Whether you're spending a week or a whole season tackling pistes or the backcountry, having the right equipment is crucial to making the most of the sport.
Ski gear rarely comes cheap, so it's worth scouting out the best option for you before making any purchase. For those who are happy to invest in several bits of kit, a layering system will help you keep warm and means you can add or take away layers depending on the conditions. We're talking a thermal base layer, an insulated midlayer and a fully waterproof outer shell that will stop snow from creeping in between layers.
For those who prefer a simpler approach, an all-round more insulated jacket can provide most of the same benefits as an outer and midlayer combined but it just doesn’t give you the same versatility when the temperature changes. An all-in-one style insulated jacket could be a good bet for anyone new to the sport.
Amid the wealth of brands and different types of jacket out there, we've selected a few of our favourites, catering for beginner, off-pister and trekker alike. Most of these jackets will work for some activities off the snow, too.
1. The North Face Gatekeeper Jacket: £275, Ellis Brigham
If you want an all-in-one jacket, this one will keep you warm on the piste – and for après in town. For the price, it's a quality bit of gear. You get all the features you need for a day on the hill: removable hood, large ventilation zips, a powder skirt (you can button it back when not on the slopes), a nifty inside pocket for your phone and a goggle pocket with a cloth cleaner. It feels warm but still breathable, will keep you dry, and we can vouch for The North Face gear's durability. Choose from four colours, all of them relatively muted, so anyone looking for stand-out-on-the-hill brights will be disappointed.
2. Black Diamond Helio Shell: £282.60, The Epicentre
This extremely lightweight waterproof shell is softer than your average top layer thanks to the latest innovation in Gore-Tex that gets rid of the classic rustling sound. Like any good shell, it is not overly complicated but is fully adjustable and its helpful chest pockets are larger than most. Long armpit zips allow for quick cooling down while the flexible material makes it easy to pack in a bag so you're ready when the weather changes. The hood will fit over a helmet. If you need to justify the expense, you can wear this one in summer as a lightweight waterproof. Also comes in a grey or muted orange.
3. Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket: £430, Arc'teryx
Another shell with paired-back styling, this from the Canadian outdoor specialists is a lightweight, versatile final layer, ideal for powder days. Arc’tryx says it has hit the sweet spot with the length of this and we agree. The AR sits just below the hip, it doesn’t ride up, nor does it feel too long after strapping on a backpack. There is plenty of room for your layers. A flexible hood complements the protective collar to keep out any chilly drafts, while being fully helmet compatible. As with any good outer layer, the chest pockets are deep. It comes in a bigger range of colours than most, including a few bright options. This one again is a versatile number that you can use for wet-weather activities in the summer.
4. Ortovox Piz Boval Reversible Insulator Jacket: £199.99: Ellis Brigham
For a flexible, warm mid-layer, we particularly like this from Ortovox. The Swisswool filling is lightweight, breathable and holds onto warmth when wet better than a lot of down jackets. This one is also reversible so you get two coats in one really. Note that only one side has two front pockets, though they provide plenty of space for accessories when needed. There are a range of colour options, both bright and more muted.
5. Peak Performance Radical 3-Layer Jacket: £427.95, Alpine Trek
If you’re heading to the backcountry, Peak Performance gear is some of the best out there for powder skiing. This long but lightweight shell was designed with those competing in the Freeride World Tour, so as you would expect, it’s seriously weatherproof, as well as being breathable for hikes – the pit zips are longer than average – and it’s roomy enough for multiple layers. It also has the necessary Recco reflector and powder skirt for off-piste adventures. You can clip the jacket into Peak Performance trousers to make sure there's no way for powder to creep in. One for the really serious skiers.
6. Schoffel Obertauern Jacket: £359.99, Ellis Brigham
This versatile jacket is more insulated than a shell but less than some all-in-one jackets that can leave skiers sweating on milder days. We found this one keeps out the chill with just a base layer and there's adequate ventilation to prevent over-heating. It has Schoffel's "ZipIn" feature so you can buy compatible layers if you need them. Schoffel call this "orange", but we'd say it's more of a red.
7. Sherpa Nangpala Hooded Jacket: £200, Sherpa Adventure Gear
Not a traditional ski jacket per se, but this one can offer warmth at high altitude as a midlayer, as a top layer for fine days or as a coat to keep out the chill on winter walks back in the UK. Should you get too warm though, it packs into a handy small bag that makes cooling down quick and convenient. We like the fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets and the fact there are two internal mesh pockets for gear. The insulation here is Primaloft, a mix of goose down and synthetic fibers, so it's quick-drying and retains much more warmth when wet than your standard down jacket. The snow lion print on the lining is a nice touch, too.
8. Columbia Alpine Vista II Jacket: £130, Cotswold Outdoor
If you’re new to skiing and don’t want to spend too much, Columbia is a good bet for well-priced jackets. This no-nonsense all-in-one will keep you warm as well as dry on the slopes, but it’s still breathable. There are enough pockets for all your gear – two chest zipped pockets and one on the inside to stash your goggles and any tech – and it comes in a range of colours.
9. Helly Hansen Juniper II Jacket: £280, Cotswold Outdoor
You might have noticed that Helly Hansen has become as much known for its gear off the snow as it is on. This is another insulated jacket that would do just as well for the British winter as it would a week in the Alps (particularly the navy and black versions). It’s insulated with lightweight, quick-drying PrimaLoft – and with a waterproof outer. There are pockets in all the right places (on a chilly day you will particularly appreciate the hand-warmer ones) and there is integrated Recco rescue technology, ideal for anyone heading off-piste. We’ve had some of our Helly Hansen gear for a decade and it’s still going strong, so can firmly recommend this brand.
10. Eider Men’s Solden Jacket 3.0: £329.99, Ellis Brigham
The latest version of Eider’s popular Solden, this is a sleek-looking jacket from the French ski specialists. Eider’s gear is always well-thought-out and this jacket is no exception, with all the pockets you need to stash everything for a day on the mountain and pit zips so you can cool off. It’s a bit more fitted than some on the list but that means you might get mistaken for a French ski instructor. Maybe. Choose from three colours. We like the bright blue for staying visible on the snow.
The Verdict: Men’s ski jackets
For a durable insulated jacket that works for both the slopes and UK winters, try The North Face's Gatekeeper jacket. If you're new to skiing and don't have hundreds to spend, try Columbia's good-value Alpine Vista II jacket. if you're going for layers, we like an Ortovox and Arc'teryx combo.
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