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Best ski jacket material for beginner/intermediate?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hey,

Having never skied before, I'm looking for some advice on what kind of jacket to purchase. I think most of my question can be answered by telling me: how physically exerting is skiing for beginners and intermediates?

I'm very familiar with jacket materials. Over the past month, I've been hunting for a cold weather running/sports jacket. In the process, I've tried on, researched and even done vapor tests/ret tests on dozens of jackets with every possible fabric. I've found none that have performed exactly as planned, but that may change when my Buffalo Teclite jacket arrives from overseas.

Most jackets can be grouped into (from not breathable to most breathable):
1) Windproof and Waterproof PU coat/layer/membrane/teflon (Gore, eVent)
2) Windproof (Gore Windstopper, full Northface Apex)
3) 98% Windproof Membrane/Coating/Other layer (Polartec Powershield, Schoeller WB-400)
4) Pile/Pertex (Buffalo Special 6, Montane Extreme)
5) Single layer stretch woven (Schoeller Dryskin)
Note: I haven't gotten my hands on Pile/Pertex jacket yet, it may be more breathable than Schoeller Dryskin)

So, for someone who is going to learn how to ski and hopefully become an "intermediate" skier, which jacket is ideal? If it matters, I'm in Michigan: weather can be any kind of snow, 0 - 40 Fahrenheit, no wind to very gusty.

My perception is that--for a beginner/intermediate--skiing isn't too stressful and physically exerting, which is why you see a lot of Windstopper ski jackets. I'm thinking that a Nylon face, Windstopper jacket with light fleece lining is ideal of the beginner skier: abrasion resistant, good water resistance, no wind. If not, I'd probably skip the 98% windproof layers, as I dislike the wind permeability just to breathe concept, and find an English Pile/Pertex jacket.

What do you guys think?
post #2 of 15
Sounds like you've done your homework!

I think you'd be surprised how physically difficult learning to ski can be - most beginners sweat far more than any of the better people I ski with.

Once you begin to advance technically, you'll be much less tired, and if youre only skiing at an intermediate level (ie mostly blue groomers, the occasional black), you'll probably find that you get cold easily, because you just arent working very hard. Id say keep a couple of layers handy for the first 5-6 times out, so you can adjust as necessary, and figure out what you like.
post #3 of 15
You are serious about ski wear and i will answer with that in mind.

I found myself sweating a lot when i was a beginner/intermediate. I would not choose a windstopper jkt because it does not breathe well. There's something in there that's killing the breathability. Most likely it's a PU layer. I haven't looked very closely at the windstopper construction since i saw patagonia's response on breathability on another website. They tested some of their fabrics against gtx, event and windstopper. gtx was more breathable than windstopper. LOL!


IMO it is best to have a hard shell and a soft shell. As much as i love my soft shells, there are some days when a hard shell is needed. When it is very cold or in a storm i would wear a hard shell. My soft shells do not have a hood and i need that in a storm. Many people claim that event is the best on the market. That may be true, but i can tell you this: i don't have to pay $$$ for a top-of-the-line event (or gtx) jkt because i will be sweating a lot, sooner (w/ lower end fabrics) or later (event). I have a Volkl Team Jkt and Pant w/ a lower end fabric. It doesn't matter if i overheat halfway down my first run or at the bottom of my first run. I WILL sweat a lot and it doesn't matter if it's event, gtx or sensortex (the "membrane" from my jkt and pant). What matters is the DWR because when it is snowing hard the dwr is very important. I even said that i would not pay for a hard shell again. I will either get it for free or stick with what i have and use revivex when it is needed.


I would definitely pay for a great soft shell. I have a Dryskin soft shell from Mammut and an Original Soft Shell from Fila. The latter is basically a WB-400 w/ fleece inner but it exceeded the specifications for WB-400 found in most jkts. Many have 12-14% PU. Fila decided it would be better to use 24 % PU. You could say that it is less breathable than a "standard" WB-400. Well, i can tell you that i have never overheated wearing it. This is the best thing about true soft shells. They regulate the microclimate. Our microclimate. I never overheat wearing the Fila. I feel just as good indoors as outdoors. I never wore it in a sauna, though... Indoors, wearing my hard shell, i overheat in just a few minutes sitting on a chair. LOL!


