After sorting through every ski jacket on the market and testing the best of them on the ski slopes, the Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft came out on top. It performs well in every category of our testing, and thus earns our Editors' Choice Award for the best overall downhill ski jacket. The Alpha LifaLoft is as close to the perfect ski jacket as we have ever worn. It delivers excellent warmth with plenty of synthetic insulation wrapped in Helly Hansen's HELLY TECH Professional shell, sealing out the cold, wind, and snow. The jacket is amazingly soft and stretchy, both inside and out, earning top marks for comfort. The ski-specific features on this jacket also set it apart from the competition, with plenty of pockets and other conveniences that make life easy on the slopes. The style of this jacket is also amazingly refined with a contoured fit and classy color options.We predict this jacket will become a modern classic. Other jackets in the review are warmer, and others have slightly more bomb-proof weather resistance, but none perform so well across the board. The Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft should be at the top of the list for any skier who wants the best of the best. And in a category that sees soaring price tags, this jacket is priced in the middle of the pack. Talk about value!
Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent performance in every category, durable
Cons: More snug fit than other options
Manufacturer: Helly Hansen
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Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft
|Price||$550.00 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Excellent performance in every category, durable||Completely weather resistant, good ventilation, freeride style||Massive vents, good pocket layout, great weather resistance||Weather resistant, good vents, plenty of features||Versatile, inexpensive, warm|
|Cons||More snug fit than other options||Expensive, too heavy and warm for most backcountry use||No powder skirt, fabric wets out quickly||Hanging liner makes it a bit warm for a shell, fit isn't perfect||Bulky, basic fit and styling, limited weather protection|
|Bottom Line||This excellent resort ski jacket nails all performance aspects to deserve a spot at the top of your wish list||A durable, weatherproof jacket that wins our favor among downhill ski shells on the market||This shell jacket offers great weather protection and ventilation for a bargain price||A high-performance shell at a great price||A versatile and very affordable jacket for the occasional skier or snowboarder|
|Rating Categories||Helly Hansen Alpha...||Arc'teryx Sabre AR...||Outdoor Research Sk...||REI Co-op First Cha...||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort And Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Helly Hansen Alpha...||Arc'teryx Sabre AR...||Outdoor Research Sk...||REI Co-op First Cha...||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Main Fabric||2-layer stretch polyester||N80p-X Gore-Tex||88% Nylon 12% Spandex||2-layer Gore-Tex||Nylon|
|Insulation||LifaLoft synthetic||Thin flannel backer||None||Recycled polyester lining||80g MicroTemp synthetic|
|Pockets||2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 internal mesh, 1 sleeve||2 hand, 1 sleeve, 1 internal||2 Shove-It, 2 zippered chest, 1 internal media, 2 zippered hand||2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 sleeve||Shell: 3 external, 1 internal. Liner: 2 external, 1 internal|
|Weight (pounds)||2.56 lbs||1.66 lbs||1.72 lbs||1.76 lbs||2.94 lbs|
|Waterproofing||Helly Tech Professional||Gore-Tex||AscentShell 3L||Gore-Tex||OmniTech|
|Hood Option?||Adjustable and removable||Adjustable||Adjustable||Adjustable||Adjustable|
|Pit-Zips?||Mesh-backed||Open||Open, hem to bicep||Yes||Mesh-backed (shell only)|
|Cuff construction||Interior stretchy wrist gaiters and external velcro cuffs||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro|
|Powder skirt?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes, removable||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
In every category, the Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft either won top marks or came close. It is very lightweight for the performance that it delivers, and its features and comfort are top-notch.
Helly Hansen uses their lightweight yet warm LifaLoft synthetic insulation for the Alpha. The result is a surprisingly warm jacket without the bulk that characterizes other warm jackets that we tested. Furthermore, the synthetic insulation used in this jacket will not lose its loft when wet, adding to the Alpha Lifaloft's warmth.
Other features that contribute to the warmth of this jacket are the high neck collar, insulated hood, and stretchy wrist gaiters that seal out cold from getting in through the sleeves. The slightly snug fit of the Alpha LifaLoft also prevents drafts of air from coming up through the torso.
Other ski jackets may be warmer, but this jacket is warm enough for most winter days at the ski resort. Add a layer underneath, and this jacket will keep you warm in nearly any environment. In fact, we would recommend this jacket over warmer options as a daily driver, because all warmer options are less versatile.
While the Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft does not use Gore-Tex, the proprietary HELLY TECH Professional shell material stood up to all of our tests and was very weather resistant. Even in the shower test, this jacket did not let any water inside. It also benefits from a weatherproof design and bomber features.
