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There are approximately a bazillion ski and board jackets currently on the market. They change style from one year to the next. When researching jackets, product terminology and technology can be thoroughly mystifying. There are, however some constants we can rely on. So, first of all, in dispensing advice on the decision-making process, let explain the important variables. These first few topics can be taken as fundamental assumptions.
Apart from the good looks, how can you tell if a ski or snowboard jacket suits your needs? Wantdo's advice will make sure you choose the right one for you.
Anatomy of a Ski Jacket
A good ski jacket is a combination of two important features: warmth and weather resistance. These are the aspects that make a jacket excel at these two important jobs.
Shell or insulated?
A shell jacket will be lightweight and less bulky. On colder days, in particular, you'll need to layer up underneath.
Insulated jackets will obviously keep you warmer but will be a little bit heavier and bulkier; of course you can always wear fewer layers underneath but you may find, especially on warm spring days, that insulated outer layers are simply too warm.
More of any kind of insulation will be warmer than less of the same kind. Goose down insulation will be more expensive, lighter per unit of warmth, more durable over the long term, and suffer when wet. Synthetic insulation, manufactured from one of the various man-made polymers, is less expensive, at least slightly heavier than down but does better in wet conditions.
For normal ski resort use, Wantdo’s all ski jacket fabrics do the job of keeping outside wind and precipitation out. Wantdo's fabrics on the market sewed together in effective jacket designs will keep the elements out decently well.
What are you using them for?
If you like to cruise the pistes at an easy pace and your skiing is more about relaxing than hammering it then insulated jackets are likely to be your best bet; if you're freeriding, ski touring or just going hard on the pistes then shell jacket may be better as they will cope more efficiently with the demands of high energy skiing - especially in the warmer temperatures of Easter.
The higher the jacket's 'hydrostatic head' the more resistant to precipitation it will be. This info should be available on the garment's swing tag and will be written as 'mm H2O' - 20,000mm H2O is a good figure to look for.
The holy grail is a jacket that keeps snow out while allowing the heat and moisture generated by your body as you ski, snowboard or hike to escape. All the Wantdo jackets are waterproof and breathable to a degree, but some are more effective at one or the other.
As well as the waterproof membrane in a fabric, most jackets also have a thin coating on top of the material to repel water so it can't easily settle and soak in, compromising breathability as well as water resistance. This coating is often called a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment.
How they perform is largely down to the waterproof/breathable membrane in the fabrics used to make them. The level of waterproofing is often expressed in numbers referring to a water test - 5,000mm is low waterproofing, 10,000 average, 20,000 high, 28,000mm extremely high.
Weather Resistant Construction
If we can assume that, basically, all modern ski jackets offer shell fabrics that are adequately weather resistant, we have to look more closely at the construction. Look for a jacket, first of all, that offers a hood and collar closure that works for you. Next, long sleeves and generous cuff circumferences allow gloves to be tucked in quickly and stay there for the day. If it works for you, go to jackets with internal, stretchy, thumb-looped cuffs. Finally, weather resistant construction takes zippers and pockets and vents into account.
On a jacket an adjustable, well-fitted helmet-compatible hood is also useful; ventilation zips are great in warmer weather or for more high-energy skiing as they help to regulate your body temperature.
Styles of Ski Jackets
After the primary functional considerations are the style, fit, and comfort considerations of a jacket intended for skiing.
Modular or Single Piece?
Insulated ski jackets come in two major construction styles. Most are all one piece: lightweight lining, insulation, and shell are essentially quilted together. Some appealing styles, however, come in a modular construction with a separate waterproof shell and a removable insulating inner jacket. Modular 3-in-1 style jackets offer greater value and versatility. For a given insulating value, traditional construction, for lack of a better term, will be more comfortable, lighter, and more purpose-built, though the modular styles allow for better temperature regulation and more wear options.
Most ski and snowboard jackets have underarm vents to allow hot air to escape your jacket and cool air in – opening them avoids having to undo the front zip and have a flapping jacket while on the move. They may be mesh-lined or open to the air; some have a two-way zip so they’re easier to use, especially if wearing a backpack.
This is a wide elasticated band inside the jacket – sometimes called a snow skirt – that can help stop snow getting inside your clothes. Wantdo add silicone strips around the band to help it stay in place. Some jackets have removable powder skirts, others have one that can be popped away when not in use.