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Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell Review
Cons: Few pockets, light fabric isn’t super durable
Bottom line: When paired with Norrona’s matching Lofoten pants, the Lofoten jacket is the most protective piece of ski clothing we have ever tried.
The majority of skiers look for a ski jacket with insulation, which we reflected in our selection of products for this review. From our Editors' Choice-winning Arc'teryx Macai to the Top Pick-deserving Columbia Whirlibird to the Insulated Best Buy Armada Carson, insulated jackets are covered. A smaller subset of resort riders prefers a layering system that involves a non-insulated shell. For you fine folks, we present the Norrona Lofoten and a few others, for 2018. It's lightweight, thin, and ready for a range of conditions. No jacket we have ever used is as effective at blocking out inclement weather as the Lofoten. For superior style points and weather protection, check out our review of the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants. Pairing these two pieces together creates an outcome greater than the sum of its parts, and we can't recommend them highly enough.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ski Jackets for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The 2017-18 Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro vs. It's Predecessor
We got the latest Norrona jacket in hand for our 2018 test. We found it to offer the same perks, with just a few subtle refinements.
The Lofoten jacket is a unique hybrid of ultralight, svelte alpine shell design and purpose-built ski resort features. It has the weight and feel of a light alpine climbing shell jacket, with ski-specific pant integration and overall fit.
Our overall scoring compares all different types of ski jackets; insulated and shell. In this broad list, the Norrona gets lost in the middle. When you visually pull out the shell jackets (Outdoor Research White Room, FlyLow Genius, Arc'teryx Sabre, and the Norrona) you notice that the Norrona is only exceeded by the Editors Choice Sabre. The Sabre is better for most people, but the Norrona is better for others.
This is absolutely the least insulating jacket in our review, as the thin fabric offers little to no insulating value. This fact costs the jacket some in overall scoring. However, for those interested in a piece-by-piece layering system for skiing, this will not be a problem at all.
Two other shell jackets in our test, the Outdoor Research White Room and Arc Teryx Sabre, are both much thicker. This thicker fabric offers marginally more insulation. However, as soon as you add a layer of insulation to a jacket, any comparison to these shells is moot. Even the most lightly insulated pieces in our review are much warmer than the Norrona Lofoten. Whatever warmth you need while skiing in the Norrona must come from separate, inner insulation layers.
With excellent Gore-Tex fabric, immaculate construction, generous hood and sleeves, interior wrist "gaiters," and a powder skirt/pants integration that is unparalleled, the Lofoten jacket is by far the most weather resistant coat in our test. It is the only shell jacket in our test that has internal wrist cuffs, and the only jacket of any kind that can be zipped securely to dedicated pants (we also tested the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants. The two together make an excellent combination).
While other jackets use stiffer fabric, like the OR Whiteroom, and others use Gore-Tex just like the Norrona (Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Macai, for one), the entire package of features and attributes that the Lofoten offers is unmatched. The Lofoten easily tops our weather protection scoring metric.
Ventilation is important in a ski jacket. Resort skiing and snowboarding takes place in an ever-changing environment and within a wide spectrum of exertion levels. Adjusting your suit to accommodate is very important. In a single-layer, insulated jacket setup, adequate ventilation is the primary way to adjust your comfort and protection. In a layered system, like you would include the Lofoten in, ventilation is just one part of the comfort equation. You can also just remove layers for comfort and adjustment. That said, it is nonetheless nice that these ski specific shell jackets include pit-zips. Those on this contender are long with no mesh backing to impede airflow. The other shell jackets also have unhindered pit-zips. Those on the FlyLow Gear Genius jacket are shorter, while those in the Outdoor Research White Room are just as long and come onto the user's chest for even better venting. In general, the Outdoor Research White Room offers better ventilation than the Lofoten.
To keep the design clean and light, Norrona forsakes some ski-specific attributes. Notably, it has the fewest pockets of any jacket in our test. There are no handwarmer pockets at all. There is also no headphone routing nor any Recco reflector. There is a goggle wipe, a pass pocket, and, as already mentioned, a few options for attaching the jacket to associated pants.
The Outdoor Research White Room has a broader set of features, while the FlyLow Gear Genius has fewer features. The Arc Teryx Sabre is similarly equipped. The Spyder Leader has far more features, as does the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0. Throughout our testing, we found that the insulated jackets are generally better featured than the shell jackets.
Fit and Comfort
Everyone loved the fit and feel of the Lofoten. The cut is close, much like an alpine climbing shell jacket. There's just enough room underneath for insulating layers for all but the most arctic cold conditions. Much of the comfort can be attributed to the lightweight, flexible fabric the Lofoten is made of. Thin fabric like this allows free movement. As long as it is paired with mobile under-layers, your system could almost approximate the feel and mobility of a single layer system.
Generally, we look at insulated jackets as the most comfortable choice. A single insulated layer, like the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 or Patagonia Primo Down, for a given amount of warmth, offers greater freedom of motion than a series of layers that can bind against one another.
Bright colors are always an easy sell to our aesthetics reviewers and our photography team. The green we tested in the Lofoten was a hit, for sure. Beyond the bright colors, testers also appreciated the trim fit and clean design. The dearth of pockets and the easy draping fabric appeared svelte and uncluttered. This uncluttered look seems to be gaining more and more popularity among ski jackets.
All of our tested jackets were decidedly neutral in styling, with understated patterning and virtually hidden pockets. The Arc'teryx Macai, for instance, uses special hidden zippers for many of the pockets. The same goes for the Helly Hansen Alpha. Norrona takes it a step further by entirely eliminating many of the pockets that others include.
If you are constructing a layering system for ski resort use, and even occasional backcountry and ski mountaineering usage, the Lofoten is an excellent choice. The lightweight construction can disappear in your pack or duffel, yet the weather protection is unparalleled. We must point out that a layering system can be appealing for the versatility, especially for those skiers coming from a hiking or climbing background. However, for dedicated resort use like we tested these jackets for, the best bet is often a single, insulated ski jacket. Choose carefully.
Of the 12 jackets we reviewed for the 2017-18 season, only one is more expensive than the Norrona Lofoten: the Arc'teryx Macai which is well known for its extravagance and expense. Both of these are also insulated and feature Gore-Tex shell construction. Considering that the Norrona requires at least one separate insulating layer, it is hard to make a case for the value of the Norrona. This is a no-holds-barred piece of equipment for the discerning user collecting the absolute most protective layering system for skiing and snowboarding.
Our testing team agrees that insulating ski jackets have the widest appeal. Further, the Arc'teryx Sabre shell jacket is just a little more suited to the usage patterns of most resort riders. It, therefore, gets our Editors Choice award for a shell jacket. The Norrona is an excellent jacket, but a little lighter and less durable than the Sabre. It might suit you, bit it didn't win an award.
— Jediah Porter
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