Pros: Bombproof construction, GoreTex Pro-Shell, Well thought out pockets
Cons: Pricey (but aren't' they all), fit a bit snug (but maybe it's me!)
I was looking for a replacement hard shell last season and spend enough time outdoors in cold, wet, sloppy conditions to justify a high-end jacket.
I've got a few Marmot pieces in my gear closet and I've always thought of them building good quality stuff at reasonable prices. The Alpinist, however, is one very pricey jacket ($550 list for the 2011 model). Price compares to high-end outerwear from other specialty brands like Arcteryx and the quality of this jacket compares to any of the high end gear from other brands.
Build quality on the jacket is superb. All seams are taped, water resistant zippers on all outer pockets and the pit-zips, fleece chin strip, helmet-compatible hood with wire brim, powder skirt and drawcord on the hem. Hand pockets are set high to allow access when wearing a harness or pack. Pit-zips are generous and allow the jacket to vent well. 30" length to give you extra coverage around the waist and hips. Jacket can also be zipped together with the Alpinist pants for keeping the snow out when you're getting face shots!
One of the things that sold me on this jacket (rather than Arcteryx) was a generous and useful pocket arrangement. Rather than a single sleeve pocket, the Alpinist has 2 Napoleon pockets for maps, Cliff bars or other small gear. (I have always hated sleeve pockets) The hand pockets are generous and deep (so stuff doesn't fall out if you leave the zipper open). Inside there is a large mesh pocket and a zippered pocket that will accommodate and iPod/iPhone or other stuff you need to keep out of the weather.
The jacket has an athletic cut and tends to fit a little snug in places (some of which is the fault of the operator not of the jacket! ). Articulated cut in the sleeves and "Angel Wing" cut on the back allows you to move in the jacket without constriction. I can get a fleece shirt and a down sweater underneath for layering, but if I was doing high elevation alpine work I might consider a larger size to get additional layering - like a heavy down jacket - underneath.
I've had this shell out in some pretty nasty weather - driving winter rain, sleet, 50 mph "breeze" on Mt. Washington, powder dump in the Wasatch (OK, that was fun - not nasty ), and an ice fog on Mt Mansfield - and have never been anything but dry and comfy underneath. When the sun comes out, drop the hood and unzip the pits and enjoy the warmth without getting too sweaty.
I love my soft-shell for those bluebird days, but anytime there's a question about the weather this is my go-to piece.
(Compare to the Arcteryx Theta SV at the same MSRP)