The skier: Henrik Windsted. Photo: © Peak Performance Looking for a new ski jacket? Then make sure it has all the technical features you need, before you part with your hard earned money. After all, you’ll have to wear it in some of the harshest environments you’ll ever face. You don’t want to feel flawed about being stuck in a booster seat in a snowstorm. Here, I’ve outlined the 10 most important things to look for: and to do so, I got a little help from Are in Sweden. This cute little mountain town is the ski capital of Sweden, and it is the birthplace of several ski clothing brands, including Peak Performance and Elevenate. Needless to say, locals spend a lot of time outdoors: so they know a thing or two about what works – and what doesn’t – in a high-quality ski jacket.
1. A waterproof, breathable fabric
You need a fabric that will prevent snow and rain as well as help your sweat escape. Gore-Tex remains the industry leader in this regard: a membrane is sandwiched between the outer and inner fabric, and has more than 1.4 billion pores per square centimeter. Gore-Tex isn’t necessary, though – there are a growing number of waterproof and breathable membranes that can do the job well. Look for fabrics that are waterproof to 16,000-20,000mm with breathability between 10,000-15,000 grams. There’s a great guide to what these ratings mean at Evo.com.
2. seam paste
There is no hope that your ski jacket will be waterproof unless it has taped seams. Why not? Because the stitching in a seam goes through the waterproof membrane and provides the perfect entry point for water. Pictured, left, are taped seams on Peak Performance’s top Heli Alpine jacket. Speaking of jacket weaknesses, keep in mind that the main zipper at the front of the jacket will also let out steam, unless you have some sort of cover fabric for it. It is best to hold a flap of fabric with a Velcro fastener.
3. High collar
I’ve gone through many booster rides on windy, sub-zero days wishing my ski jacket collar was higher. High collars can be pulled up over your chin, lips, and even the tip of your nose to keep out the wind. If it’s the Arctic, then you should probably invest in a synthetic face mask as well, but it’s nice to have the added protection of a good ski jacket. If the jacket has a hood, make sure it has a drawstring so you can tie the collar independently of it. The hood, on the other hand, acts like a wind funnel, collecting any airflow and channeling them around your neck. It’s disgusting.
4. The hood goes over your helmet
Today, all sensitive skiers wear helmets (read our ski helmet feature for more on that): and all reasonable ski jacket manufacturers both make jackets that fit the top of ski helmets – like this Alpha SL jacket from Arctyerx. If not, what’s the problem? However, most skiers never wear a hood when they are actually skiing – because it restricts their movement and messes with their peripheral vision. Personally, I’d like to be able to wear mine more often in a booster seat – if I can. But I’ve always been too preoccupied with holding onto my ski pole and backpack to be able to pull it up.
5. Extra long sleeves and/or snow sleeves
You don’t want your sleeves covered in snow, and there are two ways to design a ski jacket that can help you avoid this problem. The first is if the sleeves are too long (e.g. the sleeves of some jackets are as long as your knuckles). The second is by including stretchy inner cuffs that hook onto your thumb. These not only prevent snow from finding its way in, but also prevent your sleeves.
6. Underarm ventilation zipper
You are on a mountain in winter. There is a thick layer of snow on the ground. By right, you should not be too hot. But it always happens to skiers. Whether you’re skiing hard, hiking to a winding road, or just getting out on a mildly sunny spring day, you’ll often find yourself ready to boil. That’s when large underarm vents can help. (And there’s also a double zip on the front of the jacket.)
7. An elevator pocket on your left arm
Today, most elevator passes are electronic; and in the Alps, most of them are controlled by sensors on the left side of the gates that allow you to get on the elevator. Therefore, you should store your lift card in your left hand pocket. On your lower arm, just above the wrist, is the most logical location (so you can wave it around if the sensor picks up a bit slow), although some are on the upper arm.
8. An inner pocket for your phone
Snow is a cunning thing: it will get in through the tiniest openings. Wipe them clean on a powdery day, and – even if your bags are only slightly inflated – you’ll find them drenched when you return to your chalet. This is bad news for cell phones – and the only safe place to keep one is in an inner pocket. This should rest completely on the inside of the jacket’s waterproof/breathable membrane, with a zipper to keep the phone in place. Anything less than that risks disaster.
9. Snow dress
Anyone using ski powder needs a jacket with a snow skirt – this one fastens over your hips, underneath the jacket, to prevent snow from getting inside and wetting your foundation. You’ll be especially grateful for that if you sweep in the deep snow. The plush ones are removable, as the extra fabric in the snow skirt can be a bit uncomfortable if you’re wearing a jacket for hiking or biking in spring, fall, or summer.
10. A color you can live with
The bright colors that have dominated ski fashion for the past few years look great on the slopes. But you might find them ridiculous if you’re looking for a pint in your locality. If you ski a lot and want a jacket that you’ll only wear when skiing, that shouldn’t be a problem. But many people are looking for a piece of clothing that can serve them when they’re hiking, mountain biking, or out in the rain. In that case, it might be worth considering black…
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