Are you unsure of how to go about choosing the best ski jacket for you? I’ve put together a small guide to help you create the best ski jacket layering system for your level of skiing and activity level!
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Creating a Ski Jacket System
So, what exactly is a “ski jacket system” and how do you create one?
Well, a “ski jacket system” essentially allows you to create a unique set of layers for yourself based on your activity level, skiing level, where you plan to ski most often and in what conditions you will ski!
As I’ve had more experience skiing, I’ve really learned the importance of having the right gear. It can sometimes make or break your day, especially if you get cold easily like me! Because of this, I’ve done some pretty extensive research on choosing a ski jacket for myself. Read on to learn how I have built my own layering system and how you can do this for yourself as well!
Choosing Your Ski Jackets – Types of Ski Jackets
Choosing a ski jacket can be a bit of a daunting task. There are so many different types to choose from! Hard shell? Insulated? 3-in-1? The list goes on and on!
When I first started skiing, I purchased a 3-in-1 jacket because I figured it was versatile and would cover all of my bases. But as my ski level improved and I began to ski in different conditions, I discovered that I needed to look into choosing a ski jacket that was a better fit for my activity level and the type of weather I typically skied in.
After Nathan and I got married, we moved to Steamboat Springs for a few months and this is where I really learned the difference between the types of ski jackets and how they can be put together to create your perfect layering system. In general, most ski jackets fall under one of these categories:
Hard Shell Ski Jackets
- Typically waterproof, windproof, lightweight, packable, durable and fairly breathable
- Not warm or insulated, so you will need to layer an insulator jacket and base layer under depending on how cold you get
- Great for someone who enjoys a variety of outdoor activities that are fairly intense (snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, back country skiing)
- Very versatile
Women’s Arc’teryx Beta AR Hard Shell (shown here)
Soft Shell Ski Jackets
- Made from a soft, stretchy fabric. Extremely breathable with some wind protection. Not waterproof
- Not warm or insulated. You will need to layer an insulator jacket and base layer under depending on how cold you get
- This is a great option for those who like sunny, warm, spring skiing in dry conditions
Women’s Arc’teryx Gamma LT Soft Shell (shown here)
Insulated Ski Jackets
- Come in a variety of weights and materials with either synthetic or down filling
- Typically have a waterproof outer coating to keep you dry
- This is the perfect ski jacket to choose if you plan to only ski in very cold, dry conditions or you get cold easily
Women’s Marmot Cirel Insulated Jacket (shown here)
Insulator Ski Jackets
- Very thin, packable, and warm
- They give you a wide range of motion and are perfect to layer under a shell
- Typically filled with down for extra warmth and can also be worn in dry spring skiing conditions
- Not waterproof
Women’s Rab Microlight Summit Jacket (shown here)
3-in-1 Ski Jackets
- These jackets consist of multiple layers in one jacket and are perfect for a beginning skier!
- Built for a variety of conditions so you can match your layers to the elements
- Consists of an outer shell, an inner insulator jacket and a fleece base layer
- Are very versatile but are usually lower quality than if you bought a shell and insulator jacket separately
Women’s Marmot Featherless 3-in-1 Jacket (shown here)
Choosing My Ski Jackets
I’ve had my first ski jacket, a 3-in-1, for almost 10 years now. Needless to say, an upgrade has been long overdue 🙂
The 3-in-1 jacket served me well when I was learning how to ski. I usually only wanted to go out in fair weather anyway, so this jacket was the perfect layering system for me! But now, Nathan and I ski in a variety of conditions and unfortunately, the 3-in-1 jacket just doesn’t provide the adequate breath-ability, wind proofing and waterproofing that I need. There have been many cold and windy skiing days where I was frozen to the bone because my 3-in-1 could not withstand the elements!
After doing some research on choosing a ski jacket, I came to the conclusion that what I really need is a ski jacket system that allows me to be flexible with the weather. I can wear what I need for the conditions while having the option to be as warm or as cool as I’d like.
Because of this, I have chosen to go with a hard shell, insulator jacket and base layer system. This ski jacket combination might be right for you also if:
- You are an intermediate skier and you like to get out in a variety of conditions (wind, snow, sunshine)
- You want a versatile shell that can easily layer over other jackets for warmth. A shell can also be worn by itself on warm days or for other activities like snowshoeing or backpacking
- You get cold easily. I know this might sound counter intuitive, but a high quality windproof, waterproof shell will make all of the difference in your warmth. Especially when you have control over the layers that you are putting under the jacket
This layering system provides me with a lightweight, breathable and waterproof outer shell without being too warm. I can control the warmth with my insulator jacket and base layers. I also like the flexibility of using a hard shell for warmer spring skiing or other activities like snowshoeing and backpacking!
My Layering System
So, onto my actual pieces! Here is what I have or will have in my collection of ski jackets. I am still debating on a hard shell, so I have included two options below. The Arcteryx Beta AR is a lightweight piece that would be great for very active people, while the Patagonia Powder Bowl is still lightweight but is a bit thicker and heavier if you run cold. Check out my gear below! I’ve also included the men’s version of everything as well.
Hard Shell Option 1 – Arc’teryx Beta AR
This is a super lightweight, windproof and waterproof shell. Arc’teryx products are top quality, and the Beta AR is one of the flagship pieces in the Arc’teryx collection. This is a three layer Gore-Tex shell that is light enough to wear as a rain jacket but constructed very well for keeping you dry and warm during skiing. The downside to this one is that it doesn’t have a ton of pockets and is a little short for skiing. I also would recommend sizing up if you want to layer underneath.
Hard Shell Option 2 – Patagonia Powder Bowl
This shell is also made of Gore-Tex, but is a two layer construction. That being said, it will still provide you with adequate wind and water protection. Plus, this jacket is a bit thicker and heavier than the Arc’teryx Beta AR which makes it warmer on its own! If you run cold and don’t care as much about the weight and versatility of the jacket, this would be a perfect option. I wouldn’t want to wear this on a super warm day or for high activity because I think it might be a bit too warm!
Insulator – Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket
This is what I am currently using as my insulator and it works great! I like that it is super thin and has a bit of stretch so it is comfortable to layer underneath other jackets! The side panels are also breathable and have a stretchy material. I use this for skiing or warmer weather snowshoeing!
Base Layer– Smartwool Base Layer
I have been using a mid-weight Smartwool base layer for all of my skiing. Whether it’s warm or cold, this piece helps regulate my body temperature and wicks away any moisture while keeping me dry and warm. It also fits close to the body and is stretchy, so it is very easy to layer with!
Ultimately, these pieces are super lightweight, versatile, breathable, windproof and waterproof. They will go with me not only on my ski trips but also camping trips, snowshoe trips and more!
Do you have questions on the best layers for your skiing level and activity type? Contact me or comment below and I’d be happy to help! I have done extensive research on jackets and have tried on multiple styles so I am a great resource!
Interested in learning more about other winter activities to do in Colorado? Check out my other posts below!