SKI JACKETS: PLANETSKI PUTS THE BEST TO THE TEST
19th October 2017 | Alf Alderson, Gear & Equipment Editor
Last modified on December 31st, 2019
O’Neill Jones Powder Shell £259.99 www.oneill.com
If you like your ski jackets to have all the whistles and bells you’ll love the Jones Powder Shell.
It features O’Neill’s ‘Firewall Magma’ insulation (a warmth retention liner with a zinc coating which O’Neill say keeps you significantly warmer) along with 20k waterproofing and 20k breathability, which along with a powder skirt, fully-adjustable hood and snow gaiters for the cuffs does a fine job of keeping the elements at bay.
Two large zipped and poppered handwarmer pockets, a zipped chest pocket and lift pass pocket on the left sleeve plus two large inner pockets provide plenty of room for your gear if you don’t want to carry a pack, and the four-way stretch recycled fabric plus a loose fit mean there’s plenty of wiggle room.
Not everyone will like the gradated colourway, but the Jones Powder Shell has pretty much all you need in an insulated ski jacket.
VERDICT If you like the colourway you’ll almost certainly like everything else about this jacket.
Patagonia Nano-Air Hoodie £190 www.patagonia.com
Our gear reviewer bought himself one of these last season, and has barely had it off since (yes, you can use the Nano-Air Hoodie year-round).
“It just feels ‘right’,” he says. “Soft, comfortable, light – what more do you want?”. Indeed…
What you actually get is a soft 100 per cent nylon ripstop shell and equally luxurious plain-weave lining with generous mechanical stretch and exceptional breathability, along with improved durability and abrasion resistance; both feature a DWR (durable water repellent) finish although this will only keep the water off to a limited extent, but Patagonia are not selling the garment as being waterproof.
The Nano-Air also features Patagonia’s 60-g ‘FullRange’ insulation, which combined with the shell and lining creates excellent stretch and air permeability, whilst articulated patterning and quilting improve the shape, look and durability of the jacket.
Additional features include a simple stretch hood with elastic binding, two handwarmer pockets and two chest pockets (both zippered) and a dual-adjustable drawcord hem.
You wouldn’t wear this as your main ski jacket in the depths of winter, but it can double up as a mid-layer then; in spring however, it makes a great outer layer as well as being versatile enough to use as a stylish-looking all-round outdoor jacket the rest of the year.
Just one thing to be aware of – the sizing is very generous, so you may need to drop down one size.
VERDICT Versatile, warm, light and good looking, what’s not to like about the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoodie? Buy it Here >>
Ullr Powder Suit £650 www.hellyhansen.com
Neither ski jacket nor ski pants, the Ullr Powder Suit actually put our reviewer in mind of the ‘survival suits’ he used to wear in a different life when he worked on the North Sea oil rigs; they were designed to totally keep the weather on the outside, as is the Ullr.
It’s made from ‘Helly Tech’ waterproof/breathable fabric in combination with Helly Hansen’s innovative ‘H²Flow’ system, which helps to direct air flow though the suit and increase comfort whilst keeping you dry, warm and protected.
It’s worth noting, however, that this is a shell so you will need to layer up appropriately underneath it.
Needless to say, being both jacket and pants the Ullr comes with stacks of features, one of which is the new ‘Life Pocket’, a technology which preserves the battery on your mobile or other electronic device in extreme cold – useful for long, cold days in the mountains.
That said, there’s also an internal transceiver-specific pocket with external access.
The suit has a relaxed fit with inserted pleats to accommodate a back protector; you’ll probably find it looks a bit baggy around the waist, but this is rectified once you put a pack on and fasten the waist belt.
There’s a large, helmet-compatible and fully-adjustable hood with hi-viz brim, adjustable collar, two backpack-accessible chest pockets (which also act as vents) as well as the phone pocket, one hand pocket and two cargo pockets plus zipped inner-thigh vents, large scuff pads and snow gaiters.
