The Best Ski Jacket for Women Review

What makes the best ski jacket? We tested several top-of-the-line insulated jackets for skiing to help you find the best. We skied countless runs on Mammoth Mountain, California, sat on many chair lifts, went to multiple happy hours, and partook in numerous winter activities such as an overnight ski trip in the Sierra backcountry and ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado, to put these through their paces.

We compared the unique features in different mountain conditions, testing for warmth, ski features, water resistance, ventilation, style, comfort, and fit. Check out our Buying Advice article for details on the most important considerations for finding the perfect jacket for skiing or boarding at the resort.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Ski Jackets - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's
Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Arc'teryx Andessa
Arc'teryx Andessa
Read the Review
Arc'teryx Meta
Arc'teryx Meta
Read the Review
Video video review
Orage Loulou
Orage Loulou
Read the Review
Video video review
Helly Hansen Enigma - Women's
Helly Hansen Enigma - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award   
Street Price Varies $399 - $649
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$850
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$699
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$300$563
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Stylish looks, quality materials, lightweight, useful ski featuresHigh quality materials, warm, great ski features and attention to detailHigh quality materials and construction, lightweight, versatileStylish, warm, flattering fit, great ski featuresWarm, comfortable, lots of ski features, high quality
Cons Material feels a bit stiff, expensive, afraid the potential lack of breathability could affect the down insulation.Fits small, stains easily, expensiveFits small, expensiveHood not insulated and a little small for over a helmet, could be more breathableHeavy, bulky, expensive
Best Uses Resort skiing or snowboardingResort skiing or snowboardingResort skiing or snowboarding, backcountry skiing, cold weather sports like ice climbingResort skiing or snowboarding, around town winter useResort skiing, heli or cat skiing/snowboarding, snowmobiling
Date Reviewed Feb 15, 2014Feb 02, 2014Feb 02, 2014Feb 02, 2014Feb 14, 2014
Weighted Scores Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's Arc'teryx Andessa Arc'teryx Meta Orage Loulou Helly Hansen Enigma - Women's
Warmth - 20%
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9
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9
10
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8
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8
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9
Ventilation - 10%
10
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7
10
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8
10
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9
10
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7
10
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8
Water Resistance - 20%
10
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9
10
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9
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9
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7
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8
Ski Features - 20%
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Style - 15%
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6
Comfort And Fit - 15%
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8
Product Specs Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's Arc'teryx Andessa Arc'teryx Meta Orage Loulou Helly Hansen Enigma - Women's
Main Fabric 2-layer, 4.3-oz 70-denier 100% recycled nylon GORE-TEX® fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Lining: 1.4-oz 20-denier 100% recycled polyester mini-ripstop. GORE-TEX® three-layer construction GORE-TEX® Pro Nylon Twill 2 Poly fabric Helly Tech Professional - Waterproof and breathable fabric, min.20 000 mm / 20 000 g
Insulation 700-fill-power goose down insulation synthetic Coreloftâ˘, along the hem, collar, sleeves and underarms; 750 cu-in fill European Goose down lines the core and sleeves Coreloft⢠Compact insulation 100 grams of synthetic insulation in the body and 80 grams in the sleeves Primaloft infinity & Down
Waterproofing Gore Tex DWR DWR DWR 10k waterproof and breathable with fully sealed seams Helly Tech PROFESSIONAL
Unique Features Touch Point System⢠embeds cord locks in the hood and hem, media pocket with cable routing RECCO® reflector, " Down Composite Mapping " of insulation RECCO® reflector Wrist gaiters Flow Down mechanical venting turbocharging mechanical venting for greater comfort, RECCO® reflector
Weight 2 lbs, 1oz 1 lb 12 oz 1 lb 10 oz 2 lbs 2 oz 3 lbs oz
# of Pockets 7 3 out, 2 in 3 out, 2 in 4 out, 2 in 6
Hood Option? Hood, non-detachable in this version - down lined Yes, non-detachable, lined with 850 fp down Yes, non detachable Yes, detachable Detachable, adjustable hood
Pit Zips? Yes Yes, mesh lined Yes, mesh lined Yes, mesh lined no, but back vents
Cuff construction Pleated gusset, over or under gloves Laminated Velcro® cuff adjusters Laminated die-cut Velcro® cuff adjusters Adjustable cuffs with wrist gaiters Adjustable zipper cuffs, inner cuff with thumb holes
Ski features Powder skirt is detatchable with webbing to connect to pants Removable powder skirt, pass pocket, mesh lined pit-zips, helmet compatable hood, large mesh goggle pocket Powder skirt, goggle pocket, pass pocket, mesh lined pit-zips, helmet compatable hood. Powder skirt, mesh lined pit-zips helmet compatable hood, pass pocket. Zip-away powder skirt, ski pass pocket

