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12 best men’s ski and snowboard jackets that will keep you warm and protected on the slopes

Choose from hardshell or insulated designs for comfort and practicality

James Forrest
Monday 06 December 2021 11:44
<p>Key features to look out for include a powder skirt, zipped pockets, wrist gaiters, a hood and vents</p>

Key features to look out for include a powder skirt, zipped pockets, wrist gaiters, a hood and vents

What is the most important piece of kit any self-respecting skier or snowboarder owns? Arguably, it’s their warm, weatherproof and technically proficient jacket. Top-rated shells will be impermeable to snow, block out the cold, fit comfortably and imbue you with some swagger, whether you’re shredding like a pro or snowploughing on the baby slopes.

The first thing to check is a jacket’s waterproofing measured in millimetres – its so-called “hydrostatic head” rating. The lowest you’d ideally want is 10,000mm, with premium-end gear graded at 20,000mm and above. Pay attention to a jacket’s breathability rating too – for effective wicking of sweat and venting off excess heat, aim for 10,000g/m²/24hr or above.

Hardshell or insulated? That’s your next decision. Hardshells are a waterproof and windproof outer layer with no insulation, whereas insulated jackets are filled with fluffy, heat-trapping padding to keep you warm. For ski touring and off-piste, opt for a hardshell jacket. It’ll be light, breathable and streamlined – perfect for dynamic activities. Hardshells are versatile too. Simply layer with a fleece or thermals and you’re set for colder days. Insulated jackets, conversely, are better suited to general on-piste skiing, or all types of skiing in the colder months.

Another major consideration is the fit. Ultimately, it’s all about what you find most comfortable, whether that’s a baggier cut with room to manoeuvre or a figure-hugging style that’s fast and light. Key features to look out for include a powder skirt, zipped pockets, wrist gaiters, hood, vents, and a Recco reflector — a nifty safety device that enables you to be detected by an avalanche receiver.

How we tested

Testing took place at the Chill Factore indoor ski centre in Manchester, where the temperate was -3C, as well as out on hill walks in the wintry Lake District mountains. The technical performance of each jacket was carefully considered and we’ve graded them in terms of comfort, waterproofing, warmth, build quality and price.

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The best men’s ski and snowboard jackets for 2021 are:

Arc’teryx macai LT

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 855g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm+ 

Two for the price of one – that’s what you get with this intriguing hybrid jacket, which combines a hardshell with insulation. The cosy interior looks exactly like a down jacket – horizontal baffles of fluffy, warming goose down (750 fill power) – while the exterior is a waterproof Gore-Tex that’s robust enough to cope with the gnarliest of alpine blizzards. The end result is a versatile, premium layer suitable for unpredictable and colder conditions, as well as dreamy blue-sky days on the slopes. A helmet-compatible hood, Recco reflector, several pockets, snow skirt and mesh-lined pit vents complete the look. At £625, it’s pricey, but you do get what you pay for.

Salewa sella powertex responsive

Best: Hardshell

Rating: 9/10

  • Type: Hardshell 
  • Weight: 520g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm 

Slick and streamlined, this sporty-looking hardshell jacket from Dolomites-based brand Salewa does everything right. It’s a superb all-rounder with premium-level performance and a good price tag. The 20,000mm-rated waterproofing will keep you dry no matter how deep the powder (or regular the wipe-outs), yet you won’t sweat like crazy thanks to top-notch breathability (20,000g/m²/24hr) and huge venting zips. The cut is athletic and the build is very lightweight, and we loved this approach. It made us feel nimble and flexible, with excellent freedom of movement – in this jacket you’ll be able to twist, turn, carve and shred to the max, without compromising on comfort. You also get an excellent hood with a stiff visor, Velcro wrist cuffs, snow skirt and lift-pass pocket, but there’s no Recco reflector. Nonetheless, for the serious, high-octane skier or boarder with some off-piste and backcountry on the agenda, this is an excellent choice.

Helly Hansen alpha infinity

Best: Insulated jacket

Rating: 9/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 1,050g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm+ 

If it’s good enough for the snow-obsessed Norwegians, it must be pretty decent. This jacket from Oslo-based brand Helly Hansen is a bestseller, and it’s easy to see why. We’re impressed by the all-round ski features – Recco rescue system, ski-pass pocket, helmet-compatible hood, and snap-away powder skirt – while some nifty design touches and eco-friendly materials add innovation and flair. These include clever perforated ventilation panels at the back and a chin guard for improved temperature regulation, an insulated pocket that keeps your phone battery alive for longer in the cold, and the use of recycled face fabric and insulation. In terms of weather protection, you get Helly Hansen’s highest-rated technology, while insulation comes courtesy of Primaloft black eco. But unlike other insulated jackets, the alpha infinity doesn’t feel bulky or cumbersome. It’s warm but still relatively streamlined and minimalist – a tricky balance to achieve – and thus works well both on and off piste. It’s just a shame the price is a little, well, Scandinavian.