The Ullr won’t appeal to everyone (and there will be issues over accessing the loo whilst wearing it for sure, especially for women!), and it’s not cheap (although it costs no more than a decent jacket and pants combined) but if a powder suit is the way you want to go, the Ullr is very well worth checking out.
VERDICT Great protection from the elements and loads of useful features, although the ‘onesie’ design is very much a ‘love or hate’ thing.
Salomon Ice Cool £380 www.salomon.com
The Salomon Ice Cool is a bit of an all-rounder of a ski jacket, utilising Primaloft insulation and coming with a very good range of features; it’s also available in a wide range of colours from vibrant orange to understated black.
The waterproof and breathable outer offers four-way stretch, and Salomon’s ‘Flow Tech’ system on the inside helps to move body heat around to reduce overheating or chilling down.
From the top you get a detachable, adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, two zippered chest pockets and two zippered hand pockets along with a lift pass pocket on the left sleeve, zippered internal security pocket and generously sized inner mesh stash pocket.
There are also two zippered side vents which have been cleverly designed to funnel cool air into the jacket, but not directly onto your body (there’s a layer of insulation between the vents and whatever you’re wearing under the jacket). The lining has an elegant sheen to it (nothing to do with its effectiveness, it just looks nice) and to keep the snow out you get a powder skirt, wrist gaiters, Velcro-adjustable cuffs and hem drawcord.
So, there’s pretty much all the essential features (plus a few extras) of any decent ski jacket in the Ice Cool, which will work well both on and off-piste.
VERDICT A good all-rounder which should appeal to a wide range of skiers.
Arc’teryx Cerium LT down hoodie £300 www.arcteryx.com
The Cerium LT (the ‘LT’ stands for ‘Light Weight’) comes in at just 350g in weight, and with its 850-fill power down insulation it provides exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio at the same time as looking great.
Arc’teryx have designed it to be used as either a standalone piece or a mid-layer, so there’s the potential to get lots of use out of the Cerium, and the robust nylon shell will take plenty of stick.
In addition to the high quality down insulation you also get ‘Down Composite Mapping’, which strategically places Arc’teryx’ ‘Coreloft’ synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas to reduce the hassle of waterlogging that down is prone to.
The Cerium’s articulated construction moves with your body, so much so that combined with its light weight you hardly know you’re wearing it, and the insulated hood provides coverage without compromising peripheral vision although it’s not the most comfortable we’ve used.
Other features include two large zippered handwarmer pockets, an internal zippered security pocket with a stuff sack, elasticized cuffs, an adjustable hem drawcord and dropped seat – all in all a really nice piece of kit.
VERDICT A lovely, lightweight, super-comfortable down jacket, although the hood isn’t the most comfy when cinched up. Buy it Here >>
Patagonia Descensionist £420 www.patagonia.com
We used the Descensionist over two-days of pretty hard-core ski touring in Chamonix at the end of last season, and it was easily one of the best touring/freeride jackets we’ve ever come across.
Patagonia have designed it to provide the optimum combination of waterproof breathability, so you get a very light and extremely breathable three-layer Gore-Tex shell with ‘only the most essential snow features and style cues’ – perfect for going up as well as down.
It has a loose fit, but a ‘quiet’ fabric that also feels quite soft compared to a lot of shells, whilst features are fairly minimal.
They consist of a fully-adjustable, helmet-compatible hood with laminated visor, high collar, two huge, zipped chest pockets (which also serve as vents to an extent), a small zipped inner security pocket plus large inner stash pocket, lift pass pocket on the left arm, powder skirt, Velcro-adjustable cuffs and single-hand adjustable drawcord hem.
There’s also a built-in Recco reflector.
In use the Descensionist feels absolutely great – it provides a supremely comfortable fit with great ease of movement even when you’re well-layered up beneath it, and it also looks great; definitely our favourite ski jacket so far this season…
VERDICT A fantastic ski jacket for freeriders and ski tourers that’s pretty much impossible to fault.
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