Here is a guest blog from our web guru, Karen Holt.
I decided I wanted an insulated ski jacket in my life this season. I often find myself skiing at the ski resort in my backcountry ski gear and, frankly, I am tired of wearing so many layers. My only alternative was to throw on my nice warm puffy, which is great in blue bird conditions, but not very effective during a damp Northwest storm cycle. Fortunately, the industry understands my needs and provides a nice selection of insulated women’s sidecountry ski jackets. Here are a few great jackets that I tried this winter.
The OR Stormbound jacket is the allrounder. With 650-fill down insulation and a two-layer 40D Pertex®Shield ripstop fabric outer shell, the Stormbound offers serious storm protection, great insulation and weighs only 28 oz.
I like the cut on this jacket; it’s roomy, easy to move around in and feels more like wearing a down jacket than hardshell storm protection. But don’t worry, the outer shell handles nasty damp weather just great.
The Stormbound has all the standard features you would expect in a high-end ski jacket. The outside has three outer pockets, including two lined hand warmer pockets and an ipod pocket. The interior has one chest pocket, two large mesh pockets and a ski pass pocket located on the bottom of the jacket. It comes with a fully insulated, detachable hood that fit nicely over my helmet. A powder skirt, pit zips, adjustable wrist cuffs and a Recco reflector round out it out.
The adjustable collar is about three and a half inches high. While this isn’t quite tall enough to hide behind on a stormy day, OR provides a balaclava for those unpleasant sideways-graupel-pummeling days for which Mt Hood is so famous. Accessed by a discreet zipper, the balaclava is hidden into the back of the jacket between the down layer and outer shell. The upside of the shorter collar is that I preferred it when using the jacket around town.
The Outdoor Research Stormbound jacket fully met my needs. It’s comfortable, functional, light-weight, warm and looks great. $400
Built with a more traditional two-layer outer shell, the Outskirts is a jacket built for storm days. With a similar cut to the OR Stormbound, this jacket features a 2-layer, 3-oz stretch-woven nylon with a waterproof/breathable H2No® outer barrier and PrimaLoft® insulation.
The outside features four pockets – two hand warmer pockets, a chest/ipod pocket and a ski pass pocket on the upper left arm. The interior has one large mesh pocket and a smaller zippered mesh pocket with a tab at the base for a ski pass. The detachable powder skirt features webbing loops that allow you to connect the jacket to your ski pants.
This jacket is all about the collar – the designers clearly put a great deal of thought into how I could bond with my inner turtle. Because of the two-layer outer shell, the five-inch collar is fairly stiff and offered a cozy retreat for my face during the windiest, snowiest, icicles-hanging-from-my-nose days. Lined with chamois, the inside collar is soft and Patagonia added an extra small flap at the back of the neck to block any potential wind or snow from sneaking in.
This jacket also features an insulated detachable hood, pit zips and adjustable wrist cuffs. This is a solid, functional jacket and kept me warm and protected in the toughest storm conditions. $500
I have to say I wasn’t sure what to think about the Helly Hansen Enigma Flow jacket when it first arrived. At 49oz, it’s much heavier than the other jackets, and it has an unusual construction. The goose down fill is confined to small round pockets that protrude into the interior of the jacket like little hockey pucks – making it look like some 70’s space-age design. True to its name, I grew to love the Enigma.
The exterior has five pockets – two lined hand warmer pockets, two chest pockets and a ski pass pocket on the lower left arm. One of the chest pockets even sports a lens cloth attached to an alligator clip. The interior has two zippered chest pockets and, like the OR Stormbound, the Enigma also has a balaclava discretely zipped into the back of the jacket. While the powder skirt is not detachable it can disappear seamlessly into its own pocket. The side vents have mesh across the openings so the jacket vents nicely without opening too wide while you are skiing. The adjustable cuffs have interior wrist bands (wrist gaiters) with thumb loops. They were comfortable, not at all restrictive on the arms and so toasty warm when I slipped my hands into my gloves.
The Enigma jacket has a five-inch collar that, when combined with the balaclava, makes you feel impenetrable. The detachable hood was smaller than the other jackets and did not cover my helmet as well as the others. The Enigma also has a Recco reflector built into the arm.
The Enigma is a really nice jacket and has been thoughtfully designed. It runs an inch or two longer than the other jackets and has a very feminine cut. The Enigma’s four-way stretch fabric and Thinsulate®Flex insulation give it all the comfort of a soft shell. Last week, I wore a single base layer with the Enigma. The Thinsulate and down insulation kept me well protected and warm despite the sustained 20 mph wind blowing graupel into my face. $700