Keep warm in the perfect ski or snowboard jacket
Between stopping the cold from getting in and making sure that sweat can still get out, the world of ski and snowboard jackets can be a complicated one! Whether you are a regular skier and snowboarder or a first timer, everyone needs a specialised jacket when a regular winter coat just won’t cut it on the slopes. Follow this guide and you should be flying down the pistes like a pro.
Insulated Vs shell?
When deciding if you need an insulated or shell jacket, the first thing you should consider is how quickly you tend to get hot. If you are the kind of person that overheats after just a few strides, you probably should go for a shell jacket; whereas if you are a little more sensitive to the cold, an insulated snowboard or ski jacket might be more your thing.
Insulated jackets have an outer layer and an insulated later, which is normally built into the jacket. The insulated layer can be made out of down or synthetic material, however as down becomes clumpy and saturated when it gets wet, synthetic materials are a more popular choice. In any case, the filling in your jacket is measured in grams and can range from as low as 30g to as high as 800g: of course, the heavier the insulator, the warmer you will be.
Sometimes the insulated piece can be removed so that you can make your jacket more versatile and adapt it to the current weather conditions. Such jackets are available from brands such as The North Face and O’Neill, and are often referred to as modular 3 in 1 jackets or systemski/snowboard jackets.
Shell jackets are much thinner than insulated jackets as they have no internal insulation. You may think that anyone would be crazy to go without this added insulation; however some choose to add their own layers such as fleeces and jumpers. The advantage with a shell jacket is that you will have more flexibility in the arms as there is less padding than an insulated jacket. They are also advantageous on warmer days because you can wear them alone, however extra layers are always highly recommended when skiing or snowboarding in the peak of winter.
How waterproof and breathable is the jacket?
One of the most particular features for a specialised jacket is its ability to keep water out and release excessive heat at the same time. Some brands may use a membrane technology such as Gore-Tex to obtain this balance, while other manufacturers use DWR (durable water repellent) to aide breathability and help water stay on the outside of the jacket in the form of little beads. Consider both waterproofness and breathability, all while remembering that the higher the number, the better:
Waterproofness measures how much water the fabric can withstand. The minimum is 1500mm, though between 5,000 and 10,000mm is recommended for the average skier or snowboarder. However if you plan on doing more intensive sport than sitting in alpine chalets drinking coffee, you may require as high as 40,000mm from a high quality brand such as Arc’teryx or Burton.
Breathability measures the MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) or how much water vapour can pass through the fabric in a 24-hour period. An average skier or snowboarder should aim for a breathability rating between 5000 and 8000g, however more advanced sports enthusiasts may go as high as 40,000g (although the price tag comes with it!).
The winter sports world has its own catwalk with some opting for flashy designs and others preferring a one-tone florescent pink. However with the average jacket costing anywhere between £50 and £700, you may want to consider the colour carefully before purchasing what could be a lifetime investment. Imagine yourself in a few years’ time and if you will be regretting purchasing neon-coloured attire. In any case, when considering the colour for your ski jacket, try and coordinate with the rest of your winter sports wardrobe.
Length and fit
One of the only really big differences between ski and snowboard jackets is the length and the fit. Snowboard jackets have a much looser fit for all of those dramatic twists and turns, while ski jackets have a much closer fit to optimise speed and finesse. In terms of length, some may prefer the added flexibility a short jacket provides, but a long jacket helps to keep your bottom warm when you sit on the snow to put your equipment on, or when you fall over (but of course, you won’t be doing that!).
10 other features you may consider for the perfect ski or snowboard jacket
1. Ski pass pockets to protect your pass from getting wet, yet making it easily accessible when you have your hands full of skis, skiing poles or your snowboard.
2. Underarm ventilation zips, to let in some extra air after an exhilarating downhill!
4. Zip cover and taped seams, to avoid moisture getting into your coat along the edges where the material has been stitched. Some have fully seamed, whereas others are critically seamed (only taped along seams that are most likely to get wet).
5. Inside pockets, to tidy away any mobile phones, mp3 players or even your goggles.
6. Snow cuffs, to stop your coat from riding up your arm and to help keep the snow out.
7. A snow skirt or an elastic band at the waist, for extra warmth and to prevent snow from getting in your jacket from underneath.
8. A hood, either attached, detachable or stow away. You may also want to consider having a hood that is compatible with a helmet.
9. Built-in avalanche rescue system, if you plan on going off the beaten track. These transponders are easily detected by search and rescue teams.
10. A high Collar, to ensure that you can keep your neck warm from those blustery mountainous winds!