How to Choose Ski and Snowboard Jackets - Size and Fit, Insulation and Waterproof Ratings

Selecting your ski jacket is more than just finding the one that you think looks the best. Sure, looking good while you rip turns is one of the things to consider, but there’s no sense in looking good if your jacket isn’t offering you the protection or functionality that you need for the elements you’re riding in. With that said, this guide and the corresponding filters on our site are designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to not only select the jacket that fits your style, but also provides the functionality you need to stay mobile, dry, and warm.

Table of Contents

Gender

When shopping for ski jackets you will encounter styles designed for gender; men’s, women’s, boy’s, and girl’s. While this seems fairly straightforward, we believe that it is helpful to know that ski jackets come in different fits for men and women to accommodate different body proportions. Women’s jackets will be tailored to fit better in the chest area and feature cuts for the overall shape difference of a woman’s figure versus a man’s.

The Different Types of Ski and Snowboard Jackets

Insulated

Your choices when it comes to insulated jackets are plenty. They come in different styles and materials and should be weatherproof to keep you dry and warm. The insulation layers will be made of fleece, down, or some type of Read more

Insulated

Shell

An increasingly popular option amongst skiers and snowboarders every year, Shell jackets are very lightweight. They are waterproof and windproof (generally), but they have zero insulation. This makes them ideal if you’re looking for mobility, and the ability to layer Read more

Shell

3-in-1

As its name implies, 3-in-1 jackets are made up of multiple layers that can be combined into one use. They feature an outer jacket that is designed to protect you from the weather and elements of mother nature. The inner Read more

3-in-1

Insulator

Perfect for wearing under your shell jacket to give it some warmth without compromising your range of motion. Insulators are designed to keep you warm and not be bulky. They are extremely popular to wear on their own on cooler Read more

Insulator

Soft Shell

A style of jacket made from soft and stretchable fabrics, but lacking insulation. Soft shells are extremely breathable while still providing you some protection from the wind. They are ideal to wear in the spring or the fall when the Read more

Soft Shell

One-Piece

A full ski suit that is a combination of ski jackets and pants together. Do not fear, they generally offer an easy way to use the bathroom if needed.

One-Piece

Ski and Snowboard Jacket Lengths

Cropped: Waist length or higher hem that is intended to accentuate the waist for a flattering fit.

Hip: A tailored fit and style that is positioned at the hip/hip bone or slightly below. This offers freedom of movement for a more athletic style.

Thigh: Offers additional length, approximately 3-4 inches lower than a hip length. This provides additional coverage and protection, including your bottom.

Knee: Hem positioned at, or slightly above the knee. In addition to coverage for your bottom, as you would get with a thigh length style, a knee style provides coverage and protection to your thighs as well. The fit is often more tailored to offer a more flattering silhouette.

Full: Can range in length from just below the knee all the way down to the ankles. This offers full coverage and protection from the elements. Similar to a knee length, the full length style is also tailored to provide a flattering silhouette

Ski and Snowboard Jacket Fits

Slim

If you are looking for a more active fit, slim fit jackets will offer the form fitting style you want. Tailored at the shoulders, body, and the waist, slim fit jackets will fit closer to your body than other fit styles.

Regular

A standard fit that offers a nice fit without being too tight or restrictive. They are tailored just below the waist and will fit true to size.

Relaxed

If you desire a bit more comfort, or you want something that will leave some additional room for layering, relaxed fit is for you. Very little tailoring, if any, and more room in the chest and shoulders.

Ski and Snowboard Jacket Waterproof Ratings

Waterproof rating is an important factor when selecting a jacket. The rating tells you how quickly a jacket can become saturated and allows water to enter, and therefore is an indicator of whether it can keep you dry in the rain or snowy conditions. As we will outline below, the higher the rating, the longer a jacket can keep you dry.

As we discussed with synthetic insulation types, waterproof materials can be present under a variety of names. Some of the most common are Gore-Tex and Hyvent.

Very High (> 20,000mm): The best you’re going to find. Jackets with ratings that exceed 20,000mm combine the best fabrics for waterproofing and water repelling to create a jacket that will keep you dry all day, even in sustained snow or rain.

High (15,000-19,999mm): If you’re not looking for the top of the top, but want to get pretty close, jackets in this range can get the job done and are often the go to choice for avid skiers and snowboarders. Jackets in this range can withstand heavy, wet snow conditions or in some rain if that happens to come your way.

Moderate (10,000-14,999mm): The sweet spot for most jackets, moderate waterproof rating jackets are equipped with water repellent coating and waterproof fabrics. They can keep you warm and dry in moderate conditions.

Mild (5,000-9,999mm): Jackets in this range may use waterproof material or they may use an advanced water repellent coating. Ideal for day-to-day use in light rain or average snow conditions.

Water Resistant: Not waterproof, but has a coating of water repellent material. This will keep you dry in light snow, but won’t be much help in rain or wet snow that melts quickly upon contact.

Not Specified: Every once in a while you will come across a style that does not offer you a waterproof rating. These jackets may be waterproof or water resistant, but the brand catalog has not provided a measurement to classify it.

Insulation Types

Synthetic: This is the most common type of jacket insulation you will come across when shopping for a new jacket. This type of insulation goes by many names, but regardless of what it is called, synthetic insulation offers warmth even if the jacket gets wet or damp from the weather. Some of the common names you will come across with synthetic insulated jackets are Thinsulate and Primaloft.

Down: Offering an extremely high warmth-to-weight ratio, down insulation is a natural insulation material. High-fill down jackets are some of the warmest you will find out there. High-fill down jackets appear to be bulky, but the material itself is very light. Lighter-filled down jackets make ideal layering pieces to wear under a shell or soft shell jacket. They also make for great options for fall or spring weather.

Fleece: A balance of lightweight and warm insulation material. Some jackets will have a fleece insulated lining, while some jackets themselves are straight up fleece across the entire jacket.

None: As mentioned with shell and soft shell jackets above, some jackets have no insulation at all. They will still offer protection from the elements and be very breathable, but they would be used best as the outer layer when layering.

Warmth

No Insulation

As we have mentioned throughout this guide, no insulation jackets are classified as shell or soft shell jackets. They will provide minimal warmth, but will be able to shield you slightly from elements like wind and water. They provide you with mobility but at the expense of warmth. Non-insulated jackets should be used with layering pieces underneath when the weather requires it.

Lightly Insulated

Offering more protection than non-insulated jackets, these jackets will help you retain some heat inside. If you have a warmer day on the mountain, or desire something for fall and spring days or nights that will offer more than a shell, lightly insulated jackets are ideal. Additional layers are recommended on cold or windy days if you still desire a less bulky jacket.

Fully Insulated

If you’re looking for a true winter jacket to shield you from the winter temperatures and elements, this is your ideal choice. They will keep you warm, dry and can still be accompanied by layers underneath if you're in extreme cold conditions. To assist with keeping your body temperature regulated (e.g. from sweating and then having your sweat freeze), we suggest moisture-wicking base layers underneath.

Insulation Plus Heat

If you are a hardcore skier or snowboarder who couldn’t care less about the frigid conditions or the driving snow, the warmest jackets you will find have insulation and additional heat properties to keep heat trapped inside. As with fully insulated jackets, base layers are suggested to aid in moisture management.