If skiing is your therapy, a waterproof ski jacket can make your time on the slopes the best mental health days of the year. Check out our picks for the best men’s ski jackets for 2021.
Hitting the slopes has never been more in favor than in 2021. If you got your pass for 2021-2022, good on you. Or maybe the rush to the slopes encouraged you to explore the backcountry. Either way, for many, hitting the slopes feeds the soul.
Just as important as the boards and helmet, the ski jacket is a key part of your winter kit. Warm, weatherproof, and breathable, the right ski jacket is a trusted tool that you will use for many years.
These aren’t just any winter jackets. The ski jacket is a technical piece of gear that meets the demanding needs of protection and mobility. The best of the best have a combination of weather protection, breathability, insulation, helmet compatibility, and other slope-specific features.
Whether riding groomers or beyond the ropes, these jackets rose to the top of our list this winter. Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to a category below:
- Best Overall Resort
- Best Overall Backcountry
- Best Budget
- Best Budget Backcountry
- Best 3-in-1
- Best Shell for Resort
- Best of the Rest
The Best Men’s Ski Jackets of 2021
Best Overall Resort: Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft
For resort skiing, we generally lean toward an insulated jacket with form-fitting pockets to hold our pass, wallet, and gloves. The hood should fit over the helmet and be lightly insulated.
A powder skirt is great when you need it, but should tuck away cleanly when you don’t. And because there’s no denying style has some swagger inside the ropes, we like a little cut and color. The Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft ($550) hits all these marks and does so with great bang for the buck.
This is one of the best-fitting jackets we’ve ever tested. Shoulder the jacket, and you immediately feel that the cut follows form. The jacket is protected with Helly’s proprietary HellyTech. Waterproof and breathable, it has a touch of stretch, moving with your reach.
The arms are cuffed with a buttery-soft wrist gaiter that keeps the snow and cold out. It’s soft, quiet, and less binding than most jackets we’ve tried.
The jacket has six pockets, all cleanly integrated into the jacket’s minimal silhouette. Inside the left Napoleon pocket, Helly tethered a lens cloth and lined the pocket with a nifty gelled insulation. The Aerogel pad prevents the cold from sapping your phone’s battery.
It’s not the warmest jacket in the bunch — that honor goes to Spyder’s Impulse. But, its middle-of-the-line warmth is what makes this jacket a true winner. While the 80g insulation pulls duty for most days on the slope, there’s enough room to layer a vest or fleece on truly cold days.
And it’s extremely adaptable for warmer days. The helmet-friendly hood is removable, leaving a tall, comfortable collar. Pit zips help spill core heat and are lined with mesh, preventing blocks of snow from funneling in. The powder skirt buttons into the storage garage.
Ski jackets are expensive. At $550, you’re forking over a good amount of cash. But the design thinking that went into the Alpha pays out in a wide range of use. Paired with its timeless, unassumingly handsome looks and overall durability, this is a jacket we can confidently ski in for many seasons to come.
The jacket is offered in a women’s version (Alphelia LifaLoft, $475), which doesn’t include a fold-away, hi-vis brim.
- Fit: Euro cut/Slim
- Insulation: 80g PrimaLoft
- Plenty of pockets
- Buttery soft wrist collar
- Zipper pulls are harder to manipulate with gloves
Best Overall Backcountry: Rab Khroma Kinetic
Backcountry lines reward simplicity and breathability over heavier insulated jackets. Adaptability and packability is the name of the game. The design should be clean and durable, and it should roll up tight in the pack.
The Khroma line ($349) is Rab’s entry into ski mountaineering, with the Kinetic being its most breathable model. At the core of the Kinetic is Rab’s “soft” hardshell Proflex, striking a balance of protection and breathability.
It’s not going to be as durable or waterproof as a GORE-TEX three-ply shell (if you need that, look at the Khroma GTX). But, we found the 20K hydrostatic head is plenty enough protection to shed wet powder, light rain, or mist.
The Kinetic’s fit doesn’t awkwardly bunch or drape like a lot of ski shells on the market. The hood adjustment tabs pull straight and stay within the jacket. We prefer this to hoods with elastic pull loops and found it easy to use even with gloves. There is great coverage of the face, and it integrates very well with the hood and goggles.
The hip-length jacket follows the form of the body in motion. The butt drops in the back for added coverage.
