Now that I’m into my fifth season of skiing and have tried a number of different brands and products, I wanted to share the best women’s ski jackets and what to look for when you’re shopping for one. But since I’ve also been testing out some great skiing base layers and ski gadgets this season, I’m going to add a couple of extra sections in this post to feature those, too.
Shopping for new ski gear and skiwear can be overwhelming and costly. While I definitely have shopping problems and buy way too many things on my own, I’m also really grateful to every brand that’s sent me products since we became a ski family because it allows me to narrow down favourites and bring you real-world-tested ski gadgets and clothing so you don’t have to rely solely on fancy marketing to help inform your purchasing decisions.
The best women’s ski jackets
Unless your shape more closely resembles a “typical” man’s — broad shoulders, slimmer through the hips — you’ve got to shop in the women’s department. Even if there’s a whole rack of men’s ski jackets slashed to 90% off. Don’t do it! Your body is built differently and the best women’s ski jackets are those that — first and foremost — fit your curves and narrower back.
Before you shop, though, consider where you do most of your skiing. If you’re usually not in weather that dips below freezing, you probably want to focus your efforts on finding a great shell. Shells are ultra-packable and the lightest possible jacket; they’re also the most versatile choice because you can layer — or not — depending on the weather. In spring, summer and fall, shells make a great rain jacket, too.
Look for wind- and waterproof options like Gore-Tex (rather than water-resistant) because without any additional layers built into it, you don’t have room for error. We have skied in freezing rain — because we are stupid — so I’ve experienced the difference a truly waterproof fabric can make. Pro Tip: if a jacket calls itself waterproof but doesn’t have taped seams and zippers, YOU WILL GET WET.
Shells are awesome for people who “run hot,” too — though you may want to have a day pack with you with an extra layer just in case. I find if I sweat and go out in the cold, that sweat turns cold and lingers. So be prepared.
In terms of fit, shells will almost always fit bigger. Don’t be tempted to size down! You want that extra space for layering.
Where the shell jacket falls short is that they aren’t insulated at all. So if you normally ski in really cold temps or you’re someone who always feels cold, I’d stay clear of shells and go for something with insulation.
Choosing the best women’s ski jackets means trying on a LOT of different styles to see what works best for your body type. I’ve tried short jackets that hit just below the waist all the way around, which is a great style for someone with bigger hips or a sweet booty. I’ve tried jackets that cinch at the waist and are roomier above and below it — ideal if you’re working with a larger chest or thicker waist, or if you prefer some extra coverage on your bum when you sit on the chair lift.
I’ve also tried more fitted ski jackets, which are usually slightly elongated in the back. Try them on in-store if you can because the fit can be very different, even within the same brand and size. My Peak Performance jackets from this and last year are the perfect example; both look like they have a relatively similar cut and I have both in a size large. However, the Gravity style is considerably more roomy through the waist and hips, and has an overall more generous fit and than the Alpine style.
When I want to wear a base layer AND a mid-layer, the Alpine jacket starts to feel tight in several crucial areas while the Gravity is still a perfect fit with even a third (thin) layer. You’d never know this just by looking at them online, so unless you’re a glamazon who would look good in anything, I strongly encourage you to try on everything in person if you can or buy from an online retailer with an excellent return policy.
Read more about my experience with Peak Performance skiwear.
The best women’s ski jackets go beyond fit. They have good ventilation options under the arms, a snowskirt, wrist gaitors, a built-in goggle wipe, lots of pockets placed strategically for phones, keys, money and ID (and — let’s get real here, moms — snacks), and a hood big enough to fit over a helmet for those blistery cold days. The insulating layers should be technical fabrics; in an ideal world, the synthetics used are from recycled materials. (For example, Peak Performance almost universally uses recycled synthetics.) If you insist on a down-filled ski jacket, my first question would be “why?” since down can become compressed when wet and then lose all its insulation power. And my second question, if you still insist on down, would be “Can you trace where the down came from?”
Two other features that I love on my Peak Performance ski jackets that I want to mention:
- I mentioned snowskirt above, which helps prevent snow from busting up into your torso if you’re in deep powder or take a really terrific stumble into the white stuff, but the snowskirts in Peak jackets also come built with a button-in system that attaches to your ski pants! Sort of like a onesie, but with an easier way to pee.
