Ski Jacket Buying Guide: How To Choose A Ski Jacket

Our snow sports experts
Written by
Reviewed by Tarun KnappMichael Costanzo, our resident snow specialists

Need help choosing a ski jacket? Can’t decide which one to buy? Well, we’re here to help! Here you can get your head around all the complicated features such as waterproofing, different styles, temperature ratings, and so much more!

Whether you’re browsing for your first jacket or looking to upgrade, this guide is packed with all the information you need to make the perfect purchase.

How to choose a ski jacket

To break it down, there are three main factors that you need to consider when buying a ski jacket: 

  1. It must be waterproof. But, how waterproof does it need to be?
  2. How warm and breathable it needs to be
  3. Choosing the right fit and style to suit you and your riding style

Once you know these three things, you just need to decide on any extra bells and whistles you want.

Skip ahead

Do ski jackets need to be waterproof?

One word. YES! A waterproof ski jacket is a must for the mountain. As the snow melts it turns into water, leaving clothing heavy and uncomfortable. This will make your body very cold; very quickly. To tackle this, the boffins behind the science of outdoor clothing use a variety of technical fabrics and technologies to prevent you from getting soaked and shivery. 

The gold standard in waterproof and breathable fabrics is GORE-TEX. It typically has a waterproof rating of 20,000mm+ and a breathability rating of 20,000grs making it arguably the best membrane on the market. 

When browsing, you need to look out for the waterproof rating given to the ski jacket. The waterproof rating, given in millimetres, is a measure of how much water can be held by a 1-inch square of fabric before any water seeps through. It is not necessary to purchase a jacket with the highest rating. Again, consider the conditions you are likely to be skiing in, and choose a jacket that can comfortably cope with the climate. The chart below gives a simple breakdown of how these figures translate to your ski jacket.

The most common waterproof ratings found in ski jackets. Pressure refers to how heavy and dense the rainfall is.

For ski jackets, we recommend a minimum waterproof rating of 10,000 mm. This will provide good protection from snow and allow you to enjoy the slopes for hours on end. If you are travelling to a resort that has a wet climate, get a ski jacket with a rating over 10,000 mm. 

How to find the right mix between warmth and breathability

Skiing is no easy task, so get ready to work up a serious sweat. During exercise, your body produces heat and excess perspiration. Although a high breathability rating won’t stop you from sweating, it will allow water vapour to escape through the fabric. If your jacket isn’t breathable, expect to feel soggy and clammy.

As a beginner, you can get away with a lower breathability rating. If you see yourself taking regular breaks and enjoying the delights of the resort, a rating between 5000g to 8000g will be just what you need. 

Features to look out for to improve breathability

To improve breathability, keep an eye out for features such as extra zippers and air holes. If you’re lucky enough for blue skies and temperatures above -5°, the ability to customise the airflow will be a godsend. Zips to the neck, underarm and side hem will help reduce body temperature, making life in the snow easy-breezy. 

As well as delivering a high level of waterproofing, GORE-TEX remains incredibly breathable due to billions of microscopic pores that allow water vapour to escape whilst preventing liquid from entering. With guaranteed protection from the wind, rain and snow, GORE-TEX is worth every penny.

Features to look out for to keep you warm on the coldest days

Don’t be put off by sub-zero temperatures. For the bitterest days, the features listed below will help you and your ski jacket combat the cold. 

Wrist Gaiters – Often made from Lycra, wrist gaiters create a barrier between the snow and the entrance to your sleeve. 

Adjustable Cuffs – In extra cold weather, a tightly closed cuff around your wrist will help lock in body temperature and keep out unwanted draughts. 

Powder Skirt – This is an elasticated piece of fabric found at the hem. When closed, it creates a tight seal that prevents snow from entering the jacket when riding or when you inevitably deck it. 

Stand Up Collar – High collars are great for shielding your nose, lips and chin from cold winds or when travelling on a ski lift. 

