How to choose your ski & snowboard jacket?

This season at your favorite ski resort is shaping up to be a great one, with fresh snow in the forecast, a real Winter, and long powder slopes to ski down in the heart of the Alps or Pyrenees. It's time to get out your brand-new ski or snowboard equipment! 

Now it's time to find out which technical garments and, above all, which ski/snowboard jackets you'll be donning this winter, to keep you warm and ride comfortably with a healthy dose of freedom?

Just like your ski or snowboard gear, ski clothing, and especially your jacket, is an important element in your ability to enjoy the mountains with complete peace of mind, thanks to a technical garment that's waterproof, breathable, insulating and offers great freedom of movement. With so many brands to choose from, it can be tricky to optimize your choice according to your needs and budget. That's why HawaiiSurf can help you make the right choice! 

What are the different types of ski/snowboard jackets?

The following section will finally make you forget the basic prejudices that say "the thicker the jacket, the warmer it is" and conversely, "the thinner the jacket, the less warm it is"! Gone are the days of Jean-Claude Dus in Les bronzés font du ski, wearing stiff, heavy jackets that offer little freedom of movement and always leave you feeling cold, whatever the weather...

There are many different types of technical jackets, and each will satisfy different skiers depending on their intended use. It's important to choose the right jacket for the job, and there's sure to be one just right for you! 

Understanding the 3-layer concept

To guarantee optimum protection during your ski vacation, it is essential to understand the purpose of the different layers that make up your equipment:

  1.  The sweat-wicking layer: There's nothing more unpleasant than feeling your clothes stick to your skin from perspiration during practice. The first layer of your outfit must therefore ensure good ventilation to keep you warm and dry.
  2. Thermal layer: Given the climatic conditions during your outings, it would be regrettable not to take full advantage of them because of the cold. That's why it's a good idea to add an insulating layer (fleece or softshell) to your outfit to maintain body heat.
  3. The protective layer: During downhill runs, it's not uncommon to come up against bad weather conditions such as wind, rain or snow. These weather hazards won't stand a chance against effective waterproof and windproof protection!

Understanding Waterproofing and Breathability in Ski/Snowboard Jackets

When it comes to choosing the perfect ski/snowboard jacket, understanding waterproofing and breathability is essential to guaranteeing your comfort and protection from the elements. These two features play a crucial role:

Waterproofing :

  • Waterproofing is the ability of a ski jacket to resist water, whether snow or rain, keeping it at a distance from the garment.
  • It is measured in Schmerber millimeters, indicating the height of water required for the fabric to start letting moisture through. Common levels range from 3,000 mm to 30,000 mm. 
  • < 8 000 mm : Imperméabilité moyenne
  • > 10,000 mm: Good impermeability
  • > 20,000 mm: Excellent impermeability 

Membranes offering waterproofing in excess of 20,000 mm are especially suited to snowboarders and powder skiers in search of committed freeride!

How can I be sure that a ski jacket is waterproof? 

  • Choose a jacket with a minimum waterproof rating of 10,000mm Schmerber
  • Check that seams and zippers are watertight, to prevent moisture, rain and snow from entering the garment(heat-sealed or taped). 
  • Choose a quality membrane: Gore-Tex®, infiDRY®, Dryplay


  • Breathability measures a jacket's ability to evacuate heat and perspiration from the inside to the outside, preventing moisture build-up inside.
  • It is measured in grams per square meter per 24 hours(g/m²/24 h). For example, a jacket with a breathability of 10,000 g/m²/24 h means it can evacuate 10,000 grams of moisture per square meter in 24 hours.
  • <10 000 grs/m²/24h : Respirabilité moyenne
  • >10,000 grs/m²/24h: Good breathability

Some ski/snowboard jackets feature underarm vents that can be opened or zipped toimprove breathability. By opening them, you further promote moisture evacuation.

Thermal insulation:  

Not all ski jackets come with thermal insulation, as heat requirements vary according to practice and conditions.

