I'd been admiring the clean look of Kjus jackets for years. To my eye they are appealing in a thoughtful "less is more" way, that's similar to the way that the graphics on DPS skis, for example, are appealing. It's worth noting that the aesthetics of this stuff caught my eye WAY before I learned how outrageously expensive it was. When I did learn that, I more or less wrote it off as a non-starter for me.
Then last spring I stumbled across a Kjus parka - the "Strike" - lightly used on eBay with no reserve or minimum. It was my size and I liked the colors, so without doing any research to speak of I put in a low-ball bid. Much to my surprise, I won the auction. $135.00. The thing arrived and it was as described - barely worn, by the looks of things.
I've had this jacket out on eight or ten ski days and have some early pros and cons to report. Obviously the jury is still out on durability. All in all, I'm happy with it given what I paid, but if I had paid list price for it - I think something crazy like $700 - I would be bumming, because it does have some serious shortcomings.
Pros: Attractive soft, quiet fabric that drapes well and looks sleek - way above average in this department. Excellent fit and comfort. This is probably the best fitting ski jacket I've ever had. It's a trim fit, but never feels constricting in the shoulders or elsewhere. The quiet fabric and slight "give" to everything make it a pleasure to wear. You just forget you have it on, which is a big compliment. It also looks great, imho. The design of the collar is excellent. I can put the zipper all the way up and get a lot of protection from the collar without any irritation from the top of the zipper. The collar is just the right size to fit over the tall fleece collar of my EpicSki vest AND a balaclava, without being so big as to negagate the wind protection it's there for. The hood is attached at the base of the collar all the way around, so the collar can stand up while the hood still lies flat. Also, the hood has nice little piece of velcro on it that tends to keep it closed instead of flapping in the breeze and filling up with snow.
Cons: No pit zips. This was an unwelcome surprise for a jacket at this alleged level of sophistication. (I suspect that mine is at the "low end" of the Kjus line, but ... come on. Really? No pit zips?) Also no dedicated place to attach a day ticket or season pass. I emailed Kjus customer service to ask if I was just missing it, and they gave me a bunch of hooey about how "ski areas all have RFID passes now so that ticket attachments are no longer needed." Sure. If you say so. I live in Maine, people, not Deer Valley. Fine-gauge zipper is a bit fussy. On several occasions I have managed to start it wrong and ended up with a cross-threaded mess. When started correctly, it seems okay, but the small teeth just don't fill me with confidence in its robustness. There is no exterior draft / ice / rain flap over the zipper beyond little cloth extensions of the jacket itself that do provide a clean look put probably do nothing for real weatherproofing. There is a flap underneath the zipper. No dedicated key clip in any pocket. There is a leash for a cell phone, that I've been using for my keys instead, but it's a little too clever for its own good, requiring you to loop a doohickey onto your key chain, instead of having an old-fashioned clip that just lives in the pocket. Sometimes simpler is better. There is also a little change purse kind of thing in the pocket on the arm, on its own little leash, that doesn't strike me as furiously practical for anything, unless you are seven and your dad has given you five quarters for your hot chocolate. I had the hood up over my helmet a few times, and it did fit - barely - but the drawcord toggles did not grip their strings well enough to keep it there reliably. All these things suggest that testing of these features may have been done indoors on models instead of by real skiers on the hill in bad conditions. I haven't really tested the powder skirt, but it seems unnecessarily bulky and complex to me, compared with the simpler ones on the Marker and Marmot jackets I also own. The whole jacket is slightly on the heavy side, and I think the powder skirt contributes to this, in addition to taking away a bit from the otherwise smooth torso lines.
Neutrals: Reasonably good but not stellar in the waterproofness / breathability department. I'd say it was better on the waterproof end than the breathable end. On two occasions I've had it out in heavy wet snow. On one of those days it changed to freezing rain and then rain. The jacket was damp inside and out on those occasions, but it stayed warm and I believe that much of the moisture came from in through neck, not through the fabric itself. On another day I was overdressed and skied hard in the trees and bumps for a couple hours and sweated a lot. On that day the jacket did become wet inside. I ditched a couple layers at lunchtime and during the afternoon it remained comfortable and warm, and was dry again by 3:30 or so when I came in for the day. Overall it is not a super-warm garment. I don't think it's supposed to be. If you're out in single-digit temps or colder you are going to need to layer up aggressively. Lycra wrist gussets are a mixed blessing. They are nice in the cold, and they do keep the powder out if you spill. On the down side, they make on/off slightly more complicated, and they do add bulk that may or may not play nice with your particular glove / mitten / underlayer combo. If you sometimes wear your jacket over a skin suit, as I do once a week, they're a pain, because they compete with the suit's thumb holes. They're also hot if you are working hard, and prevent opening up the velcro on the sleeve from really doing anything, ventilation-wise. The "velcro" on the cuffs looks and feels like the knock-off stuff that wears out after a season or two, but I'm putting that in the "neutral" category because it hasn't actually failed yet. Built-in balaclava is pretty good for non-arctic conditions, with mesh over the nose and mouth. This improves respiration and fogging issues, but it's not enough when there is a frigid wind. You can feel it against your spine when it's zipped into its hidden pocket, when you are driving a car, for example. I removed mine from the jacket, for this reason.
Bottom line, this a jacket that is ALMOST fabulous. The basics are there - fit, materials, and appearance. However, several missing or poorly executed key features mean that I have to give it a "B" overall in the grade book. It get's an "A" for value at $135.00, but an "F" at full retail.