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We all snow enthusiasts have one common goal. And that is to bag as many laps as possible during the winter season, either in your favorite ski resort or in your hidden pristine mountain range, backcountry skiing. When you notice the first snowflake has fallen on your nose, you realize the winter is coming and it’s time to gear up!
How to choose the right ski jacket?
Not only should you have your ski edges sharpen but being stoked over your head is one of the inevitable parts of our winters, too. However, before we venture on our first ski outing into snowy mountains, doesn’t matter if we take the downhill or uphill, the quality ski gear that should protect you from outer elements must take its place. Ski jackets are one of the very fundamentals of the ski gear that can and will make difference between a superb and a bad day.
So, before you choose any of the men’s, women’s or kids ski jackets, lets break it down by their ability to withstand outer elements and performance on a ski slope. In this case it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or professional skier because after all everyone at the end of the day wants to come home with a big smile on his face.
When it comes to choosing the right ski jacket, remember what ski activity you are tend to do most throughout the winter season. Are you a skier who just loves alpine skiing in a resort? Or seeking untouched powder off-piste? Or are you one of those who rather earns his turns and skin up into backcountry? For all these ski activities one jacket will work better than the other and in order to meet high demand of regular skiers or thrilled powder seekers, your ski jacket should keep you warm and dry. This usually entails a water-proof as well as wind-proof and permeable protective membrane that is bonded to a face fabric of the jacket (i.e. Gore-Tex), however, bear in mind that not all insulated jackets are fully waterproof - as in fully taped seams instead of regular stitching where water will eventually seep through. Remember, each brand should state what waterproofing system or construction they use in their products.
What ski jacket and for what conditions?
Depending on the conditions and activity, we choose from an insulated version or not. If you opt for insulated version, then the fill itself can be down, synthetic or hybrid. Keep in mind that wearing down insulated jacket is best during cold and dry weather conditions as opposed to wet and mild temperatures during high energy output activity, which will only lead to an excessive body vapor transportation and once down feathers get wet, it’s followed by losing its ability to keep your body warm.
What ski jacket and for what conditions?
Depending on the conditions and activity, we choose from an insulated version or not. If you opt for insulated version, then the fill itself can be down, synthetic or hybrid. Keep in mind that wearing down insulated jacket is best during cold and dry weather conditions as opposed to wet and mild temperatures during high energy output activity, which will only lead to an excessive body vapor transportation and once down feathers get wet, it’s followed by losing its ability to keep your body warm. Although, the upside of down jacket is pretty clear-warmth to weight ratio is way higher than synthetic insulation as well as highly compressible. However, if you happen to get your synthetic insulated jacket damp or wet, don’t you worry, because synthetic fibers are water resistant and will continue providing the warmth till the last chairlift ride of the day. The only downside of synthetic insulation is, its heavier and bulkier properties and provides less warmth to weight ratio than down insulation. Those who mostly do alpine skiing or any other lower output energy activity will most likely get away with insulated jacket, however those who do ski touring, or freeriding (higher energy output activity) will most likely opt for a non-insulated version, in order to have an option of layering up in various weather conditions, for efficient temperature regulation and moisture management.
Hence, there are hardshell jackets with 2-layer construction, which ensures better wearing comfort and versatility but less durability as opposed to 3-layer construction hard shell jackets, which are constructed for more extended and demanding activities after adding that extra layer for durability without extra bulk. So, in the end the 3-layer jacket looks like a sandwich-1st is durable outer fabric usually with DWR (durable water repellency) coating to beads water off, 2nd layer entails the waterproof membrane that wont let rain drops through but is able to transport sweat molecules out on the surface and 3rd layer is a backer (sometimes slightly insulated with fleece material). Although hard shell jackets provide the utmost climate protection against rain, snow and wind with fully taped seams, they are not designed to keep you warm as stand-alone piece without reliable mid-layer jacket underneath (synthetic or down) and proper base-layer (synthetic or merino based material next to skin) which, are essentials for a day on a ski hill. By wearing three fundamental pieces (hardshell, midlayer, baselayer) of clothing we create our own micro climate, which we can easily regulate throughout the day by either putting more on or less during our day activities.
Once we successfully keep the water out and stay warm, ski jackets should definitely have some key features such as vents to prevent excessive overheating, storm hood compatible with helmet to keep the wind and blizzard away, Recco system also called a "chip" in case search and rescue, powder skirt for those deep days, or watertight pockets to keep your valuables dry. Despite some outdoor brands claim their jackets are waterproof, still be mindful when storing your smartphone in pockets so you don’t get surprised by finding a puddle inside them.
So, don’t wait up any longer and gear up for the winter!