- RECCO — this is an integrated avalanche rescue system built into every that “reflects” a signal used by ski patrol to help them find a buried person or someone, say, stuck in a tree well. (Also known as my worst nightmare.)
Try on a few brands (and sizes) and see what feels right. You may want a touch of stretch to your women’s ski jacket that shows off your shape, or you may want something with a baggy fit and zero stretch. Choose colours or patterns that you know you’ll want to wear for a few years. You’re probably investing somewhere in the $500-1,000 range on this jacket, so — at the end of the day — make sure you love it.
My fave skiing base layers and mid-layers
Err’body needs base layers, but whether or not you need mid-layers, too, depends on the temperature, wind chill factor and whether you’re wearing a shell or insulated ski jacket.
Best base layer for skiing
The best cold weather base layer is made of anything but cotton. Please, please avoid cotton at all costs. Once it’s wet (including sweat), it will stay wet and make you feel colder. You basically have two choices when it comes to base layers: natural or synthetic. I’ve tried both ad nauseum and still haven’t determined a clear winner, so get what feels good or has the prettiest colours or whatever other purchase intent you need to pull the trigger.
In my opinion, base layers are NOT where you want to cheap out. Save that for the mid-layers. Investing in good base layers means you’re more likely to stay warm throughout your ski day and you’ll replace them less often down the road, too.
I personally prefer a higher-waisted base layer legging with some added stretch. I’ve experimented with non-stretch and leggings, but I like that a touch of Lycra maintains the shape between washes.
On the topic of washing… DO NOT OVER-LAUNDER YOUR BASE LAYERS! The good stuff from top brands like Peak Performance, Icebreaker, Smartwool and LNDR are crafted with either merino wool (which hardly ever needs to be washed because it’s naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial) or high-tech fabrics designed to be sweat-wicking and stink-proof. Unless your base layers are letting off a distinct BO of their own, or your kid pees in theirs, just air them out when you’re not wearing them.
Finally, when you do wash your base layers, look for detergents specially formulated for the fabric. We use a merino wool laundry detergent from a brand called Granger’s or an activewear-specific laundry detergent for the synthetics.
Merino wool base layers
Skiing base layers made of merino wool is the best choice if you want to stick with natural fibres. I find it soft against the skin and easy to wear, but for those who are VERY sensitive to wool or with other sensory issues, it may still be itchy. My mom, for example, can’t handle any wool — merino included — on her skin.
Merino base layers are varying degrees of warm based on its weight/thickness and some brands (Icebreaker immediate comes to mind) will provide that measurement right on the packaging. I find these base layers are super moisture-wicking and so naturally odour-resistant that they may only need to be washed once a month during ski season.
Overall, merino base layers can be more expensive than their synthetic counterparts but they do hold up very well over time — probably in large part because they don’t go through the washer frequently.
Synthetic base layers
Highly technical fabric, made especially for skiing (or running — that stuff works well, too, in my experience), is distinct from just any old polyester activewear you can get in chain sports stores. My favourite base layer top of all time is a Peak Performance slim-fit long-sleeved top with a hood that’s synthetic, fits like a glove and allows me an extra layer of warmth under my helmet for the coldest conditions. It’s three years old and gets the most wear out of any skiwear piece I have and still looks and performs like new.
My all-weather LNDR set (a UK brand that’s easy to find in North America, but also ships directly from England if you order online) sits at the top of my base layer pile, too. It’s got the added benefit of compression, which feels great across the shoulders and the hips as you swoosh side to side.
In both cases, they need to be washed slightly more often than my merino wool base layers but they hang-dry MUCH faster, which is a huge benefit if for some reason you need to wash your layers late at night to be ready for an early-morning ski the next day.
I’m only going to touch on mid-layers quickly because I’ve covered them a lot in my other skiwear posts that I’ve linked elsewhere in this post. If your budget is unlimited, then go for the best mid-layers money can buy. I absolutely LOVE my hybrid wool mid-layers from Peak Performance, which are a fleece-lined poly-wool blend that takes the benefits of synthetics and mashes them with the benefits of wool.
