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How To Choose Ski or Snowboard Jackets

How To Choose Ski or Snowboard Jackets


Types Of Jackets

With so many types, features and specifications it’s hard to decide on How To Choose Ski or Snowboard Jackets. The more features don’t necessarily mean more expensive either. With so many features, names, and types we’ve decided to help you navigate the winter brand tornado of Ski and Snowboard Jackets.

There are five major types of jackets for both skiing and snowboarding but before we even get there let’s discuss the difference between ski and snowboard. The main parts are function and fit. Snowboard Jackets tend to be longer and in some cases looser (some women’s brands being the exception). The main reason being that some snowboarders need to sit down from time to time. Ski jackets tend to showcase a slimmer fit in general- though some park and freeride specific options are looser.



Shell Ski Jackets are considered technical apparel for the most part and they’re pretty straightforward. Shells are light, packable jackets that ward of wind, snow, sleet and rain. They are popular amongst ski touring enthusiasts and people who enjoy layering efficient winter clothing. Shells are often a single, double or triple layered water repellents. Some companies use their own proprietary water repellant material though Gore-Tex is the most reliable and most well-known. There are many types of Gore-Tex too but we won’t go into the details on this. Shell Ski or Snowboard Jackets should be paired with other inner layers of clothing.

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Probably the most popular choice amongst skiers and snowboarders is the Insulated Jacket. There are so many types of insulation and even with our staff will often recommend you to buy a decent midlayer to accompany your Insulated Jacket and here’s why. An insulated jacket that’s too heavy (Too much Insulation) won’t breathe well, causing you to sweat and causing you to retain moisture from your body heat and sweat rather than expel it. You know that sticky, sauna hot humid like feel? That’s what we’re talking about and there is a way to avoid that. (Insert Layering Blog Here) We recommend a lightly insulated ski jacket that’s either a blended synthetic insulation or full polyester. Synthetic materials release body moisture but trap heat while down insulation is known to trap moisture and heat. A nice fleece baselayer and a simple midlayer are also good components to have of any ski or snowboard jacket collection.


Technical Shells

Technical jackets are similar to shell jackets but are specific to backcountry touring and ski/snowboard mountaineers. Technical Jackets are often triple layer protection with no insulation. Technical Jackets often integrate with climbing harnesses, pants and other features. Technical jackets often specify what they’re designed for too.



Softshell jackets are made of hard fleece to help protect against wind, rain, and snow. They are not a hard “shell” and have more stretch and give than the average jacket. Softshell Jackets are recommended for light anaerobic activities or spring skiing. Touring enthusiasts often enjoy this jacket for light backcountry excursions. Softshell jackets often don’t hold their water repellent abilities for as long as hard-shells and are not as popular as Shell or Insulated Ski Jackets


3-in-1 Jackets

3-in-1 Jackets are often referred to as system jackets and consist of two or three layers that integrate together. Say you were looking to do a shell layering system but didn’t want to cough up the big bucks to create that system you’d be directed towards a 3-in-1 jacket. Usually made up of a light outer insulator, a mid-weight medium midlayer, and a moisture-wicking baselayer (though not as common), 3-in-1’s are the affordable layering option for the skier or snowboarder on a budget.

686 Smarty Form Jacket


Knowing what features come in an item are key in How to Choose Ski or Snowboard Jackets. Sometimes a jacket will have many features but me made of poor materials or vise versa. There are some features that should come standard in all ski and snowboard jackets though. These are things that will make or break decent day in the snow.



Good venting is really important. You don’t need to have a ton of vent points but you should at least look for pit zips. A good venting system in an Insulated jacket is important too because there will be those times when you overheat and need to let the heat out. Some venting systems have a mesh guard others are just open. Either or works though I’ve found mesh guards to get caught on things and rip.



Any jacket should come standard with at least two outer pockets. A jacket that is pocket less or doesn’t even have a kangaroo pouch will make a day on the hill suck. Most jackets will have outer pockets but will also have other features too. Ski resorts are trending towards RFID style lift passes so some jackets have a wrist pockets for easy storage. Internally jackets will often come with an audio pocket, a goggle pouch and a secondary internal. Pockets are self-serving and everyone has their thing. That being said there are some things you cannot live without on the ski hill.



Hoods can be tricky too. Some people don’t like hoods, some do. I personally enjoy a hood because I find wind and snow to hit the back of my neck and it can often find its way down my back. Hoods do restrict side to side vision and require you to turn your whole body to see around you. Some hoods are removable but I’ve found in more technical apparel that the hood remains attached. It’s another one of those creature comforts but believe me on those bitterly cold days you’ll be wishing you had a hood.