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products

Selecting the Right Product
If you're into riding the lifts from first chair till closing, you'll want a ski jacket that will keep you warm, dry and functioning well all day. Where you live and how often you ski will affect which one will work best for you. We also think that style is a huge factor when choosing for riding because it becomes your on-hill identity that people will recognize. ("There she is, in the pink coat!") Read on to find out how we broke down our evaluation of different categories.

Types of Ski Jackets
The products we tested are meant to be worn on the slopes - that is your resort slopes - so we specifically tested and evaluated them for this use. Everything in this review is insulated, water resistant (some are waterproof), and most of them have features specific to skiing like powder-skirts and goggle pockets to make your day riding lifts more enjoyable.

If you're looking for a good backcountry ski jacket or cross country one, consider a hardshell or a softshell. Hardshells can be multi-purpose or targeted towards a specific sport, and there are many ski specific hard-shells, like the Helly Hansen Verglas Jacket - Women's on the market that come with powder skirts and goggle pockets but don't have the insulation. These are completely waterproof. Softshells are more flexible, more breathable, and not waterproof. Similarly there are many multipurpose softshells out there, but you can find some that are specific to backcountry skiing or riding.

Criteria for Evaluation

Warmth
The first thing most people think about when heading out for a ski is "Will I be warm enough?" We rated each on how warm they kept us on cold, windy, storm days. We skied fast and sat on windy chair lifts to find out if there were any drafts in strange places and tried out all the special features designed to help retain heat. The Helly Hansen Enigma - Women's, Arc'teryx Andessa the Patagonia Primo Down are the warmest in the review, all three use high quality insulation. The Enigma and Andessa both use strategically mapped down insulation in combination with synthetic insulation, while the Pimo Down is, well, filled with down. The Columbia Whirlibird uses a foil-like lining Columbia calls Omni-Heat, designed to reflect heat back towards your body, in combination with synthetic insulation to keep you warm. We were skeptical about this flashy material but found this was one of the warmer ones in the review. We really like the light-weight Core-Loft insulation of the Arc'teryx Meta. It was not as warm as some of the others, but its warmth-to-weight ratio was high.

Above are 2 images taken of a tester through an infared camera to disp...
Above are 2 images taken of a tester through an infared camera to display the amounts of body heat being released through clothing. On the left the tester is wearing a simple cotton hoody. On the right she is wearing the Patagonia Primo Down. Our camera detects 20 degrees of difference, which is remarkable.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Water Resistance
Depending on the time of year and the climate you're skiing in, this category can be the most important feature of a ski jacket. Ski areas in a maritime climate tend to have wetter, heavier snow that can easily soak through a jacket without decent water resistance. This is important because the more water that soaks into your jacket the heavier and more uncomfortable it becomes, and the wetter you get the colder you become, meaning less skiing for a cold and wet you.

Most of the products we evaluated are constructed with a waterproof/breathable shell material such as Gore-Tex on the Patagonia Primo Down and the Meta and the Helly Tech Professional fabric on the Enigma. In addition, everything we tested were given added water resistance with the application of each manufacturer's proprietary DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, but some repelled water off the material better than others. We discuss waterproofing materials in more depth in their individual reviews.

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We did our own test to check out the water resistance of each jacket's proprietary materials, and found the Patagonia Primo Down and the Helly Hansen Enigma to be the most water resistant.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Along with field testing, we sprayed each one with water to closely evaluate how well water beaded off of the surface, and how long it took the water to soak into the material. The spray test evaluated the DWR coatings on these jackets, not the overall waterproofness of them. It is important to note that DWR coatings will wear off over time from washing and use, but can be re-treated. The Arc'teryx Meta and Patagonia Primo Down with Gore-Tex shells and DWR coatings held up the best and beaded water easily, whereas the Obermeyer Josie and Spyder Amp soaked the water right up. To learn more about DWR coatings and how to choose the right waterproof material for yours we recommend checking out the Hardshell Buying Advice Article.