However, like I mentioned earlier, mid-layers are where you can save after you’ve splurged on the most important investment pieces. Because if you sandwich budget-friendly mid-layers between top-of-the-line skiing base layers and the best outerwear you can afford, that mid-layer choice is going to be much more forgiving.
Other ski essentials
With skis, poles, boots, skiing base layers and the best women’s ski jacket (plus matching or contrasting pants, of course) locked down, you’re almost ready to hit the slopes. But there are a few more ski essentials you need to protect your head, eyes and extremities.
Unless the temperature is above zero degrees Celsius, I wear a balaclava. Even a thin one is better than nothing when fending off fierce winds you often face on the mountain.
Look for ones that hinge at the jawline so you can pull them up and down over your mouth and nose with ease. I find balaclavas that fit tight on my face warmer than those that have space and areas constructed for, say, nose placement. For me, the cold air gets in more readily and stays trapped there.
This year, I’ve been using an integrated balaclava that magnetically attaches directly to my goggles. It’s extra versatile because it has an oversized fleece hood that can be worn up over my helmet or down around my neck, and has the option of one or two layers across my face. The integration that the anon brand has created with its Fleece Helmet Hood is brilliant because you never struggle to cover every bit of exposed skin — no matter how many times you pull it down.
Best ski helmet
Why anyone would choose to ski without a helmet is beyond me. So here’s my friendly PSA to the old-skool skiers who didn’t grow up wearing one: DON’T BE DUMB. WEAR A HELMET.
Ski helmets have changed so much even just in the five seasons I’ve been skiing. My first helmet wasn’t adjustable and didn’t have bells and whistles beyond a ponytail loop in the back.
Now we have MIPS helmets — an acronym for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. MIPS technology copies what our brain’s structure does to protect us from bumps and bangs. The helmet’s liner and its user’s head are separated, which allows the helmet to slide and rotate independently should there be impact. This helps reduce brain trauma caused by angled impacts to the head rather than just a blunt force.
MIPS helmets definitely feel different at first. There’s the slightest bit of movement even in normal motion — but you’ll get used to it because it becomes indiscernible over time. And I’m comforted knowing that my head is being protected with the best technology available.
Finally, be sure if you’re a woman that you purchase a helmet made for women. They, too, are designed with a woman in mind and will usually fit differently than a man’s. I love the way my anon Nova MIPS helmet looks and feels. Aside from the best safety features on the market, it’s also micro-adjustable and has a magnetic clasp closure that’s about a million times easier to get done and undone with one hand, even with mitts on, than a regular clip. The Nova has climate control with a series of 23 vents and cushiony ear pads that open up to accept headphones (more on those below) and all anon helmets are backed by Burton’s two-year crash replacement policy.
Best ski goggles
Goggle lenses are another place where you don’t want to cheap out — especially if you don’t ski in really variable conditions (and other than those lucky Californians, who doesn’t?). There are really two choices when it comes to lenses: those that adjust to lighting conditions (called photochromic lenses) and those that are lighting-specific (such as sunny, cloudy, nighttime, etc.).
Having owned both, there are pros and cons to each. Photochromic lenses are an excellent overall choice if you typically ski ONLY during the day because they really do adjust pretty quickly whether you hit a cloudy patch or the sun suddenly makes a dramatic appearance.
But specialty lenses with VLT– like anon goggles — are designed to process “visible light transmission,” presented as a percentage that indicates how much light those specific goggle lenses let through. The obvious pro here is that you can get hyper-specific for your conditions and change out lenses as needed; the obvious con being if conditions change significantly while you’re out and you’re not carrying a day pack with different lenses, you might not see as optimally.
Now, changing goggle lenses is a whole other ball of wax. I’ve never had a pair until this year that I found easy to change. My Women’s anon WM1 Goggle has magnetic lenses, though, so they literally pop right in and out of their frame. They came with two lenses (one with a VLT of 46%, which is super versatile and ideal for anything from medium sunny to cloudy conditions, and another with a VLT of 6%, best for very bright conditions), and I can purchase additional lenses, such as one for night skiing to make my goggles perfect for limited light.
