How to Buy Ski / Snowboard Jackets

Although this may sound obvious, staying warm on the slopes is one of the most important aspects of having enjoyable experience. Nothing can ruin a ski trip more than wearing a jacket that is unable to keep your body heat at a comfortable level. This guide will walk you through the different options you will encounter while searching for a stylish jacket that will keep you warm and dry throughout an entire day on the mountain.

Types of Ski Jackets

The first step when choosing your jacket from The Ski Bum is determining what type suits you best. The two main distinctions are:

  1. Insulated Ski Jacket - Just as it sounds, this jacket is constructed with an insulated layer that is built in the jacket. The outside is typically a waterproof and windproof shell, while the insulation is typically made of a synthetic material like Primaloft. The insulation is typically measured in grams; higher gram amounts equates to increased warmth. A nice rule is anything under 60 grams is lightly insulated and good for mild conditions, while anything over 100 grams are designed for extreme weather conditions.
  2. Shell Ski Jacket - These jackets are highly breathable and maximize mobility because it is simply a waterproof and windproof shell. The main difference from above is the shell does not contain any insulation, enabling you to add your own layers underneath to control your temperature. If you choose a shell, be sure you understand how to properly contain body warmth using base and mid layers. Also, it is important to note that in very cold climates shell jackets, no matter how well layered you are, may not be able to keep you warm throughout the day.

Choosing between these types will be based upon your natural body temperature. If you are a person who is generally cold, then investing in a insulated jacket is the pick. Conversely, if you ski or snowboard in generally warmer climates or are predisposed to feeling hot, then the shell jacket is right for you.

Waterproof Rating

The waterproof rating of your new jacket is arguably the most important attribute, as this prevents water from penetrating your shell. Getting wet is the easiest and quickest way to get cold, which is why buying the proper rating is pertinent. Waterproof ratings are based on millimeters (mm). That is, a 1” x 1” tube is placed above the shell and water is placed through the tube. The rating is how much water the shell can withhold without seeping through.

Usually, ski and snowboard jackets range from 5,000 to 10,000 mm. We recommend the lowest you go is 5,000 mm, especially if you typically spend most of the day outdoors. If you are out in generally stormy or wetter climates, you should look to for a higher rating, maybe around the 15,000 - 20,000 mm range. The higher the rating the pricier the jacket, but often times spending a little more money can go a very long way.

Breathability Rating

Similar to determining your waterproof range, breathability can be just as important when buying your jacket. Breathability is measured in grams through the Moisture Vapor Transmission Test (MVTR). This test measures how many grams of sweat per one square meter your jacket can release in a 24 hour period.

In essence, breathability refers to allowing your sweat and moisture to escape from inside your jacket through the pores of the shell lining, maintaining your warmth. Although breathability can be difficult to pinpoint for each specific person, there are some standard suggestions. For example, if you are a casual skier or snowboarder, a breathability scale around 5,000-10,000 grams will do the trick. If you are more aggressive and do not take as many breaks, then you may need a rating closer to 15,000 grams. Once again, the higher the rating the more expensive the jacket.

Jacket Seam Tapings

Seam sealing is closely associated with the waterproof level of your jacket. On your jacket, the stitching has tiny little holes that arise from the sewing, so waterproof taping is glued on the interior and exterior of the seam to combat leakage. There are three types of seams:

  1. Fully Taped Seams - As the name indicates, every seam is covered with the waterproof tape. If you are doing cross country trails or shred in wet conditions, this option should be considered.
  2. Critically Taped Seams - Only the areas that are predisposed to wetness are taped with this seam. These sections are around your neck, shoulders, and midsection; otherwise known as the most important areas to keep dry.
  3. Welded Seams - The most expensive option, but also the most efficient. Welded seams have no actual stitching. Instead, the jackets are held together through glue or sonic bonding.

Although it may be easiest to decide to just buy a jacket with fully taped seams, it may not be worth it in the long run. If you are a casual skier in dry conditions, critically taped seams will keep you moistureless and save you a lot of money. But if you are on the other end of the spectrum, then it is worth paying the extra money for fully taped or welded seams.

Special Features for Jackets

When shopping with The Ski Bum, you will notice that there are many add-ons to our jackets. The key is finding which ones you need and which features are frivolous for you specifically, thus potentially saving you some money. Some features are:

  1. Hood - There are a few options for hoods. Detachable hoods can be removed, so on mild days you can take it off to increase comfort. Attached hoods remain on the jacket permanently. Stowaway hoods are also permanently attached, but there is a special pocket on the jacket you can place it in. This ensures you never have to worry about misplacing your hood.
  2. Storm Flap - This can also be referred to as the front zipper cover. Zippers have a lot of gaps, so it can be easy for moisture to enter through them. This flap covers the front zipper preventing wind and water seeping through your zipper. This is a very important feature for jackets.
  3. Powder Skirt - This is a detachable piece of fabric with a snap closure at your waist that has many uses. Its main purpose is to block snow from entering your front and back, but it also can trap heat ensuring your warmth. Conversely, if you are feeling warm, unsnapping the fabric will allow heat to escape, returning your body to a comfortable temperature.
  4. Pit Zipper - Another feature to help manage your heat. This zipper is located near your armpits, making this an easy method to release or trap heat depending on how you are feeling.
  5. Wrist Closure - Wrist closures help fight against wind and water from entering your arms. Your arms and wrists can get cold fast, so this is another important feature. The closures are easily adjusted using snap, velcro, or elastic.
  6. Cinch Cord - Located at the bottom of your jacket, the cinch cord can be fastened to stop wind and water from creeping up your body through the bottom hem.
  7. Pockets - There are various pocket options for jackets. We live in a digital age, so the electronics pocket is a good place to store your iPods, smart phones, or other small electronics. If you enjoy music while hitting the slopes, this could be a nice luxury. A goggle pocket houses your goggles when you are not wearing them.

Once again, while on our website you will see all of these options. Your jacket should be tailored to you, so while shopping with The Ski Bum be sure to choose the jacket that has everything you need. You will see endless options when you are choosing, so hopefully this guide will help simplify your decision so you will be ready to enjoy your next trip to the slopes!