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Are jackets better than shells in-bounds?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Sorry if this is a lame and repeated thread--but it is something I've been thinking about as I think about gearing up for next season...


I am a primarily a lift served skier--as I suspect is most of this board. (not too many authentic Bob Petersen's out there). Any way, like most of you, I wear a shell and layers; yes I know that is the common wisdom.


But is it really the optimal solution if you are not really hiking, not really sweating and not skiing in wet weather? For me and I suspect most of us, the most truly adverse conditions we face occur when we are sitting on the chair in howling wind and driving snow--and I'm not sure that calls for a 3L Gortex pro super sealed shell. Its likely better to have maximum warmth and a really great hood…as in an insulated  jacket with reasonably good waterproof attributes.Remember these new neo-shell shells are marvels of technology--but what they are really good at is being light weight, breathable and waterproof. None of which you need on a lift when it is howling and snowing.  By the way, I know for a fact that the manufacturers agree with that last statement.


Oh --but what about spring days you ask when you don't need that insulted jacket? C'mon..spring days take care of themselves..anything works. I think for most of the real l issue is 1.) cold 2.) wind and 3.) some moisture


So my question is--aren't jackets really better for most of us? Isn't it possible that all of us lift served skiers wearing the latest neo- plasma shells are just trying to rock the back country vibe and doing our selves a disservice in the process.


Thoughts on this world beating question…:-) David

post #2 of 25

Well, I'm mostly doing lift-served..and I sweat like crazy.  I mean, I'm working out there..  So for me, unless it's fair frigid, I'm liking shells with venting and fleece with zips.  I find ski jackets too all or nothing.

post #3 of 25

A good jacket is waterproof, breathable and warm.

post #4 of 25

I prefer insulated jackets & a t-shirt and I ski mostly in SoCal.  My reasoning is that I hate returning to the car to add or subtract layers.  I choose a lightweight insulated jacket with pit zips.  It handles everything but SoCal spring skiing. If I go somewhere colder, I add layers.

post #5 of 25
A good shell, super lightweight insulated mid layer, and technical base layer is so much lighter, less restrictive, and adaptable than an insulated coat. I think a lot if people are still wearing bulky mid layers, which compares to a bulky coat, and you can stay incredibly warm with almost no weight these days.
post #6 of 25
Even in wet warm pnw weather 3-4 light weight layers work well. I like a hoodie as a mid layer and went to a cycle cap instead of a ski bennie.
post #7 of 25

I have a quiver of jackets to match my quiver of skis.:D


Shell with a light insulator covers most days, but for the brutally cold days, IME there is not substitute for a nice down coat + mid and base layer. I also seem to be running colder as I get older (or maybe it's just skiing Loveland most of the time at any age?), so have also invested in insulated pants (flylow snowman). Bring on the arctic blast!!!:yahoo: 

Edited by MT Skull - 9/19/15 at 11:19am
post #8 of 25
^^^^you can disconnect the "down" from the coat these days. I wear a North Face Thermoball jacket as a mid layer. This weighs 12.7 oz., is incredibly insulating and feels as if you aren't wearing it at all, and doesn't make you hot if temps go up during a typical day. My shell is also very light weight, and that leaves you with your technical base layer(s).

I'm not doing this to layer up and down, it's how light weight and unrestricted it is. For the legs, it's compression tights, mid layer, pant shell.

My wife has a Marmot down version of that Thermoball jacket (and a couple from Athleta, which were also 'needed'). She gets core cold and used to go with the bulkier down coat or big layers (heavy fleeces), but now layers more or less like I do. That down coat, which is Michelin Man-esque (it's white), sometimes gets worn to work these days. This pic is her is fully bulked up with the uber warm technical layers, and she's warmer than she used to be.

It's nice to be able to answer the "Does this make me look....?" questions honestly biggrin.gif.
post #9 of 25

Not your high school Michelin man down jacket:


Not that heavy, but with 700 fill, not that light, and not exactly slimming on the figure. The price was right, and it's definitely warm. It's a bit bulky, but really no worse than my micro-puff under a shell. Admittedly, I'm a wuss, and have been known to wear a micro-puff underneath down for sub-zero days when I just didn't want to feel the cold. Pit zips, attached hood, and powder skirt add to the functionality/versatility.  


Sadly, Flylow no longer makes the Iceman, although some limited sizes can be found on closeout for around $100. Not that stoked on Flylow's replacement; the Colt, but still probably more functional that the typical Michelin man pieces.


