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How to Choose a Ski Jacket

By late November, mountain resorts around the country typically start to open up the slopes to the public, ushering in a new snow season that, with any luck, lasts deep into spring. But as fun and exciting as skiing is, getting caught without the right ski gear can lead to a wet, cold, uncomfortable day in the powder.

Aside from the skis themselves, a good jacket will be your best friend on the mountain. Whether you're using a resort's lift service, cross-country skiing, or hitting the untamed backcountry, wearing the right jacket will ensure that you stay dry and maintain a comfortable body temperature throughout the day. As you set out to find the perfect jacket, your first focus should be on exactly which type of skiing you'll be doing most

Jackets for Lift-Service Skiing

If you plan on heading to a resort where you'll be using a lift service to either downhill ski or Telemark down the slopes, keep in mind that the chair ride up can be a long, cold, and windy trip.

Many skiers opt for a jacket insulated with goose down or PrimaLoft. Both insulations effectively trap air molecules among their tiny fibers to keep you warm.

Wearing an uninsulated waterproof, breathable shell can also be a good option, as long as you wear enough insulating fleece layers, or even a down or PrimaLoft sweater, beneath the outer shell.

Cross-Country Skiing Jackets

If your plans involve cross-country skiing, you should keep one word in mind as you shop for a skiing jacket: lightweight.

Cross-country skiing is a high-energy sport that’s sure to raise your body temperature. Once you start, you'll likely find that you generate more than enough heat to stay warm, so the trick is to capture this heat and retain it—all without getting drenched in sweat. The perfect choice is often a soft shell jacket made of a combination of stretchy nylon and polyester that’s water, wind, and abrasion resistant. The athletic fit of these jackets provides more flexibility than a comparable hard shell and makes them ideal for high-energy activities. When choosing your soft shell, be sure to select a winter model that contains a fleece layer on the inside, rather than a summer light shell with no insulation.

As with any outdoor activity, be smart. If you’re cross-country skiing across any distance, be sure to bring along an extra insulating layer or outer shell, because you never know when the weather could turn on you.

Backcountry Skiing

If you're an adrenaline junkie and love the thrill of bobbing through ungroomed glades in the backcountry, remember that you'll also be trudging up steep slopes in heavy snow. Combine this with being at altitude, and you'll quickly find that trekking up can leave you out of breath and sweating heavily. This doesn't mean you should skimp on warmth, though. Once you start bombing downhill through the powder, you'll be looking to retain heat.

The best solution in this situation would be to wear an uninsulated waterproof, breathable shell. This will give you the most versatility by letting you ditch some of your insulating layers when you get too hot hiking up, and stay warm on the swift and blustery ride down.

Snowskirts

Attached to the inside of the jacket, a snowskirt (also called a powder skirt) wraps around the waist to keep the snow from traveling up your back if you take a header. It also effectively keeps the warm air in and the cold out. This is a nice feature to have when you’re Telemark, downhill, or backcountry skiing.

Venting Pit Zips

Ideal for backcountry and cross-country skiing, these underarm zippers can be opened if you’re overheating. They’re often found on uninsulated shells.

Hoods

Hoods aren't a requirement when cross-country skiing out in a field or through the backwoods, but they sure come in handy when sitting on a ski lift in a cold wind. If downhill skiing, make sure the hood is large enough to accommodate a helmet, and can then be adjusted smaller when the helmet comes off.

Have Fun!

Skiing can be a memorable activity, but before you go, make sure you're equipped with the right ski clothing. This will ensure that the memory is an enjoyable one.


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