Ski mittens (and gloves)
I’m going to need to pay some homage here to the Burton Oven Mitt. If you end up clicking on the link below for my ski gear guide from last year, you’ll read that I mention trying out many, many, many different brands of mitts over the years. I mean — it’s been an exhaustive list because my fingers are always frozen.
I was nervous when they first arrived because there wasn’t a slot for a Hot Shot (those temporary hand warmers) and I always wear those. ALWAYS. But I skied an entire weekend at Tremblant with just the Oven Mitts on and I was floored. So then I proceeded to look up what’s in them because I couldn’t believe what my fingertips were telling me. Aside from the Gore-Tex around them, the inside is where it’s at: a layer of warm goose down, then 15 ounces of PrimaLoft Gold Insulation and finally a Hydrofil fleece liner. Huge bonus points for the curved, leather palm device-sensitive thumb and wrist leashes.
A few weeks after falling in love with my Burton Oven Mitts, I received a pair of Ravean heated mitts for an Instagram project. They are the warmest things ever, even the thumb, but I do find they take a long time to fully charge and when you have them on the highest heat (which you’d want for temps below -15C), the battery only lasts about two to three hours. But if that’s as long as you’d ski in those conditions, it’s a great option.
At the low setting, they’re still pretty warm — I shovelled my driveway using the low setting so I wasn’t out on a mountain if they shut down — and that will get you up to six hours of battery life, which is respectable. I do find mine on the tight side and wish I’d sized up, and that might have ultimately made the cuff (where the battery goes) a bit more generous, too. Unfortunately, I can’t flex my wrist nearly as easily as I can in “normal” mitts. And if they power off during a ski day, they’re warm on their own but not nearly as warm as the Burton Oven Mitt.
I still use MANY of the ski gadgets featured in last year’s ski gear guide.
Having great après-ski outfits is always fun, too. My go-to piece this year has been the Moment Vest from Peak Performance:
Made with responsibly sourced duck down as well as recycled polyamide, this is the warmest puffy vest I’ve owned to date (I have had three others from three different brands). Even the hood is down-filled, and there are roomy pockets to stash your money, ID and phone as you head out for a pint or two. And get this: it can go in the washer AND dryer!
Shopping tip: this vest is sold out through Peak Performance Canada’s online store but is currently half price* at Sporting Life!
Ski gadgets worth checking out
Cool ski gear just gets started with skis and boots. There’s a whole world of ski gadgets that can help keep you stay connected, be more comfortable and generally look like you’re on your A-game at the hill.
Ski boot heater
Kulkea makes a really good-looking ski boot bag. Even before they came out with the heated version, I was in covet mode. Part of what I like is that the design is sleek rather than bulky and you can put your helmet on the outside of your bag using a retractable net.
While I don’t find it quite as roomy as my OG boot bag from VOLKL — into which I can fit my entire Peak Performance suit, two sets of base layers, a set of mid-layers, extra socks, helmet, goggles, mitts, balaclava, neck warmer, snacks, a small First Aid kit and obviously boots — I really don’t mind figuring out where to stash the few extra things that won’t fit (because warm boots are freaking GOLD).
If you’ve ever tried to put on cold boots after a long drive to the ski hill, you know that it can be downright painful trying to wrangle your foot into a shape that will slide into the rigid neck of the boot. With the Kulkea Thermal Trekker, you could potentially road trip four to six hours to make it to your ski destination and they’ll gloriously heat not only your boots, but the liners and even things in the middle compartments, too, the entire time. (It’s pretty delightful putting on a warm balaclava before stepping out into the cold.)
Prescription ski goggles
You Zee Clip makes a very, very cool product if you don’t want to invest in a pair of prescription ski goggles (I’ve made this mistake with my diving goggles — as soon as your Rx changes, you gotta do it all over again). I’ve also tried OTG goggles (which you can wear over your glasses) but my frames are too big for them.
Instead, I’ve always resorted to contact lenses, but my eyes get SUPER dry within a few hours and that’s a whole other problem. So when You Zee Clip gifted me with a pair of its clip-in glasses, I was hopeful that it would mean I’d never have to buy boxes of contacts again.
