The North Face is the Elephant in the room when it comes to outerwear, making everything from very high-end to budget-friendly garments to suit a huge range of needs and budgets. The Thermoball Snow falls towards the lower end of their price spectrum but still delivers regarding performance and quality for a resort ski jacket. We tested it against a stacked field of competitors, and in the end, we awarded it with our Top Pick 3-in-1 jacket.
The Thermoball Snow is warm, comfortable, stylish, and it has 3-in-1 versatility for a reasonable price.
When worn in its full configuration, with the Thermoball liner zipped into the outer shell, the Thermoball Snow offers plenty in the way of warmth. It's not the warmest model we tested, but it performs very comparably to most of the other 3-in-1 style jackets we tested. The Columbia Whirlibird III is a bit warmer due to the loftier liner jacket and Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining. The single-piece insulated jackets we tested, such as the Arc'teryx Macai and the Patagonia Primo Down were a bit warmer than the North Face model thanks to their use of quality lofty down insulation.
The liner jacket of the Thermoball Snow is relatively thin, but when worn on its own is a nice jacket for moderate temperatures while doing errands or going out on the town. It feels very similar in weight, thickness, and warmth to the liner from the Snowshot jacket. When worn as just the shell only, the Thermoball Snow provides more warmth than any of the shell-only jackets due to the heavier weight fabric combined with the hanging liner inside.
With the liner zipped in, the Thermoball Snow is a warm jacket system.
Our testing in both the controlled shower environment and during regular use in the field proved the Thermoball Snow to be very weather resistant. The 2-layer DryVent material seems to be completely waterproof, and we didn't experience any wet-out of the outer material, even in the shower. This is impressive for a jacket in this price range, and we feel that perhaps the North face uses a more durable DWR than some of their competitors. For comparison, we experienced a little wet-out during shower testing with the Columbia Whirlibird III jacket.
In addition to its water resistance, testers found that you can seal yourself up pretty nicely in the Thermoball Snow. We found the highly adjustable attached hood to work quite well. It's large enough to accommodate a helmet easily, and the elastic cinch cords are simple to adjust, even with gloves on. The attached powder skirt provides an additional level of protection, although the liner jacket conflicts with the use of the powder skirt when it is zipped into the shell. To be fair, all of the 3-in-1 jackets have a similar problem.
We always stayed dry while wearing it, but the face fabric started to wet out pretty quickly during our shower testing.
The wrist cuffs also have adjustable velcro tabs and the hem of the shell can be tightened down with elastic cinch cords from inside the hand pockets. Our highest rated products for weather protection are, not surprisingly, the most expensive models in the test. The high-end waterproof fabrics, cleanly taped seams, and meticulous attention to detail found on jackets like the Arc'teryx Sabre and the Patagonia Primo Down are impressive and earned them slightly higher scores.
The hood is helmet compatible and easily adjustable.
Fit and Comfort
The Thermoball Snow is made with the North Face's standard fit. In this case that translates into a somewhat loose but not overly baggy fit. The sleeve length is great and the torso is on the longer side on both the shell and the liner jacket. The torso is also somewhat roomy, almost a little boxy when compared to the more contoured or tailored fit of a jacket like the Arc'teryx Macai.
Testers found themselves pleasantly surprised by the comfort of the Thermoball Snow. Some of the 3-in-1 jackets in this test, like the Snowshot and the Whirlibird III, have a way of feeling bulky and constricting, but this is not the case with the Thermoball. The liner jacket and the outer shell have a way of blending together seamlessly with no feeling of excessive bulk or restriction of movement.
It fits well, loose but not overly baggy, and a good length in the sleeves and torso.
The modular 3-in-1 style jackets in this review all have a distinct advantage when it comes to temperature regulation over the shell-only and single-piece insulated competition. When weather conditions change you too can change the configuration of your jacket accordingly.
Each 3-in-1 model can be worn in three ways, shell only, liner only, or liner zipped into the shell. It takes a little more effort than simply opening some vents, but it gives the user a broad range of adjustability to suit their changing needs.
Zipping the liner jacket back into the shell. 3-in-1 jackets offer lots of adjustability and versatility.
The Thermoball Snow also has the advantage of having 12-inch long pit-zip vents that open wide with no mesh backing for additional airflow. If you seek the pinnacle of ventilation, none of the jackets can quite match that offered by the Outdoor Research Skyward II with its massive Torso-Flo vent system.
Large vents with no mesh backing make for lots of air flow.
In general, we found the style of the Thermoball Snow to be quite agreeable. The Leopard Yellow color we tested is flashy and took a little getting used to for our testers, but the jacket is offered in a range of colors from as bright as you can handle to subtle and low-key. The shell is a solid color that is interrupted only by the zippers and the logos that are complementary colors. Beyond the color, it has clean lines and an otherwise subtle design. Testers feel this jacket has casual enough styling that it has good crossover appeal and looks reasonable both on and off the hill, depending on the color, of course.
The Thermoball Snow looks a bit more technical compared to some jackets. Style is subjective, of course, but we feel the Thermoball has a crowd-pleasing appearance that many people will love.
The yellow color we tested is one of the brightest available; there are plenty of other options to suit everyone's tastes.
Like many of the other jackets in this review, the Thermoball Snow is light on ski specific features, though it has several useful features that enhance its performance. The powder skirt is appreciated to help keep the elements at bay during storms and especially on deep powder days. The helmet-compatible hood has enough adjustability to work well for both helmet and non-helmet wearing skiers. There is also a zippered pocket on the left forearm that is perfect for an RFID ski pass, items you need to access quickly, and is home to an attached but removable goggle wipe. The chest pockets on the shell are vertically oriented for ease of access, and all of the zippers have large zipper pulls that are easy to use with gloves on. Inside the shell, there is also a large drop pocket that can fit a pair of goggles if necessary.
The only features we really feel like the Thermoball Snow is lacking are a RECCO reflector and a media pocket. If you're looking for the most featured ski jackets in the review the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 and the Spyder Leader have all the bells and whistles. Otherwise, most of the jackets we tested have similar or fewer features than the Thermoball Snow.
The sleeve pocket is great for a ski pass, plus it has an attached goggle wipe.
The Thermoball Snow is a great option for the frequent resort skier seeking a warm and weather resistant jacket with 3-in-1 versatility. Modular style jackets aren't for everybody, but they are great for the skier who wants one jacket to do it all.
At a retail price of $350, we feel the Thermoball Snow is a great value. Right off the bat, the 3-in-1 style means that you get two separate jackets and three ways to wear them which immediately makes this a bargain. In addition to that, this is a quality product from a respected manufacturer that comes with a lifetime warranty. There are other similar jackets in this test that cost slightly more, but we feel the performance of the Thermoball Snow is as good or better and it costs slightly less.
Testing the North Face Thermoball Snow at Sugar Bowl ski resort.
If you're on the fence about whether to get an insulated jacket or just a shell then maybe a 3-in-1 model can help to solve your dilemma and give you the best of both worlds. The Thermoball Snow Triclimate is a well-executed example of this style of jacket that provides plenty of warmth and weather resistance with a pretty good fit and agreeable style. Combine its good all-around performance with its reasonable price, and it's also a good value when you consider the fact that you get two jackets and three ways to wear them, for the price of one.