Ski jackets are expensive. They also have a lifespan far longer than manufacturers and retailers would like to admit. That being said, there will come a time when every ski jacket’s usefulness has run its course.
And whether you stash it in the closet to mature for future Clown Days or donate it to your local thrift shop, your trusty jacket will have earned its retirement. The point of this blog is to highlight a few of the telltale signs – beyond the obvious tears, broken zippers, stains, etc. – that will let you know you need a new ski jacket.
Loss of Waterproofing
From that first day in a new ski jacket, when water beads up and runs off like you’re wrapped in an impenetrable force field, the process of degradation has already begun. And whether it takes 10 years or one season, your jacket is destined to one day complete its transformation into a waterlogged sponge. Before it gets to that point, however, there are a few life-extending tricks to try that can postpone the need for a pricey new purchase.
Simply washing your jacket will sometimes restore its waterproofing to unexpected levels of efficiency. Dirt lodged within the fabric’s fibers, or the pores of the waterproof membrane, acts as a conduit for water to penetrate the protective layers. Removing this dirt will prevent water that lingers on the surface from finding sneaky entrances to your inside layers.
All fabric and insulation types call for different washing methods, so before ever tossing your ski jacket into the machine, call your local shop or visit the manufacturer’s website for detailed cleaning instructions. One constant to keep in mind is that commercial detergents – especially those in powder form – are never a good idea. These can clog up the pores of your jacket’s membrane, compromising breathability and further degrading its waterproofness.
If washing and drying doesn’t work, and you’re left with a clean, but ultimately still worthless ski jacket, there are a number of aftermarket waterproof treatments you can try. The Nikwax products pictured above are a great option, but just keep in mind that they are a temporary fix to get you through the season. There’s only so long you can prop up the waterproofing of your jacket before it’s time to part ways and look for a new one.
The last decade has seen some pretty remarkable development in fabric technology with regards to breathability. It used to be that getting 100% waterproof protection meant dealing with sweaty and suffocating repercussions. More often than not, it felt like the benefits your outerwear was providing in terms of weather protection from the outside were being compromised by the build-up of sweat on the inside.
Improvements in fabric breathability, moisture-wicking linings, and strategic venting systems have changed all that. Now ski jackets that provide fully waterproof and windproof protection are also highly adept at regulating internal climate and keeping you dry and comfortable, inside and out. If it’s been a while since you updated your jacket and you find yourself consistently struggling to maintain a comfortable temperature from the top of the hill to the bottom, then it’s time to start looking for a new jacket.
Styles change rapidly, and rash decisions in the name of staying “hip” can result in some serious buyer’s remorse. If your jacket is still functioning adequately, sticking with your classic style can be the best way to avoid an impulsive purchase with a short-lived reward.
At a certain point, however, the classic style excuse no longer applies.
Next time you find yourself standing in a stalled lift line, take a second to look around and do a quick jacket comparison. If your choice of outerwear has become unintentionally one-of-a-kind, or maybe even outright mocked by a group of especially boisterous drunk twentysomethings, it’s more than likely time to retire your jacket. Other indicators include, but are not limited to: un-ironic use of neon colors, oversized arrow and/or chevron patterns, ribbed stretch materials, large snap-closure collars, front kangaroo pockets…you get the idea.
There’s one last worthy reason to purchase a new ski jacket – sometimes, deep down, you just plain want one. Never be ashamed to treat yourself to an unnecessary wardrobe revamp. New gear is awesome, and you deserve it.
Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer