Ski Jacket vs Down or Puffer [Key Difference]

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

So many jackets to choose from! Which is the best? Natural down or manmade fiber? Jackets suit all different types of weather and activity.

When out skiing, keeping dry and at the right temperature makes your day a lot more enjoyable. Wearing the right jacket will help you achieve these goals and offer better flexibility too. Down and puffer jackets might be cheaper, but they don’t offer the waterproofing, breathability, flexibility, and extras of a ski jacket.

Ski Jacket

We are reader supported. We may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

A skiing jacket is always an expensive purchase so it’s best to do some research to find the right one for you and the conditions you ski in. No one enjoys being too hot, too cold, or just plain wet, so making the right choice counts for a lot.

ski layers clothing

What is a Down Jacket?

Down jackets are generally made from a man-made outer and inner layer between which a layer of down is packed.  The down or feathers from ducks and geese is one of nature’s greatest insulators. The construction of the down filaments traps warm air, creating a barrier that locks heat in. Down jackets are available in different weights, which relates to the density of how the down is packed in and its insulation strength.

What is a Puffer Jacket?

Puffer jackets are generally made from synthetic fibers. The jacket has an outer and inner layer, with a layer of synthetic insulation which is sewn into panels, giving the jacket its ‘puffer’ appearance. Styling and insulation vary the thickness of the jacket, making some quite bulky to move around in.

Benefits of Skiing with a Down or Puffer Jacket

  • The filling in a down or puffer jacket will keep you very warm when it’s cold

Downsides Skiing with a Down or Puffer Jacket

  • Down & puffer jackets are not very versatile. They offer great insulation, but you can’t reduce it if it gets warm.
  • Down & puffer jackets are not generally waterproof. If the filling gets wet, it tends to clump spoiling the insulation.
  • Down & puffer jackets are not generally very breathable, so moisture from perspiration may cause the down filling to clump from the inside too.
  • A down or puffer jacket can be bulky making some skiing maneuvers awkward.

Types of Ski Jackets

  • A hardshell jacket (waterproof jacket in the UK) is waterproof and wind-resistant.  It is versatile, hard-wearing, and light enough to be packed away if the day warms up or you are hiking. It doesn’t have insulation but is designed to be worn with other layers.
  • A softshell jacket is worn as a middle layer or outer layer garment. It is not waterproof but water repellent, so good for a light shower. For more extreme conditions skiers sometimes wear a hardshell jacket over a softshell.
  • An insulated jacket is a heavier-duty garment that offers real protection from the weather and the cold. It has a waterproof outer shell and a good layer of insulation below it, which is normally synthetic although down versions offer great insulation for skiing in very cold conditions.

Cut and Style

All jackets come in a choice of cuts and styles, which fit with different functions. A slim jacket suits technical skiers, who want the minimum drag and good control on the runs. In the middle, the regular jacket offers the technical feel of the slim jacket but with a bit of extra movement. The loose jacket gives the greatest mobility and freedom, which snowboarders and freestylers make the most use of.


Most ski jackets come with a permanent hood or one that is detachable using a zip. They are designed to offer protection when the weather closes in. Always check the hood will fit over your helmet comfortably.

Wrist Gaiters

Everyone takes a tumble now and again, so having a gaiter in your sleeve to stop the snow from getting in is valuable. Some gaiters are elasticated cuffs around the wrist, while an inner gaiter is kept in place around the thumb.

Powder Skirt

In the same style as a wrist gaiter, an elasticated powder skirt stops snow from getting in under the bottom of your jacket.


On a warm spring day, you will be thankful you went for a jacket with vents. They are usually situated on the arms, under the armpits, and down the sides of the jacket. A zipper allows air to circulate to the inside of the jacket as you ski.