While I'm blabbing away:words:, I'll just mention that I found some primaloft belay pants a few years ago that add about 30 degrees to the comfort range of just about any shell pant. There's a bunch of different flavors; down, synthetic, zippered, reinforced, etc., but anyway, the ones I found are pretty amazing for the warmth to weight ratio, similar to a micro-puff jacket.


Nay, we're going to have to meet up this year. I will not complain if you tell me my jacket makes me look fat. (the new Rocker2 100's arrived last week. STOKED!)

Edited by MT Skull - 9/19/15 at 11:32am
post #10 of 25
^^^woo hoo! beercheer.gif
post #11 of 25

I have been using an OR Stormbound down jacket (outer material is breathable Pertex Shield +) during the colder than normal temps that we have had in the East the last 2 years. I usually have a mid-weight shirt, an r2 fleece and the jacket. I find it easy to dump heat with the pit zips and front zipper. The jacket also has a powder skirt that really helps keep me warm during windy days. This setup seems to breathe better than my down sweater/shell combos or 3 layers plus a shell.

post #12 of 25
Originally Posted by blitz View Post

--but what they are really good at is being light weight, breathable and waterproof. None of which you need on a lift when it is howling and snowing.  By the way, I know for a fact that the manufacturers agree with that last statement.


:-) David


Sorry, I don't get this. If you are not sweating, the breathability is not such an issue, but you still want the warmth and waterproofing. Especially if you are sitting on snow and ice on the lift chair. I find that the greatest benefit of my shell (pants and an jacket) is their ability to keep out the cold.


Here in Arizona, we often have huge temperature swings during the day, especially in the spring. It's not unusual to go from well below freezing in the morning to the fifties after lunch. On theses days a shell with layers works the best. I usually lock my boot bag to the ski rack and take off layers as the day goes on. The shell is lightweight enough to keep on when it gets hot, especially with the vents open. If I had a thick insulated jacket I would have probably have to get a locker or run back to the car.


True, I probably never take advantage of a shell's breathability inbounds, but I think the combination of waterproof, windproof and lightweight makes shells the most versatile gear choice for me.

post #13 of 25

I find myself in the wind on a chair lift a lot more than in the backcountry. 



I do think 3x goretex is over kill.  Maybe it's cause i don't ski in the rain. 


I wore the Arc teryx Atom LT hoody most days last year. It's light weight.  It packs pretty small for synthetic, and no worries if you're sweating on the uptrack.   Cold windy days on the chair, and it's just barely enough. The wind really rips at the side mesh, that can't be closed. never had an issue with it not being water proof. 


I wear it on storm days too. Even last year when it was the wettest it's ever been. 


I will say it's pretty rare to be colder then -15c around here and if it's colder than that. I'd wear a shell and a down layer.

post #14 of 25

I have only one gore XCR 3L shell. It hardly ever gets used, and pretty much never for lift served. Breathable it is; warm it is not, although I could probably shower in it without getting wet.


As far as shells go; a 2L with a lining, even if it's mesh, feels warmer, and with venting options stays just as dry as 3L. Better choice for IB IMO, if you're not going for the full-on insulated jacket.


For me, layering makes the most sense if I'm likely to encounter a wide range of temps throughout the day. If it's just going to be frigid, I'd wear a sleeping bag if I thought it would keep me warm all day.


Down coat/sleeping bag=same ROM. Pole plants are overrated; just ask a snowboarder.

post #15 of 25
Originally Posted by MT Skull View Post

As far as shells go; a 2L with a lining, even if it's mesh, feels warmer, and with venting options stays just as dry as 3L. Better choice for IB IMO, if you're not going for the full-on insulated jacket.

Yep, and they are much cheaper and aren't stiff. It shocks me how many $500 shells there are out there that would about stand up by themselves.
post #16 of 25

I personally go with an insulated jacket with good vents but for slightly different reasons. In the Alps, it's not uncommon to see 20+ degree (F) temperature differences from peak to base. Since the vents on an insulated jacket bypass the insulation, they're more convenient to use as I'm hitting the warmer temperatures near the base. If I'm wearing a shell and insulated layers, I'd have to unzip multiple layers (assuming they have zips) to get the same ventilation, which just means more time faffing around with my gear.

post #17 of 25

My Mountain Hardware Jacket with dry-Q and thermal Q Elite, seems to have me well covered for a very broad range of temperatures. 