Adding to the wearability, the chest pockets sit high and out of the way of the hip belt and shoulder straps. The pockets can be accessed both from the outside or inside. This does compromise the contents’ security. Take a tumble, and small items could unintentionally fall out. But the zippers are stout, and the front double zipper provides easy access to your harness.
To enhance the airflow, the jacket’s deep front pockets work as vents. Unzip the behind-the-arm zips, and you get a steady flow of cool air moving through the jacket. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and it spills heat like a champ.
The Kinetic is a jacket you’ll want to put on and leave on. And because it’s so breathable, you can comfortably do so as you skin up, ski down, repeat.
- Fit: Athletic
- Waterproof-breathable rating: 20K/25K
- Weight: 18 oz.
- Fantastic fit
- Great ventilation
- Durable zips
- Massive chest pockets can hold skins and are accessible from inside
- Proflex sacrifices some waterproofness
- Narrow cuffs may not pair with all gloves
- Security pocket is small (may not fit all phones)
- Left-sided zipper may confuse some U.S. customers
Best Budget Ski Jacket: REI Powderbound Jacket
Skis, boots, bindings, lift tickets — after all that, it can be hard to swallow the price of today’s ski jackets. If you find yourself heading to the slopes monthly over weekly (or the lucky few, daily), there’s less opportunity to wear out a jacket. You can skimp on overbuilt and save some coin.
REI’s Powderbound ($199) doesn’t have some of the design elements that cause price creep. Instead of stormproof zippers, a storm flap closes over the zipper.
The powder skirt is sewn into the jacket. The hood is, too. The insulation and shell aren’t licensed third-party brands. Instead, REI uses proprietary waterproof materials.
What makes this jacket a bargain is that details weren’t cut and left on the design room floor — just the price. It sports an adjustable hood that fits over a helmet, a powder skirt, pit zips, and a large internal mesh pocket and hidden chest pocket for valuables.
The torso is lined with 80g poly insulation — the arms use 60 g — appropriately balanced for warmth and mobility. The longest cut ski jacket in the review, the extra coverage warms the butt on the lift and wears well around the town.
- Fit: Relaxed
- Shell: Proprietary two-layer waterproof-breathable laminate
- Insulation: 80g synthetic in torso, 60g synthetic in arms
- All the details you want in a ski jacket at half the price
- Hem is long and sits tight around the butt
Best Budget Backcountry: Outdoor Research Carbide
The 2021 ski season is different to be sure. With resorts limiting the number of daily tickets, more skiers ventured off-piste seeking solace. If you have the kit to point the boards out of bounds but are looking to lighten your kit with a breathable shell, Outdoor Research’s Carbide ($179 and up) shell doesn’t drain the wallet.
Outdoor Research’s latest backcountry jacket is fully capable at the resort. But, attention to detail and simplicity make it most suited beyond the groomers.
If you want a jacket that can handle resort and backcountry, this one gives you the best of both worlds. Because it’s an uninsulated shell, the user can pick and choose how to layer it best for the conditions that day.
Despite the athletic fit, the Carbide has a bit more room than the Khroma Kinetic. A note about fit — it’s got a straight hem, and the tail doesn’t drop over the butt for extra coverage.
Very few jackets on the list have double zippers. The Carbide has this and deep pit zips to help spill the heat. We named the women’s version the best overall ski jacket this year.
We found the Carbide a touch more durable (and heavier) than the Rab Khroma Kinetic. But it’s also less breathable. We’d pick the Carbide for hiking lines in wetter conditions.
- Fit: Athletic
- Weight: 21 oz.
- Shell: Pertex three-layer construction
- Deep pit zips
- Quiet material
- Powder skirt
- Less durable and weatherproof than GORE-TEX counterparts
- Powder skirt interferes with carrying skins
Best 3-in-1 Jacket: Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowshot
The unsung hero of winter flexibility is the 3-in-1 jacket ($399). The inner insulated jacket unzips from the shell. So you can wear the shell alone, the insulated jacket alone, or zip both together for colder days.
This holy trinity is often tried, but rarely true. Patagonia’s Snowshot pulls off the hat trick with two jackets that fully function alone and work together in symphony.
The 60g liner is similar to what you’d find in Patagonia’s Nano Puff. But it uses Thermogreen insulation as opposed to the PrimaLoft Gold found in the Nano (PrimaLoft is its gold-standard insulation).
The liner cleanly zips into the shell without catching. The collar tucks cleanly away into small microfleece-lined garages in the shell. It’s aesthetic, functional, and comfortable against the chin.
