Best Entry Level Ski Jacket
Ski wear in general, and ski jackets in particular, are all about managing the conditions. It seems obvious then to say that the ski jacket you need really depends on the conditions you will be skiing in. That is, the weather, altitude and even variety of snow you will be encountering are important to consider. For beginner’s, however, things are not usually very complicated.
When starting out most of us ski on well groomed hard packed slopes in reasonable weather. While there are always exceptions to every rule, few will be skiing in heavy weather as they learn, or on ungroomed slopes. With that in mind, finding a beginner ski jacket means looking for something to suit those set of conditions. It can be tempting when starting out to make do with things you have, but it really is worthwhile getting a proper ski jacket. Having the wrong gear can make you truly miserable by the end of the day. Plus, a good ski jacket is something that you can wear for many activities, or just on a cold winter day. It doesn’t have to sit in your closet just waiting for ski trips — so it can be an investment you get lots of use out of.
There are three things you want from a beginner ski jacket. You want to feel comfortable, you want to feel warm and you want to stay dry. To stay cool after a ski run or nordic sprint when you have built up a sweat, jackets often have sips in the armpits to allow cooling off. Be sure that the jacket works well with your preferred base layer, because they will really work together as a system. Other things to look out for are the practical aspects of being on the slopes. Inside pockets that can keep personal property safe and prevent them from freezing is important these days, especially if you are taking your phone, for example, onto the slopes. You can never have too many pockets especially ones that zip. Finally, it is nice to have a pocket and a loop for your lift ticket. You will want easy access for the person checking lift tickets to view or scan them.
Variations on price and brand then revolve around the kind of materials being used, with the more expensive products offering insulation that matches others but is lighter and offers higher quality water resistance from the shell. Build quality is also worth thinking about. In general, the more expensive offerings from brand names tend to be better made and as a result will last longer. While it might seem counter-intuitive that you save money by spending more on ski gear, investing in good quality is one of the best ways to save on skiing and snowboarding in the long-term.
Fit is a personal thing, but the focus here should be on comfort, so make sure you’ve found a jacket that is comfortable. Remember, you could be out on the slopes in it for a long time. Of course, everyone wants to look good, but that should not be put ahead of comfort or performance. We all want to look good, so once you have found a jacket that works for your needs, go ahead and choose the look that is right for you. Even with this information, the market is vast with so many options, and it can be quite daunting. With that in mind, below are some of the best jackets out there for beginners right now.
Our 3 Favorite Entry-Level Ski Jackets
Patagonia Powslayer Jacket. We picked out the Powslayer Jacket, but Patagonia has a reputation for making some of the best outerwear you can buy and their whole range is excellent. The Powslayer has a slightly tailored fit that avoids the boxy look that many insulated jackets end up having but still maintains a relaxed fit for ease of movement, offering the best of both worlds.
It has a Gore-Tex outer, which means it’s waterproof but still breathable, and is fitted with good, chunky zips that are easy to use while wearing gloves. An inner pocket with guides for a headphone cable and a low-profile powder skirt provides the protection you need, while the inside of the collar is incredibly soft and comfortable for long sessions on the slopes.
Eider Shaper. The unique selling point of this jacket is how the collar and jacket body are joined and how that feels against your face. Eider has spent years perfecting new zip technology just to make this contact point as comfortable as possible and it shows. Their proprietary outer shell fabric, Defender, is quite durable and abrasion resistant, and the solid three-layer construction keeps you warm and dry in any conditions.
Attractive colors, easy to use zips and two internal pockets for electronics, including a headphone guide in one make this a jacket that shows care and detail in its design, and is incredibly well made.
Bergans Of Norway Fonna Down Jacket. Using natural down for insulation, this jacket is lighter than it looks and follows the Bergans of Norway tradition of exceedingly well made clothing capable of coping with anything you can think of on the slopes. Incredibly warm, it will keep you toasty no matter what the weather, but any time you want to cool off, the two arm pit zips provide fast cooling when needed.
It has a smart design, with asymmetrical zips creating an attention grabbing look. The zips are chunky and easy to use with gloves, while plenty of pockets are available to cater to all your needs for a day on your skis.
Other Ski Gear
If you are new to skiing, or taking your first serious ski trip, there are other things you need to consider beyond the jacket. A few of the things to think about include:
- Skis and Boots. This is obvious, but you will need skis and boots (or a snowboard if that is more your speed). You don’t have to buy, though. Renting vs. buying skis is probably the first question you should answer, before you plunk down much money on new gear.
- Helmet. A good ski helmet is not only essential for safety, but you will find that it adds to your comfort and warmth. Don’t skimp on this.
- Goggles. Ski goggles are necessary unless you will be skiing in warmer (above 30 farenheight) temps, in which case you can get by with good sunglasses.
We created an entire checklist for you here. Be sure to use it as a reference when you are packing for your next trip.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.