Best Ski Jackets for Women of 2020
|Price||$559.30 at Backcountry|
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|$437.50 at Backcountry|
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|$399.00 at Backcountry||$378.95 at Backcountry|
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|$374.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Top quality, good looking, warm, comfortable, useful features||Durable, weather resistant, stylish, breathable, refined||Solid construction, highly functional, ski specific, breathes well||Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic look||Stylish, comfortable, warm, good ski features, inexpensive|
|Cons||Expensive, not very breathable||Expensive, powder skirt non-removable||On the heavy side, not remarkably flattering||No insulation||Not super durable|
|Bottom Line||This jacket performs better than any insulated jacket we tested, and is priced accordingly||This weather resistant hardshell is one of the most technically sound and high performing options out there||This jacket is a protective hardshell that has all the ski specific features you need||An extremely versatile hardshell with stretch, space to layer, and excellent breathability||A comfortable, stylish jacket with great ski features for a decent price|
|Rating Categories||Primo Puff||Sentinel AR||Powder Bowl Jacket||Black Diamond Recon Stretch...||Orage Nina|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort And Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Primo Puff||Sentinel AR||Powder Bowl Jacket||Black Diamond...||Orage Nina|
|Insulation||65g PlumaFill||Flannel backer||None||None||Polyfil|
|Waterproofing||Gore-Tex 2L||Gore-Tex||Gore-Tex 2L||BD.dry||DWR|
|Weight (in pounds)||2.0 lbs||1.3 lbs||1.7 lbs||1.5 lbs||2.3 lbs|
|# of Pockets||2 hand, 1 chest, 1 internal||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 arm, [internal] 1 zippered, 1 drop||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh||2 hand, 1 chest, 1 insulated media, 1 goggle pocket|
|Main Fabric||100% recycled polyester plain-weave GORE-TEX fabric with stretch||70D nylon||150D 100% recycled polyester GORE-TEXT with DWR coating||84% nylon, 16% elastane||4-way stretch twill (88% polyester / 12% spandex)|
|Unique Features||hood has laminated visor; watertight zippers; RECCO reflector||RECCO, higher zippered hand pockets, gaping pit zips||Watertight, coated zippers, adjustable powder skirt, RECCO reflector||removable powder skirt, 4-way stretch shell||Hand gaiters, insulated media pocket, snow phone leash|
|Hood Option?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, removable|
|Cuff construction||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro with wrist gaiters|
|Ski features||Powder skirt, helmet compatible hood||Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood||Powder skirt, pass pocket||Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood||Powder skirt, pass and goggle pocket|
Best Overall Insulated Women's Ski Jacket
Patagonia Primo Puff - Women's
The Patagonia Primo Puff is our favorite insulated model for several years running. This classic offering from Patagonia impressed us with bomber durability and the ability to protect us from the elements. It might also be the toastiest jacket we've ever tested; the 135g PlumaFill insulation in the jacket's body (and 90g in the panels and sleeves) made us feel like we were snuggled into a sleeping bag every time we put it on. It was too warm for really high output days, but its synthetic insulation has mitigated this issue to some extent (previous versions of this model used to be insulated with down fill). The pit zips certainly help with insulation, too, and we often used these when skiing more technical terrain or on warmer days.
Patagonia is known for weather resistance in all aspects of their jackets, and the Primo Puff is no different; the zippers are watertight, coated, and easy to use. The pockets are all useful as well, from the soft, lined hand pockets to the one zippered and one goggle pocket on the interior. Of course, the jacket has a pass pocket and a headphone gasket in the chest pocket. If you're someone who tends to stay warm and likes to play with layers rather than having insulation all the time, this might not be the jacket for you. But, if you want to stay toasty and dry no matter what you're doing, the award-winning Primo Puff is a great option.
Read review: Patagonia Primo Puff - Women's
Best Overall Women's Resort Shell
Arc'teryx Sentinel AR - Women's
The women's Arc'teryx Sentinel AR is our favorite shell jacket that we tested. It scored highly in nearly every metric, save warmth, and looked stylish doing so. From the first feel, the 3L Gore-Tex shell screams bombproof weather resistance, and it did not disappoint. This jacket kept us dry and out of the wind in the pouring rain and gusting sub-zero storms in Vermont. The Sentinel AR also has a sleek, high-quality construction with fully taped seams, and DWR-treated and taped zippers keep the moisture out. We also really liked how quickly the pit zips could increase ventilation with their large, open design. The shell material itself was also extremely breathable, allowing us to stay dry while working hard. This shell also has enough features to keep us happy at the resort.
