It seems only two minutes ago that I was admiring the fact that I’d worn flip flops for about 60 consecutive days and, in doing so, accumulated a lovely set of tan lines across both feet in what was an epic summer season. Fast forward to mid-September, the temperature has dropped, I’ve already started to shop for new winter mountaineering essentials, and now my attention is turning to new ski stuff. Chiefly, men’s ski jackets.
Each and every year I’ll head to the slopes for a week away skiing. As well as being a dad who is slowly getting his two toddlers into this awesome winter sport, I’m lucky that, as a teacher, I get to help organise and run the yearly school ski trip to Italy. Lots of the kids on our trips have never skied before so often seek advice about kit and clothing. However, as the sport gets ever more popular, more adults are also trying it for the first time. Consequently, for my fellow dads out there who may be venturing onto the slopes for the first time this winter, here’s my guide to buying mens ski jackets.
I’ve seen all sorts on the slopes. Fashions and colourways may change from season to season but there are always some standard things you should look for when buying a new ski jacket. Consequently, I’ve teamed up with Simply Hike, who’ve just launched their latest collection of mens ski jackets, to give you a rundown of the features that you’ll want to keep you warm, dry and comfortable on the slopes this winter.
Keeping You Dry and Comfortable
When deciding on a new jacket one of the first things that you’ll look for is its ability to keep you dry. Being up on an isolated mountain slope, thousands of metres above sea level,in temperatures below freezing, you’ll not want to take a chance on this one. Mens ski jackets are usually rated somewhere between 5000mm – 20,000+mm in terms of the amount of liquid that the fabric can absorb before it reaches saturation point and you start to feel the wet.
Your budget will obviously dictate how much protection you’re able to opt for. If this is your very first time on the slopes, don’t go and blow a small fortune as you want to make sure you’ll use your gear again in the future. There are loads of budget friendly mens ski jackets out there which offer great protection for those taking on the nursery slopes closer to the lifts, cafes and bars (which you can always dive into if the weather turns nasty). More advanced skiers will also often go for more waterproof fabrics, such as Gore-Tex, if they’re planning to venture away from the slopes and into the backcountry. Being further away from help and civilisation means the need for more protective fabrics with higher waterproof ratings.
When checking out how waterproof the jacket is, don’t forget to check its breathability too. Skiing is a highly energetic sport that can really cause you to get a sweat on. Consequently, you want somewhere for that body heat to escape to without the need to take your jacket off and risk getting too cold. As such look for fabrics that are both waterproof and breathable and, if you’re of the hotter variety of human, look out for features such as zipped vents in places such as the armpits.
If you’re new to the sport, just be aware that beginners may spend a bit more time in the snow than gliding across it. If you’re joining up with a ski school, you might also find yourself standing still from time to time. Other members of your group will inevitably take tumbles from time-to-time where they’ll lose a pole or a ski, and have to side-step back up the side of the slope with the help of your very patient instructor. While you’re all standing around laughing you need a jacket that will keep you warm.
The main options open to you when choosing mens ski jackets are whether to go for a layered system, where the jacket is a waterproof shell and you’ll have an insulating layer underneath it, or to opt for a jacket that combines insulation into its waterproof shell design. If you’re going to be doing a lot of skiing having separate layers can be an advantage as you tailor how to wear and combine them to suit the current conditions. However, if you’re new to the sport, having different layers to faff around with can be another unnecessarydistraction, so maybe opt for a jacket where the insulation is inbuilt and all you need to worry about is perfecting those snow plough turns.
It’s All in the Detail
It’s in the detail where mens ski jackets begin to really differentiate themselves from general use outdoor jackets. For instance, many jackets come with snow skirts that are fitted inside of the jacket and can be closed over the top of your snow pants. These is a nice feature to have, particularly if you’re going to spend some time getting your backside acquainted with the snow. The last thing you’ll want is to take a tumble, skid along on your back only to then have to dig the snow out from inside your jacket because it lacked a snow skirt. Little things like this can really help to keep you warm. Very cold snow and a warm back is never a nice feeling.
Mens ski jackets usually come with hoods but make sure those hoods are helmet compatible. When the weather really turns and the wind whisks up a bit of a whiteout, you’ll be glad of the combination of your hood and goggles to keep you warm, dry and on the move.
Thumb loops cut into internal cuffs are also a nice feature to have on mens ski jackets. By putting your thumb through the loop you ensure that the cuff stays pulled down, covering your wrist. This means that in the event of a skid there will be no gap between your glove and jacket for snow and ice to find its way into.
Also, look for how the pockets are configured on mens ski jackets. While piste maps are tiny in comparison to OS maps, meaning you won’t need any oversized chest pockets, you will need somewhere to safely stow your lift pass. I’ve always preferred a small, dedicated lift pass pocket on the arm. For me, these make passing through ski lift turnstiles that little bit easier. Also look for internal pockets to keep things like your phone and goggle wipe safe.
Last, but certainly not least, you want a jacket that looks good. Skiing is such an elegant sport you don’t want to spoil it by wearing something that resembles a donkey jacket. Whether you’re colour-clashing bright like me, or more into subtle tones, invest in something that you’ll be happy to wear beyond your first week on snow.