Should your ski jacket be tight or loose?

A skier in a yellow jacket holds his skis over his shoulder
Should your ski jacket be tight or loose? We explain how your ski jacket should fit for the best protection from the cold (Image credit: Westend61)

Should your ski jacket be tight or loose? Trim or bulky? Stylish or functional? There’s no denying that the ski slopes have long been a bit of a fashion parade, but when it comes to your ski jacket, of course the most important thing you want is protection from the cold. Beyond that, some of us prefer the sleek snow bunny look with a snug fit while others opt for the baggy style favored by snowboarders. But is there actually a functional argument for one style over another, or does it all just come down to your instincts for fashion? Let’s take a look. 

How should a ski jacket fit? 

A skier stands among the aspen trees holding her skis and smiling

If you can comfortably fasten the jacket over these clothes and reach your arms overhead, and the jacket isn’t excessively loose, it’s the right size (Image credit: Ryan McVay)

The best ski jackets are insulated, breathable and waterproof, but beyond that they come in an array of fits and styles these days. One of the biggest questions when shopping for a new ski jacket is whether it should be tight or loose. After all, if it’s too tight you won’t be able to fit layers underneath it and on a cold day you might want a mid layer such as a fleece jacket in addition to your base layer. But then again, if it’s too loose it might not keep you warm enough. So what’s the answer?

Basically, the best thing you can do is try on a few ski jackets while wearing your base layer and your mid layer. If you can comfortably fasten the jacket over these clothes and reach your arms overhead (remember, you’ll want to be able to pull the bar down on the chairlift), and the jacket isn’t excessively loose, it’s the right size. 

You’ll also want to wear your ski gloves, since ski jackets are designed with long sleeves to go over your gloves and keep the snow out. Without your gloves on, you may be fooled into thinking the jacket is too big based on the sleeves. You also don’t want your sleeve riding up when you’re lowering the bar and exposing your wrist to the cold. 

Should you size up in a ski jacket? 

A skier holds his skis and chats to a friend with a lake in the background

All ski jackets will probably look massive on the hanger as they are bulky by nature and made to be worn with extra clothing underneath (Image credit: Cavan Images)

Maybe. It really depends on the jacket. All ski jackets will probably look massive on the hanger as they are bulky by nature and made to be worn with extra clothing underneath, so your best bet is to start with your typical size and go from there. 

Almost all ski jackets nowadays will come with various adjustable straps and drawstrings, so if the jacket is just slightly loose, play around with these before sizing up and losing warmth. If your jacket is too big, you’re more susceptible to wind and snow getting in, which is the last thing you want.

How long is too long for a ski jacket? 

Two uphill skiers prepare to head downhill

Over the years, ski jackets have gotten a bit longer which many skiers like, partly because it keeps your bum warm on the chairlift (Image credit: Thomas Barwick)

Over the years, ski jackets have gotten a bit longer which many skiers like, partly because it keeps your bum warm on the chairlift and, again, because it’s the fashion. But if you go too long, your jacket might get in the way of your movements. There’s no set correct length, but feel for the top of your hip and try not to go more than about five inches down from there. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.