The flipside of the breathability and versatility of a hardshell design is that it does not provide any inherent insulation. The Sentinel AR has a soft flannel backer, but we did not find this to provide any significant insulation. It should be noted that maintaining the proper temperature through layering and sweat-wicking is certainly an important part of staying warm. This being said, if you are looking for a jacket that keeps you both warm and dry, you may want to consider one of the insulated models we tested instead. If you are looking for one of the highest-end hardshells for downhill snow-sliding on the market, however, we believe the Sentinel AR is worth the investment. This is a burly and stylish hardshell with a flattering cut and the ability to last you several seasons.
Read review: Arc'teryx Sentinel AR-Women's
Best Bang for Your Buck Shell
Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell - Women's
Where Black Diamond's Recon Stretch truly shines is in the level of technology and performance it provides at an intermediate price point. We think this jacket is a steal. The BD.dry shell material beaded moisture well in our tests and did an excellent job of breathing while touring, even before we opened the pit zips. Once we did, the large open zips allowed for a good increase in ventilation. These DWR treated zips were in line with the main zipper, which also features a water-resistant construction and taped seams. The entire shell features taped seams, adding an extra level of weather resistance. The removable powder skirt (a great feature) will also prevent snow and drafts from creeping up under the hem or shed some weight by leaving it at home when it's not needed.
While the stretch BD.dry provided excellent breathability and water resistance, we did feel the more biting winds permeate this thin material. This more backcountry-oriented shell is also a little more bare-bones than many of the jackets we tested. It lacks internal zipper pockets, which means phones or other media won't stay warm, and there are fewer organization options. Overall, the pockets are still adequate, and the two large internal drop pockets do provide plenty of room for snacks or your skins. If you are looking for a shell that will take you from the resort to out of bounds without breaking the bank, the Recon Stretch is for you.
read review:Black Diamond Recon Stretch Women's
Best Bargain for an Insulated Jacket
Columbia Wild Card - Women's
The Wild Card impressed us with its combination of function and style at such a reasonable price point. The supple and slightly stretchy waterproof/breathable shell fabric is adequately weather resistant while allowing you to move with comfort. Additionally, the bright color block style, with a trim, slightly tapered cut is fun and flattering. We received many compliments on the looks of this jacket. We found that this jacket did run a little on the small side. We suggest considering sizing up to create room for layering or more pocket space. While looking great on the outside, it kept us warm on the inside with a light layer of 60g Omni-Heat stretch synthetic insulation. This, combined with the Omni-Heat reflective lining, kept us warm but not overheated.
If you are looking for a match to hard-working skiing and hiking, this is not the best option as we found it was not the most breathable of the bunch. The mesh-lined pit zips did do a good job of keeping snow and moisture out, but didn't provide the relief we wanted when hiking, skiing hard, or on ski tours. Overall, we found that the Wild Card had an excellent combination of style and function and plenty of weather resistance to keep you dry all day. Not to mention, it's an excellent value for an insulated jacket.
Read review: Columbia Wild Card - Women's
Best for Versatility
The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 - Women's
We were pleasantly surprised by the The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1's versatility and performance. Despite its slim fit (we recommend sizing up), the jacket had almost all of the features we look for in a ski jacket (deep pockets, quick and reactive zippers), and it impressed with its weather resistance. Best of all, it's two separate pieces that, when combined, make a warm and high functioning ski jacket. The inner synthetic jacket is warm and looks great on its own, and we often wear it around town. The outer shell stands perfectly well on its own on days that are warmer or when we wanted to play with light layers underneath.
The jacket is very comfortable but should probably be sized up to allow the best movement when skiing with all layers together. The hood doesn't fit super well over a ski helmet, but we think that would also be improved upon by sizing up. The jacket comes in enough colors that you can personalize it to your liking, and it works well with fun, patterned ski pants. We think the The North Face THERMOBALL ECO SNOW TRICLIMATE is a jacket that could work for almost anyone.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editors Betsy Welch, Jessica Haist, and Jackie Kearney. Betsy hails from the Front Range of Colorado, although you'll usually find her adventuring in the mountains or abroad. When the snow flies, Betsy likes to rip around local resorts, nordic ski, and dabble in skimo racing. She also tries to pair all winter activities with a visit to a hot spring. Betsy has a background in public health nursing and thinks that being outside is the best medicine. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Jessica made her way west into the states and now resides in Mammoth Lakes, California. Jessica has acquired the gear connoisseur's eye for detail and function with Mammoth mountain's varied slopes available all season long. She's also lived and worked all over the US as an outdoor educator and guide and holds a Master's Degree in Outdoor Education from Arizona's Prescott College. Jackie has skied and lived in several places in the American West. After ski patrolling for several years at Kirkwood Mountain in Lake Tahoe, California, she returned to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado to pursue the same work at Telluride. After committing her life to skiing in and out of bounds, she's developed a taste for what works for many facets of the ski world.
