By Steve Kopitz
When it comes to buying a womens ski jacket, it is important to purchase a jacket that will keep you warm, but also keep you looking good too. There are many ways to combine fashion and function and a quality womens ski jacket is an essential in your ski gear. Womens ski jackets come in various styles with many different features such as insulation, breathability, waterproof rating and more. It is important to select the right one for you and this guide was created to help you do just that.
There are two main types of womens ski jackets: insulated womens ski jackets and shell womens ski jackets. There is no exact answer for which is better because there are many factors to consider when making this choice. When looking for the perfect womens ski jacket to purchase, always remember to factor in the type of skiing you will be doing and the weather conditions.
The construction characteristics of an insulated womens ski jacket include an outer layer that is waterproof and windproof, along with an insulated layer that is built directly into the ski jacket to provide extra warmth. The insulating inner layer is likely to be made of fleece, down, or a synthetic fabric such as Primaloft. PrimaLoft is incredibly soft, lightweight and breathable with excellent water repellency to remain dry, warm and comfortable.
Many insulated ski jackets will contain an additional insulator piece that can be removed. These types of insulated jackets are sometimes referred to as system jackets or 3-in-1 jackets. Both pieces can be worn alone or together so that you are prepared for a change in temperature. Look for pieces made with waterproof or water-resistant fabrics for even more convenient possibilities.
The insulation found in insulated womens ski jackets is most commonly measured in grams. The greater the number weight in grams, the warmer the ski jacket will be. Insulation types can range as low as 30 grams and go as high as 800 grams, which is most commonly found with Down material. For people who are colder by nature or skiing in colder places, an insulated ski jacket is the most suitable option.
Shell jackets are womens ski jackets that have no internal insulation. Waterproof, Breathable outer layers help keep skiers protected from the wind and rain, while nonetheless, allowing sweat to evaporate and escape. This type of ski jacket is ideal for someone who is warmer person by nature. Another reason that one may choose this type of ski jacket is because they prefer to have added mobility that is not available with an insulated ski jacket. As shell ski jackets are usually worn over a base layer and a mid layer, they do not have the added bulkiness of an insulated ski jacket. This means that you can contain the warmth of your body via your base layer and mid layer, but have an added range of motion.
A shell ski jacket can be worn on its own on warmer days or layered with base and mid layers for colder days. However, for extremely cold temperatures and extended periods of time outdoors, a shell ski jacket is probably not the best option.
One of the most important factors in choosing a ski jacket is the waterproof rating. This rating will tell how quickly your womens ski jacket will become saturated and begin allowing water to penetrate to the layers below. For a fabric to be classified as waterproof it needs to withstand water pressure applied from a 1m high column and not leak. Waterproof ratings are measured and indicated in millimeters and determined by placing a tube filled on the fabric and filling it with water. The level at which the water begins to penetrate through the fabric is the waterproof rating. The higher the number, the more waterproof the ski jacket is and the longer it will withstand snow and rain.
For womens ski jackets to be deemed legally waterproof, it must achieve a minimum 1,500mm rating. Womens ski jackets can be rated as high as 20,000mm but the average rating is typically between 5,000 and 10,000mm. Keep in mind that as the rating goes higher, so too will the price.
There are many different types of waterproof fabrics used on the market today. Among the more well known materials used are Gore-Tex, Hyvent and Event. What makes materials such as these so effective is that they contain pores. Pores are larger than a molecule of sweat but smaller than a molecule of water. This means that not only is the material waterproof but also very breathable.
Just like the waterproof rating measures how effective a ski jacket is at keeping water outside, the breathability rating of a womens ski jacket measures how effective a ski jacket is at transferring moisture from the inside to the outside. Even while resting, a person loses more than half a liter in fluids through their skin everyday. The same fabric pores that help prevent water from penetrating inside a ski jacket, allow sweat molecules to escape and ultimately keep your warmer.
To release the moisture, womens ski jackets needs to be able to ventilate or breathe, not through holes but through the fabric itself. This is not very difficult as cotton and nylon are already breathable fabrics. The difficulty arises in making the fabric waterproof aside from being breathable. This seems very exotic but there are many different layers that can achieve this based on a simple physics principle. Beneath the womens ski jacket, the temperature and humidity are higher than in the outside. This creates a pressure whereby pushing the moisture outside.