Fleece Lined Pockets – As well as super soft to the touch, fleece-lined pockets, are an excellent insulator. Having handwarmer pockets will help prevent fingers from getting numb and useless.

Insulation: Do you really need it?

If you’re travelling to somewhere like Sweden or Canada, wearing an insulated jacket is a good idea. However, in warmer resorts, an insulated jacket can leave you feeling the heat.

A shell ski jacket has no insulation, making it perfect for warm-weather skiing. Due to its minimal weight, packability and versatility, a shell jacket is popular amongst fellow skiers. Due to the benefits, many skiers wear multiple layers instead of a bulky insulated jacket. Combining a good-quality shell jacket with a few mid-layers allows you to customise your warmth to the day’s conditions. 

When choosing a reliable shell jacket, we always recommend something that features GORE-TEX technology. If you are skiing against heavy snow or need guaranteed protection from the elements, GORE-TEX should be your first choice.  

Top Tip: Take a weather-resistant backpack to the slopes to safely store your extra layers.

Types of ski jacket insulation

Non insulated? Insulated? Down? Synthetic? For first-timers in the frost, it can be hard to know which type of insulation is right for you.

Down insulation is sourced from the soft and fluffy feathers found under the exterior feathers of birds. It is an excellent insulator, creating high-loft clusters that stop air and body heat from escaping. If the weather is dry with temperatures below -20° C, then a down jacket will be a great choice. However, consider your activity level and outdoor temperature, as it could result in you getting too warm. 

Unlike down, synthetic insulation won’t disappoint when facing the downpour. Synthetic insulation is measured in grams per square meter. The higher the number, the warmer the jacket. Synthetic insulation is a good choice for very cold and snowy skiing due to its durability and high performance in damp conditions.

Added Features That Keep Out the Cold

Hood – Your hood should be adjustable and cover your head and ears. It’s even better if your hood is ‘helmet compatible’ as it can be worn over your helmet. If your hood has a Drop Hood Construction, it is attached lower on the collar for a better fit. 

Taped seams – Taped seams provide reliable waterproofing. The garment’s inner seams have been taped over to prevent water from penetrating through tiny holes left behind by stitching. Fully taped seams ensure maximum waterproofing as every seam in the jacket is taped shut. However, this results in a less breathable jacket.

Do I need a hardshell or a softshell?

When browsing online, you often come across the term hardshell and softshell. Especially for newbies, this can be hard to understand in simple terms. 

Ski Jackets can be divided into two categories- hardshell and softshell. There are many benefits to both constructions and choosing the right one for you depends on personal preference. 

Hardshell jackets are constructed from bulkier and more durable materials. Whilst this may reduce mobility, these more heavily constructed jackets will keep you warm in even the fiercest conditions.

Softshell ski jackets are lightweight and offer optimum comfort and mobility. They are ideal for warmer climates and layering. Just don’t forget your base layers, as a shell jacket is only designed to keep you dry and block out the wind.

Hardshell pros and cons


  • Tough and durable.
  • Effectively repels wind and snow.
  • Lightweight.  
  • Abrasion resistant. 


  • Can be less comfortable.
  • Breathability can be low.
  • Takes up more room in your suitcase.
  • Typically more expensive.

Best Suited For: When you require good protection from challenging elements. Hardshell ski jackets create a reliable barrier against heavy snow, wind and cold.

Softshell pros and cons


  • Stretchy and allow great freedom of movement. 
  • Help to regulate body temperature. 
  • Comfortable.
  • Great for layering. 


  • Heavier in weight. 
  • Less durable. 
  • Not as resistant to the weather. 
  • Holds onto sweat and odour. 

Best Suited For: Slightly warmer weather with gentle snow. Softshell ski jackets are comfortable and promote good mobility, which is perfect for strenuous exercise.

Ski jackets styles and fits

Nowadays, you don’t have to compromise function for fashion when selecting your new ski jacket. With so many styles to choose from, strutting your stuff on the piste has never been easier. 