I am trying to wear soft shells as much as possible. That is why i have a Powerstretch jkt (expedition weight base layer) and a thermal Pro jkt (mid layer) for the coldest days on snow. With the WB-400, the setup should be good for - 12 degrees celsius (w/ insulated hard shell pant). If it's colder i will probably wear my hard shell jkt. When it is colder i don't sweat a lot. I also have a soft shell pant which is made from a similar fabric to WB-400, called E-Star 2000 (Eschler). It has a fleece inner, just like the WB-400. The pant is great. It is 100% stretch. There is a problem, though... It's a euro trim cut. It will not be as warm as my hard shell pant because there is not enough room to trap warm air. I will wear it though, and see how it performs. I have a thermal pro pant which will be my base layer. That setup should be at least as warm as my insulated hard shell pant, offering great breathability. It should be great when it is not very cold.


For pants i would start with a hard shell. The soft shell pant is more "advanced" and it should be used with a mid/expedition weight base layer when it is cold.

Have a great season!
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete2s View Post
What do you guys think?
That you're going to be sitting on the lift a lot. Or standing around listening to instructors a lot.

Get wind and sit-water proof shell first, worry about overheating at the base and middle layers.
post #5 of 15
yeah, i roll with layers.

long underwear (poly blend), then usually a polywick running shirt of some kind (I have a Brooks long-sleeve), then a poly sweater (North Face) and then a wool pullover (Patagonia). If it's mild then I have a hooded windbreaker shell (Marmot). If it's cold, then a Northface fleece jacket goes under the shell. If it's really cold then I have an ancient NF wind/rain parker with a hood.

The only thing missing from my line-up is a soft shell, but i've been pretty well set with the layering.

also have slickers for those steep and deep days when it's going to get wet and probably will be plunking down on some waterproof lightweight over pants and poncho/jacket (Red Level or whatever the City of San Francisco gives their street cleaners, if I can find 'em).

Layering is the way to go as you can shed and add as necessary and alway modulate your warmth.

I'm sure a lot of the running gear you have will be perfect as a cross-over for base layers. then just get a mid-weight jacket with a hood that rolls away. or if you already own a heavy fleece jacket, then get a waterproof shell with a tuckaway hood.
post #6 of 15
Pete,

As mentioned above, you will sweat learning to ski. Layering is key and you will figure out what insulating layers are ideal to keep you comfortable. Most people dress far too warmly and sweat horribly when they learn to ski.

Considering you are in Michigan I reccomend the following:

1) A Good shell jacket with Pit Zips or Chest Vents. As you have found with your research there are many quality materiels available. However, once you really start sweating the jacket can only breathe so much. That is where the pit zips come in to play. They are great to cool you off when you need it and don't want to stop and strip off a layer at that point in time (on lift, in middle of run, etc.)

Also make sure the jacket is a roomy fit that allows layering. I have owned 5 shells in my 10 years of skiing. The first 3 were junk. The last one is ArcTeryx and is great. The best thingI can say about it is I never notice the jacket. Never noticing a piece of gear is the best compliment I can pay a piece of gear.

2) Same as above for shell pants. Thigh vents will help you cool off on warmer days. I reccomend skipping the insulated pants. They are not as versatile and you will sweat your butt off.

3) Polypro (or similar) long sleeve top and bottoms. On warm days you may ski with just your polypro top and your shell with your pit zips open. On these days you wont want to wear the polypro LJ's.

On colder days these will serve as your base layer.

4) 100 weight fleece shirt or jacket. Layered on top of a polypro shirt under a good shell, this will keep you warm on some pretty chilly days. I ski in the Adirondack mountains in northern NY and ski with that set up 90% of the time. 200 weight fleece is too warm in my book, but it could work for you. I would suggest 2 layers of 100 weight fleece over 1 200 weight layer of fleece - you will get hot and can adjust accordingly.

