The Helly Hansen Alpha is the stretchiest, closest fitting jacket in our test. The interior and exterior are soft, but the weather remains outside, as it should.
Is there a better feeling than powder skiing with equipment that virtually disappears into the experience? The Helly Hansen is a product that does what it needs to do, but stays out of the way otherwise.
With 80-gram Primaloft insulation, the Alpha 3.0 is tied with two others for the most synthetic insulation. Both the Spyder Leader and Best Buy winning Columbia Whirlibird Interchange have 80-gram synthetic insulation as well. The Spyder Leader, when battened down tight, is similar in warmth to the Helly Hansen Alpha, while the Columbia Whirlibird feels definitely warmer. It is likely that the Columbia contender feels warmer due to the additional layers of fabric associated with the three-in-one construction.
The looser fit of the Spyder Leader requires more attention to seal out the cold than the Helly Hansen Alpha does. The lightly stretchy, body-hugging fit of the Alpha 3.0 nicely complements the insulation and provides a very comforting warmth. No drafts get in or out of this Helly Hansen competitor.
The smooth face fabric of the Alpha 3.0 and Helly Hansen's long wet-weather pedigree inspire confidence. In our testing, the sealed seams and waterproof backing to the face fabric shed weather almost as well as the dedicated shell jackets like the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell and the ultra-beefy Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Sabre. The Helly Hansen contender is decidedly more water and wind resistant than the Columbia Whirlibird III.
The collar is mid-height, and the hood is a little smaller than some. Nonetheless, the hood of the Alpha can be cinched down adequately.
With short, mesh-backed pit-zips and a normal one-way zipper, there is nothing special about the ventilation of the Alpha 3.0. The Patagonia Primo Down and Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Macai are similarly vented. The 3-in-1 style jackets, like the Columbia Whirlibird and Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowshot earn higher scores by virtue of their respective customizability. Of the one-piece jackets, the Outdoor Research Skyward II's long, mesh-free pit-zips offer the best ventilation.
The pit zips of the Helly Hansen are fairly typical. But we think that what is typical isn't ideal. We prefer pit zips that aren't mesh covered. Easy fix, if you agree: cut it out.
The Helly Hansen Alpha is the most heavily featured jacket in our test. With almost the full suite of features we look for, there is no better-equipped product in our review. Only the Spyder Leader jacket comes close. The Alpha 3.0, with a goggle wipe, pass pocket on the forearm, interior routing for headphones, a Recco reflector, three storage pockets, and two fleece-lined hand warmer pockets, leaves little to be desired. The only improvement we might suggest is to insulate the outer layer of the hand warmer pockets for around town use.
A sort of pocket that is easily discounted in value is the internal "drop-in" sort. For gloves and/or goggles, this is exactly what you need.
Fit and Comfort
In a world dominated by loose-fitting, snowboard-inspired clothing, the close body-hugging fit of the Alpha 3.0 is very much appreciated. The lightly stretchy construction goes from lining to insulation to shell fabric. This stretch is apparent and lends a very comforting feel to the wearer. Only the Arc'teryx Macai fits this closely. Other jackets in our test sized medium (especially the Patagonia Primo Down and Spyder Leader) fit far more loosely. Were these bigger jackets to be downsized for a closer fit, their non-stretchy construction would be confining. For a close fit that is not at all confining, the Helly Hansen Alpha and Arc'teryx Macai lead the pack.
The soft, cozy internal wrist gaiters of the Helly Hansen complement the overall body-hugging fit to lend the most comfortable first impression of any jacket we assessed.
There is nothing remarkable nor offensive about the look of the Alpha 3.0. The muted grey color we first tested is complemented by brighter offerings. In 2018 we tested yellow. Whatever color you choose, the lines are clean and the style is understated. The Spyder Leader is a bolder, higher-end look.
We don't have a ton to say about the Helly Hansen Alpha. And that is a good thing. It is solid, versatile, and just what you expect in an insulated ski jacket.
The Alpha 3.0 is an excellent all-around, insulated ski jacket. It fits the bill for a variety of applications.
Fit-wise, the HH is is "true to size", as long as you dig the stretchy, body hugging design intention.
This contender sits almost exactly in the middle, price-wise, of our test roster. The more expensive jackets are generally down insulated and come with name brand shell fabrics. The closest competitor is the Spyder Leader, with similar insulation, in-house shell fabric waterproofing, and a retail price that is within the same range. In comparing these two, the Leader is slightly better looking with a more contemporary loose fit. If you want a jacket that is closer fitting, with other attributes roughly the same, choose the Helly Hansen Alpha over the Spyder Leader.
Helly Hansen is known for making wet weather gear. Their ski gear has taken leaps and bounds in the last decade and the Alpha 3.0 is the culmination of their efforts. It is a warm, protective piece that is the softest construction in our entire review. For a jacket that feels like a sweatshirt, but performs like a rain slicker, you can't go wrong.