Skiers have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to what we wear. Making the right choice matters; we want it to look good, it needs to fit, and, most importantly, it has to work. I once had to borrow an old jacket from the lost-and-found at a resort. It meant I could still ski all day as planned, but it was really awkward. The sleeves kept riding up over my mittens, it smelled weird, and, by the end of the day, I was cold and frustrated.
Ski days are precious. Having trustworthy gear--be it your favorite jorts or a three-layer Gore-Tex jacket--allows us to enjoy them without distraction.
For the past seven years, we've made it our goal at Thread the Needle, the foundational event for this Apparel Guide, to sift through the year's newest products to determine the very best jackets and pants for skiers. From there, it's up to you to decide which pieces best express your personal style. Usually, style and fit are subjective because skiers' tastes are as diverse as our bodies.
This year, however, after the 16 skiers from across the country--who make up the Powder Order of Sartorial Splendor and Excellence (POSSE)--spent a combined 300-plus hours reviewing more than 100 jackets and pants at Solitude Mountain, Utah, we came to a consensus. The Hemispheres Jacket and Hemispheres Bib from Outdoor Research, for both men and women, scored highest across the board for their superior technical performance and comfortable fit, earning the nod for our first-ever Apparel of the Year.
In the remainder of this guide, we've included 16 other excellent options that earned a Skier's Choice badge. Plus, you'll find a total of 40 of the best jackets and pants for skiers in our Apparel Guide on Powder.com. There, you can read extended reviews, watch videos of these products in action with tester feedback, and more. Many choices still exist, but we can vouch that however you choose to express your style, all of these jackets and pants will do the job so you can focus on the skiing.
The Hemispheres kit features a new material, called Gore-Tex Fabric with Stretch Technology, in strategic locations. The black material is a rippling, supple fabric you'd expect to see in a yoga studio that stretches smooth with little effort. Unlike the first pair of sensuous stretch pants introduced to the world by Willy Bogner in 1952, the stretch Gore-Tex in the Hemispheres Bib is found around the lower back, at the waist, and in the crotch. On the jacket, a narrow stretch panel spans from under the arms, across the back and shoulders, and extends around the middle of the hood.
Combined, this kit offered the POSSE an increased range of motion through hikes up Honeycomb Ridge, 3 o'clock bump-offs, and midnight ski tours, without sacrificing the durable waterproofing and breathability Gore-Tex is known for.
"It passed the spread eagle test," said Caitlin Kelly, one of the four women ranging from 5-foot-6 to 6 feet tall who fit comfortably in a medium bib. "It's flattering and very flexible and easy to move in. This is great material--I feel like they're barely there when I'm skiing."
The jacket's pocket placement--designed to accommodate a harness or pack belt--had universal appeal, as did the helmet-compatible hood with a wire brim halo to keep the field of vision open when storm skiing. On warmer days, skiers can dump heat through the jacket's unique venting zips that run vertically from the drawcord hem to the pits (something that took a few skiers a bit to get used to).
Outer thigh vents on the bibs, which Utah photographer John Howland called his favorite piece of the week, also help to regulate body temps when touring. The women on the POSSE were ecstatic over the bib's extra long side zip combined with stretch paneling that made going to the bathroom the easiest we've ever had it.
The four-way stretch in both the jacket and bib allow for even more temperature control, thanks to comfortable layering under a tailored fit. Details like reinforced cuff guards, a beacon pocket, and a minimal weight--just over a pound each for the jacket and bib--make the Hemispheres kit fully equipped for skiing all terrain in any weather.