Flylow is a small Colorado-based company that makes high quality ski gear. Their Higgins jacket is an incredibly well-featured, waterproof softshell for all-conditions skiing and riding. The jacket is designed specifically for shredding the backcountry gnar gnar, dropping chutes, and going big in any winter condition imaginable.
The Higgins jacket differs from most other softshells in that it is completely waterproof. A three-layer Intuitive "soft-hardshell" fabric with taped seams and watertight zippers makes the jacket fully impervious to melting snow and ice. The design updates a mountaineering jacket to meet the demands of both punishing riding plus hanging out on the slopes and in the bar afterwards. For example, the front hand pockets are low at the hips and covered by a small flap. This looks more casual than the brightly colored watertight zippers found on most performance mountaineering and alpine climbing jackets.
The interior is a fuzzy brushed nylon. It's soft to the touch, but not fleecy and warm — you'll need to layer up underneath. A relaxed if not baggy fit makes this possible. All of the jackets we tested were size medium, and this was the largest, which is good, because it better fits current ski style and can accommodate a fleece and/or puffy underneath.
The Higgins jacket has several ski-specific features such as powder guard snaps, a headphone port, and two huge mesh stash pockets. The stash pockets are perfect for gloves or skins. The cuffs are also well designed and can fit over most gloves.
While the Higgins is our top choice for skiing and riding, it's not without drawbacks. First, the hand pockets are small and don't easily accommodate gloved hands. Second and more importantly, the jacket does not stretch. It's the most restricting of the 16 softshells we tested. This is a result of its thick waterproof fabric. Raising your arms up lifts the whole jacket. Crossing them is like sending a car through a tunnel — you're arms move but the jacket doesn't. This isn't a big problem for skiing, but it's very apparent when comparing the Higgins to the many other more mobile softshells.
Although the jacket is bulky and large for its size, some testers said they would get the jacket one size larger than normal. This is because they snowboard (sitting down is more comfortable with a longer jacket) and because today's style is all about wearing big things.
Skiing and snowboarding
The Higgins will work nearly as well as a $600 ski jacket. It's a good value.
Jeff Smith snowshoeing through 5+ feet of fresh powder in the Flylow Higgins.