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Welcome To Our Advice Center Pages

Ski Jackets & Snowboard Jackets

Introduction

Throughout this guide, the terms ski and snowboard are generally interchangeable as both sports require pants that are made from the same materials, and need to perform to the same level. The only real difference between the two is style. Skiers tend to have a tighter fit whereas the fashion in snowboarding has always been, and still is a grungier, baggy look.

The emphasis of a ski jacket and snowboard jacket should always be on function, thankfully the manufacturers technology is getting better with each passing season; also today's manufacturers have recognised the importance of fashion, with the variety colours and styles to choose from you shouldn't have a problem finding one that suits your individual taste.

When you are looking to buy your first ski or snowboard jacket you will already have a few ideas of what you will expect from your new item of ski wear.

Listed below are the usual questions a person thinks to themselves when looking for the first time

  • Will I find one I like it?
  • Will it keep me warm?
  • Will it keep me dry?
  • How much will it cost?

Now add this to the questions a shop assistant may ask you

  • Do you want a shell or insulated ski jacket?
  • Do you want critical or fully taped seams?
  • Where are you intending to ski, on piste, backcountry or park?
  • What waterproof and breathable rating are you after?
  • What features do you require?

Don't worry, they aren't speaking a foreign language! A question is only simple if you know the answer. There are numerous lists of features for ski jackets and snowboard jackets, some of which can be quite bewildering if you don’t know what they mean.

So, before you get bamboozled by a shop assistant throwing out different technical terms and features at you, let us help you make a more informed choice by answering some of the questions you have and some you haven't thought of yet about your next ski jacket.

The Basics – What is a ski jacket and what does it do?

In its simplest form a ski jacket is a technical jacket worn as the outer layer; designed to protect you from the wind and cold whilst allowing excess heat and sweat to escape by way of moisture wicking fabrics and additional vents.

Ski jackets differ from your regular jacket in the choice of fabrics used and the construction techniques applied. The fabrics are high performance, tightly woven materials designed to withstand extended exposure to the weather conditions of the mountain, whilst regulating heat and moisture. Waterproofing the seams, moisture wicking linings and specific features of a powder skirt and pass pockets are examples of how the construction far surpasses that of a regular jacket.

Types of jacket – insulated, down, hard shell or soft-shell?


Insulated

Insulated jackets as the name suggests contain some kind of insulation. The amount of insulation is measured in grammes, with a higher number equalling warmer clothing.
These jackets are ideal for those that feel the cold and for the times spent not moving such as riding the chair lifts or when you have to stop and wait for people to catch up.
Although slightly heavier than other jacket types, the insulation means you may not feel the need to wear a mid layer, resulting in less bulk overall.

The insulation can vary depending upon the manufacturer, but typically is made from synthetic fabrics such as Primaloft, Thinsulate or Thermacore. This is then trapped between a weatherproof and windproof outer layer and a moisture wicking inner liner.
Synthetic insulation is tougher than natural down insulation and will still keep you warm when your jacket gets wet.

In some modern jackets manufacturers have split the insulation between the body, hood and sleeve with more in the body. This keeps the body warm whilst reducing the weight and allowing for a greater freedom of movement.

Down

Down jackets are also insulated but this time natural goose or duck feather is the insulation. You will feel the warmth straight away as these jackets have very high warmth to weight ratio.

Unlike synthetic insulation, down does have a disadvantage in wet weather; if the down itself gets wet it is unable to loft and loses its insulating capabilities and once wet the down will take a long time to dry.

Be sure to buy a ski specific down jacket such as the Roxy Torah Down Jacket or the Surfanic Powder Puff Jacket to ensure it is fit for purpose and has an adequate waterproof outer shell.

Hard Shell

Hard shell jackets are just that; a shell with a fixed hood. They create the waterproof, breathable and windproof barrier between you and the elements; however, they do not contain any insulation.
Having no insulation makes hard shell jackets lighter than but not as warm as its insulated counterpart. It is therefore usually worn over your base layer and mid layer when it’s cold, but can also be worn on its own on the hotter days.
It’s this versatility that appeals to those who partake in intense physical activities such as cross-country skiing or those that get warm easily.

Note: Over exerting yourself in a hard shell can lead to condensation and sweat. Even though the materials used state breathable, this may not be enough for the active user, so look for a jacket with additional vents such as pit zips or chest zips to allow more moisture to escape.

Soft-Shell Jackets

Soft shell jackets are like a mix of mid-layer and outer layer in one garment.
They have high breathability and moisture wicking properties like a fleece, combined with most of the wind and water resistance of a hard shell.

Soft shells are made with stretch fabrics making them extremely flexible, this allows for a snug, comfortable fit where you can stretch naturally without any loss of movement.

Soft shells are generally used on drier days. Their water resistant treatments will cope with light rain and snow but extended exposure to heavy rain and severe weather conditions may saturate the garment.

Waterproof soft shells are available but this seems to be at the sacrifice of some breathability and vice versa; like everything they vary according to their intended sport.

What do the numbers mean?

Whenever you look at a ski jacket you will noticed numbers like 10,000g waterproofing or 10k breathability. These numbers help users determine the level of protection the jacket offers when the waterproofing and breathability of the jacket is rated.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is probably the most important characteristic of a ski jacket or snowboard jacket. Although essential it doesn't have to be the most expensive one available on the market. 5,000mm will keep most people dry throughout the day even in light snowfall.
Waterproofing is measured by a "mm/24 hours" rating. This rating refers to the amount of rainfall in millimetres a fabric can withstand over a 24 hour period without letting moisture in.
This number is generally between 5,000mm and 20,000mm. The higher the number the better waterproofing the jacket has.

Breathability

Breathability of material on a ski jacket or snowboard jacket is important so that perspiration can be moved away from the body more effectively whilst skiing or snowboarding. Again 5,000g is enough for most people as most jackets have additional venting for when you get too warm.
Breathability is measured by "g/m²/24 hours". This is the rate at which water vapour passes through the material (from the inside out), in grams of water vapour per square meter of fabric per 24 hour period.
Again, this number is generally between 5,000g and 20,000g. The higher the number the better breathability the jacket has.