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Winter Jacket Recommendations by Activity

Do you need a different jacket for skiing inbounds than you do for backcountry touring? What should you look for in an expedition jacket? How about a casual jacket for cold chillin’ in winter weather? Here’s some initial advice.

Alpine Skiing/Snowboarding

You need a jacket that keeps you warm on the chairlift and dry while you ride. How warm and how dry depends on the weather in your area. There isn’t a whole lot of super-aerobic activity involved in alpine skiing or snowboarding, so you don’t need the most breathable thing on the market. Fit is also entirely up to you, but most will go slightly on the loose side. The only real necessity is a powder skirt.

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Backcountry Touring/Winter Aerobic

Norrøna Lofoten Gore-Tex Active Shell JacketYes, you’re still out in the mountains and need some weather protection, but you’re much more likely to get soaked by simply sweating while you break trail. As a result, something with an extremely high breathability rating is probably the most important feature of a technical jacket for backcountry skiing. Otherwise, just plan on taking your jacket off while heading up the—wearing a softshell on the way up and adding a minimalist ski jacket for the descent can be a good idea. You want a powder skirt for touring the morning after two-foot dumps, and a hood is key. Look for a regular to slightly slim fit since you’ll be wearing a pack all day, and low weight is pretty nice when you consider that you have to carry this jacket everywhere you go.

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Mountaineering/Expedition

Have you ever shoveled in shifts through the night to keep your tent from being buried in a storm? If you have, then you know what you need in a jacket. If you haven’t, then you should be looking for the burliest, most waterproof, most breathable thing you can get your hands on. You also want a full-time hood with a collar that you can zip up to your nose, or all the rest is for nothing. You also have to climb in this thing while wearing a pack, so low weight and a slightly slim to regular fit should be pretty high on your list.

Winter Casual/Mountain Lifestyle

Pendleton Warren JacketLet’s face it, you’re not using this jacket to climb some Himalayan peak whose name you can’t pronounce, or even trying to beat your personal best in ski-touring vert in a single day. You’re just chillin’ out. You probably want at least some insulation, and you can get crazy with it if you plan on being some place pretty cold. Wool is also super warm, and unlike the winter wool jackets of yore, merino wool feels smooth and doesn’t itch. A little waterproofing is nice, but you’re not going to hang out in the parking lot while hail the size of golf balls falls from the sky. You’re heading inside in this case, so don’t stress too much on the ratings. Basically, get the jacket that looks awesome and keeps you warm enough that you’re not the first one complaining about the cold, and you’re all set.

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