Oneskee acclimate suit

Best: All-in-one suit

Rating: 9/10

  • Type: Snow suit 
  • Weight: 1,670g (including trousers) 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm 

All-in-one ski suits have had a remarkable resurgence in recent years. What was once deemed a 1980s fashion faux pas is now back on trend, and has been reinvented for the 21st century. At the forefront is Oneskee, a British brand. Think striking colours, contemporary patterning and boarder-inspired baggy cuts combined with high-quality materials and technical designs; that’s what you’ll get with this head-turning jumpsuit. The acclimate is waterproof (20,000mm), breathable (20,000g/m²/24hr) and warm with excellent features including fully-taped seams,  internal braces, lycra wrist cuffs, lift-pass pocket and ankle gaiters. Value for money is superb too, considering you don’t have to buy separate salopettes. But the real innovation here is how Oneskee has solved one of the big flaws of all-in-one ski suits. You’ll only ever wear a normal ski suit on the slopes – it’s too niche and impractical for the bar, or hiking, or pottering around town. The acclimate, however, has a simple waist zip that transforms it into a standalone jacket in seconds – clever stuff.

Dare2B speed out

Best: For value

Rating: 7/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 1,375g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm 

Featuring former F1 racing champ Jenson Button in its advertising (yes, it is slightly bizarre), the Dare2B speed out jacket is an absolute bargain for less than £100. With a 20,000mm waterproof rating and a 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability grade, the stats are impressive for the price, while the ski-specific features – ski-pass pocket, detachable snow skirt with gel grip, and integrated stretchy wrist cuffs with thumb loops – hit the spot too. You also get some toasty warmth courtesy of the recycled synthetic insulation, which is made from 26 recycled 500ml bottles. The jacket isn’t streamlined, light or technical enough for off-piste aficionados, but that’s not who it’s aimed at. This is a jacket for price-conscious beginners and in-resort skiers, who need a good jacket at an affordable price. And, best of all, the dollars you’ve saved can fund your après antics. Hot toddy, anyone?

Salomon highland

Best: For resort skiing

Rating: 8/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 955g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm 

This is a jacket you can take anywhere. At under 1kg for an insulated top, it feels just light and streamlined enough for higher-octane antics, delivering good freedom of movement, but it also feels toasty enough for colder climes or longer, easier days in the resort. It’s a neat balance to strike. We liked some of the extra touches you don’t get with other jackets – the integrated goggles lens wipe, for example, which is attached via a stretchy cord to the inside of a pocket, and the large internal mesh stuff pocket for your gloves or hat. The helmet-compatible hood, powder skirt, pit vents, ski-pass pocket and thumb-looped wrist cuffs do their jobs proficiently, while the 20,000mm hydrostatic head and 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability ratings are reassuring.

Mountain Warehouse meteor extreme

Best: For beginners

Rating: 7/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 1,230g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 10,000mm 

Meteor extreme is an odd choice of name – perhaps it’s because this entry-level jacket is designed for beginners hurtling downhill like an out-of-control space rock? Anyone in such a predicament, however, would be well-protected in this jacket when they wipe out in a heap of powdery spray. The sturdy, tough-feeling outer is waterproof with fully-taped seams, while wrist gaiters and a snow skirt effectively seal out the snow, no matter how many times you tumble. You also get a Recco reflector, lift-pass pocket and air vents, and the jacket has been thermally tested down to -30C, apparently – although that seems a tad optimistic. The breathability (5,000g/m²/24hr) and waterproofing (10,000mm) stats are a little disappointing, meaning this jacket narrowly misses out to Dare2B (£98.95, Dare2be.com) in terms of value. But you can’t really complain at £100. It’s still a bona fide bargain, which is high street retailer Mountain Warehouse’s modus operandi.

The North Face brigandine futurelight

Best: For freeriding

Rating: 8/10

  • Type: Hardshell 
  • Weight: 750g 
  • Hydrostatic head: Not stated 

The price of this jacket is as steep as the mountains you’re supposed to hurtle down while wearing it. Designed for “boundary-pushing big mountain riders”, the brigandine futurelight is pitched at the top of The North Face’s freeriding collection – a jacket for off-piste gurus with big skills and deep pockets, and perhaps a penchant for some on-mountain style and swagger. With bright colours, sleek looks and a long (below-the-waist) cut, this jacket is not only a fashion statement but also highly technical. TNF’s proprietary futurelight technology ensures excellent waterproofing and breathability, while the spectra ripstop yarn is strong and resistant to abrasion. The brushed chin guard (with clever laser-cut perforations for breathability) is excellent, as is the helmet-compatible hood, internal radio pocket with cord routing, and backpack-compatible underarm vents.