Finding the best women's ski jacket started with ample online research. We made an initial cut of 50 jackets before selecting and purchasing the models discussed here for testing. We took them out in various locations from Canada to Vermont to California to Colorado, including the backcountry. We paid attention to critical areas of performance like warmth, weather resistance, features, ventilation, and even style. When called for, we supplemented field use with controlled tests, like spraying the jackets down with water to test water resistance. All-in-all, we think you'll find this study to be a comprehensive and helpful starting point in the selection of your next ski jacket.
Related: How We Tested Ski Jacket for Women
Analysis and Test Results
If you're into riding the lifts from the first chair till last, you'll want a ski jacket that will keep you warm, dry, and functioning well all day. Style is also a huge factor when choosing your outfit for riding, as it often becomes one's on-hill identity that your ski partners recognize ("There she is, in the teal coat!"). Where you live and how often you ski will affect which jacket will work best for you. Are you a fair-weather skier who likes cruising the groomers and then having happy hour on the deck? Or do you want to slay the pow on a storm day and work hard all day doing it? We've outlined the best choices for each scenario.
Trying to figure out which ski jacket hits the sweet spot between performance and price can be difficult. Consider how much you get out on the mountain to help you justify your spending on your next ski jacket. For only a few weekends every winter, you might be happier with a less expensive option. However, if you call into work sick every powder day and get dozens of days on the mountain each year, it's easier to swallow the prices of some high-end gear. If the latter sounds like you, the Patagonia Primo Puff or Arc'teryx Sentinel AR should be on your shortlist. For less frequent skiers or those on a tighter budget, there are a few models that combine great performance with relatively modest price tags, like The North Face THERMOBALL ECO SNOW TRICLIMATE, Columbia Wild Card and Black Diamond Recon Stretch.
We evaluated all jackets on how well they keep you protected from the elements.
The Patagonia Primo Puff stands on top of the mountain in terms of weather resistance with a GORE-TEX outer fabric, high-quality DWR coating, well-designed hood, and burly zipper that keeps howling winds at bay. Hardshell jackets like the Patagonia Powder Bowl, FlyLow Billie Coat, and the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR score high in this category because of their super durable and water-resistant shell materials and large storm hoods. Depending on the time of year and the climate you're skiing in, this category can be the most essential ski jacket feature. Ski areas in a maritime environment tend to have wetter, heavier snow that can quickly soak through a jacket without decent water resistance. This is important because the wetter you get, the colder you become, meaning less skiing for a cold and wet you.
Many of the products we evaluated are constructed with a waterproof/breathable shell material such as Gore-Tex. The Powder Bowl, Sentinel AR, Primo Puff, and REI First Chair feature Gore-Tex. Some products we tested, like the BD Recon Stretch, had a highly rated, proprietary waterproof/breathable material like BD.dry. Also, everything we tested was given added water-resistance with the application of each manufacturer's proprietary DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, but some jackets repelled water better than others.
Along with field testing, we sprayed each jacket with water to carefully evaluate how well water beaded off the surface and how long it took the water to soak into the material. The spray test assessed the DWR coatings on these jackets, not the overall waterproofness of the materials. Every jacket we tested did well at repelling moisture during our spray tests. We were curious about the protective qualities in the shells of the Columbia Wild Card, Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange, and The North Face THERMOBALL ECO SNOW TRICLIMATE and took them out in wet snowfall. Moisture beaded right off of them all. It is important to note that DWR coatings will wear off over time from washing and use, but garments can be re-treated. The Sentinel AR, Powder Bowl, and Primo Puff have Gore-Tex shells with DWR coatings that held up the best and beaded water quickly, whereas the Orage Nina absorbed some water into its exterior shell over time.