Breathability rating is measured and indicated in grams (g). The measurement is determined by finding the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR). The MVTR determines how many grams of sweat per 1 square meter can escape a womens ski jacket in a 24 hour period. The higher the number, the more moisture escapes and the more breathable it is. Entry-level breathable fabrics will have MVTR ratings in the range of 2,000-3000g. Fabrics at the high end of the breathability scale will have an MVTR around 25,000g.
Contrary to popular belief, womens ski jackets are very different than everyday winter jackets. A womens ski jacket will suffice as your everyday jacket but if you have not purchased a jacket created specifically for skiing, then that is imperative to improving your warmth and comfort level on the slopes. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most important reasons is that a womens ski jacket is going to be far more durable and able to withstand the added abuse from skiing.
Womens ski jackets are made of tightly woven nylon or polyester. These are materials that are designed for high performance use against the elements of winter. Extended exposure to high winds and the wet elements of winter are what make the construction of a womens ski jacket a better fit for snow riding than your everyday winter jacket.
Womens ski jackets come in different lengths and these cuts can be ideal for different reasons. A shorter athletic cut is better for hardpacked and groomed snow riding. It offers a stylish and flattering look while still covering what you need to keep you warm. Longer lengths are ideal for backcountry and powder skiing, or for wetter conditions. It will provide your behind with more coverage and warm from moisture and snow.
Full taped seems means the stitched seams have been taped for waterproofing. This is done with a waterproof tape that is glued on the interior and exterior of the seam. Fully taped seams are the best option if you want to be waterproof in these important areas that are prone for moisture. They will, however, cost more than womens ski jackets with critically taped seams. As an additional note, higher-end garments will offer Welded Seams, which are even more effective at protecting against moisture penetration at the seams.
A less expensive option than welded or fully taped seams are critically taped seams. Critically taped seams means that only some of the seams are taped and protect against moisture penetration. This is not necessarily a bad thing, so don’t be scared off by the fact that not all seams are covered. These types of seams are ideal for skiers planning on spending most of their time inbounds on groomers and cruisers. As long as you don’t spend long periods of time in wet weather or spend a lot of time falling in the snow, a womens ski jacket with critically taped seams will offer the protection you need.
When shopping for womens ski jackets it is important to know that beyond how waterproof and breathable a ski jacket is, there are a number of features that you can expect to find available to you. Selecting the right features for your ski jacket is important so that it fits your skiing needs. In the following sections, we’ll cover many of these features so you will know what to expect when shopping from one model to the next.
Front Zipper Cover
This feature is sometimes referred to as a storm flap. The purpose of this feature is to cover the front zipper of your ski jacket to prevent the wind and moisture from penetrating inside. Additionally, some storm flaps have soft fleece over the top of the zipper so your face does not get irritated from cold metal. As the zipper can be a highly prone area for moisture, this is considered by many as a must-have feature.
A powder skirt is an elastic band that is located inside of a ski jacket at the waist. It provides a snap closure in the front and is intended to keep snow from going up the front or back of your ski jacket. Additionally, it helps retain heat and keeps you warmer when you are out on the slopes. This also means that if you are starting to feel a bit warm, you can unsnap the skirt for a moment to allow heat to escape and cool you down, then snap it back up to protect against the snow. These powder skirts are often removable either by snaps or zippers. This feature is highly recommended for anyone planning on doing any powder skiing.
While not all womens ski jackets offer a hood, those that do will offer a hood in one of several options: attached (non-removable), detachable, or stowaway. Attached hoods are fixed to the ski jacket and cannot be removed. Detachable hoods offer the luxury of protection on windy or snowy days, while also offering the versatility of being able to be removed on warmer or fair weather ski days. Stowaway hoods offer the same luxuries as a detachable hood with the difference being that stowaway hoods do not need to be removed from the womens ski jacket. Instead, they will roll or fold up and be tucked into a designated area of the womens ski jacket.
As your hood is intended to protect your head and neck from the elements, you want to make sure that it can fit over your helmet. Your hood should have enough room so that you can look from side to side, and it should also comfortably fit your helmet. The bill of your hood should be generous enough in size to shed rain from your goggles and eyes. Many hoods come with a drawstring in order to adjust to your head or helmet. Hoods, regardless of their style, are highly recommended for protection against the elements.