Powder Skirt

Not a necessity if you live on the east coast and I find powder skirts without an interface to pants are really uncomfortable. For one thing powder skirts ride up, they bunch up your underlayers and are tight. Sure if its super deep you’ll want a protective layer to keep snow from finding its way up but it’s definitely not a necessity and even on those pitted powder days I rarely utilize my powder skirt.


Jacket to Pant Interface

Most companies have a interface that links their pants and jackets together. Sometimes its by a zipper system, more commonly by button links. Does it make the jacket and pant work well on powder days, sure. Is it incredibly restricting? YES! Even back in my park days when I was into the super baggy setup I felt like the Jacket to Pant Interface was incredibly uncomfortable. Because no one enjoys a wedgie while riding up the lift.

Cuffs Design

This is super important and I have an excellent example to back it. Before I understood cuff design and wrist gaiters I would always get snow up my jackets from my gloves. It got my gloves wet, my hands cold and resulted in me drying out my gloves in the base lodge. Then I bought a jacket (inexpensive for technical apparel standards) and it had wrist gaiters. It was amazing, no more snow up the sleeves or wet gloves, it was awesome. Then I bought a new jacket, a jacket that retailed for around $750 and it was amazing. Triple layer Gore-Tex, Pockets galore. It was pretty awesome- expect it lacked wrist gaiters. It’s become such a pain for me that I’ve thought about sewing my old gaiters into my new jacket. Wrist gaiters are kind of a necessity and will be a lifesaver in the end.


Waterproof Zippers

You can have the best water-repelling fabric in the world but water is still going to be able to penetrate through a zipper system that’s not waterproof. Most companies have created some Urethane based zipper system that repels water. Arc’teryx has perfected this technology by Adding WaterTight Zippers to minimalize the weak spot in Ski & Snowboard Jackets.

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Super strength YKK Zippers


The difference between a Shell Jacket and A Rain Jackets is the backer system or lining. These jackets almost always have what’s referred to as a Flannel Backer. It isn’t so much an insulator but a blocker against the wind. Some jackets have fleece lining or quilted insulation. But linings are typically a sheer material or a flannel base to help keep in warmth.


RECCO Reflector

RECCO was originally designed in the 1970’s to help located people in avalanches. RECCO reflectors are commonly found in most apparel these days in help in transmitting an avalanched beacon signal at a better range so that you’re more likely to be found quicker in avalanche burial situations.

If considering venturing into the backcountry always be informed of the dangers of avalanches. Level 1 Avalanche Courses are highly encouraged.



When we talk about accessories we’re sure to include pockets and their locations as well as specific pockets and uses. In this day and age you typically hit the slopes with your phone and if you’re a seasoned winter adventurer you know that your lithium battery doesn’t like the cold. Most brands (but specifically Helly Hansen) now have special warming pockets to protect your electronics from the elements. If you’re someone who likes listening to tunes on the slopes most jackets come standard with a special MP3 pocket. Easy access and storage make this a must-have for any ski or snowboard jacket.

The nice aspect of pockets is that it can help in customizing what you want and need. Some people enjoy a ton of pockets while others want the minimalist option.

Jacket options and designs are endless. Between Euro Fit, Asian and American styles and designs there’s a lot to choose from. For more Information on specific jacket designs and purposes feel free to reach out to us either via the web or phone at  802-422-3234.

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Basin sports is the premier mountain sports retailer in Vermont, specializing in skiing, snowboarding, and biking. Basin Sports has received the Ski Magazine Gold Medal nine years in a row and twice naming Basin Sports the best ski shop in New England. Basin Sports has some of the best technical boot fitting service in the country, with certified Pedorthists on staff. As much as we love getting Basin Sports customers into the perfect gear for them, there is one thing we love just as much, if not more. You guessed it, skiing, riding, and just plain enjoying the mountains. You can rest assured that all of us at Basin Sports is taking every opportunity to get out and enjoy all that Killington has to offer. In the winter we ski daily and we are constantly testing new gear, sampling the conditions, and sniffing out powder stashes. Feel free to ask us any questions that you may have, we love to talk about skiing, snowboarding, cycling, hiking and even snowshoeing. In fact, in the winter, we update our website,, every day with conditions reports, photos, and videos. Check us out for the most up-to-date and honest info around.

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