Going skiing? You’ll need some outerwear. Namely, a warm and waterproof two- or three-layer ski jacket. Check out our picks for the best women’s ski jackets.
There are hundreds and hundreds of jackets out there. But what makes a jacket a ski jacket isn’t just protection from the snow. The best ski jackets have a combination of waterproofing, protection from wind, breathability, insulation, a helmet-compatible hood, a powder skirt, and other slope-specific features.
The jackets below impressed us not just with their available features but in testing and overall performance out in cold, snowy weather — skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and more.
The Best Ski Jackets of 2021
Best Overall: Outdoor Research Carbide Jacket
After weeks of testing, we landed on this jacket as the best overall, simply because it ticked all of our boxes and how well it performed. And this three-layer ski jacket is only $299.
Outdoor Research’s new Carbide Jacket was built to adapt, “from cold day bombing downhill inbounds, or staying light and fast on backcountry tours,” the brand wrote. And we found its versatility to live up to its claims: it’s light, durable, and provides excellent protection from the elements.
In terms of materials, the jacket is made with a Pertex Shield three-layer membrane, 100% nylon fabric with a 40-denier face, and a tricot knit backer. At first look, it’s lighter than expected (and gives you great breathability). But upon testing, it still kept wind and snow at bay. And it’s literally lighter, too, at just under 19 ounces.
We loved the fit of this jacket, the pocket placement (mesh-backed pockets), the pit zippers for venting, the chest pocket, incorporated powder skirt, adjustable hood, and more. It also layers and fits well with the corresponding Carbide Bib and a midlayer underneath.
Again, comfort and versatility are front and center with this jacket. On milder days, all I needed was my wool base layer and this jacket, and I was set.
Don’t just take our word, though. Since the Carbide Jacket hit the market, it’s garnered nearly all five-star reviews across multiple retailer platforms. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another ski shell suited for backcountry travel for under 300 bucks.
Runner-Up: The North Face ThermoBall Snow Jacket
The North Face’s ThermoBall Snow Jacket system is another great option for female skiers everywhere. The Eco ThermoBall Snow Jacket ($349) has The North Face’s two-layer DryVent fabric tech with a DWR coating and a three-in-one jacket interchange system.
The inner layer is an insulating zip jacket made with recycled polyester. The outer, thigh-length shell is nylon.
We love the jacket for multiple reasons, especially its versatility, warmth, and fit. The insulating shell and layer are true to size, and they’re long enough in the arms for even us taller folks. This jacket system offered warmth even on the coldest days inbounds — I can get away with wearing a fairly thin base layer underneath.
With package and interchange jacket systems, sometimes the insulating layer doesn’t live up to performance as much as the outer layer. What we love about this ThermoBall jacket is the insulating layer doesn’t fall short. It’s got great warmth, is super easy to zip into and out of the outer shell, and also works great by itself.
This jacket is a great option for a starter kit — get an insulating layer, shell, and ski jacket system all in one. Also, the zippers work well. Another perk we like with this jacket? The easy goggle stash pocket in the shell.
Best Budget: Burton Jet Set Insulated Jacket
Burton’s Jet Set is a fantastic budget option, but it’s definitely more resort-oriented. The Jet Set Jacket ($210) has hundreds of ratings online with an overall 4.6 of 5 stars.
The Jet Set is made with a two-layer fabric and 80 g of synthetic insulation. It has lots of standard features, like critically sealed seams, a powder skirt, and two zippered hand pockets. It also features an adjustable hem at the waist, as well as an insulated hood with a comfortable fleece lining around the neck and hood.
We like the baggier, relaxed fit, hidden security pocket, and its durability over years. Oh, and this jacket wins out for the best variety of patterns and prints, hands down.
The only con for this ski jacket? Its water column rating is only 10,000 mm. Although it won’t work in the worst of wet conditions and on high-volume pow days, it’s a good choice for weekend warriors and skiers starting out.
