Holiday Gift Guide 2022: The Best Ski Jackets For Men And Women

If you ski or snowboard, you know weather conditions and activity levels can change radically, but there’s a perfect jacket for every type of skier or rider.

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Ski and snowboard season is coming fast, and no piece of clothing is as important for having a good time as a jacket, which makes all the difference between being comfy, warm and dry or felling miserable. Technology is evolving fast, with better performance, materials, features and especially a huge leap in sustainability, and the options have never looked so good. Here are top picks for every style of skier and snowboarder on your holiday list (or if you feel naughty, for yourself.

Do It All (For Him): Helly Hansen Steilhang 2.0 – Some people, especially those who get cold easily or live in more frigid climates, prefer a fully insulated jacket that combines all the external protection of the best shell with tons of warmth and ski specific features, and for all of this it is hard to beat the new Steilhang 2.0. Norway’s Helly Hansen (HH) is arguably the greatest pioneer in the history of outdoor clothing, they basically invented wicking, layering and many vital technologies, most recently the unique Life Pocket, using NASA electronics insulation technology to create a special place for your phone that makes batteries last longer in the cold. HH has long been a personal ski favorite of mine, the brand I use the most, and this model has a 4-way stretchable shell for ultimate freedom of movement that is waterproof/breathable (high-end HellyTech Professional) and insulated with the most sustainable and best performing synthetic, 100% recycled PrimaLoft Black Eco, which alleviates the drawbacks of down. In addition to the Life Pocket it has a Recco avalanche reflector extra safety, and HH’s best-in-class adjustable ventilation system, H2Flow, which is extra vital when you have an un insulated jacket, so that you can make this one perfect even on warmer days. $700

Do It All (For Her): Helly Hansen Aphelia Infinity – Similar to the Men’s Steilhang above but with a shell of cutting-edge Lifa Infinity, a new high-tech fabric that offers maximum waterproofness and breathability while being PFC-free and made without any harsh chemicals. It used PrimaLoft Black Eco insulation, has all the best ski-specific bells and whistles including Life Pocket, Recco, removable helmet compatible hood, ski pass pocket and powder skirt, all with the athletic, streamlined feminine fit that has made the company so popular with women athletes. $600.

Extreme Protection and Ski Touring (For Him & Her): Mammut La Liste Pro – Many winter athletes like uninsulated shell jackets so they can adjust to the temperatures by varying the layers underneath. This is especially true for backcountry skiing and the now wildly popular alpine touring (AT skiing) where you generate a lot more heat before descending and need to avoid overheating but then still get all the protection from the elements. There are two kinds of shell jackets, hard and soft, the latter being stretchy but at the sacrifice of maximum waterproof/breathability. While waterproof sounds like an absolute, it is not, and some fabrics are more waterproof and more breathable than others, and the very top of the heap is Gore-Tex Pro, which is used in this jacket (and matching bib pants) for the highest level of hard-shell protection from the elements – a jacket you can ski tour in, resort ski in, or climb Himalayan peaks in. Switzerland’s Mammut is a longtime world-class leader in climbing gear, from ropes to technical apparel, and is to alpinism what Lamborghini is to sports cars, easily one of the world’s best. The La Liste Pro was developed by its sponsored athletes making extreme skiing films. The 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro will keep you dry no matter what, the breathability keeps you from overheating, it has 2-way zippered pit zips for ventilation, chest pockets are designed to store AT skins, all the many pockets are streamlined, it uses best in class Aquaguard waterproof zippers, has removable snow skirt, helmet compatible hood and comes in men’s and women’s versions. $825

Resort Comfort & Performance (For Him & Her): Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell – Softshell jackets are not usually quite as waterproof as their hard-shell peers but the fact is that the vast majority of people never ski or snowboard in the rain, especially torrential rain for hours, which is where you start to notice the difference. Backcountry skiers and mountaineers have more need to worry but for resort skiers, pretty much any high-quality waterproof/breathable material will keep you plenty dry even in deep powder or drizzle, and going softshell means increased range of motion, coziness and a quieter ride (also easier to pack for ski trips). Black Diamond is one of America’s oldest and best-established specialty climbing, alpine and outdoor gear manufacturers and excels at these kinds of shells. The Recon Stretch Collection is proven and includes pants, bibs and this jacket for men and women, made of 4-way stretch waterproof/breathable BD.dry, with internal and external pockets, waterproof zipper, pit zips, helmet compatible hood, and removeable powder skirt. It’s just a perfect high-performance shell for resort skiing and riding, but advanced enough for trips into the backcountry and skinning – and is available in a whopping six colors. $400

Versatile Performance, Sustainability High Quality and Value (For Him & Her): Patagonia 3-in-1 Powder Town – A beloved apparel company famous for its product quality, ironclad warranty, extreme philanthropy and sustainability ethos, high-end Patagonia might not be the first name you think of in connection with a great deal. But this sleeper product is literally two jackets in one, a complete shell jacket of Patagonia’s proven H2No waterproof/breathable and sustainable fabric, plus a second jacket, a sleek puffy style insulation layer filled with FreeRange synthetic insulation. Patagonia makes what is probably the most popular such insulation layer in all of skiing and outdoor recreation, the famed NanoPuff, and this is a similar model but designed to zip into the shell to create a full parka for colder days. Recycled, Fair Trade Certified, and the liner also has a PFC-free durable water-resistant treatment so if you wear it alone and it’s drizzling, you’ll be fine. Pit zips, helmet compatible hood with extra high collar to seal out snow, powder skirt, and Recco avalanche reflector. Men’s and Women’s, two jackets for $499.

