How do you know you've found the best ski jacket out there? For five seasons running, we've been putting women's ski jackets to the test. Out of hundreds of products out there, we purchased the top 10 on the market to put through their paces this year. We sat on tons of chairlifts, made many turns, and went to happy hours in these jackets. We even went out into the backcountry to test out some of the more versatile, ski specific hard shells. We were on the look-out for models with the best ski features, weather resistance, and style and we found out all the dirt on these jackets for you. We've put them to the test in climates and resorts all over, from Canada to California. Read on to learn what we thought were the best of the best in this review.
The 10 Best Ski Jackets for Women
This winter, our team of experts cruised the slopes to bring you the best of the best. The Patagonia Primo remains our Editor's Choice, while the new FlyLow Billie has cinched a Top Pick award for style around the resort. Our Best Buy award winners, the Orage Nina and Columbia Whirlibird Interchange, remain the same. We've also added in the Arc'teryx Tiya, Patagonia Untracked, and Mountain Hardwear Barnsie.
Best Overall Women's Ski Jacket
Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's
We love the Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's, in fact, we love it so much it wins our Editor's Choice Award for the fifth year running! No other jacket can top the amount of warmth, comfort, useful ski features and style this jacket brings to the table. Its cozy 800 fill down insulation and top notch Gore-Tex shell material make the Primo Down the top of its class and a perfect pick for cold and wet days out on the mountain. We love its removable powder skirt, tons of pockets and its down lined hood. Its soft, supple materials make movement easy and the jacket feels like we're wearing a cloud. It comes in simple color choices and has a silhouette that is slim considering its down filling. It's priced at the high end of our selection, but we think it is worth every penny.
Read review: Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
Columbia Whirlibird Interchange - Women's
The Columbia Whirlibird Interchange - Women wins our Best Buy Award once again because it has an unbeatable price tag with excellent ski features, making for an excellent value. Columbia has made a quality jacket that is a 3-in-1 style. You get a synthetic insulated inner jacket layer that you can add or remove to the outer shell layer for more or less warmth. We like wearing the inner jacket around town and think it's an excellent piece for happy hours. The Whirlibird is super comfortable and has a relaxed, roomy fit and has more synthetic insulation and is warmer than the other 3-in-1 competitors in this review. It comes in a variety of color selections, some that we like better than others.
Read review: Columbia Whirlibird Interchange - Women
Best Bang for the Buck
The Orage Nina is loaded with useful ski specific features and will keep you out on the mountain all day in comfort, while looking good. It wins our Best Buy Award because it is one of the lowest priced insulated jackets in this review. It has all the bells and whistles you could want for such an incredible price. We also think that the Nina is one of the better-looking jackets we've tested and like its bold color combinations, although this year's pink and orange combo was less cute than in years passed. We love the stretchy shell material and integrated wrist gaiters of this jacket, it makes it very comfortable and you don't even notice you're wearing it out on the slopes. The Nina has added helpful features like the "snow phone cord" and all the pockets you could want including a mesh goggle pocket, pass pocket, and an interior zipper pocket for keys or electronics. All this for a super reasonable price tag.
Read review: Orage Nina
Top Pick for Stylish Resort Jacket
Flylow Billie Coat
The updated Flylow Billie Coat came on to the scene this season with a splash. All of our tester ladies wanted to be the one wearing this jacket in our photos! The Billie Coat takes our Top Pick Award this year for the most stylish jacket. Flylow has updated this coat's shell materials to be softer and more supple this year which makes it feel great when wearing it and moving around. We especially like its bi-colored style this year in both the Siren/Arctic color we tested and the Lotus/Neptune color. The Billie Coat's long and somewhat relaxed cut look super steezy and yet form fitting. We understand why all the ladies wanted to wear this jacket. You'll feel like a pro skier when wearing this jacket - even if you're not.
Read review: Flylow Billie Coat
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. We also think that style is a huge factor when choosing your outfit for riding. That outfit will become your on-hill identity that people will recognize. ("There she is, in the pink 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 have broken down what to look for if you want to do either of these things in our evaluation below.
With prices ranging from $200 to $800 in our test field alone, trying to decipher which ski jacket hits the sweet spot between performance and price can feel like diving into a black hole. To help, we compared price to performance for all models to illuminate where each jacket falls in relation to the rest in terms of value. High-value jackets such as the Flylow Billie Coat and Orage Nina come in with both reasonable prices and high scores.
We evaluated all ten jackets on how well they keep you protected from the elements.
The shell jackets like the Patagonia Untracked - Women's and the Arc'Teryx Sentinel scored the highest 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 feature of a ski jacket. Ski areas in a maritime environment tend to have wetter, heavier snow that can easily soak through a jacket without decent water resistance. This is important because the more water that absorbs into your jacket, the heavier and more uncomfortable it becomes. And 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 Untracked, Arc'teryx Tiya, Sentinel, and Primo Down all feature Gore-Tex. 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. We discuss waterproof materials in greater detail in the individual reviews.
Along with field testing, we sprayed each jacket with water to carefully evaluate how well water beaded off of 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. The Columbia Whirlibird Interchange's DWR seemed to be doing well at repelling moisture during our tests. It is important to note that DWR coatings will wear off over time from washing and use, but garments can be re-treated. The Arc'teryx Sentinel and Patagonia Primo Down with Gore-Tex shells and DWR coatings held up the best and beaded water quickly, whereas the Orage Nina soaked the water right up. To learn more about DWR coatings and how to choose the right waterproof material for your outerwear, we recommend checking out the Hardshell Buying Advice Article.