There are several factors that can help you choose a ski/snowboard jacket with more or less insulation:
  • Practice : If you use ski lifts and ski on groomed runs, you're bound to be inactive more often, so you'll need better protection to keep out the cold. On the other hand, if you're an off-piste skier, freerider, backcountry skier, ski tourer or splitboarder, you'll be generating body heat on the way up and down, so you'll need a thin insulating layer.
  • Altitude: The higher you go, the colder and windier it will be! 
  • The season: Temperatures change with the season. Whether you're skiing in December or April, they won't be the same and won't require the same insulation.
  • The station: Depending on the region, temperatures can also vary according to altitude and location.

On the other hand, for activities requiring thermal insulation, manufacturers have developed various insulation technologies, using synthetic or natural fibers. These jackets can be filled to varying degrees, from lightly insulated models to extremely warm ski jackets.

Insulation types are differentiated by their ability to provide warmth. Insulation capable of generating a lot of warmth with little material will enable a reduced jacket thickness to be maintained, offering skiers and snowboarders greater freedom of movement. The best insulators therefore have a high warmth index and a low filling weight (expressed in grams per square meter).

In our product descriptions, you'll find information on the jacket's warmth level and filling weight, when supplied by the manufacturer. This enables you to choose the ski jacket that best suits your needs and the conditions in which you plan to ski.

Other factors to consider

  • Ventilation zips Located in the armpit area, and sometimes in the chest area, these ventilation zips let you let in fresh air without having to remove your ski jacket. The ventilation is generally designed with nets to prevent snow from getting inside. A very useful accessory between two runs to evacuate perspiration if you've been through a tough passage on a big, steep couloir...
  • Snow skirt : A design element integrated into your jacket, it's an ideal complement to prevent snow from entering the bottom of the jacket during an unexpected fall. On big freeride days, away from the tourist crowds of the resorts, it will prevent snow from storing up inside. Brands such as Volcom, Picture or 686 offer a removable snow skirt that connects to the pants, reproducing the totally hermetic style of 1-piece suits.
  • Pockets There's no need for lots of pockets - just an ergonomic backpack! However, some jackets offer a perfect design and a number of sturdy, watertight pockets, designed to store all your personal essentials in case of need (smartphone, identity papers, vitamin bars or even a second screen or ski mask). We recommend two external pockets and one internal for comfortable riding.
  • Hood 95% of ski and snowboard jackets are equipped with hoods, some of which are removable and, above all, adjustable. In recent seasons, the ergonomics of hoods have been adapted to fit ski helmets without any discomfort.
  • Tightening cuffs & sleeves You can tighten your sleeves at wrist level on all ski jackets with Velcro, elastic or snap fasteners. It's essential to adjust your cuffs so that you can slip your gloves on more easily, and thus minimize 100% snow ingress in the event of a fall through your hands, or moisture ingress on a white day. You'll also find "thumb-pass sleeves", a further effective way of staying even warmer and drier, thanks to their great elasticity, providing greater comfort and optimizing the tightness of your hands in ski gloves or mittens.
  • Waterproof zips & closures 100% waterproof zippers are essential on your technical jacket. They prevent moisture and snow from getting in.
  • Cut The cut of your technical jacket is more than just a fashion statement. It also has a major influence on its functionality. Snowboarders and freestylers often opt for a loose fit, allowing them to layer several layers under their jacket. On the other hand, skiers who prefer optimum insulation without too much thickness will prefer more fitted cuts. Once again, the choice depends on the conditions you'll be facing. Whether you opt for a fitted, standard or loose fit, the decision is yours!
  • Thermal lining There are natural and synthetic thermal liners. The distinction between a classic ski & snowboard jacket with a thermal lining and a hardshell is that the latter has only one waterproof, breathable outer shell. When it comes to linings, Primaloft® and E-Loft are benchmarks for insulation, warmth and comfort.

Now you have all the information you need to choose your ski and snowboard jacket!

If you're looking for in-depth advice on selecting the perfect pair of ski or snowboard pants, take a look at our comprehensive guide: How to choose ski and snowboard pants. You'll find all the information you need to stay warm, dry and stylish on the slopes!