Resort Warmth & Value (For Him & Her): Outdoor Research Snowcrew – For those skiers who get cold more easily and want an insulated shell, the OR Snowcrew combines the comfy waterproof/breathability of a softshell with extra insulation to keep you warm. The stretchy shell is 56% recycled material while the insulation is more sustainable VerticalX Eco (85%) and it has helmet compatible hood, pit zips, built-in wrist gaiters, powder skirt and lift pass pocket. The women’s model is the Snowcrew Reveler and smartly uses heavier insulation for added warmth. Both are great deals for an insulated waterproof ski shell from a top technical apparel company at $329.

Versatile Resort & Backcountry Performance (For Him & Her): Noronna Lofoten Gore-Tex Insulated – Another venerable (since 1929) Norwegian very high-performance brand aimed at explorers and use in extreme conditions, Noronna has become a very popular label with serious skiers, snowboarders and AT skiers in recent years. The Lofoten Insulated combines a premium Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable shell with a light layer of PrimaLoft Silver Eco insulation, so it fits sort of between a truly insulated parka and a shell, making it extremely versatile, as well as very sustainable with fabric certified by Okeo-Tex and Bluesign, PFC free, and majority recycled material. Advanced ski features like asymmetric cuffs and waist for added snow protection, integrated hand gaiters, one hand hood adjustment, ski pass pocket, water resistant zippers, google wipe on cord and more, in men’s and women’s. $549

Fleece Insulating Layer For Every Condition (For Him & Her): Helly Hansen Alpha Zero Fleeces – Fleece jackets, made of a synthetic solid (not filled, like puffy jackets), have long been mostly “fuzzy,” but while these are great for an insulating layer, these have drawbacks when used on their own. HH’s Alpha Zero lineup is a smooth, slick faced fleece that combines the coziness and warmth of a fuzzy with the stretchy wind and water protection of a softs jacket, so much better for when you wear it on its own – it is also ideal for high output winter pursuits like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, or just walking the dog in a fall day. It uses a PFC-free durable water resistant process to keep you dry and is 95% recycled, and it’s another two-for-one deal, a jacket and a mid-layer, and it comes in a pullover half-zip ($120), but I like the full-zip for layering because it’s easier to open up when you get warm. The women’s model is the Aphelia Zero Fleece, same but with a lady’s cut. $140

Best Wool Insulating Layer (For Him & Her): Ibex Aire Hoody – Even more sustainable than recycled plastic is merino wool, which is also cruelty free, doesn’t get smelly even after hard sweaty use, and has several advantages over down – especially it retains most of its insulating effect even when wet, and as a filling in puffies it is less prone to clumping, which also reduces warmth. Merino wool is truly nature’s miracle fabric for the outdoors, it’s wicking, durability, anti-smell, and high warmth to weight ratio makes it absolutely the best against the skin base layers you can buy – shirts, bottoms, socks, As a result, most serious outdoor enthusiasts want nothing else as their first line of defense, summer or winter, and if you are looking for long underwear or a long sleeved shirt for winter, look no further than merino. But it is much less common as a puffy jacket insulation, and for this look to longtime beloved merino specialist Ibex (they also make all the other stuff) and its popular Aire Hoody, filled with premium, ultra-sustainable merino. Cozy, breathable, PFC free, Okeo-Tex and Bluesign certified, wind and water resistant for wearing alone, ultra-light and packable, there just isn’t much more you can ask for in an insulating layer that’s also a great cozy après piece. Wool is more sustainable than synthetics, and lasts pretty much forever, but it’s also more expensive $285.

Synthetic Puffy Insulated Jacket For On & Off Slopes (For Him & Her): Prana Alpine Air Jacket and Hoody – Prana has become a highly popular lifestyle brand, a lot of people love them for yoga gear, and it’s pretty much all I use for hiking (they make the best hiking pants and shorts), but it’s easy to forget they have deep roots in climbing, so this new product, one of the company’s first winter sports offerings, makes a lot of sense. It’s similar to the Aire Hoody above, except insulated with PrimaLoft Black, and also has a durable water-resistant finish and is Bluesign certified. It has a little more style and urban flair, a perfect ski layer that you can also use around town every day. The men’s model ($220) lacks a hood, while the women’s has one $250.

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