Best for Backcountry Travel: Helly Hansen Aurora Shell Jacket
Helly Hansen’s Aurora Shell Jacket ($550) is a popular choice among ski patrollers and instructors, and here’s why.
Designed with the help of several prominent freeski athletes, Helly Hansen built the Aurora shell to function in any conditions — from warmer days on the ski track to feet of deep, fluffy pow. The jacket is built with a midweight, three-layer fabric and is waterproof, windproof, breathable, and fully seam-sealed.
The Aurora has a longer length for full coverage and carefully placed pockets (easily accessible and with wide pockets to boot). It also has pit and vent zips to work with an avi bag or ski backpack.
And to get to an MSRP of $550, Helly Hansen added lots more features: large adjustable cuffs (easy to adjust even wearing the thickest mitten), water-resistant YKK zippers, a jacket-pant compatible powder skirt, and lots of high-visibility details on the pockets, collar, and hood. The jacket is also equipped with a RECCO reflector for easy detection in rescue situations.
We like that this jacket offers lots of coverage. It’s also fairly lightweight at 32 ounces for high-tech functionality, and it’s easy to move around in.
And the venting is top-notch. When fully zipped up, this shell does a great job of keeping wind and cold out. Keep in mind though, while it does have some insulation, this is more of a shell so it will require some layering.
Best for Plus Sizes: Columbia Bugaboo II Fleece 3-in-1 Interchange Jacket
For the price and quality, this jacket is darn hard to beat. Columbia’s Bugaboo II Interchange Jacket comprises two pieces: a separate fleece liner layer and an Omni-Heat-equipped two-layer shell. Critical seams are sealed, and when worn with both layers together, the fleece provides a boost of extra warmth.
Reviewers rave about its warmth, good price, and overall quality. And for just $200, you get three winter jackets in one!
One thing we look for in our best jacket choices is fit accuracy, especially in this case. The majority of plus-size reviews said this jacket fits well overall and in the chest, arms, and hips. Plus, it was stylish and flattering when on. However, a few thought the fit felt a bit tight when sitting and bending.
This jacket comes in 1X, 2X, or 3X sizing. Another awesome feature — to get the best fit possible, the jacket also has an adjustable hood, adjustable cuffs, and adjustable hem.
Best of the Rest
One of the best touring jackets out there, the Dawn Patrol Shell ($349) has won accolades from several of our testers and many skiers around the globe. The shell is what Black Diamond calls a “high-output piece,” designed for moving uphill.
The hybrid part of the shell refers to the combo of materials: a waterproof-breathable membrane shell in the chest, shoulders, and hood, as well as more breathable material in key spots like the torso, underarms, and back.
Black Diamond uses its in-house, stretch nylon 3L with a DWR finish, as well as a four-way stretch double weave for the softshell. It’s got a 20,000mm water column rating.
Additional features that make this jacket fantastic for touring are the center dual zipper with a built-in mesh panel for venting on the climb. It also sports a perforated panel on the collar for breathability up top. The jacket has an embedded RECCO reflector to aid in search-and-rescue situations.
Our tester noted that this four-way stretch jacket is the perfect layer for backcountry skiers. It lets the sweat out when you’re skinning uphill, and it won’t restrict your movement. A full-length mesh panel along the zip can be opened for additional venting. The eco DWR treatment that beads water is highly effective and won’t ever wash out. And the spacious pockets are harness-compatible.
The Dawn Patrol shell has two harness-compatible chest pockets that hold skins, wrist gaiters, an internal media pocket, and a ski-helmet compatible hood. This is also the lightest shell on our list, at just 455 grams (a few ounces lighter than our best overall choice).
Female snowboarders and skiers have come back to Patagonia’s Powder Bowl Jacket for years and years. The Powder Bowl ($399) combines a super-trusted GORE-TEX shell with features like watertight zippers, pit zips for ventilation, a helmet-compatible two-way-adjustable hood, and a whopping six pockets. Stash pocket, chest pocket, handwarmer pockets, internal pocket — this jacket has it all.