The fabric of the jacket was equally weather resistant as Gore-Tex in the field, and the jacket uses fully sealed seams and waterproof zippers to keep water out. The synthetic insulation will keep its performance even if it gets wet. Stretchy, skin-tight gaiters at the wrist openings and velcro straps prevent wind and snow from getting in through the sleeves. The hood has great coverage and is fully adjustable. The Alpha LifaLoft features a powder skirt that prevents snow from getting into the torso on the deepest days of winter.
This jacket will provide adequate weather resistance for 99% of skiers. If you like somewhere that routinely gets rain throughout the winter season, we'd recommend a shell-only jacket instead for maximum weather protection.
Comfort and Fit
A good ski jacket should be comfortable and allow a full range of motion without being too baggy. The Alpha Lifaloft is one of the most comfortable jackets we have tested. It feels more like a comfortable sweatshirt than a bulky ski jacket, largely due to the well-tailored cut and soft materials. The shell material is soft and stretchy, and other features contribute comfort as well, like the stretchy wrist gaiters and soft material in the neck area.
The Alpha LifaLoft has as snug fit, but not tight or restricting. When skiing in it, we sometimes forgot we were wearing an insulated jacket. The contoured fit makes it seem like this jacket is part of your body. Our testers liked this fit more than other high-end jackets. Comfortable jackets are everywhere, but this one rose to the top of the pack.
The interior fabric is soft and comfy, and doesn't feel plasticky like other jackets that use a nylon fabric in the interior. Around the neck, Helly Hansen uses a fleecy material for the utmost in comfort. The chin is protected by a large fleece panel.
Ventilation helps a ski jacket perform with versatility across a range of temperatures and exertion levels. We were impressed by the versatility and ventilation of the Alpha LifaLoft. In addition to the usual armpit vents, this jacket has a removable hood for fair-weather skiing, less insulation around the neck, and unique air holes in the center of the back, one of the sweatiest places on the body.
The Alpha LifaLoft allows users to dump heat via traditional armpit vents that are over a foot long and easy to operate. The vents have a mesh covering, but the holes in the mesh are large and allow good airflow.
The HELLY TECH Professional fabric is breathable, and we also appreciated the unique vent in the center back, while ventilates an area of the body that warms up fast. The removable hood is a great feature that allows users to fully expose their neck on warm, sunny days.
Skiing is an aesthetic sport. How we look affects how we feel, and good looking ski clothing can help us have a better day on the slopes. The Alpha Lifaloft is a very stylish jacket and earns top marks for looks. In a field of jackets of all shapes, sizes, and colors, we feel like this piece best encompasses what ski clothing should look like.
The style of this jacket doesn't make a big statement, but it still looks refined. That earns our favor, because we don't want to stick out every time we hit the slopes, but we don't want to blend into the crowd every time, either. At first glance, it doesn't look like anything special, but after spending some time with it, you come to appreciate the well-tailored fit, clean lines, and sharp color accents. The jacket is also offered in a great selection of color choices.
Style is subjective, and your opinion might be very different than ours. But we think this jacket looks good on any skier at the ski hill, in any situation. All of our testers noted that they felt confident wearing the Alpha LifaLoft, which positively affected how they felt when skiing. We take that into account in our testing, and give this jacket the nod for best style.
The Alpha LifaLoft also earns top marks for ski features. It has everything that we could ever want in a ski jacket, and made our lives easy on the slopes. It has pockets galore, all of the standard features, and some unique ones that no other jackets had.
The pockets on the Alpha LifaLoft will swallow up anything you want to carry while skiing. It features two fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, two spacious external chest pockets, one internal chest pocket, an internal mesh pocket, and a sleeve ski pass pocket. The removable hood is spacious and easy to adjust, and even includes a foldaway neon green brim for better visibility. One chest pocket has a goggle wipe on a lanyard for easy goggle cleaning.
One feature that we love is the gel-insulated chest pocket that keeps your phone warmer than a regular pocket. Cold phones are common on the ski hill, and if your phone gets cold and dies, you can't take photos, listen to music, or call for help in an emergency. This pocket actually works, and we noticed that our phone batteries would stay warmer and last longer in this pocket than in other, uninsulated pockets. The internal chest pocket is located underneath this insulated pocket, so you can keep your phone in there too.
While not cheap, the Alpha LifaLoft is not nearly as expensive as other high-end jackets on the market. The construction of this jacket is high quality, and the zippers are bomber and confidence-inspiring. We think this jacket will last a long time, but the synthetic insulation will be the first thing to go. Synthetic insulation loses its loft after a few years. Still, this jacket is relatively cheap compared to other models from other top-shelf brands and performs better overall. To us, that makes this jacket a great value.
Across the board, the Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft surpassed our expectations and earned its place atop our jacket rankings. In every single category of our test, this jacket either won top marks or came close. With that kind of performance at a competitive price, it is hard to recommend any other ski jacket. For that, it earns our Editors' Choice Award for best overall ski jacket.
— Jeff Dobronyi