How do you know you've found the best women's ski jacket out there? Out of hundreds of products out there, we purchased 11 of the top models on the market to test out at the resort. For six seasons running, we've been putting ski jackets to the test. We rode many chairlifts, carved lots of turns, and frequented happy hours in these models, from Canada to California. We even went out into the backcountry to test out some of the more versatile, ski specific hardshells. 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. Read on to learn what we thought were the best of the best in this review.
The 11 Best Ski Jackets for Women
|Price||$699.00 at REI|
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|$799.00 at Backcountry|
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|$399.95 at Backcountry|
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|$199.96 at Backcountry|
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|$625.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Stylish, quality materials, lightweight, useful ski features||Stylish, form fitting, good ski features, comfortable||Stylish, great ski features, inexpensive, more versatile than an insulated ski jacket||Inexpensive, warm, stylish||Lightweight, weather resistant, stylish, versatile|
|Cons||Expensive, afraid the potential lack of breathability could affect the down insulation||Expensive||Heavy for ski touring, no insulation||Fits a bit snug around the hips, non-removable powder skirt||Colors stain easily, expensive, no insulation|
|Bottom Line||This super warm and comfortable jacket has all the features you need for a cold day at the resort, and looks good too.||A high performance ski jacket that is stylish but comes with a high price tag.||This super stylish jacket wins our Top Pick Award for style, and has an affordable price tag!||This resort ripper will help you shred the slopes with style and ease, at a great price!||This lightweight, ski specific hardshell jacket is a great choice for front, back and sidecountry ski adventures.|
|Rating Categories||Primo Down Jacket||Arc'teryx Tiya||Flylow Billie Coat||Armada Stadium||Sentinel|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort And Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Primo Down Jacket||Arc'teryx Tiya||Flylow Billie Coat||Armada Stadium||Sentinel|
|Weight (in pounds)||1.89 lbs||1.65 lbs||1.56 lbs||2 lbs||1.29 lbs|
|# of Pockets||2 hand, 1 chest (with internal media), 1 sleeve, 1 internal stash, 1 internal drop-in||2 hand, 1 sleeve, 1 internal zip, 1 internal drop||2 hand, 1 chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal||2 hand, 1 chest, 1 sleeve, 1 indernal drop-in||2 hand, 1 sleeve, 1 internal laminated, 1 internal drop-in|
|Main Fabric||2-layer, 70D 100% recycled nylon GORE-TEX||N70p GORE-TEX with 3L tricot technology||3-layer nylon Dobby Intuitive fabric||100% Nylon||GORE-TEX 3-layer construction|
We were at it again this early season, out on the slopes taking some new models for a test drive. Once again the Patagonia Primo Down takes our Editors' Choice Award, while the new kid on the block, the Armada Stadium wins a Best Bang for Your Buck Award for being well priced and stylish. The Whirlibird Interchange III remains an uncontested Best Buy winner, and the Flylow Billie Coat continues to be our Top Pick for stylish hardshell. We also added the Columbia Alpine Action this time around, but it didn't wow us.
Best Overall Women's Ski Jacket
Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's
We still believe, after 6 years running that the Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's is the cream of the crop! It's soft, high-quality materials make this product the warmest, coziest and highest functioning ski jacket of the bunch, we love it! It has super high 800 fill power down insulation for the coldest of days on the slopes and a light, supple Gore-Tex shell to keep moisture out. These features make the Primo Down a great choice for any cold and wet day on the resort. We love that it has a removable powder skirt and a warm down-lined hood. It looks good too! It comes in a simple variety of colors and considering how much down is in there, it has a slim, flattering shape.
If you're more into fair-weather or spring skiing, this jacket may be too warm for your uses. It is also one of the more expensive models we've tested. However, we think the Primo Down is still a great value for a high-quality product.
Read review: Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
A new-to-us product this year, the Armada Stadium jacket pleasantly surprised us with its stylish cut, comfortable materials, and high-functioning ski features - all at a surprisingly low price of $260. For those reasons, the Stadium has grabbed our Best Buy Award from its competitor the Orage Nina. We love this model's warm, synthetic insulation and great ventilation, as well as it's bright, fun color combinations.
The Stadium has a flattering, tapered silhouette, although some of our testers found that it fit a little too snugly around the hips and would recommend sizing up if you're on the cusp of a size. However, we think this jacket will keep you performing with style and ease out there all day and season at the resort.
Read review: Armada Stadium
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
Columbia Whirlibird III Interchange - Women's
Once again the Columbia Whirlibird Interchange - Women takes our Best Buy Award for its versatility and great value. It is 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 is packed with ski features like a powder skirt and goggle pocket. All this at an unbeatable price point that blows its 3-in-1 competitors out of the water regarding value.
The hood doesn't fit super well over a ski helmet, and it's not necessarily the most stylish jacket of the bunch, but it does come in tons of color options. We think the Whirlibird is the Best Buy of all the products we tested.
Read review: Columbia Whirlibird III Interchange - Women
Top Pick for Stylish Resort Shell
Flylow Billie Coat
The Flylow Billie Coat continues to be the most stylish of the ski-specific hard-shell's we've tested. The many good-looking color options will help you stand out on the slopes or in the backcountry. The Billie Coat takes our Top Pick Award again this year for the most stylish jacket of the bunch. We like its long, relaxed fit for lots of layering, and think it is still flattering and form-fitting.
This hardshell jacket does not have any insulation which means you can layer as much or as little underneath, making it a versatile choice for multi-purpose use. The Flylow Billie Coat is the least-expensive shell jacket we tested, and we think it's a great choice to make you feel more pro out there at the resort.
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. Style is also 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've outlined the best choices for each scenario below!
With prices ranging from $170 to $800 in our test field alone, trying to figure out which ski jacket hits the sweet spot between performance and price can feel like diving into a black hole. 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. Then again, there are a few models that combine great performance with relatively modest price tags, like the the Flylow Billie Coat and Armada Stadium.
We evaluated all jackets on how well they keep you protected from the elements.
The Primo Down 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.
Shell jackets like the Patagonia Untracked - Women's and the Arc'Teryx Sentinel scored 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 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 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 and our Buying Advice article.
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 III's DWR seemed to do 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.
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 soft 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 Patagonia's "Regular Fit" to be on the bigger side.
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:
Extra long cuts to cover your backside and two-tone designs with different colored hoods and sleeves continue to be the latest style on the slopes, with less flashy patterns being present. We haven't seen quite as many brightly colored ski pants out there this year. 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 products 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 Armada Stadium 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.
"Will I be warm enough?" is the first question people ask when getting ready to head out on the slopes. 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 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. 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.
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.
Its 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 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. 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. Of course, being able to remove or add the insulating layer is a fantastic way to regulate temperature. The only jacket we tested this round without pit-zips is the Columbia Alpine Action.
Each model 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, 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 Armada Stadium so we can listen to our tunes while we shred. More jackets than ever are including 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.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, 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.
A ski jacket is meant to keep you warm, dry, and operating during a day at the resort. All of the jackets in this review have features that are specific 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 for details on the most important considerations for finding the perfect jacket for skiing or boarding at the resort.
— Jessica Haist