5) A light priamaloft "sweater". Patagonia and others make very very light primaloft pullovers for hikers. They are fabulous as a very warm layer on the coldest days. I have skied with polypro, 100 weight fleece, primaloft pullover, and shell on days where the mercury hit minus 30F and have been "warm" (except for crease around goggles I never felt freeze). These pullovers are fantastic. I use mine all the time in the winter just running errands. They way nothin and ball up into a sleeve smaller than a nerf football. Incredible gear.

I have to say I am not a big fan of soft shells. I have 2, a mammut and an EMS softshell. They look great but are the proverbial "jack of all trades master of none". They dont breathe as well as fleece, are not as waterproof as a shell, are not as warm as fleece under a shell, and generally lack enough pockets. Don't get me wrong - they look cool, but my Mountain hardwear Technical windstopper Jacket is more breathable, roomier, warmer, and more comfortable than my awesome looking Mammut softshell. Bottom line is soft shells are form over function (IMHO).

As for insulation on your legs under your shell I usually go with an old pair of Basketball shorts (alternate between Carolina Blue and Duke Blue) that come down to my knees but are really roomy. My ski socks come up to just below my knees so only my knees are without extra layering. I tend to like that because my legs don't feel bound up and I don't overheat. On Cold days wear polypro or better yet a good stretch pair of tights (poly/wool/stretch mix) under your shell. With those, and the shorts I am good to go on the coldest days.

You might consider purchasing a small backpack (Dakine Heli or similar with a built in camel back sleeve. Not only do you have your hydration with you but you can stow extra layers as needed without having to return to the base lodge. Something the size of the Heli is small and less obrtrusive than a bigger pack. Be aware other skiers may look at you and think you are a jack ass (poseur) for carrying a back pack in Michigan. I say scr@w them and wear one if it helps you stay more comfortable. I started using one skiing out west and now use one in the east. They are very helpful when you start stripping layers as the temp increases. Just make sure your buckles don't get caught on the lift. (could tell you funny stories about that)

The advantage to this setup is versatility and function of each component. You will use the base layers, fleece, Primaloft sweater, and shell for a ton of other activities (casual wear, hiking, camping, running, biking, etc.). The shell pants go with me on winter hikes as my "just in case I spend the night in the woods" layer. What other use you get out of the tights is your call, I can offer no suggestions as to tights usage.

Best of luck.
post #7 of 15
Hard to be very specific about what to wear given that both weather and metabolisms vary greatly. I've only been skiing a few years. I wore WAY to much my first few days out. You (at least I) exerted a lot of physical energy my first few days skiing. In general I find I don't exert myself nearly as much these days. I recall just cooking while trying on rental boots. It's a sport that can also present a lot of challenge in terms of temperature control. If it's windy the lift ride can be really cold. And then you get off the lift, your out of the wind, and cold isn't much of a factor. My suggestion would be to not worry to much about specific fabrics at this point. But layer with good moisture wicking fabrics so you can adjust. Get water proof pants cause you'll likely fall at least a time or two. And a wind proof shell. If you have layers under the shell you can take it off, or add, as needed.
post #8 of 15
I have nothing to add than, yes, skiing is physically demanding.
You'll need something that "breathes", and pit vents.
post #9 of 15
As far as outerwear is concerned, I think the most important part is gore-tex pants. I usually just wear corduroys under them, but I ski Tahoe, where the temperatures generally vary in the 20-50 degree range. Lose the cords and throw some fleece pants or tights under them if you're cold. I'm actually fairly attached to the Gore-tex brand here - I think that nobody else is as good about a waterproof, breathable fabric that lasts for multiple seasons, and it's worth a premium.

All that said, my shell's not gore-tex. I also don't spray snow all over my torso the way I do from my knee down when I'm skiing or snowboarding. I do think gore-tex is better, but it wasn't worth it to me to spend the money. Use a shell, and as everyone said, mess around with your insulation layers. Wool or fleece are key - you will sweat, and you will get wet, so you don't want something that'll get waterlogged and totally suck.