Rab khroma cirque GTX

Best: For ski touring

Rating: 8/10

  • Type: Hardshell 
  • Weight: 520g
  • Hydrostatic head: 28,000mm 

If you like going uphill as well as down, the Rab khroma cirque has been specifically engineered for the demands of ski touring. Venturing into the backcountry for hut-to-hut skinning and gnarly downhill on off-piste, ungroomed slopes can be hard, sweaty work – and you’ll certainly need a versatile, high-performing jacket ready for changeable weather and even more changeable intensity levels. The excellent Rab khroma cirque is one such jacket. Made from a three-layer Gore-Tex active shell, it is the most waterproof jacket in this list (28,000mm) and overall breathability is first-rate, courtesy of the fabric, two-way zip and large underarm vents. The athletic, low-bulk cut and lightweight build fit the brief perfectly for high-intensity action, while the overall features – fleece-lined chin guard, YKK zipper with storm flap, adjustable hood with laminated peak, ski-pass pocket, adjustable waist hem, and Velcro wrist cuffs – hit the spot too. You don’t get handwarmer pockets or a powder skirt, and there’s no insulation whatsoever, but for ski touring this jacket has everything you need.

Maier Sports gravdal XO 2.0

Best: For traditional style

Rating: 8/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 1,100g 
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm 

The gravdal XO 2.0 from German brand Maier Sports is a classic-style ski jacket with all the features we look for. Its mTEX membrane is impressively waterproof (20,000mm) yet breathable too (20,000g/m²/24hr), and the synthetic insulation keeps you amply warm without feeling unwieldy. The interior of the jacket is luxuriously soft and comfy too, and the cut is relatively relaxed, with room for layering. The detachable hood is a tad underwhelming, but the stretchy wrist gaiters (no thumb loops), powder skirt, ample pockets and underarm vents all work perfectly well. There’s nothing radical or excessively exciting here, but it’s refreshing to see a brand not bamboozling you with complicated yet unnecessary new features. This is a traditional ski jacket that does all of the basics competently, and we’d happily rely on it.

Patagonia untracked

Best: For versatility

Rating: 8/10

  • Type: Hardshell 
  • Weight: 743g 
  • Hydrostatic head: Not stated 

There’s no doubt this classically styled, uninsulated hardshell delivers premium performance, as we’ve come to expect from Patagonia over the years. Sadly, if you could just change the logo to something less desirable, you’d probably save about £100 to £200, but as it is you’re stuck with the sky-high price tag. Nevertheless, this jacket won’t let you down out on the slopes. The three-layer Gore-Tex stretch fabric is soft and supple yet reassuringly weatherproof, while all of the other features you’d usually expect are present: two-way adjustable hood with visor, watertight zippers, pit vents, low-profile powder gasket, several pockets and built-in Recco reflector. The fit is quite relaxed, giving room for layering underneath, and freedom of movement is impressive too. The jacket works well for other outdoor activities, such as hiking and mountaineering, when you’re not in the Alps.

Dynafit free alpha direct

Best: For breathability

Rating: 8/10

  • Type: Insulated 
  • Weight: 308g 
  • Hydrostatic head: N/A 

Admittedly, this is probably more of a mid-layer than a fully-fledged jacket – it’s not waterproof and only provides a touch of warming insulation. But, for warmer days in the mountains, or as a layer underneath a hardshell, the Dynafit free alpha direct delivers something completely different, and we absolutely love it. It’s incredibly breathable, which is perfect for dynamic, high-intensity skiing, as well as super comfy and lightly insulating. This is all achieved through the use of Polartec alpha direct active, a complex (and almost transparent) mesh of zig-zagging fibres and fluffy tufts of synthetic insulation. Originally designed for the US special forces, this intricate fabric is a revelation and far more practical than traditional “puffy” insulation, whether it’s down or synthetic. You can dump heat easier and won’t get as sweaty, and all-round performance is excellent. The fit is athletic, the weight is ultralight at just 308g, and you also get three pockets and a good hood.

The verdict: Men’s ski and snowboard jackets

Our top spot goes to the Arc’teryx macai LT thanks to its clever design, technical performance and stand-out comfort. We also loved the sporty-looking Salewa sella powertex responsive, our favourite hardshell, while the high-performing Helly Hansen alpha infinity won top spot for an insulated jacket. For standout style and a unique approach, the Oneskee acclimate suit was a revelation.

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