We considered other factors in this category: how wind resistant the jacket's construction is—do we feel drafts through zippers or seams? The Patagonia jackets had bombproof, weather-protected zippers. Arc'teryx also performed highly for this reason. We also evaluate if hoods are adjustable, insulated, and will fit over a helmet to protect you from winds and precipitation while sitting still on the chairlift or skiing down in stormy weather. All of the shells have non-insulated hoods, while the fully insulated jackets all had some degree of insulation in the hood. We especially love all three of the Patagonia jackets' huge hoods, and the tall, stand-up neck cuff of the Burton Jet Set was a great compliment to its large hood. We also loved the technical performance of the oversized Arc'teryx hood and how well it protected our chin and face even without a helmet underneath it.
Comfort and Fit
Comfort and fit are paramount because you want to be able to move around and feel good while wearing your jacket all day.
Some jackets have stretchy shell materials that flex with movement, like the Nina. Some are roomier, so you can wear more layers underneath, like the Sentinel AR, Recon Stretch, and the Powder Bowl. The fit of your jacket can also affect the warmth of it. If it is too small and you are not able to put extra layers on for those biting cold days, you won't be as comfortable. Some jackets run a little small, like the Columbia Wild Card. Conversely, if it is too roomy and lets in drafts, it will also be less warm and comfortable. The latest version of the Primo Puff has a softer, less crinkly feeling Gore-Tex material that we like a lot. The Primo Puff was the comfiest insulated jacket. The Burton Jet Set came in as a close second in the insulated category; we found that even after we'd come inside, we'd forget to take this jacket off since it felt like a second skin.
We compared all of the manufacturers' size charts to see if they matched up with our testers' dimensions and provide some extra information on how to select a fit for yourself. In general, we found Patagonia's "Regular Fit" to be roomy, which we have over years of experience found Patagonia's clothing and outerwear. Our testers appreciated the more flattering fit of the Recon Stretch and Sentinel AR, which taper down to the waist and back out at the hips. We also liked the extra room in the hardshells left for layering. For the Columbia Whirlibird 3-in-1, we recommend sizing up since the inner insulating layer can feel a bit bulky. We also found that the Columbia Wild Card fit on the snug side as the manufacturer suggests with its "slim fit" and that sizing up is recommended.
How warm (or cold) you are on the hill can make or break your ski day. In our test, we rated each jacket on how warm it kept us on cold, windy, stormy days. We skied fast and sat on windy chairlifts to find out if there were any drafts in strange places and tried out all the special features designed to help retain heat. We also made sure that the jackets we tried had different types of and degrees of insulation. The Patagonia Primo Puff is by far the warmest in the review, using high-quality synthetic down insulation. The Burton Jet Set was also a surprisingly toasty budget option.
The Columbia models use a foil-like lining they call Omni-Heat that is designed to reflect heat back towards your body. This, in combination with synthetic insulation, keeps you warm. We were skeptical about this flashy material but found that the Whirlibird is one of the warmer jackets in the review. The North Face THERMOBALL 3-in-1 was also super toasty, albeit a bit slim fitting. The uninsulated shell jackets we tested all provide a similar level of warmth. With these jackets, layering appropriately underneath is the best way to manage their warmth. These jackets provide the added benefit of helping you manage your temperature based on exertion, which is a key element to staying dry inside your jacket and subsequently consistently warm all day.
Other design factors that contribute to warmth are wrist gaiters that keep the drafts out of your sleeves like in the Columbia Wild Card, chin guards that can zip up over a neck gaiter like in the Burton Jet Set, and baffles around your neck to keep drafts from creeping down your spine like in the Patagonia Primo Puff and Wild Card.
When you're working hard making turns in deep powder or hiking in bounds, you can work up a sweat quickly. If you get sweaty, you can become clammy and cold, which can end your ski day quickly. You want a jacket that breathes well or has the ability to let air pass through with the use of pit zips and other features.
A jacket's materials, as well as the ventilation features incorporated in the jacket, are both effective ways to release heat and moisture. With an easy-to-open pit-zip like on the Powder Bowl and Arc'teryx Sentinel AR, you can immediately get airflow to your body, allowing you to regulate your temperature quickly. Since most of the contenders in this review are thick and insulated, meaning not very breathable, the ventilation features are essential for staying comfortable in varying conditions on the ski hill. The un-insulated shells we tested had the best ventilation of the bunch.
