Skiing exists at the crossroads of fit, fashion and function. Outerwear tags feature schematic drawings and plenty of trademarks, but what does it all mean? Here’s everything you need to know about our top five fabric picks.
Made from a thin membrane sandwiched between a face fabric and a backer, Gore-Tex promises to protect against the elements – even lashing rain – while letting out perspiration. Water beads off a Gore-Tex surface thanks to an invisible coating known as Durable Water Repellant (DWR). Used by hundreds of brands all over the world, Gore-Tex shows up in footwear, gloves and headgear.
Suggested jacket: Cut a bit roomier than other Arc’teryx pieces, the Arc’teryx Fissile ($1100) is a full-featured winter-beater jacket with triple-layer Gore-Tex to repel even Coast Range wind and heavy snow while baffles of premium European down keep you toasty.
Developed by Polartec (the company behind polar fleece), air-permeable NeoShell is thinner (some might say flimsier) than Gore-Tex, with some stretch for freedom of movement, making it one of the lighter and quieter options.
Suggested jacket: When you first pick up the Apoc jacket ($520) made by East Vancouver’s Westcomb, you might not believe it could protect against the elements. But it can, and does, combining outstanding breathability and freedom of motion. Wear it as a shell over a down sweater or fleece pullover.
Columbia offers incredibly good value for money with its proprietary waterproof breathable fabric. It does the job admirably well at a fraction of the cost of Gore-Tex Pro Shell, for instance.
Suggested jacket: Columbia’s Bugaboo 3 in 1 jacket ($250) remains one-of-a-kind in versatile skiwear. The full zip-out fleece jacket, which has been upgraded with Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat reflective dots, can be worn alone, as can the Omni-Tech exterior jacket.
Helly Hansen also gets in on the proprietary waterproof breathable fabric scene with Helly Tech. The company is the exclusive clothing supplier for Fernie Alpine Resort’s pro patrol, who truly put their gear through the most severe testing environments anywhere in the world.
Suggested jacket: The Backbowl jacket ($525) incorporates a new super-breathable system called H²FLOW and comes insulated with chill-busting PrimaLoft synthetic fill.
Norwegian manufacturer Fjällräven references historic milestones (think Polar explorers) with its proprietary G-1000 – a blend of tightly woven polyester and organic cotton treated with water-repellent wax. While the fabric has the texture and feel of aged denim, the durability is outstanding – many jackets get passed on from one generation down to the next.
Suggested jacket: Show up on the slopes wearing a Fjällräven Smock One ($749) and people might ask if you’re heading to the North Pole. Boasting so many pockets that you might forget exactly where your power gels are stored, the Smock One can turn heads in an urban environment, too.
– Steven Threndyle