Wrist closures are one of the more common adjustability features you can expect to find on womens ski jackets. Wrist closures will be present as an elastic, Velcro, snap or thumbhole adjustment at the wrist, that will close around your wrist or over your glove. This purpose of such an adjustment is to help keep cold air and snow from going up your arms. You will want to make sure that the wrist adjustment will work in tandem with your gloves. Some gloves are meant to go over the wrist closures and have their own synching on the end of the glove, while others are meant to go under the wrist closure an have the adjustment close around them.
Another adjustment feature that you can expect to find is a Cinch Cord adjustment. This is located at the bottom of the womens ski jacket and can be tightened so your jacket and pants are positioned closely together. This will help keep snow, cold and wind from creeping up inside of your ski jacket.
Pit Zips or underarm zippers are zippers located under the arm that can be adjusted on the fly to help retain or release heat that builds up inside of a womens ski jacket. If you are cold, or the temperate starts to drop, you can close them up to help keep heat close to the body. On warmer days these can be opened up fully to allow heat to escape while you remain fully protected from the elements everywhere else. While not considered a must-have, they are certainly suggested if you want the luxury of regulating your core temperature easily.
Contoured stretch panels
These are fabric panels built into the womens ski jacket to follow the contour of your body better. Some of these ski jacket features are built into the elbow, lower back and shoulder regions. The philosophy is that the ski jacket will stay more contoured to your body while you fly down the mountain.
Some of the more high tech womens ski jackets come with padded reinforcements. The points of reinforcement are shoulders, elbows and the lower back. They protect you while skiing. Entertain these ski jacket features when you are spending more time aggressive skiing or off-piste skiing.
Lift Ticket D-ring
These are small D-shaped rings that are typically located at the bottom of the ski jacket or along one of the pockets. They give skiers a convenient place to put their lift tickets.
These are additional cuffs, typically made of lycra, that are attached to the inside of the womens ski jacket’s sleeve cuff. Some have thumbholes and extend out over the hand while others just extend to the wrist. Internal cuffs are designed to keep snow and cold from entering into the sleeves of the womens ski jacket. They are thin and can be worn under gloves for additional warmth.
Thanks to the influx in portable electronic devices (e.g., cell phones, personal audio players, digital cameras), having a pocket designated specifically for electronics is a must-have for many. For others, it’s not a make or break feature. The important thing to understand is that pockets do exist for such items and they are certainly a convenience if you intend on carrying such items. For those who enjoy listening to music while on the slopes, this pocket is extremely useful because electronics pockets have openings for wires to be run for headphones. This keeps the electronic device protected and the wiring internal so it is not ruined.
Like an electronics pocket, the goggle pocket is designated specifically to house your goggles when you are not wearing them. They are typically made out of mesh to keep from damaging the goggles and allowing for ventilation. This pocket will also typically house a goggle cloth that can be used to wipe your goggles, should they get foggy.
Internal or External Data Card Pocket
Data card pockets are designed to keep your important cards, like I.D.’s or credit cards, safe and in one place instead of putting them in a regular pocket where there is a higher possibility of the cards falling out when unzipped. They can be located inside the womens ski jacket for safety or outside for convenience.
On many higher end womens ski jackets, you are more likely to find additional fabric lining on the inside of the womens ski jacket. This added fabric liner starts at the wrist and extends down over the palms with holes provided to insert your thumbs. This added lining adds extra warmth to the palms and wrists.
Built into a select number of womens ski jackets an avalanche rescue system can be an invaluable feature if you are the type of skier who ventures into areas that are prone to avalanches. Unlike a separate beacon system, womens ski jackets with this feature have a small, weightless transponder that is easily detected by a search rescue team.
One of the more common brands for this is RECCO®. This technology enables rapid directional pinpointing of a victim’s precise location using harmonic radar. The two-part system consists of a RECCO® detector used by organized rescue groups, and RECCO® reflectors that are integrated into apparel. The reflector consists of a small, flat capsule, only about 1/2" by 2" by 1/16" thick, which contains a pair of foil aerials, joined by a diode. The size of the aerials makes the unit a tuned circuit resonating at one specific frequency. The reflector is permanently affixed and requires no training for use. The up side is that it needs no batteries to function. This feature is not necessarily a must-have, but is recommended for safety purposes. If you opt against a womens ski jacket with a built-in rescue system, you can always purchase a separate rescue system at a later time.