Almost all of the jackets in this test have some pit-zip feature for venting, allowing for air to circulate inside the jacket on warmer days, some allowing more air in than others. Some of the jacket's pit-zips were mesh-backed to keep the snow out, like on the Columbia Wild Card and Burton Jet Set, whereas some had no mesh. Without mesh, the pit-zips can open up wider for maximum ventilation but also can allow snow inside the jacket if you happen to tumble. Unless you're brand new to skiing, we usually recommend open pit zips without any mesh liner. All of the 3-in-1 styles, like the Columbia Whirlibird IV, have pit-zips on the exterior shell but not on the interior insulating layer, which makes them much less useful. Of course, removing or adding the insulating layer is a fantastic way to regulate temperature.
Style may be subjective, but we think it's important. Feeling good in your jacket can affect how you ski and how you feel on the hill. Then, there's the fact that people begin to recognize you by what you wear while skiing, and your outfit essentially becomes your identity when your head and face are otherwise cloaked in a helmet and goggles. It's how people find you out on the mountain. Selecting a jacket that represents your style and personality is important, just as finding one with properly placed vents and warm enough insulation is, too.
Two-tone designs with different colored hoods and sleeves continue to be the latest style on the slopes, as is found in the Wild Card. We like the color offerings for the Burton Jet Set. We love contrasting zippers like on the Wild Card and super-stylish FlyLow Billie Coat
We dig the look of long hemlines—like on the Sentinel AR and Recon Stretch—but also thought that the more traditional shapes of the Patagonia Powder Bowl and The North Face THERMOBALL ECO SNOW TRICLIMATE looked nice and clean for those of us who prefer a more understated style.
This year, we found that almost all of the jackets had the same essential ski features in common (pass pockets, google pockets, YKK zippers, and adjustable hoods). It seems that the manufacturers have caught on to what makes a great day on the hill, and they've incorporated these essential features into the jackets. Most ski-specific jackets also have powder skirts, designed to keep snow from going up your back on a powder day or from going down the pants when falling.
We love the powder skirts on the Recon Stretch and Primo Puff because they are removable when they aren't needed, like wearing the jacket around town and when there isn't pow to slay on the mountain. Many brands' powder skirts are compatible with the same brand's ski pants, and you can attach them, so they become impenetrable to snow. This is the most efficient way to wear a powder skirt, but it's not very helpful if you have different brands of jackets/pants.
There are many convenient and unique features on all the different models on our test. Features we look for in our favorites are:Pockets
We need lots of places to stash our stuff. We particularly like it when jackets have media pockets with headphone ports like in the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR and Primo Puff so we can listen to our tunes while we ski. More jackets than ever are including this feature. This feature might disappear soon, as wireless earbuds become more prevalent in the next few years. We also like big mesh goggle pockets and fleece-lined handwarmer pockets like in the Jet Set and REI First Chair. A zippered interior pocket or chest pocket is essential for keeping important things like credit cards and car keys safe and sound. The Flylow Billie Coat has a great variety of pockets that we love, and we were impressed with how big both the hand pockets and inside pockets were on the The North Face Thermoball Eco. We found it odd that the chest pocket on the Burton Jet Set only affixed with velcro rather than a zipper.
These help keep the drafts out of your sleeves and keep your hands warmer when you don't have your gloves on. Wrist gaiters made out of thin, sleek materials are better for wearing underneath gloves. The Wild Card is the only jacket we tested with this feature, and we found that we could take it or leave it.RECCO Reflector
This feature seems to be a growing trend and is becoming an industry standard for all ski jackets. The RECCO system will potentially aid ski patrol in finding you more quickly if you are caught in an in-bounds avalanche. The Primo Puff, Snowbelle, Sentinel AR, and Powder Bowl jackets all have a RECCO reflector.
Another unique feature that we came across was a cord to attach your cell phone to your jacket, so it doesn't fall when you're on the chairlift, found on the Orage Nina.
Aside from your skis and boots, your ski jacket is probably the most important piece of gear for a day on the hill. It has to keep you warm, dry, and able to rip all day long. All of the jackets in this review have features that seek to do just that. For many people, weather resistance and warmth are the most important factors to consider, while for others, features like pockets and where they're placed matter the most. For skiers who like to shred hard and maybe get out in the backcountry, ventilation is a key factor. And of course, you want a jacket that looks good, makes you feel great, and reflects your personal style. We hope that our observations in this review have helped you select the right kind of jacket for your unique needs on the slopes.
— Jacqueline Kearney, Betsy Welch, and Jessica Haist