You can barely see them once you clip them into a pair of goggles:
I’ve played with these a lot and here’s what I’ve learned:
- Although they do fit into any pair of goggles (I’ve tried them in about 9 different pairs so far), they fit into some better than others in terms of how they feel on your face. With large, spherical lenses, I didn’t feel the You Zee Clip on my face/nose at all; however, with goggles that are flatter through the lens, I felt the nose piece almost sitting on the bridge of my nose the whole time, which gets uncomfortable after an hour or two.
- I tried two kinds of balaclavas with the You Zee Clip and no balaclava at all. No balaclava at all was the best scenario — no fog, perfect visibility. But I have had maybe five ski days in as many years that are balaclava-free days for me. So I really needed to sort this out. Overall, I found that my tight one from Peak Performance produced the least amount of fog in between my goggle lens and the You Zee Clip, especially once I concentrated on breathing only through my nose. My anon Fleece Helmet Hood is PHENOMENAL when I’m wearing contacts but its design didn’t work with this clip because there’s too much room for air to travel up into the Clip, causing it to fog. It’s important to note here that I didn’t use any goggles I hadn’t previously worn and proven consistently fog-free (that way, I could conclude that it was the prescription lens clip layered in there causing any fog.)
- Your package includes fog wipes. Take the pack with you at all times. Once I actually read the directions, I learned that you’re supposed to wipe the Clip lenses a few times before you even set out for the day. That definitely helped, but I did have to de-fog the Clip at least twice during a full-day sesh.
- Once you’ve got the right goggle fit and have your balaclava-breathing theatrics worked out, the You Zee Clip is legitimately amazing. My prescription is bang on and the curved lens actually means I have good peripheral vision as well. My eyes never get tired or scratchy using this Clip like they do when I wear contacts. I did a full, eight-hour day at Tremblant earlier this year to test these in conditions very different from Brimicombe (our wonderful ski area close to home) and my eyes had never felt better at the end of a big day.
Bluetooth headset for helmet
Konnect headphones are where it’s at! We had a different brand of bluetooth ski helmet headphones last year so I can compare the pros and cons of the Konnect Adventure earphones.
Konnect’s are smaller and lighter than the competition but they don’t function well without the added remote that mounts to your helmet. And that doesn’t come with your new headphones. The remote is only another $30, but I’d rather see them packaged and sold together.
Sound is crisp and clear and the remote is really easy to use once you learn what each button does. I’ve listened to music, taken calls and even accessed Google Assistant and Siri with the press of a button. The upside of the remote is that you don’t have to remove the headphones to charge them — just charge the remote on your helmet. The downside is if you tend to change helmets a few times in a season, you’ll need to buy extra remotes. Even still, they’re a better overall product than their main competitor.
Socks for skiing
Darn Tough Vermont, Smartwool, Icebreaker. In that order. Those are my all-time favourites among the dozens of brands I’ve tried. Look for the highest concentration of merino wool or cashmere with enough elasticity that they’ll stay up above your calf the whole day.
Oh, and “skiing socks” are a real thing because the padding on the shin does make a difference over the course of a day but especially if you’re skiing for days on end.
KOALA phone harness
This thing is pretty great if you do a lot of photo/video on chair lifts and in-motion on your ski runs. It clips to your jacket or fanny pack and offers a secure hold on your phone so even if it falls out of your hand, you won’t lose it. The KOALA phone holder has a silicone sleeve that fits around just about any smartphone and the clip is attached to a coiled cord to link the two together.
I find I can keep the KOALA clipped to my jacket near the chest pocket and just slide my phone in and out of that pocket and do the zipper most of the way up, which is so much easier than re-clipping it over and over again.
Before I started using the KOALA clip, I was always really nervous about pulling my phone out on a chair lift and probably wouldn’t have dared filming Tremblant’s 6km Nansen Trail run at top speed — both are easy peasy now.
Now that you know how to choose the best women’s ski jackets, an awesome merino wool base layer, fun ski gadgets and other useful ski accessories, you’ll have to start planning an epic ski trip. Other than Tremblant, here are some posts that should provide some inspo:
Have fun out there!
*Prices at time of writing may not be indefinitely available; please check individual retailers.
DISCLAIMER: Some products mentioned were gifted — and thoroughly tested alongside products I purchased. All opinions are my own.