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.
At Thread the Needle, the foundational event for this Apparel Guide, 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, to sift through the year's newest products. These 15 men’s jackets received top ratings and the Skier’s Choice badge.
(Click on a jacket to skip down to review):
Arc’teryx Sentinel LT Jacket
Armada Resolution Gore-Tex 3L Jacket
Burton AK Gore-Tex Kimmy Anorak Jacket
Eider Shaper Jacket
Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket
Patagonia Departer Jacket
Spyder Solitude Down Hoody
The North Face Purist Jacket
New from Arc'teryx, the Sentinel LT is a bit of a departure (in the right direction) for the brand when it comes to a longer, tailored freeride fit and subtle color-blocking. Three-layer Gore-Tex with a C-Knit backer makes this waterproof, windproof jacket soft and packable.
Gone is the stiff, techy crunch common among premium jackets. The POSSE appreciated thoughtful details Arc'teryx is known for, like a helmet-compatible hood and watertight pit zips that are easily accessed while wearing a pack.
Weighing just 560 grams, the Sentinel LT is a jacket you'll reach for season after season spent in the backcountry.
A Gore-Tex, three-layer shell for women that doesn't look super techy and dorky? It actually exists in the Armada Resolution jacket.
Made to shred all over the resort, the Resolution is long-fitting with colors that break beyond the typical color palette for women.
Since it's three-layer, you could also bring it into the backcountry, but it's not as lightweight or breathable as other touring-specific jackets.
Burton added durability this season to the Kimmy Fasani-inspired three-layer design, which includes fully taped seams and water-resistant zippers. "This would be a prime Pacific Northwest jacket for in or out of bounds," says Seattle-based skier Heather Hansman. "It's a good blend of style and function—I got more compliments in this jacket than anything else I've worn."
The POSSE especially appreciated the anorak's accommodating fit around the hips, massive mesh-free pit venting, and a side-entry zipper that makes it easy to pull on and off, even over a helmet.
"This jacket has a high-end design and materials in a modern cut with great prints and tech specs that stand up to anything out there without looking too 'alpine,'" says Michelle Nicholson of Driggs, Idaho.
The Shaper embodies everything you're looking for in a well-made jacket for resort skiing. A dual-weave reinforces the fabric's durability, so it's not going to snag on that deep day when you're ducking low-hanging tree branches. Pockets are varied in shape, including a small chest pocket that fits a ski pass.
The hood is helmet compatible. Fully taped seams are strategically placed, to avoid abrasion. Pit zips keep air flowing. But the kicker on the Shaper is the zipper—which curves at the neck to give you extra breathing room.
The skiers on the POSSE reported a fine looking jacket that's well-made and fits long.
Editor’s note: The Hemispheres Jacket and Hemispheres Bib, 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.
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.
Constructed with recycled polyester and topped with a DWR finish, the Departer is durable enough for ripping around the resort and exploring quick hits in the backcountry.
The POSSE praised the simple design and soft fabric, along with smart pocket placement. Most impressive: The two-layer shell also features a 100 percent recycled Gore-Tex face fabric at one of the best price points we've seen from the brand.
And, Patagonia will repair any wear and tear that happens from regular use in an effort to keep this jacket in the mountains and out of the landfill.
Not another bulky down jacket that makes you feel like a marshmallow, the Solitude Down hoody from Spyder has a flattering cut that's long and feminine. Thanks to an elastic waistband, it also fits well around the hips.
It's made with 500-fill power down, which means it packs a lot of feathers into its baffles to keep you warm. It's probably better suited for brisk morning errands and après on the deck after the sun dips behind the mountains, but it's treated with DWR, so you can ski in the Solitude on those extra cold days.
A full-featured hardshell built for long days on the skin track, the Purist has vents in the pits and arms to keep things nice and breathable, while reinforced ripstop material adds durability and stretch.
The cut of the jacket is more freeride with added length in the torso for extra coverage of your backside. "The fit is primo," says Heather Hansman. "The articulation in the shoulders and back was great."
A helmet-compatible drop hood and a clean, trim profile inspires ninja-like stealth skiing through the trees.