Patagonia keeps the price low by using its own proprietary H2No two-layer protection. Although it’s not as durable as GORE-TEX, it provides enough protection for ski conditions.
And while the shell has a pair of pit zips, the insulated layer does not. When paired, the system has a limited ability to release heat.
No surprise, Patagonia didn’t overlook the ski-oriented details. The hood is removable. The shell is durable. The vertical chest pocket works well, and inside sports mesh pockets hold gear. The snow skirt sits below the insulation, remaining functional when pairing the two jackets.
Both the shell and insulated liner have hand pockets and a single chest pocket. And when removed, the insulated liner is fully reversible, flashing the Patagonia logo on both sides. Details.
For those who ski regularly, the other jackets on the list are more performance-oriented and will serve you better on the slopes. Also, they’re more comfortable. With the liner integrated into the shell, they feel more unified.
But for those on a budget, there’s no denying the value the 3-in-1 design brings. There’s a lot to be said for the ability to use this jacket across seasons. And of course, you’re buying a tried-and-true brand that backs up its products.
- Fit: Relaxed
- Protection: H2No two-layer construction
- Insulation: 60g Thermogreen insulation
- Bang for the buck
- Doesn’t vent as well or wear as well as an all-in-one
Best Ski Shell for the Resort: Arc’teryx Cassiar LT
For truly abysmal conditions on the slopes, weather protection is clutch. A ski shell with three-layer GORE-TEX is tough to beat. Wear it alone on mild days or layer it over a fleece when the flakes trend horizontal. A good shell can provide flexibility in your quiver.
This year, Arc’teryx released a new version of its venerable Cassiar ($599). While the length remains the same, the LT drops some weight (some 8 ounces) by borrowing the same, durable fabric used in its resort classic, the Sabre AR.
The Cassiar LT features three-layer GORE-TEX 70P nylon, laminated with a light, brushed flannel backing. The marriage of materials and cut strike a perfect balance of weight, fit, and durability, making the Cassiar LT a true all-mountain jacket.
The material is robust on the outside and soft to the touch on the inside. The lightweight flannel backing helps wick away moisture and adds a small punch of warmth. It’s extremely durable — ready to tackle a tree lashing. Of course, the 3L GORE-TEX is bombproof in wet conditions.
The cut is athletic and tapers in a snug V around the hips. It’s a little shorter than the Sabre (by 2 inches). Because it doesn’t have a double zipper, the shorter length makes it a little more friendly for shorter torsos or for those who prefer some unrestricted room in the hips to suck in the bumps.
Unlike the original Cassiar, the drop hood is sewn into the jacket and doesn’t zip off. Neither does the powder skirt. These design choices help cut the weight.
The collar remains the same, though. It stands tall and robust with the hood dropping behind it. Fully zipped, it wraps the neck and you can bury your nose behind the stiff collar for warmth.
The helmet-friendly hood has three points to adjust it, allowing you to dial in the fit with or without a helmet.
While the pockets are well placed and coordinate with a pack, at 1.5 pounds, the jacket is a little heavy for backcountry pursuits. If your lines drop outside the ropes, we’d recommend Rab’s Khroma Kinetic. While it has less weather protection, it’s lighter, more breathable, and still has a fantastic fit.
- Fit: Slimmest jacket in the bunch
- Shell: GORE-TEX three-layer construction
- Perfect length
- Great collar
- Bomber durability and protection
- Heavy for backcountry use
- Sleeves are long
Best of the Rest
When you’re chasing the white dragon down into its cold winter lair, you need both warmth and protection. With an average daily temperature hovering just above 20 degrees F, it’s no surprise that our top pick for cold skiing comes out of Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Stio’s Shot 7 ($650) takes its über-comfortable Hometown Hooded Jacket and layers it with a two-layer GORE-TEX shell. The fill is responsibly sourced 800-fill that’s been treated for water repellency.
The baffles are narrow, preventing the down from shifting. Although the down is treated to repel moisture, if you’re regularly venturing out into cold, wet slopes, we’d recommend a more forgiving insulation like Helly’s Alpha LiftLoft or Stio’s own synthetic DoubleCharger ($400).
We found the Shot 7 stays warm in the teens when layered over a midweight base layer. The fit is roomy, so if you tend to run cold, there’s room to add a midweight fleece. For warmer days, large mesh-backed pit zips provide some relief.