Patagonia calls it its most “versatile waterproof-breathable hard shell.” On top of that, 68% of the fabrics in this jacket are recycled materials, and the jacket is Fair Trade certified too.
We found that this jacket fit well, albeit a bit baggy (giving it room for layers). And it’s just a shell. There’s no added insulation.
We found this jacket worked really well with a lightweight fleece down to about 0-10 degrees F. After that, you’ll want a thicker midlayer or you’ll want to upgrade to the insulated Powder Bowl for $479.
The Powder Bowl jacket also has a RECCO reflector, a must-have for those who frequent the backcountry. As many reviewers commented, it’s got everything you could want.
While a prominent European brand, Maloja is definitely not as well known in the U.S. With Maloja’s latest ski line debut, that’s changed. We tested the new Lobassam Ski Jacket ($349) with new Primaloft Bio insulation and found this two-layer jacket to be a solid performer for lots of reasons.
Firstly, the cut and fit. It’s not too slim (sometimes an issue with European sizing), and it fits well at the shoulders and arms to provide ease of movement. And there’s the perfect amount of space to throw on a midlayer (not that you’ll need one) without the jacket bulking up.
For the really, really, really cold days, we’d be happy to have this jacket on our back. The thing we loved most about this jacket, aside from the superbly warm insulation and fit, was the pockets. Two wide, deep top-access pockets are located at the torso, with a zippered chest pocket and pass or card pocket at the left wrist as well.
The jacket has water-resistant, laminated zippers and fully sealed seams. We really loved its unique and functional pocket placement — and the pockets’ soft microfiber lining. On the inside, the jacket has a removable powder skirt, goggle pocket, and zippered security pocket, plus pull cords for adjusting the hood.
On the outside, two extra-long pit zips offer better breathability going uphill, a Bluesign-certified DWR coating, and a 10,000mm water column rating. While not the highest waterproof rating, we found this jacket to work great for the variety of conditions we encountered on the mountain in Colorado.
Another great budget option is Mountain Hardwear’s Firefall Insulated Jacket, new for this season.
Designed for the inbounds skier, the Firefall Insulated Jacket ($250) is, in our opinion, a stellar pick for weekenders, ski vacations, and anyone who wants a great ski coat at a decent price. Our tester wore it in the Montana mountains, and she loved the overall design, fit, and coverage.
It’s on the lighter side for a ski coat, so it might not be your go-to for very cold days. However, the parka length is a huge bonus for snowboarders who might find themselves sitting on the hill at any point.
Zip vents allow easy ventilation. Pockets are thoughtfully placed. And the cuffs on the sleeves keep snow out and warmth in.
Outdoor Research’s popular Skyward II AscentShell ($350) shares some similarities with our best overall pick, its Carbide Jacket. The Skyward II is a three-layer fabric, a blend of nylon and spandex (whereas the Carbide is 100% nylon). Both are superbly waterproof and windproof, although we found the AscentShell to feel a bit heavier in hand.
We also noticed the shorter length of the back and the narrow shape around the waist and hips in the Skyward II. If you are looking for a ski jacket that has a slimmer fit (or if you lack curves), this is a nice option. Still, this jacket fits well in the chest and arms. It also has a bit of stretch so that it easily moves with your body.
In terms of features, this jacket has YKK zippers, long venting zips along the torso, and a chest pocket. It also features an adjustable hood, a tricot-lined collar, and a storm flap.
While it’s not the lightest jacket we’ve tried, we loved its stretchiness, articulated elbows, and breathability and comfort — all details perfect for ski touring.
One reason why we didn’t rank this jacket higher is that several reviewers commented that the sleeve length is way too long. Outdoor Research is planning some updates to this jacket.
