that showed up on a mid layer indicating that some water soaked through the zipper.
The Stio Raymer was a clear winner for temperature control with its incredible breathability. Even when doing high output activities such as skinning uphill or ice climbing testers never overheated or felt clammy inside the jacket. The Black Diamond Stretch Recon scored highly in this category since it was also very breathable.
The Helly Hansen Alpha jacket lost some points due to its pit zip placements which are centered over the rib cage rather than in the armpits.
This prevented the jacket from dumping heat as well, and as a result testers resorted to unzipping the main zipper or even removing the jacket to cool off.
For fit and comfort the Patagonia Departer was a clear winner with its long and slightly loose cut which fit all testers well and allowed for plenty of layering underneath. The Stio Raymer was also a good fit for testers though unfortunately the issue of the fabric freezing at really cold temperatures caused a slight decrease in comfort under these conditions. The Black Diamond Recon Stretch had a nice stretch to it which testers liked for mobility but some testers found it to be cut a bit too tight around the hips so a slightly looser cut would be ideal.
The Helly Hansen Alpha and the Strafe Pyramid both had some fit issues which made them a little less comfortable. All the pieces were tested for multiple days and in different conditions to see how they perform in a variety of situations. Testers do their best to try out every piece on the same day to compare each one in the same conditions and then also on multiple days with conditions ranging from sunny spring days to stormy wintery days to see how they hold up.
For the reviews, testers tried out shell ski jackets in the backcountry, at the resort and while ice climbing with either lightweight base layers underneath for the more physical activities like while on the skin track or with significant insulating layers underneath for laps on the chairlift. The shells were tested primarily from January to April in resorts and the backcountry of Montana, Canada, and Utah.
When judging materials, the specifications provided by the brands play a role in determining the rating for this criteria. These specifications tell us what type of waterproofing or exterior coating the jacket may have and then the testers can rate the materials by how well they perform and how lightweight they are. Since testers only have one season to test these pieces, durability is determined in part by any obvious fraying, ripping or other signs of reduced durability in addition to taking note of what type of material the jacket is made out of.
The features of a jacket depend on what the intended use of the jacket is but generally for ski shells the manufacturers assume the users are shopping for a lightweight, non-insulated outer layer, so extra features will be kept to a minimum.
For this category, testers are rating the jacket based on having enough of the essential features without too many extras that would add unnecessary weight.
When designing weatherproofness of a ski shell, manufacturers are usually trying to walk the line between being lightweight and being weather resistant. We tested how successful the jackets are at keeping out the elements by noting certain factors like if the jacket has taped seams, longer hems or wrist gaiters and a snowskirt. While skiing on stormy or even rainy days, testers note if any water soaks through anywhere.
The temperature control of a jacket is also based on the specifications that the manufacturer provides. Shell ski jackets are rated primarily at how well they do for breathability and retaining warmth when not moving versus how quickly you can dump heat during high output activities such as skinning or hiking uphill. Lastly, the criteria of fit and comfort is fairly subjective, but having multiple testers use the product somewhat reduces the subjectivity.
Factors that play a role here include the materials used, the cut and if the sizing is consistent. We also consider the intended use of the jacket say between targeting a casual weekend skier or a charging ski mountaineer. However with style and value being rather subjective and prone to personal preference, we did not provide a scored value and therefore is not part of the overall scoring of each piece.
If you love lift skiing and you live in a cold climate, the heavily insulated ski jacket will be the most comfortable. These jackets will have waterproof exteriors and thick and warm interiors. This combination is designed to keep you toasty even when sitting still on wind-exposed lifts for most of the day.
Though a heavily insulated jacket is less versatile than lightly insulated jackets, a thickly insulated jacket leaves the guesswork of layering out of the equation, and lets you just grab your jacket and go. Check out our detailed reviews to find the warmest and burliest ski jackets available. Look closely at what makes up the inside and outside of ski jackets. Keep in mind the climate where you spend most of your ski days and the types of weather that you prefer to go out in, which will affect your choice of shell material as well as insulation type.