I started last season in a cotton-poly army surplus field coat. Sooner or later, the ReviveX that I sprayed on it would fail and then the jacket would waterlog and freeze. It still insulated. Kind of. It just ticked if you tapped it with a fingernail.
post #10 of 15
Cotton is your enemy, especially on long lift rides. Go with layers - nothing more to add to the great advice from most here. Stick to wool (some good merino stuff out there) or synthetics - no cotton layers.
post #11 of 15
BC13 said it all. Listen to him. And I want to second the idea that one of the keys to skiing comfort is separating the shell from the insulation: don't go for a shell with a zip in liner, or if you have one don't connect the liner and the shell even if you are wearing both.
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
As much as I know about jacket membranes/coatings/laminates, I can't decide between a Nylon or Polyester face.

Can anyone explain the difference, especially in terms of breathability, water resistance, wind resistance?
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

Still not sure

I still haven't decided. The problem is one jacket isn't going to cut it, and neither is 2. I probably need 3 jackets:

1) 90% of the time when I need a jacket, I'm standing still, or sitting in a car, walking across campus, or around a bonfire having a few beers. I can't have multiple layers to take on and off constantly. I need a windproof, insulated jacket that is stylish.

2) For running and more intense activities, I need a light nylon layer with a good DWR to go over either a baselayer, or baselayer + light fleece. I can't have something that has a membrane

3) for skiing, it really depends on the weather, but I pretty much need a waterproof, vented shell, and a softshell.

This is what I'm leaning toward to try to cover my base as best I can:
1) Arcteryx Fission LT (probably hoody): Windstopper, 200g Primaloft, damn nice looking.
2) baselayer + Montane Lite Speed (Pertex *nylon wind breaker with DWR), sometimes baselayer + light fleece + Lite Speed.
3) For sitting around, listening and learning in the howling wind, riding up the lift -- I'll use the Fission LT Hoody. If it's really cold and I'm skiing, I think the Fission LT hoody will do its job as I probably won't sweat as much. In any better weather, or when I'm really active, I think baselayer + fleece + Pertex should be sufficient. It's incredibly breathable and wind resistant. Essentially, the wicking layers + fleece + pertex = a poor man's pile/pertex Buffalo Special 6 shirt.

What would you guys change?

*****I may change the Arcteryx Fission LT with the Arcteryx Matador. While the Matador lacks a hood, it has the same WindStopper and 200g Primaloft, but also pit zips and elastic snow skirt. Hopefully it looks good too, it should come in tomorrow.
post #14 of 15
Unless I missed it we don't know where you ski. A skier in the upper midwest has the most demanding need for insulation and waterproofing, East for cold protection and West..Well in the west west it varies a lot from rain protection and moderate cold in the PNW, to Sierra storms and sun to Colorado altitude and chill. We use layers here with a hard shell or on better days, soft shell. Eastern skiers tend to go for insulated shells and layers.

I almost forgot, that a Steeler's insignia might be required in Pittsburgh, and you should use one of those hats with the pull down ear flaps if you're a yooper.

Sorry, serious question. Where do you ski, local conditions vary.
post #15 of 15

Dressing for Skiing

Quote:
Originally Posted by BC13 View Post
Pete,

As mentioned above, you will sweat learning to ski. Layering is key and you will figure out what insulating layers are ideal to keep you comfortable. Most people dress far too warmly and sweat horribly when they learn to ski.

1) A Good shell jacket with Pit Zips or Chest Vents.

Also make sure the jacket is a roomy fit that allows layering.

2) Same as above for shell pants. Thigh vents will help you cool off on warmer days.
I think vents are very important, especially when you're unsure exactly how to dress...you will probably overdress. I agree that layers work best to figure out what works best. A roomy jacket also seems to work best so that you fit the various layers underneath optimally. Someone suggested having a pack with enough room to carry an extra fleece.....not usually an issue in California....but nice to have. I just got a Camelback w/a little more space.
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