Helly’s LifaLoft Jacket was a top choice for female skiers in 2020. The Powchaser LifaLoft Jacket ($350) has lots of technical features for a pretty palatable price.
However, it differs wildly from the Aurora shell we reviewed above — it’s a two-layer fabric jacket with a DWR coating. And it’s fully insulated with 80 g of synthetic insulation.
Similarities between this Powchaser Jacket and Helly’s Aurora shell include articulated sleeves, fully sealed seams, and high-visibility details. Our initial feedback from testing — this jacket is warm, has an accurate fit, and is intuitively functional.
You won’t question the two-way zipper, pocket placement, or adjustable hem and hood. All the features work — and they work great.
We like the little touches like the wrist gaiter linings with thumb holes and the generous chest pocket. This jacket has a ski pass pocket on the lower left arm as well. We also found that this jacket was quite warm (for those of you that run cold and want a quality insulated ski jacket) and was pretty light and packable.
Our only note? The sleeves are slightly long. The Powchaser has a 4.8/5-star rating.
At $299, this two-layer, waterproof jacket is a really solid choice for skiers and snowboarders alike. We especially love the addition of underarm venting, a chest pocket, and the soft and stretchy elastic cuff linings with thumbholes.
The jacket has a longer drop tail for fuller coverage, wide pockets, interior security and goggle pockets, and a powder skirt. It’s also got 60 g of Columbia’s Omni-Heat insulation in body-mapped zones to add warmth where you need it most.
Reviewers like the price point for this shell, the venting, and an abundance of pockets.
With the added insulation and features like the zippered pass pocket, this jacket is definitely more resort friendly. However, the lack of stiffness in the shell material, the addition of pit zips, and its large internal pocket (maybe for a beacon) make it suitable for the occasional uphill pursuit as well.
Women’s Ski Jackets: Buyer’s Guide
Materials and Construction
Most ski jackets come in a two- or three-layer construction and have some sort of waterproof, breathable membrane. (This could be any one of GORE-TEX’s membranes or a brand’s in-house tech, like The North Face’s DryVent or FUTURELIGHT.)
On top of the actual jacket construction, some ski jackets have insulation added. When they don’t, we call it a ski shell.
Shells, in my opinion, are extra great because you can add layers and adjust your level of warmth based on activity and conditions. And you don’t have to worry about overheating.
On the other hand, if you know you want something warm you can throw on over a long-sleeve and also use other winter activities, insulated might be the way to go.
One of my top recommendations to those looking to buy ski apparel is to go with a brand you are familiar with and like in terms of fit. Or, make sure to read reviews.
I can’t say how many times I’ve fit into a brand’s hiking pants but then found myself in between or up sizes in its winter apparel. (Remember, you’ll be layering too!)
When testing and considering our top picks for this list, we didn’t include any jackets that had feedback with major issues in sizing (whether back length, overall fit, etc.). We also took notes on each jacket’s fit in the chest, shoulders, and hips — places that can really make or break a truly comfortable women’s fit.
A note for comments on fit in this article: The author is 5’8″ and 120 pounds, and wears a size small or medium (depending on jacket/brand). Other staff members contributed to notes on fit as well.
The variety and range of features offered in ski jackets is something to pay attention to. However, it’s also mostly preference, so don’t fret over the details.
Spend your whole winters chasing deep pow? You’ll want a higher waterproof rating and a powder skirt. Only ski at resorts? You may not need tons of features, but you’ll want to make sure your jacket is comfortable in different conditions.
One of those folks who can’t live without a chest pocket? (We agree — they are great.) Make sure you get one.
Basically, look for a jacket in your price range and sizing, and then consider all the extras. With any of the jackets we’ve tested, you really can’t go wrong.
Buy a Set
Why You Should Trust Us
This list of recommendations has been compiled by reporter Mary Murphy, who learned to ski when she was 4 and has been enjoying winter sports ever since. In addition to field testing, Mary polled opinions from other skiers on our editorial team, as well as a few other female skiers and snowboarders of different sizes and experience levels.
