What's the best technical shell for skiing? I'm looking for a jacket that isn't bulky and provides versatility in more than one season.
Options abound. But let's make sure we’re talking about shells–not skiing parkas with insulation and extra features that add weight and reduce versatility. Shells allow you to fine tune your layering combinations as the weather and your activity level changes, and I always wear one when I ski. These three top my list.
What you buy depends largely on your budget. At the very high end, Arc’Teryx’s Alpha LT Jacket functions both as an extremely good skiing shell and a useful piece for mountaineering and backpacking. It’s made from light and durable Gore-Tex Pro Shell material, and has Arc’Teryx's typically impeccable construction and design. Incredibly, it weighs just 13 ounces. Of course, at $500, you'll pay through the nose for all that goodness.
Another nice piece is the Patagonia Triolet Jacket. It’s also made from Gore-Tex, but not the superlight Pro stuff. Patagonia's design, with chest pockets, venting, water-resistant zippers, and a full hood, makes it a similarly versatile jacket. The main difference you'll note is weight: the Triolet is 20 ounces, compared to the Alpha's 13. It's also $100 cheaper.
I’m also a big fan of the REI Shuksan Jacket. It’s made from eVent fabric, which is chemically similar to Gore-Tex but uses REI's own secret sauce. REI claims that eVent is so breathable that the Shuksan doesn’t even need pit-zip venting, and I am inclined to agree. The Shuksan's cut is generous enough to allow for layering but isn't blousy. It's 20 ounces, the same as the Triolet, but goes for $300. That's a great deal.