Other factors we considered in this category are how wind resistant the jacket's construction is — do we feel drafts through zippers or seams? The North Face ThermoBall Triclimate had a noticeably drafty zipper. We also evaluate if hoods are adjustable, insulated, and will fit all the way 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 and 3-in-1 jackets have non-insulated hoods, while the fully insulated jackets all had insulation in the hood. We especially love the Sentinel and Patagonia Snowbelle's huge hoods.
When you're working hard making turns in deep powder, you can work up a sweat. You don't want to feel clammy and sweaty under your jacket, which will leave you chilled when sitting still on the lift, so you want your jacket to be somewhat breathable or have the ability to ventilate.
The materials it is made of, 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 Untracked Jacket 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 three un-insulated shells we tested had the best ventilation of the bunch, all with gaping pit-zips and somewhat breathable materials.
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 Arc'teryx Tiya, whereas some had no mesh like the Mountain Hardwear Barnsie. 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. All of the 3-in-1 styles, like the Columbia Whirlibird Interchange, have pit-zips on the exterior shell, but not on the interior insulating layer, which makes them much less useful.
The first thing most people think about when heading out for a ski is "Will I be warm enough?" 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. The Patagonia Primo Down - Women's is by far the warmest in the review, using high quality down insulation. The Arc'teryx Tiya was a distant second in the warmth department, filled with warm synthetic insulation.
The Columbia Whirlibird uses a foil-like lining Columbia calls 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 was one of the warmer jackets in the review. We like the lightweight Thermal.Q Elite insulation in the Mountain Hardwear Barnsie. This jacket is not as warm as some of the others, but its warmth-to-weight ratio is very high. We did not evaluate the shell jackets in the warmth department as none of them are insulated, and so we rated them all the same in this category.
Other design factors that contribute to warmth are wrist gaiters that keep the drafts out of your sleeves, chin guards that can zip up over a neck gaiter, and baffles around your neck to keep drafts from creeping down your spine.
Each item in this review has different ski-specific features that make spending a day on the ski hill easier and more comfortable. Most ski specific jackets 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 Billie Coat, and Primo Down because they are removable for times when they aren't needed,m like wearing the jacket around town. Many brand's 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.
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 Orage Nina so we can listen to our tunes while we shred. We noticed this year that more jackets than ever have this feature. We also like big mesh goggle pockets and fleece lined hand warmer pockets like in the Tiya as well as interior zippered pockets for keeping the important things like credit cards and car keys. The Flylow Billie Coat had a great variety of pockets.
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, like in the Mountain Hardwear Barnsie. Fewer models came with wrist gaiters or "thumb holes" this year.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 up in an in-bounds avalanche. Read more about RECCO in our Buying Advice Article. The Primo Down, Tiya, Snowbelle, Barnsie, Untracked, and Sentinel jackets all have a RECCO reflector.
Other unique features that we came across this year were a cord to attach your cell phone to your jacket, so it doesn't fall when you're on the chairlift in the Orage Nina.
We think that having good style is super important when you ski at the resort often. People begin to recognize you by what you wear every day, and your outfit essentially becomes your identity when your head and face is otherwise cloaked in a helmet and goggles. Your friends can no longer see your face or hair, but will certainly notice your jacket. Selecting one that represents your style and personality is just as important as finding one with properly placed vents and warm enough insulation.
The Urban Dictionary defines Steezy as:
The latest trends in women's ski jackets for 2018 are jackets with extra long cuts to cover your backside and two-tone designs with different colored hoods and sleeves — we didn't see as many flashy patterns this year. This could be because there is a trend towards brightly colored ski pants, so having a more understated, solid color jacket can better match a bright pair of bottoms. Check out Best Ski Pants for Women Review to see what we think of the top pants on the market. Bright, contrasting colored zippers are still a favorite in women's jackets, like on the Untracked jacket.
All of the items in this review come in many different color combinations so you can find the one that best suits you. We think that the Flylow Billie Coat, and Orage Nina are the steeziest of the bunch because of their ability to make you stand out on the mountain and their long hemlines — especially on the Billie Coat and Untracked - are comfortable and protective. We also think the Patagonia Primo Down and the Arc'teryx Tiya are simple and clean looking for those of us who prefer a more understated style.
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 have stretchy shell materials that flex with movement, like the Nina. Some are extra roomy so you can wear more layers underneath, like the Snowbelle and the Untracked. 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. Conversely, if it is too roomy and lets in drafts, it will also be less warm and comfortable. The latest version of the Primo Down has a softer, less crinkly feeling Gore-Tex material that we like a lot. The most comfortable of the shells we tested was the Arc'teryx Sentinel, its Gore-Tex material has a soft hand, and it fits well, including the hood that moves with your head when you turn it - although the Billie Coat is a close second with its new, softer shell materials.
We compared all of the manufacturer's size charts to see if they matched up with our tester's dimensions to give you some extra information on how to select a fit for yourself. Some models we recommend sizing up, down, or purchasing your normal size. We talk about this in more detail in each review, but in general, we found Arc'teryx sizes to be on the smaller side and Columbia's to be on the bigger side.
A ski jacket is meant to keep you warm, dry, and operating during a day on the slopes. All of the jackets in this review have features that are specific to skiing to do just that. When searching for your new ski jacket, weather resistance and warmth are huge factors that play into finding the best fit. Other factors such as pockets and ventilation should also be considered. And of course, you want a jacket that makes you feel good about yourself and reflects your personal style! We hope that our observations in this review have helped you select the right kind of jacket for your needs. Check out our Buying Advice article for details on the most important considerations for finding the perfect jacket for skiing or boarding at the resort.
— Jessica Haist