Our team spent weeks in the snow and on the mountains testing these jackets in a variety of temperatures, paired with various layers, and worn across a variety of activities.
The final list of recommended ski jackets and shells is the combined result of thorough firsthand experience, customer research, online reviews, and chats with brand product developers.
How Much Should I Spend on a Ski Jacket?
The answer to this question largely depends on the type of skier or snowboarder you are. Have you never been in a winter climate and are skiing for the first time? Do you only ski or snowboard on vacation? Maybe look for a jacket for $200 or less.
Or do you engage in winter activities that require a durable shell for much of the year? Make sure you get one that has all the features you need — you may need to spend a little extra for technical features.
My answer is always first, set yourself a budget. Check out all the jackets on this list and find the one or two best for you, and then check to see if it’s on sale. Lots of times, seasonal apparel like ski jackets go on sale after the season ends, so the spring/summer is a great time to shop.
If you are able, we strongly encourage trying jackets on, whether buying from a store with a return policy or shopping in the store. (We’ve included extensive notes on the fit of each jacket for this very reason — finding the right fitting jacket is hard!)
Do You Really Need a Ski Jacket?
If you’ve made it this far, you can probably guess the answer: Yes, a ski jacket is better than a soft-shell jacket (or any other layer that isn’t fully waterproof).
If you have something waterproof (like a rain jacket), that may work, but not as well. Often, rain jackets don’t fit correctly over other layers, the hoods are too small, and the pockets don’t have glove-friendly zipper pulls. They could also be too short in length to provide enough protection from water and snow.
If you are thinking about investing in a ski jacket, we’d definitely recommend getting one! There are many sizes of jackets at a variety of price points on this list. Ski jackets also work great for other winter activities such as snowshoeing, winter hiking, winter commuting, sledding, and so on.
What’s the Difference Between a Ski Jacket and a Normal Jacket?
Ski jackets are a technical piece of clothing. They’re built for very cold conditions but also a high level of activity. They have a combination of waterproofing, windproofing, durability warmth, and breathability.
With the best ski jackets, you should be able to wear them all day — on the skin in, on a windy chairlift, a sunny day, or a cloudy day with negative temps — all without changing or removing your jacket. (Things like zipper vents and insulation are really important here.)
Ski jackets also have lots of sport-specific features, like helmet-compatible hoods, powder skirts to seal out snow, and beacon pockets.
Should a Ski Jacket Fit Loose or Tight?
Somewhere in between. Not so tight that it restricts movement, but not so loose that there’s extra space between the jacket and your body (you’ll lose heat and get cold more easily).
Always try on a ski shell with a sweater or fleece (a thicker layer) underneath — essentially, what you’d wear out in the cold. You can usually tell if a jacket is too big by looking at the shoulder lines and by zipping it up. If a jacket feels too tight, it probably is, and it won’t be comfortable to ski in.
Especially if you are buying a shell (an uninsulated jacket), you may want to size up to leave room for a base layer and midlayer underneath. You can check a brand’s individual size charts for chest and length dimensions if you aren’t sure.
Is GORE-TEX Good for Skiing?
However, there are lots of other similar apparel membranes out there. Many major brands have their own version of waterproof-breathable fabrics.
Whichever jacket you buy, make sure it’s waterproof. (Jackets have degrees of waterproofing, from 5,000mm to 10,000mm to 25,000mm water column ratings.) I like to shoot for at least a 10,000-15,000mm water column rating based on where I live and what kind of snow I experience here in Colorado.
However, the highest level of waterproofing will sacrifice a little on breathability. In mild to medium — not extreme — winter climates, you’ll want a balance.
Also, see what its intended activity and usage is. If a jacket isn’t designed for skiing or snowboarding, and doesn’t have many of the features we listed in this guide, it won’t be the best choice.
Have a favorite ski jacket? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.