Gear Geek: Top Ski Jackets

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Gear Geek: Top Ski Jackets

Wear the wrong jacket while skiing once and you’ll either never ski again or—hopefully—quickly realize that it’s all about wearing the right jacket. And by “right” we mean something that keeps you dry and warm without overheating or feeling clammy, and one that comes with a handful of features to make your day out all the more enjoyable, from deep-powder chargers (powder skirts) to backcountry explorers (durable, light fabric and big vents) to resort wanderers (style!).

1. The North Face Garner TriClimate, $280; 2. Columbia Women’s CSC Mogul, $300; 3. Mammut Alyeska GTX Pro 3L, $750; 4. Nau Ternary Jacket, $450; 5. Flylow Billie Coat, $390; 6. Helly Hansen H2 Flow, $250; 7. Mountain Hardwear Snowburst Trifecta, $325.

Image: Nickay3111, CC-BY-NC

Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).

The North Face Garner Triclimate

Employing three-in-one versatility, this one-quiver jacket can be worn as a shell by ditching the insulated layer, as just the insulated layer—or as a burly cold-weather coat by keeping the kit intact. The waterproof outer is tailored to sync with alpine activity, with a dual-adjustment helmet-compatible hood, underarm vents, and a handful of pockets. The 100-gram liner makes for a fashionable après layer, which zips into the shell (with snaps at the sleeve and cuff) when needed, and it's reversible, so you can go bright or traditional black when wearing it solo. But you may find that you need to wear the down layer as a jacket (rather than zipping it into the shell) if you want to use the included powder skirt due to the layer's composition. And an absence of inner pockets may drive some gear-laden folks crazy.
The North Face

Columbia Women's CSC Mogul

Designed for the U.S., Canadian, and Russian mogul teams that competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the four-way comfort-stretch shell will match every aggressive move you make on the slopes. It uses Columbia's proprietary Omni-Heat Reflective (read: very warm) and Omni-Tech (read: very dry and very breathable) technologies, and also comes with a removable hood, a snap-back powder skirt, adjustable cuffs, and zippered chest and hand pockets.

Mammut Alyeska GTX Pro

With a price tag that edges close a season pass, the Alyeska Pro will resonate best with people who breath snow. The freeride jacket comes with pre-shaped sleeves, extra-wide cuffs to accommodate gloves, a pre-shaped and adjustable hood, Lycra hand gaiters, two-way underarm venting zips, and two high-position front pockets that are accessible when wearing a pack. You also get a zip-out powder skirt, two chest pockets (one that can easily access a backcountry beacon), and pockets for you ski pass, goggles, and a side pocket with a key clip—all made from robust three-layer waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex. Perhaps the best feature? The gusset on the collar, which you can unzip to widen the neck hole, letting you bury your head in when you're at a stand-still and wind and snow are howling.

Nau Ternary Jacket

For those who want a jacket that can pass the muster on the slopes or during a snowy stomp to the pub, Nau's Ternary delivers solid, fashion-forward perfection. The three-layer waterproof/breathable jacket comes with all the expected amenities—dual-access front and chest pockets, internal storage, pit zips, a helmet-compatible hood, Velcro cuff adjustment—as well as some refreshing surprises, like its subdued aesthetic and that comforting fact that it's made of 100% recycled polyester.

Flylow Billie Coat

If skiing means everything from riding the chairlift to climbing into a ski cat to an hours-long boot pack to a high-elevation yurt, the Billie Coat offers a solution that's both tough and—as one recent customer boasted—"sexy." The three-layer fabric is waterproof and breathable, with fully taped seams and a helmet-compatible hood. You also get seven pockets, a removable powder skirt, easy packability, and a handful of color options, from the modest plum to the bright mermaid/night (pictured).

Helly Hansen H2 Flow

Smart body mapping, which places insulation, protection, and ventilation right where you need it and nowhere else, makes the H2 Flow the ideal jacket for those who embrace the stop-and-go realities of resort and backcountry skiing. The poly outer employs air pockets to lock in heat without adding weight, with Polartec 200g fleece in the main body and Polartech Power Shield soft-shell panels to allow for flexible movement, with open mesh inside to let the air to flow between those air pockets and your body. Reads like a science experiment, works like a champion. And when conditions get really harsh, you can layer another shell on top to really combat the elements.
Helly Hansen

Mountain Hardwear Snowburst Trifecta

As implied by its name, the Snowburst Trifecta uses three-in-one logic to deliver a versatile jacket accustomed to a variety of conditions—along with a style that's both subtle (the trench-like outer) and bold (the camo-meets-cheetah-print inner layer—which is reversible to a more modest color palate). Dry.Q Core delivers waterproof/breathable protection that's a step down from Mountain Hardwear's Elite model, which basically means that you'll stay dry and cozy unless you're on a multi-day bivouac of some snow snow-covered peak.
Mountain Hardwear