Pros: Spacious cut and great for layering. 

Cons: Harder to take on and off. 

Providing outstanding water resistance, the anorak ski jacket keeps you dry, comfortable and looking good. The short zip to the front helps lock out the snow, and the spacious fit allows you to move with freedom and layer with ease. 

Front Zip

Pros: The most common style. Allows you to reduce body temperature quickly. 

Cons: More zips increase the chance of snow and water entering the jacket.

Are you prone to getting overheated? A ski jacket with a full-length zip fastening could be the one for you. The front zip lets you vent your jacket to allow your body to rapidly cool down. They are also easy to remove or put on if you are layering.


Pros: Lightweight and warm. 

Cons: Less breathable than others on the market. 

Highly sought after due to its trendy design. The signature quilted construction creates large baffles that are filled with soft insulation. They are great at trapping body heat and keeping you cosy in low temperatures. 

Types of fits: Regular, Slim or Loose fit?

When working out what the correct fit is for you, consider your body type, the use, and your individual style. Poor-fitting ski clothing will not provide you with the protection you need and can be uncomfortable. Ensure your jacket has enough room for you to move freely and fit a couple of layers underneath. You want to be able to lift your arms above your head and stretch them out in front of you without them feeling constricted across the shoulders or showing any skin. If it’s tight, it’s not right.

Regular Fit: Not too tight or baggy, a Regular is a comfortable compromise between Slim and Loose. Regular fit ski jackets are usually a straight cut through the body, don’t rise above the waist and leave enough room for layering without being oversized.

Slim Fit: Also known as a technical fit, a Slim is worn by people who prefer a more tailored look. This streamlined design helps to reduce bulk and offers a more flattering silhouette without compromising on mobility. 

Loose Fit: Not just a fashionable favourite, a Loose fit is practical too. Due to its longer length and extra room, a Loose fit provides excellent coverage and freedom of movement no matter how you twist and turn. 

What about back length?

A longer back length is a popular choice amongst snowboarders. This is because the extra centimetres of fabric help to protect their lower body when they are sat in the snow to strap the board to their feet. However, keep in mind that the longer the length will impact your overall mobility and increase drag. There is no correct length but try and aim for something that ends no more than 5 inches below the top of your hip bone.

Is there a difference between snow and a ski jacket?

The good news is that there isn’t much difference, which is nice to hear for people who like getting more for their money. 

The only real variance is the fit. Ski jackets tend to be slimmer fitting as skiing is all about speed. A ski jacket will help you become more streamlined to support aerodynamics and retain more heat.  A snowboarding jacket tends to be looser and longer. This is because snowboarders use their arms to keep balance, which a baggier jacket will cater to. The longer length will help protect their lower body when adjusting their bindings.

When browsing for your new jacket, don’t get hung up on the differences between snow and a ski jacket. Thanks to modern technology, both have adapted to work for the two winter sports. 

What are some nice to have extras?

Cool down without having to remove your jacket with the help of zipped vents. This handy feature is usually located under the arm or at the side of the waist, allowing you to reduce your body temperature.

Thumbholes stop the snow from creeping up your sleeves by creating a barrier. They also prevent your sleeves from rolling up your arm.

An inside pocket that is located inside the jacket will help keep your phone from getting wet and damaged. One with a zipped closure will ensure your phone stays securely in place.

Some ski jackets can be attached to matching ski pants using poppers or zips. Usually, the powder skirt will fasten to the waistband to help create an impenetrable barrier to wind and snow. Often, they are only compatible with items from the same brand. 

A RECCO reflector is a small reflective insert that makes you searchable to rescuers. It emits a directional radar signal, like the beam of a torch. Be aware that it shouldn’t be used in place of proper avalanche safety equipment.

Hopefully that’s helped to clarify some of your burning questions about how to choose a ski jacket, so now it’s time to go shopping.

Ready to shop for ski jackets?

Get ready for your next alpine adventure and shop for ski jackets at Surfdome. 

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