This is the material that will be found on backcountry ski shells and is also the type of material most often used on the exterior of insulated ski jackets. Especially if your ski jacket has down insulation, which is vulnerable to moisture, a hard shell exterior is required.
Most ski and snowboard jackets are going to be designed with fully waterproof hard shell materials. Occasionally some are designed with water resistant soft shell materials, such as the Patagonia Rubicon Windstopper Jacket. This model combines synthetic insulation and a windproof soft shell exterior. A soft shell jacket will be softer, stretchier, and more breathable, however it will not keep you dry in a sloppy snowstorm. If you only like to ski in bluebird weather, a jacket with a soft shell exterior would work just fine and in fact may be more comfortable.
Insulated ski and snowboard jackets come with two types of insulation. Jackets with down insulation will be lighter weight for the warmth provided, which is arguably more comfortable. Down insulation loses its loft and insulating properties when it gets wet, so any jacket for skiing that has down inside needs to have an immaculate hard shell exterior to protect the down and keep the jacket warm all day.
Many of the higher-end ski and snowboard jackets come with down insulation, such as the Mountainforce Park Down Jacket. Synthetic insulation, though with a heavier warmth-to-weight ratio than down insulation, has the advantage of retaining its shape and therefore its insulating properties even when wet. This makes it a wise choice for a jacket that is likely to get wet in winter weather. Our award winning Dynafit Meteorite features synthetic Primaloft insulation which keeps it warm and weatherproof in all situations.
Companies are getting more creative when it comes to insulating jackets. In order to maximize both the lightweight insulating potential of down and the water resistant properties of synthetic insulation, many products now feature a combination of both fill types.
Other manufacturers will use mostly down insulation but place synthetic insulation in strategic places such as at the hem, sleeve cuffs, or under the arms. Now that you know what type of jacket that you want, the appropriate shell material, and ideal insulation, choose how you want your jacket to fit and look while you are wearing it. Skiing and snowboarding are very style-centric sports, and there are definite trends in snow wear. Keep in mind that the color and look of your jacket will be the primary way that your friends pick you out from the masses on the slopes.
The style favored by snowboarder and freestyle skiers trends towards loose and baggy. This gives you more room to move around inside your clothes and allows for plenty of layers underneath your outer jacket.
It also looks a little more hip, if you are into that. This type of fit will hug your body and be a little more aerodynamic. It will be more difficult to fit more layers underneath a close fitting jacket, making it slightly less versatile.
Another common type of ski jacket that is worth mentioning is the 3-in-1 jacket. These jackets feature a shell with a removable insulating liner. This insulation can be down, synthetic, or fleece. The interior layer can be worn on its own as a light jacket for around town and the shell can be worn on its own for warmer ski days or for days in the backcountry when you plan to sweat and only want a shell. Then the two layers can be combined for a waterproof and warm jacket for cold days on the lifts.
This type of jacket can be inexpensive and also be the most versatile of all ski jackets, but usually comes with compromises in quality for both the shell and insulation layers. Next, consider the ski features available and decide which ones are the most important to you.
Some features, like a hood that fits a helmet, are fairly universal to ski and snowboard jackets. Look for a design that has the features most important to you, and more importantly, features that fit with your other gear, like your helmet, gloves, and pants. While all ski jackets have hoods large enough to accommodate a helmet, not all hoods are built the same. It is important to be able to tighten your hood onto your helmet if it blowing snow.
Look to see if the hood can be adjusted two ways: Usually the more adjustments the hood offers, the better you can get it to fit your specific helmet. This is a stretchy section of fabric that can be buttoned snugly around the waist to prevent your jacket from riding up if you fall and prevent cold snow from getting up inside the jacket. Sometimes these skirts fit better than others. Sometimes they can attach to ski pants designed to go with certain jackets, making a seamless, protective connection.
Some powder skirts are removable. Many ski jackets will have stretchy, soft wrist gaiters with thumb loops that can be worn underneath your gloves or just keep you hands warmer while walking around without gloves. At the very least, these add comfort. An authorized Ski-Doo dealer will contact you shortly. Select one model of the MXZ family. Select one model of the Renegade family. Select one model of the Backcountry family.
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