Your ski or snowboard jacket will stay with you for many great years on the slopes, so you certainly want to be sure to make a good choice when you buy one. While finding the jacket with the best looks is relatively straightforward, it can be a lot more confusing to understand technical specifications. This guide will help you out by going through the most critical factors to consider when buying your next jacket. And of course, don't hesitate to contact us If you have any other questions.
What is the difference between a ski jacket and a snowboard jacket?
Snowboarding and skiing are activities based in the same environment, so what is the difference between a ski jacket and a snowboard jacket? From a technical and a practical standpoint, there is actually very little difference, as both garments have the same objective; to protect you from the weather.
The difference between the two is instead in terms of style or fitting. Snowboarders tend to like more baggy fitting and longer jackets, while skiers generally go for more tight-fitting ski jackets. But as always regarding style, each to his taste. The most important thing is that you are happy with your looks.
What material should my snowboard jacket / ski jacket be made of?
First things first, the main goal for your jacket is to keep you warm and dry. There are numerous materials, which can be divided into three general categories.
Hard shell jackets are very much what they sound like; Just a shell. This means that they are built of only one layer that is waterproof and breathable but not insulated. The good thing about shell jackets is that they are highly versatile. As they are not insulated, you also have the flexibility to use them also on very hot days. Not having any insulation is also their downside; you will almost always need extra layers of clothes underneath. Some people consider shell jackets too stiff in their material, even though this factor has improved in later years.
- -Often too cold without extra layers of clothing
Softshell ski jackets could be described as the opposite of regular shell jackets. While shell jackets are hard, stiff and not insulated, softshell jackets are soft, stretchy, and insulated. Generally, softshell jackets provide less wind- and water protection (check their ratings for breathability and waterproof). Softshell jackets always have some insulation to keep you warm, and they often get a very cozy feeling as they are soft and flexible.
- +Soft & stretchy
- +Generally better breathability than hard shell
- -Generally less water protection than hard shell
Insluated jackets, or sometimes called functional fabrics jackets, are made of multiple layers to deliver the best possible specifications to your ski or snowboard jacket. Generally, the layers are:
- A durable outer layer made of nylon or polyester, with a durable water repellent coating (DWR). This layer gives durability and water resistance.
- A membrane that stops water from coming in but allows water vapor from your body to travel out. The membrane is made of tiny holes. Small enough for water droplets to pass in, but large enough for the vapor to pass throughout. This construction allows good waterproofness at the same time as breathability.
- An insulation layer to keep warm. The insulation is measured in gram / square meter and is typically between 40g and 80g.
- A lining to hold everything in and to give a soft feeling toward your skin.
For insulated jackets, the general pros and cons are:
- + The most "complete" jacket if you need a waterproof, breathable, and warm jacket
- - Insulation might make it too hot on very hot days
Materials - The verdict: If you don't know exactly what you are looking for, but rather "a good jacket", you should probably go with a softshell or insulated jacket, as they are more all-round. If you are specifically looking for a lightweight jacket that you can also use during the hottest days, then a hardshell jacket is your weapon of choice.
How should I read the technical specifications, and what do I need?
Ski jackets and snowboard jackets come with many technical specifications that can be very confusing to read. Let us try to clear things out!
The jacket's ability to breathe and resist water is generally described with two numbers, for example, 10k/10k.
The first number describes the waterproof and the second one the breathability. Technically, the waterproof number defines how much water pressure is needed to penetrate the fabric (measured in the height of a water cylinder). Breathability is measured in grams and represents how much water vapor can move through 1 square meter of fabric over 24 hours.
If you don't want to dig too deep into the technical details, the general logic is simple: The higher the number, the better. Translated to skiing conditions, this is what you need, speaking in general terms:
- 5k-10k: Light rain or average snow
- 15k: Moderate rain or average/wet snow
- 20k: Heavy rain, wet snow
If you plan to be riding in harsh conditions, you should aim for 15-20 mm. If you know that you will not be hitting the slopes in those conditions, 5-15k mm will work for you. We have considered 15k as a "golden breakpoint" that will work for most weather conditions.
Ventilation zips are great to be able to cool down on hot days. Generally, they are placed in the jacket's armpits and can be opened when needed.
For anoraks, check for 3-way zips. They combine the side zips (which help to take the jacket on and off) with the ventilation zips to be fully flexible in where you want to unzip the jacket for ventilation.
Lift pass pocket
A lift pass pocket is a pocket placed on your arm, designed to hold your lift pass. Just put your arm at the lift pass card reader, and you are through!
Helmet-fitted adjustable hood
When it comes to hoods, there are mainly two features to look for. The first one is that it is large enough to fit most helmets under. The second one is that it is adjustable to adjust it at times you don't wear a helmet.
Fully taped seams
When making the ski jacket, the stitching makes hundreds of needle holes where water can pass. The solution is to add thermoplastic tape under the seams to prevent water drops from passing through. Always look for "fully taped seams" rather than "critically taped seams".
A powder skirt, or snow lock, is a skirt-looking piece of fabric on the bottom inside of the jacket. Many jacket styles are loose in the bottom, but closing the powder skirt prevents snow from coming in and heat from going out, which keeps you warm, dry, and happy!
Wrist gaiters & Cuffs
Wrist gaiters are somewhat like an extension of the inner part of the jacket, working as a snow lock for your hand. Like a regular snow lock, it will prevent snow from coming in and heat to pass out. Wrist gaiters with thumbholes will make sure that they stay in place.
Having velcro cuffs, you can tighten or loosen up as you want over your wrists. Oversized cuffs give you a bigger piece of velcro, to ensure that everything stays in place while riding.
Fitting is of course very personal, but there are a few aspects to keep in mind.
First of all, look for the fit in the jacket's description. A regular or straight fit, often gives you some space for underlying layers of clothing. If you go for a tight or slim fit, keep in mind that it will be harder to add mid-layers under your ski jacket / snowboard jacket. When trying the jacket on at home, don't forget to try it with a shirt underneath as well.
Many ski jacket styles have an adjustable waist & hem, which is a great way to modify the jacket's fit when needed.
Was that all?
Of course not, but an excellent start. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us. Please keep in mind that we have free returns if you wish to try our jackets out at home!