At first glance, there really aren’t any. All ski and snowboard jackets are water-proof, durable, and great in the snow…and honestly, for most people the terms are pretty interchangeable. But for serious skiers and snowboarders, there is a world of difference between snowboard and ski jackets. Put them back to back, and these disparities quickly become evident.
Traditional skiing jackets are built for mobility, comfort, and performance. They’re streamlined, sleek, lightweight, and fully featured to seal out cold air and snow.
Ski jackets are typically more fitted shells, cutting down on excess material to improve speed and aerodynamics on the mountain. Style wise, most ski jackets are simply patterned, with bright and sometimes loud color combinations. They stand out, but don’t push the envelope, focusing on performance over bold style.
Alternatively, snowboard jackets are inspired by, and aimed at skateboarders, surfers, motocross, and bmx riders. They’re designed by guys like Shaun White, and companies like Burton, Oakley, and Billabong. In other words, (and not surprisingly so) snowboard jackets are street styled for the thrill-seeking kids who would be into snowboarding! So you’ll find more edgy, artistic patterns and designs in snowboarding jackets than you’d usually find in skiing jackets. Similarly, snowboarding jackets are baggier and longer than skiing jackets, for a younger, more urban look than the streamlined, fitting, and fast performance skiing jackets offer.
Snowboard and skiing jackets are different for two reasons; they’re aimed at different audiences, and they’re meant for different sports.
Skiing comes from a racing tradition, which has always focused on speed and finesse. Thus, you get bright colors, lightweight fabrics, and shorter hems in a skiing jacket. After all, skiers need extra mobility in both of their legs for better forward and backward movement. For most skiers, style is secondary to speed, mobility, and comfort, so skiing jackets try to deliver accordingly.
On the other hand, snowboarding evolved from skateboarding and surfing…two sports that have always been closely intertwined with style, street fashion, music, and fringe art. So it should come as no shock that snowboarding jackets feature boundary-pushing patterns and colors, modern media integration, and a more youthful look to them with long, baggy styles.
Performance wise, their bagginess and extra length are generally better for snowboarding as well, which is more park-oriented than racing specialized, focusing more on tricks, grinds, and grabs, than making quick runs down the mountain. Baggy jackets make it easier to move your arms and torso for tricks, and the extra length makes it more comfortable to sit on the snow in between heats.
You see the same differences in skiing and snowboarding pants. Traditional ski pants are straight hemmed, lightweight, and roomy enough to move in, but definitely designed for fast and active movement. Snowboarding pants, like snowboarding jackets, are baggy, heavier, more colorful, and lined with pockets and extras, for the more style-focused snowboarder.
What’s the same?
Ski and snowboard jackets are interchangeable for most people because generally, they do the same things and have a lot of the same features. Most are designed with similar water-proof shells, helmet-compatible hoods, adjustable cuffs, high collars, and most importantly, snow skirts, to prevent snow and ice from getting into the jacket. They both focus on keeping you warm, dry, and comfortable in the extreme cold of the mountain, and since both types of jackets are meant for active sport, they’re both performance-oriented.
At the end of the day, the differences between these two types of winter-sports jackets are negligible for most people, especially those just starting out. But since they differ functionally and stylistically, these jackets can definitely have an effect on your comfort and performance in the powder. For instance, if you’re a skier wearing a snowboarding jacket, it’s probably going to slow you down, catching the air like a sail and holding you back. Concurrently, if you’re a snowboarder wearing a skiing jacket, it’s probably going to be too tight for you to pull off any big grabs or tricks. All-in-all, it’s important to find the right jacket for your game before heading up the mountain.
||By Brandon Porter.Brandon is a product specialist at Sports Unlimited.|