post #18 of 25
I ski in weather that ranges from -20 in MI to 60+ out west. I will only buy a shell because I can choose how warm I want to be and use the same jacket & Pants.
post #19 of 25

Well it is kinda repeated. Did you do a search? Nope. Well, anyway, both have their defenders. But the basic answer is yes, modern insulated jackets with pit zips are the best solution for most skiers most of the time. Easy peasy to vent or not, less time spent agonizing over "do I take off the inner middle layer or the outer-inner layer or oh god, I can't figure the optimal solution for 3:37 pm." :D OTOH, if you ski demanding terrain hard, if you hike, if you run hot and sweat a lot easily, then shells will be a better approach. Or if you just like to spend time tinkering with the optimal amount of insulation. Which for some folks, is part of skiing. 

post #20 of 25
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

less time spent agonizing over "do I take off the inner middle layer or the outer-inner layer or oh god, I can't figure the optimal solution for 3:37 pm

Huh? I have 3 options. 1) fleece jacket when it's cold. 2) fleece vest for when it's not cold. 3) T-shirt when it's warm. No agonizing, ever!
post #21 of 25

I was goofing a bit cuz I think the layer layer layer advice gets kinda (to borrow a term from political scientists) hegemonic. The numbing drumbeat of consensus...


Where I ski, you can have a day in mid-winter that's 65 or 70 with rain, and a day in mid-winter that's -15 and windy. Fleece ain't gonna cut it for either. Most people I know have two parkas, a shell for when it's raining, and an insulated for when it's below zero. Plus various middle and inner layers. But personally I've found that the days I fiddle the least, and concentrate the most on skiing are the days I wear fewer layers, and just vent as appropriate on the lift or even while skiing. Better for my muscles, I've found, to be a touch warm than a touch cold.


I have a buddy who's the exact opposite; always found with his small backpack, may shift layers four or five times a day (he carries several options in the back), not to mention digging out his camera or power bars or GPS or other paraphernalia, all as much a part of skiing for him as, uh, skiing.


Another approach is a shell and a down sweater, which works well in the cold if I'm doing trees or bumps, but IMEt may not be adequate on the coldest days when I'm standing around a lot. Say mixing up skiing and being a gate keeper. 

post #22 of 25
I now that weather pattern well. In MI we can see that kind of temperature swing twice in the same day!
post #23 of 25

I'm a shell convert, capability of being warm, but still breathable. Baselayers and midlayers perform much better these days. 


I'm a big fan of Outdoor Research. I picked up these shells (at a much cheaper price on backcountry.com). 



Womens Revelation

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant GTX Jacket - Women's

Womens Clairvoyant

post #24 of 25
I converted from using a shell with layers for many years to a lightly insulated jacket, an OR Igneo I bought half price about three years ago. I now use it 90% of my ski days, with a couple of solutions for progressively colder days and alone for days even in the 40 range. Last spring the main zipper broke and I found that OR really are serious when they say their gear is guaranteed forever: a new jacket is on its way as I type this.
post #25 of 25

Coldest I've skied was minus 40 wind chill on the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. I was comfortable walking down the arete fully exposed to the wind--very slowly because of the very out of shape guy I was roped to and basically dragging down--wearing a base layer, a light fleece, a Nano puff, and a goretex shell, same thing minus the puff on my legs. I was still comfortable at the bottom where it was warm calm and sunny. Venting the pit zips and opening the front zippers were all I needed to do. In general, the last thing I need on the average storm day is extra insulation--the skiing keeps me plenty warm. Now if you tend to cruise groomers in a place where it gets very cold then yes an insulated jacket might work better for you--mainly because when you go inside for mid morning snack, lunch, mid afternoon drink, etc--you have one thing to take off and you'll be comfy indoors.


BTW the coldest I've ever been was ice climbing in Huntington Ravine. 10 below F temp during the day but there was water under the ice so we were soaked from the water coming out through our axe holes (no pun intended), Once we got out of the gully it was blowing steady 100. gusting to 140 mph,  and we were pinned down for the night, although we managed to get out of the wind behind a rock. During the day I was comfortable in base layer, 2 wool shirts, wool pants, 60/40 shell (it was a long time ago--see my avatar). I did have a down parka which kept me alive when it dropped to 30 below F during the night. By that time my wool pants were frozen solid so I couldn't bend my knees, and when I took off my boots to put on down booties my socks were frozen to the inside of the boots. By the time we got down in the AM after the wind dropped I was down to my base layer shirt. Had to leave the rope--it froze solid and we couldn't coil it.

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