The Shot 7 is a beautifully executed ski jacket, purpose-built for stormy conditions. The helmet-friendly hood is permanently attached. The powder skirt is removable, but it’s integrated so well into the waist that it tucks cleanly out of the way until you need it.
Pulling in from its alpine roots, two deep mesh pockets can swallow a pair of gloves. The mesh is tacked with a reinforced tab of fabric to prevent it from tearing out under mechanical stress. And a two-way zipper, something not often found on ski parkas, makes it easy to reach a harness (or more likely, your fly).
Two fat Velcro tabs cinch the wrist 2 inches up the sleeve, out of the way of gloves and underlying layers, which can easily snag on the hook-and-loop closure.
While two-layer GORE-TEX offers minimal protection, if you’re heading out below freezing, it’s cold and dry, not cold and wet. And the outer shell is extremely durable. Paired with down’s integral durability, this jacket should ski through several seasons of 100+ ski days and still come out looking fine.
- Fit: Relaxed
- Shell: GORE-TEX two-layer construction
- Insulation: Water-repellent, RSD 800-fill goose down
- Super comfortable
- Limited pockets
We typically don’t see a lot of puffy ski parkas on the market. While we love the warmth, they are typically not slim enough or protective enough to make the cut. New for 2021, Spyder released this slim-fitting puffy lofted with 700-fill. While some down fill ratings can climb well over 800, 700-fill is still pretty great.
The down insulation is shelled with GORE-TEX Infinium. GORE is a little stingy on waterproof-breathable ratings, but all you need to know is it’s water-resistant, not waterproof.
Infinium is the GORE-TEX product for wind resistance and breathability. You’ll most often find it used in fast-forward sports, like cycling and skate skiing, where the user is pushing out more sweat.
The Infinium shell is less durable than what we see in Stio’s Shot 7. But the trade-off is that it’s quiet, soft to the touch, and has a bit of mechanical stretch.
The shell is treated with a DWR to shed the spray. To enhance its performance, you’ll want to reapply a DWR treatment over time.
Slip into the Impulse ($650) and it hugs the body like a sleeping bag. The fit is exquisite, slimmer than Stio’s Shot 7, but there’s still room to layer over a fleece.
The hands naturally slide into the buttery-soft wrist gasket that trails off the sleeve. It’s one of the best gaskets we’ve tested this year. Unfortunately, the gasket’s thumb-loop fabric runs long, causing it to naturally fold over itself.
Instead of pit zips, Spyder moved the 8-inch, mesh-backed vents forward a touch. The zipper requires using both hands to pull it down, but the design decision allows cool air to pull in from the front instead of from under the arms, which tends to trap heat.
The powder skirt is removable, but the helmet hood is not. The front and pocket zippers are waterproof. Seven pockets are cleanly placed on the jacket. It’s an ideal number of pockets for a day on the slopes.
Two of the pockets are mesh sleeves inside the jacket. These seem a little shallow, but they are plenty fine to stuff a neck gaiter or temporarily stash your gloves.
Spyder also put a touch of padding over the shoulders. It takes the edge off hoisting the skis back to the car, and it’s nice to see details that consider the consumer’s experience.
Like most jackets from Spyder, the Impulse exudes luxury. The design and finish are what you’d expect from a jacket that we’ve repeatedly seen on the Olympic podium. If you want the warmth, but don’t need a fortress of protection, the Impulse is a better option than Stio’s Shot 7.
- Fit: Athletic
- Shell: GORE-TEX Infinium
- Insulation: 700-fill goose down
- Super comfortable
- Not waterproof-breathable
- Small zipper pulls
For younger skiers (or skiers who are young at heart), Saga’s Anomie has a fashion-forward jacket that has all the bells and whistles we look for in a ski jacket. Plus, it’s available for $260, making it a bargain on the ski jacket rack.
The durable poly shell is waterproof and breathable, rated to 10K/10K. The powder skirt can be removed, and the hood can button up into a collar.
Long pit zips are backed with mesh. And, two internal mesh pockets can store your goggles until the snow starts to fly. A nice wrist gasket secures over the hands.
Its 40g insulation lightly lofts the jacket (meaning it’s not the warmest on our list). But there’s plenty of room to layer under it.
The jacket trends are oversized by design. You especially notice it in the arms, but the cut will be a favorite for snowboarders or those riding rails or bumps. If the bold colors don’t sell this point, the fit will. If you prefer a trimmer fit, we’d recommend sizing down.
