Piste, park or pow – wherever you like to ride there’s a jacket to match. Our designers field test, work with our athletes and draw on decades of collective experience to develop gear honed for a specific purpose. Some jackets have become long-term favourites; others are up and coming rookies. Some are engineered for pushing limits; others for riding comfortably within them. Basically, we like choice here at The North Face®. But sometimes, too much choice can make picking a jacket as tough as riding a black mogul piste. In the dark.
So we’ve raided our latest winter stock and asked for advice from two of our snowboarding athletes, Marion Haerty and Victor de Le Rue, to create this handy little guide on what you should look for in a jacket to get the most out of every turn, jump and rotation.
When you’re heading out into the back and beyond in search of steep lines and untouched powder, simplicity is key. “You want a jacket that has just what you need. You don’t need extra pockets and features you won’t use,” says Victor. Marion adds that three pockets are usually enough for touring, as most things go into a backpack anyway.
“The length and weight are also important when splitboarding and touring,” says Marion. “I need to have a shorter jacket so I can wear it comfortably with a harness and I don’t want it to be too heavy, as I usually layer with a soft shell and base layer. In the backcountry, it’s less about how I look and more about the functionality of the jacket.”
The name kind of gives this one away; when hitting kickers, boxes and rails or jibbing your way down a piste your jacket choice is as much about style as it is about comfort and features. “This kind of riding is about expression. I want to look and feel good when I’m in the park. I want a jacket and pants that are stylish,” says Marion. For Marion, this means longer, slimline jackets engineered. And for Victor, stretch is important. “That’s why I love FUTURELIGHT. You don’t even think about what you’re wearing you just focus on the present moment and that’s amazing.”
You also don’t want a heavy, fully insulated jacket for park riding. You get pretty warm, so something lighter will be way more comfortable. Marion sometimes rides without a jacket, just in bib-pants and a long-sleeve insulated top.
If your idea of skiing and snowboarding is exploring the entire mountain, using pistes to access pow in the morning and park sessions in the afternoon then you need your jacket to do more. “I like to look cool when I’m riding and hanging out with friends on the mountain,” says Marion, “but the visibility of the jacket is also really important so you can be seen.” Conditions can change quickly in mountain environments, so being able to be seen – even in a white out – is really important.
Pockets are important in an all-mountain jacket. You might not be riding with a backpack. So a few extra ‘homes’ in your outerwear for phone, wallet, even a bottle of water, come in really handy.
“I really like having a hood and soft collar when I’m riding in the resort, for comfort but also for protection from bad weather,” says Marion.
Underarm zips or a super-breathable fabric like FUTURELIGHT™ make switching between piste, park and pow a smooth and comfortable experience. Getting too hot is not just uncomfortable (and smelly); when your sweat starts to evaporate you cool down and on top of a mountain, even on a sunny day, this can be dangerous. You never want to get too hot or too cold.
Shell or Insulated
This brings us nicely onto our final point: should you get an insulated or shell jacket? Both Marion and Victor prefer to follow the layering technique, with a base layer, some kind of soft shell or insulation layer and an outer hard shell – in their cases, they use jackets from our FUTURELGHT™. Certainly for touring this is the winning formula. You can easily layer up and down if necessary, depending on the terrain and whether you’re skinning up or riding down.
For park and all-mountain jackets, it’s less important and more about personal preference. But to really get the most out of your jacket in a variety of conditions throughout the season, our athletes recommend getting lightweight shells and combining them with other layers.