Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Ski Jackets

Sunday March 6, 2022
ski jacket - a good chunk of the outdoorgearlab mammoth lakes team. jessica haist...
A good chunk of the OutdoorGearLab Mammoth Lakes team. Jessica Haist and Mike Phillips test jackets and boots on a sunny, cold day.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Our primary test procedure for the ski jackets in this review was simply going skiing, a lot. This review is a compilation of testing done throughout several seasons in places like Colorado, Jackson Hole, Alaska, the Lake Tahoe area, and various backcountry locales in those same areas. The resort-based testing involved a range of weather conditions, from cold and story to warm and sunny.

Warmth


We tested the warmth of each jacket by skiing in each model in a range of temperatures and weather conditions. From sitting on the chairlift to boot packing up for a lap in the bowl, we paid close attention to each jacket's warmth or lack thereof. We spent days skiing one run per jacket and quickly changing in the lodge between runs to compare jackets in similar conditions. We base our assessment of warmth on how well each jacket did in insulating our bodies during our ski days and comparing them to each other.

ski jacket - lots of down and synthetic insulation make the macai one of the...
Lots of down and synthetic insulation make the Macai one of the warmest we have reviewed.
Credit: tom causley

Weather Resistance


We tested weather resistance in a couple of ways. One of those involved skiing in all types of weather, from stormy and foul to sunny and pleasant. We battened down the hatches of each model and hunkered down on chairlifts as the storm raged around us. During those times, we assessed each model's ability to keep the elements at bay, things like powder skirts, wrist cuffs, and hood designs into account. In addition to real-world testing, we also wore each jacket in the shower for 5 minutes to see just how well the waterproof fabric and its DWR coating repelled water. This test is an extreme way to assess water resistance, but it showed very quickly which models bead water and which wet-out in a deluge.

ski jacket - arc'teryx has their waterproof fabrics and dwr dialed. after several...
Arc'teryx has their waterproof fabrics and DWR dialed. After several minutes of dousing in the shower, the water still beads off the Macai like water off a duck's back.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Comfort and Fit


All of these jackets were tried on, swapped out, and passed around to friends. We often switched between jackets for a direct comparison of how each model fit and the comfort that it provides the user. The fit is somewhat subjective, but we assessed the cut, length, and shape of each model compared to the next. Comfort is subjective, but we took things like bulk, restriction of movement, and feel of materials against the skin into account.

This jacket has plenty of pockets on the chest, which is a good...
This jacket has plenty of pockets on the chest, which is a good thing, but it might take you extra time top remember where you stashed your car keys...
A boxy fit stands between this jacket and its more close-fitting...
A boxy fit stands between this jacket and its more close-fitting competition.

Ventilation


We got hot and sweaty to test ventilation while using all of these jackets in the field. Either while racing friends on traverse tracks or simply heating up on a warm sunny day, it's easy to get warm while skiing. We tested each model's ventilation capabilities while trying to cool off on the chairlift or while waiting for our friends to catch up. We also considered each jacket's vents' size, placement, and execution and their effectiveness in real-world ventilation.

ski jacket - the vents on this shell are long and mesh free, providing great...
The vents on this shell are long and mesh free, providing great airflow.
Credit: Sam Willits

Style


Perhaps the most subjective of all criteria is style. To rate this, we combined the impression of each of our testers, as well as that of friends and random people we encountered during our ski days. Opinions vary, but this gave us a range of input to work with.

ski jacket - do you like the style of this jacket? we weren't sold on the color...
Do you like the style of this jacket? We weren't sold on the color panels and zippers.
Credit: Tom Causley

Features


We compiled a list of features that complement a ski jacket and enhance the user's experience while wearing it in a resort setting. We evaluated each model by counting which features each one has and observing how useful and well-executed those features are. Important considerations are things like a powder skirt, helmet-compatible hood, pass pocket, goggle wipe, media pocket, RECCO reflector, and pocket layout. In general, we found that we could get by without many features if we had to, but a jacket with tons of helpful features was noticeably more convenient.

ski jacket - lots of pockets with waterproof zippers were the main features of...
Lots of pockets with waterproof zippers were the main features of this jacket.
Credit: tom causley

Conclusion


We tested each jacket in this review thoroughly so that you don't have to. We hope the information presented in our detailed comparative reviews helps you decide which model is right for your needs, style, and budget.

ski jacket - the skiing is the best part, of course, we had no problems dealing...
The skiing is the best part, of course, we had no problems dealing with part of the testing process.
Credit: Heather Benson

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