- Fit: Snowboard, boxy cut (size down if you prefer a trimmer fit)
- Shell: Proprietary two-layer with DWR rated to 10K/10K
- Insulation: 40g synthetic
- Lightly insulated with room for layers
- All the details you want in a ski jacket at half the price
- Sleeves run long
Buyers Guide: How to Buy a Ski Jacket
Where Will You Ski?
Looking for the right ski jacket? Before you shell out the coin, your first decision should be to consider where you ski.
Laps at the resort have entirely different requirements than picking your own line in the backcountry. And wet snow in the Pacific Northwest requires more weather protection than slaying pow in the Rockies.
If 2021 pushed you deeper into the backcountry, you’ll appreciate lighter-weight and more breathable jackets with deep pit zips for ventilation.
Skiing in-bounds prioritizes warmth and comfort. We like a jacket that can keep us warm and dry while riding the lift and bombing the slopes.
For cooler temps, a dedicated ski jacket that is insulated with either synthetic (for skiing in the Cascades) or down (think the high desert or Rockies) provides a level of comfort that a shell can’t offer when worn alone. Plus, an insulated jacket will always fit better than a shell worn over a puffy or fleece.
For the ultimate flexibility, many brands offer a 3-in-1 jacket: an insulated jacket that zips into a hard shell. Wear it alone, or pair it together — the option can flex to your needs and offer a lot of bang for the buck. While expensive, Patagonia’s 3-in-1 Snowshot pulls this off better than most.
Do you need insulation? Not always. The flexibility of a durable hardshell is tough to beat. Waterproof and breathable, you can layer the shell over a fleece or slim puffy on cold days. Or, you can wear it by itself on warmer spring days.
Shells occasionally cross over into our mountaineering and backpacking trips, and they can work fine in the backcountry. But there are lighter, more compressible options dedicated to these kinds of pursuits.
Whichever jacket you buy, make sure it’s waterproof. GORE-TEX is a waterproof, windproof, and breathable membrane that is part of the fabric — it’s the gold standard in waterproofing. However, many major brands have their own version of waterproof-breathable fabrics.
Jackets have degrees of waterproofing, from 5,000mm to 25,000mm water column ratings. The higher the level, the less breathable they are.
Most skiers don’t head out into a full-on rain, so we aim for at least a 10,000-15,000mm water column rating. That’s enough to block wet snow without sacrificing breathability.
Backcountry shells trend more technical and light. These jackets shed accouterments like insulation (carry it separately) and powder skirts (extra weight). There’s safety in simplicity, so the trend veers toward very breathable membranes that are durable enough.
Shell or insulated, either way, we look for jackets with a longer drop tail (to sit on), deep pockets (to store gloves or goggles in), and a hood that fits a helmet but lays back and keeps a functional collar.
A powder skirt can limit ingressing snow. Some skirts can even be removed or tucked away cleanly. And pit zips can offer you a wide thermal range. The best are backed with mesh to limit snow from piling in.
Fit is king. Some brands, like Arc’teryx, masterfully tailor their jackets to fit like a suit. These slimmer jackets layer well over a fleece but don’t have enough room to wear a puffy underneath. If you run cold, you’ll be better served with an insulated ski jacket or a shell with some room.
Whether buying from an online store with a return policy or shopping in the store, if you are able, try the jacket on with layers you’ll wear on the slope. Ski jackets are expensive and will last several seasons. It’s not worth compromising with a poor fit.
Do I Really Need a Ski Jacket?
In short, 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.
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 technical gear. They’re built for very cold conditions but also a high level of activity. They have a combination of waterproofing, windproofing, durability, warmth, breathability, and ski-friendly features.
You can wear a proper ski jacket 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.
Ski jackets also have lots of sport-specific features, like helmet-compatible hoods, powder skirts to seal out snow, and beacon pockets, all of which make your experience more enjoyable.
How Much Should I Spend on a Ski Jacket?
It depends. New to skiing? Don’t live in a cold climate? 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.
Set a budget, check out all the jackets on this list, and find the one or two best for you. Then, check to see if it’s on sale. Seasonal apparel, like ski jackets, often goes on sale in March. So spring and summer are great times to shop.
Price usually reflects fit, quality of materials, and durability. All of these elements increase the longevity of your investment.
If you only ski a few days a year, you can compromise on price. But it will come with a trade-off. If you’re on the hill 40-plus days a year, your investment will go a long way to ensure that they are the best days of the year.