Ventilation
When you're working hard making turns in deep powder, you can work up a sweat. You don't want to feel clammy and sweaty under your jacket, which will leave you chilled when sitting still on the lift, so you want yours to be somewhat breathable or vented. The materials it is made of, as well as the venting features incorporated in the jacket, are both important ways you can release heat and moisture. With an easy-to-open pit-zip you can immediately get airflow to your body, allowing for you to regulate your temperature quickly. Since all the contenders in this review are thick and insulated, meaning not very breathable, the ventilation features are important for staying comfortable in varying conditions on the ski hill.

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The Primo Down has pit zips for when you're really earning your turns and need extra ventilation.
Credit: McKenzie Long

The Arc'teryx Meta is the best ventilated product we tested. Its large pit-zips and lightweight synthetic insulation allow moisture to wick away from skin easily. Some of the others made with waterproof materials can be more stifling, however most have some type of pit-zip feature for venting, allowing for air to circulate inside the jacket on warmer days. We were particularly impressed with the vent-zip function on the Helly Hansen Enigma because it runs along the back instead of under the arms, eliminating the bulk of a zipper under the arms. The Sypder Amp is the only one in this review with no pit-zips.

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The Helly Hansen Enigma has clever back vents that replace pit zips so there is no bulk under your arms.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Ski Features
Each item in this review has different ski-specific features that make spending a day on the ski hill easier and more comfortable. Most jackets have powder skirts, designed to keep snow from going up the back on a powder day or – on the extremely rare occasion – from going down the pants when falling down. We love the Andessa and Primo Down's powder skirts because they are removable for times when they aren't needed.

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The Andessa Jacket has almost every ski feature you can think of. We liked its removable snow skirt, Recco Avalanche Rescue Technology and all the pockets you could ask for, including a large interior mesh goggle pocket, interior zipper pocket with a key clip and a pass pocket.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Other ski features we finnd useful are: wrist gaiters – we like the thin and stretchy ones on the Whirlibird and the Orage LouLou best – pockets to stash goggles and snacks, and unique features like included goggle wipes and electronics pockets. The Primo Down and the Armada Backyard Jacket have the best features in this category.

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The Obermeyer Josie has several ski specific features that we liked including a chest pocket that has a goggle wipe on a bungee chord to prevent you from loosing it.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Style
We think that having good style is super important when you ski at the resort often. People begin to recognize you by what you're wearing, and this essentially becomes your identity. Your friends can no longer see your face or hair, only your helmet, goggles, and most importantly, your jacket. Selecting one that represents your style and personality is just as important as finding one with the properly placed vents and warm enough insulation.

The Urban Dictionary defines Steezy as: "A snowboarder term that combines the word 'style' with 'ease' to create the act of doing a trick with style and ease to make it done with super steez. A rider with steez, would be referred to as "steezy" whether it be because of his/her sick tricks, gangster apparel, or watevs." We think you should feel steezy in your new jacket, however you may define it.

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McKenzie getting "Steezy" in the Obermeyer Josie Jacket and the Helly Hansen Verglas Randonee Pant.
Credit: Jessica Haist

All of the items in this review come in many different color combinations so you can find the one best suited for you. We think that the Armada Backyard and the Obermeyer Josie are the steeziest of the bunch because of their ability to make you stand out on the mountain with extra long cuts, bright color combinations, and funky patterns. (Making our testers stand out with style quite easily!) We also think the Patagonia Primo Down is simple and clean looking for those of us who prefer a more understated style and the Orage LouLou is classy and feminine.

Comfort and Fit
Comfort and fit are very important because you want to be able to move around and feel good while wearing it all day. Some have stretchy material that flexes with movement, like the LouLou and the Enigma, and some are extra roomy so you can layer more underneath, like the Whirlibird and the Josie. The fit of your jacket can also affect the warmth of it. 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..

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A comparison of the fit and look of the contenders in this review. The first 4 on the left are all 3-in-1 style.
Credit: Jessica Haist
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A comparison of the interior layers from the 3-in-1 styles we tested. From left to right: TNF Boundary Triclimate, Columbia Whirlibird, Columbia Bugaboo, and Salomon Snowtrip.
Credit: Jessica Haist

We compared all of the manufacturer's size charts to see if they matched up with our tester's dimensions to give you some extra information for how to select a fit for yourself. Some models we recommend sizing up, down, or purchasing your normal size. We talk about this in more detail in each individual review, but in general we found Arc'teryx sizes to be on the smaller side and Columbia's to be on the bigger side.

Accessories
To keep your legs nice and warm while hitting the slopes, we recommend the Marmot Women's Freerider andThe North Face Freedom LRBC. Both of these pants fit very well and were very warm. For a more in-depth look of all the ski pants we reviewed, check out The Best Ski Pants for Women Review.

Don't forget about your hands as well. For the most warmth and dexterity we recommend the Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's and the Outdoor Research Arete - Women's. Check out The Best Women's Ski Gloves Review for a full look at all the gloves we tested.

Editors' Choice Award: Patagonia Primo Down

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McKenzie Long eyeing up her line while wearing the Patagonia Primo Down jacket along with the Helly Hansen Verglas Randonee Pant.
Credit: Jessica Haist

The Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's takes the award for Editors' Choice. It is one of the warmest we tested, sleekly stylish, and constructed with high quality materials, including a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex shell and 700-fill down insulation. It is the only one to combine a Gore-Tex exterior and all down insulation, allowing it to be lightweight AND waterproof. It also has many special features to keep you warm, looking good, and functioning well on the ski hill. We particularly love its special pockets for iPods, keys, and ski passes, its helmet compatible down-lined hood, and its removable snow skirt. This is one of the lightest in the review and it is comfortable and moves well with the wearer when shredding the pow. It will keep you warm on most frigid days, with extra room to layer underneath. No complaints here!

Top Pick Award for Stylish Resort Jacket: Orage LouLou

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We love the look and feel of the Orage Loulou jacket. We wore this jacket in all kinds of weather on Mammoth Mountain, and it was our go-to around town jacket for everyday winter use.
Credit: Julie Perumal

We loved wearing this! The Orage LouLou is super comfortable and stylish, making it our no-brainer choice for our Top Pick Award for best looking jacket. It is a feel-good layer, it looks good and it has all the ski features to keep you functioning well at the resort. We love its comfy wrist gaiters and all the stash pockets you could need, including a large mesh goggle pocket, pass pocket, and interior zipper pocket for keys or electronics. The stretchy shell material moves well with the wearer on the slopes and it is insulated enough to keep us warm on most days. We wore this in all kinds of weather on Mammoth Mountain and it became our go-to around town jacket for everyday winter use. It performs better and has more ski features than the Spyder Amp, is a better value than the Arc'teryx Andessa, and is a little warmer than the Armada Backyard. If you're looking for a stand alone (not 3-in-1) resort-oriented one that has it all in a stylish package, the Orage LouLou is for you.

Top Pick Award for Most Versatile: Arc'teryx Meta

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The Arc'teryx Meta won our Top Pick Award for the most versatile. While it does have ski specific features, it also functions well as a general use winter layer.
Credit: Mike Phillips

Arc'teryx is known for its quality products, and this is certainly no exception. We took the Meta with us everywhere, from the ski resort and backcountry skiing in California to ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado. The Meta combines a Gore-Tex shell with synthetic Core Loft insulation. It is the lightest weight jacket in this review, allowing us to stuff it in our pack wherever we went. We stood around in the cold teaching an avalanche course and got drenched in a torrential downpour in this jacket – all the while staying warm and dry. Arc'teryx has added just a few perfectly placed ski features to make this insulated shell ski specific – including a powder skirt, a mesh goggle pocket and Recco Avalanche Rescue Technology. The Meta is one of the more expensive products we tested at $699, but if you're looking for a versatile ski jacket that you can bring with you on all your winter adventures, consider the Meta as your quiver of one.

Best Buy Award: Columbia Whirlibird Interchange

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The Columbia Whirlibird won our Best Buy award for the most stylish and versatile 3-in-1.
Credit: McKenzie Long

The Columbia Whirlibird Interchange - Women's is our favorite of the three-in-one style we tested, and it wins the Best Buy award because it provides the most function and versatility for the least amount of money. It is the most stylish of these combo-style jackets, being very similar in function to the Columbia Bugaboo Interchange - Women's, but we think this one is slightly more comfortable and flattering. We particularly like how the two layers (a synthetic insulated interior jacket and a wind/water resistant outer shell) perform individually, but found that they don't work in combination quite as well as we would have hoped. Although we believe it is a less durable and functional option than both the LouLou and Primo Down, it is great value for your money, retailing at only $250 and giving you two separate jackets with three wear options for around town and on the ski hill.

And, while you are putting together your ski or riding kit, you might want to check out our Ski and Snowboard Gear Dream List.

Jessica Haist
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